[Homestead] Cash production, was The Piggy Bank is empty

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 28 12:25:54 EDT 2004

clanSkeen wrote:

>>Okay, I have archived your response, but I want more. This thread started
>>out with you and James advising against stock investments and then you
>>included real estate investments, with which I disagree. My question above
>>relates to the investment plan to provide future cash needs, and it still
>>requires an answer.

tvoivozhd---James' eloquence never ceases to astound me, and when such 
eloquence is coupled with sound analysis and conclusion, there is very 
little that can be added to it.

>Right, Gene, but mainly advise against *relying* on it.  If I might restate
>your question: What could you invest in today while you can still earn
>surplus cash (today while the blossom still clings to the vine) that later
>when you can't earn any cash will provide you with a *reliable* source to
>meet your even very modest cash needs?    My thought on the question is that
>there might not be anything that will do that.  Of course I know you are not
>asking about certainties, but only what are the odds and how best to stack
>the deck in your favor.  Things change.   The things which one might invest
>in their youth might cease to exist by the time of the person's geezerdom.
>The more in a state of flux society, ethics, and technology are the more
>this is true.  And now of days we are on every shifting sands in those
>areas.  DOW fell below 10,000 again today.

tvoivozhd---we are today held within the flux of a great sea-change 
lapping at what we regarded as reality.
The outlines of new reality are just becoming visible---a Rorschach Blot 
wavering around the edges, its significance hard to grasp, but carrying 
with it overtones  of unknown menace. 

>A few years ago the truism was that technology was the thing of the future,
>you can only expect more and more of it.  So the thing that logic cried out
>for at the time was to invest in the ground floor of the dot-bomb.com's.
>The results were disastrous for a great many people.   Recall how the mystic
>oracles always gave a cryptic answer, "If you go into battle, a great army
>will be destroyed!"   Like that pronouncements of "thing of the future" are
>dealt in a like manner by the gods.  Sure, it was a true prediction that
>technology has expanded unabated and that itself has made it so that
>technology is cheaper and cheaper so did not return much of a payback on
>The often heard pronouncement that "God only made so much land" so real
>estate is as close to a sure investment as you can get - is an equally
>cryptic saw and the gods surely have something nasty up their sleeves for
>that as well.

tvoivozhd---that saw in the history not many people study, means a 
finite source necessary to survival, which in turn means struggle over 
it by classes and colliding populations.  We have been in a fairly long 
hiatus---it should be expected that the pressure is building up for the 
hiatus to take another form.

>I was reading that from the late middle ages until just before the
>industrial revolution a working man typically paid about 70% of his income
>to buy bread for his family.   The remaining 30% went for the rest of the
>food, church fees, taxes, clothes, 'trinkgelder', and .... housing.
>Housing did not cost much.   So how much was housing real estate worth?  Not
>so much as now of days.  The point I'd make is the relative value of housing
>has varied very greatly in human history.

tvoivozhd---to our not-so-distant-in-time hunter-gatherer forebears, 
housing was temporary, thrown up in a few days and abandoned when local 
food resources were exhausted.  Abandoned land and abandoned thatch huts 
had no value whatsoever.

>Now days residential real estate has two components in its 'value', the real
>or pragmatic component and speculative component.   This has always been
>true to some extent, but now the speculative component seems to be inflated
>beyond all reason.  That speculative component is just like playing the
>stock market, that is, it is gambling.  A million things could happen to
>radically change the value of any give piece of residential real estate.
>Outlying property only commands high value so long as fuel is cheap and oil
>is flirting with $50 a barrel again today.  Likewise large houses only have
>high value so long as the price to heat and cool them is affordable.  In our
>present society it is customary for there to be only one generation of
>adults in a household and only one immediate family under one roof.   But
>circumstances could change that quickly, especially with the influx of
>people from other cultures for whom that is an unfamiliar and wasteful idea.

tvoivozhd---I have been disturbed ever since my tract-builder days over 
the huge phallic protuberances of two and three story developments whose 
only purpose is conspicuous consumption.  I remember the million-dollar 
mansions along Chicago's Lake Drive---abandoned when the residents could 
not heat them and pay the upkeep even when fossil fuel was dirt cheap 
and regarded as inexhaustible. 

Of course, since I was born a farmer--- so as a builder I felt uneasy 
about converting prime farmland to 100-year dwellings, asphalt and 
concrete.  It always stuck in the back of my mind that diminishing prime 
farmland means less food for more people.
Hunter-gatherer society was more sustainable than 
subsistence-agriculture society, subsistance-agricuture society more 
sustainable than agribusiness.  Builders are the locusts of our time.  I 
do not know the answer---short-term needs always prevail over long-term 
survival in balance with the environment.  Evolution will ultimately 
sort it all our for us.

>My parents are in Florida just a little north of the place hit by two
>hurricanes this season.   Right now undamaged real estate in Florida is
>worth a fortune because of all the displaced people needing a place.  But
>the 1-2-3-4 punch this season (so far) has put the fear of God into many
>recent Floridians and after the damage is repaired, much of that same real
>estate will be worth far less than it was before the storms because of
>people changing their minds about living in the path of such storms
>(meteorologists are saying that Florida has been enjoying a 40 reprieve from
>typical hurricane seasons until this year and the reprieve may be over for
>some decades).
>So it isn't that investing in real estate (other than what you need for your
>own use) is any better or worse and idea than any other such investment.
>But relying on being able to sit back at some juncture in one's life and say
>"Soul, take thine ease." (Even if that just means paying the taxes,
>utilities, and insurance) and not doing anything or producing anything to
>ensure that very modest income, relying on that is risky business from any

tvoivozhd---anyone regarding real estate being stable, simply has not 
been exposed to real estate instability when the conditions that gave it 
apparent stability, suddenly dissolved.  Witness the ghost towns in the 
Far West, the two-million dollar per acre land prices in the mushroom 
city that sprang up around Spindletop---prices dropping  to a couple 
hundred dollars per acre a year later.  And when I left Houston for 
Virginia in 1988, I could buy almost any house in Houston for $500 down, 
at about a third of its value a year before---think of the thousands of 
homeowners who were absolutely wiped out in that crash. 

>Far better, I am thinking, is to equip yourself to do something, preferably
>several things, that you could continue to do even in a decrepit geezerdom
>to provide the modest cash needed for the homestead.  I got a good lesson in
>this recently.  Twelve or fourteen years ago I was earning a modest bit of
>cash as a luthier.  The unholy voice of technology whispered in my ear and
>by degrees I set it aside and took on more and more easy and lucrative (if
>unreliable) technical work.  Preference and necessity have combined of late
>to make me clear the cobwebs and junk out of the shop.  There I find a
>surprising number of parts and subassemblies I had abandoned in the past,
>plus stock and blanks and most of my jigs and tools.  When the latest round
>of trade magazines and flyers arrived in the mail, I flipped through them to
>see what the finished pieces brought now of days ... wow! ... the prices
>have almost quadrupled in fifteen years.  Turns out that those parts and
>assemblies (and even the hardwood blanks and billets) have drawn interest
>along with the rise in prices of the finished instruments [as it were].
>It's all a matter of odds and taking one's best shot at stacking the deck in
>one's favor.  But the way I see it, it is better to rely on the perennial
>ability to do something like add value to, say, a piece of wood than it is
>to cast your bread upon the waters and hope to find it after many days.

tvoivozhd---accumulated knowledge, accumulated skills, accumulated 
tools, mental or physical, give us the means to cope.  Adversity 
instills the habit of coping, so its necessity is  not alarming to 
copers.  As described in my recent post about my Chilean friend, Emil 
Rojas Contreras, being or becoming an economic broken-field-runner will 
stand you in good stead when the world turns upside down.


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