06 May, 2008

The red queen

I think it was the Red Queen who, in Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass, said that it took all the running she could do just to stay in the same place. A lot of people must feel that way at the moment, what with the price of oil affecting things like food. Inflation has bloomed like a rash of mushrooms that suddenly appears in your yard the day after someone complimented on how healthy it looked.

We're feeling the pinch here, too. My wife and I sat down tonight and studied our budget for the summer months. Things are tight. I thank God that the vast majority of our debt is what I consider to be "healthy" debt, and the housing market in Hattiesburg has not imploded.

I wonder if the load ever lightens. Is that even a valid concern? Our house is substantially larger than the one I grew up in. We have dialup internet service; the closest thing to home internet service in my youth was Compuserve (Remember them?). I never once saw Compuserve in action, let alone used it myself. I'm sending my son to private school; my parents couldn't afford to send my brothers or me to private school—or if they could, they never admitted it, but used the money for other concerns, like, well, paying for the house.

Speaking of which: My father had a fixed-rate mortgage that, if I understand correctly, was more than twice the interest rate I'm paying now. I have credit cards whose regular interest rate is significantly lower than his mortgage rate back then.

Gas prices have reached a level that I have seen only once before, in the days after Hurricane Katrina. It don't look as if they'll go down anytime soon.

At least we have gas. I don't remember my mother complaining about the high prices when I was a child. That's probably because I do remember her worrying that the gas stations might be out of gas. (It might even have happened to us once, but that could be a false memory, too.) I remember sitting in the car while my mother waited in line at the gas station. That Crown station is no longer there; a lot of them closed down about 10 years ago, to be replaced by vacant lots.

When was this? The mid- to late 1970s. Some people lament the passage of those days and the coming of the subsequent economic age, which was markedly different. I honestly don't understand the appeal of waiting in line to buy gas that might not be there, then driving to a home whose mortgage rate sounds suspiciously like a mild form of usury.

The food crisis, and its effect in poor countries, bothers me. The casualties from the hurricane in Myanmar/Burma bother me. The struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan depress me, be they the birth pangs or the death throes of representative republics. But I don't want to return to the economic model of the 1970s, or recall them with any sort of nostalgia. No, thank you!

No comments: