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June 20, 2005

The Bubble Bubble

Economistbrick300

Maybe it’s supposed to be a brick –  but a brick is solid.

Maybe it’s supposed to be a concrete block  — but a concrete block has a two hollow cells in the middle.

Maybe it’s supposed to be a basement extruded from the ground with the house removed — but a basement wouldn’t have sloping interior sides.

Or, maybe it’s something else.  Maybe a trough.  Yes, a real estate trough!

If there is no way to tell what this thing is, it could be because the
event everyone is predicting has been granted substance without a form.
At this point, it seems there isn’t a major news publication that hasn’t
gone on record as predicting a housing meltdown. In a funny way,
however, the media obsession only exemplifies a reverse version of the
same group think that took hold during the dot com mania. Only in this
case, the only thing certain is that the sky will fall.

If this brick-like thing indicates confusion about the nature of the
catastrophe, its altitude suggest just as much ambiguity about its
timing.

Consider the height of this object. Because the viewer is
situated at eye level with the clouds, and the thing is even higher
than that, this object is pretty high. (It’s like you were sitting in
the window seat of a large passenger jet and this was your view out of
the window.) The suggestion is that the meltdown might still be far
from hitting the ground.

As much as there is concern for the housing market, however, what these
incessant predictions are really about is fear. But not fear for the
housing market specifically, so much as the fear that yet another blow
might befall America that would once again catch people "out of the
know."

What I think TE really should have put on this cover
was not a building material-like object, but an actual bubble. Because
that is what people are expecting to burst. As a general defense, the
country has embraced the fantasy that nothing bad can happen — just as
long as we name the threat in advance, and then expect it to arrive.

(image: The Economist Magazine. June 18, 2005)

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