No obituary will ever read, “He was a good and ethical man. He died broke, his family suffered, but he never missed a payment to Fannie Mae.”
When I arrived at the Mises Institute this morning I found Willard Sitz and Jeffrey Tucker hovering over several large brown boxes – I felt like I was 10 years old and all the days on the calendar except for December 25th had been marked off. We have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of, what I consider, one of the most important works the Mises Institute has ever published and I was sure that was what the boxes contained. I am a little embarrassed to admit how disappointed I was upon peering into the boxes to see the Human Action Pocket Edition. Make no mistake, transforming Mises’s 44 oz. magnum opus into something that can fit in a pocket is even more amazing than Jeff says. But it wasn’t the book; I wanted the book!
I was suffering from a major case of what Gary North terms Picard Syndrome; I had already read the book twice. Weeks ago I managed to badger the author into sending me a draft before it went to the editor and typesetter; I later got my hands on the final version in PDF. As you can see from the picture, my printout has seen its share of abuse – not to mention an obscene amount of highlighting.
Moments ago, it finally arrived; Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth was in my hands at last. Now I can toss my ridiculous stack of stapled together copier paper.
If you have managed to make it this far through my gushing ramblings, you are surely wondering just what makes this 77 page monograph so important. To put it simply,
this book can and will improve people’s lives in a very real, non-abstract sense. Every other book the Institute has published resides solely in the world of ideas and philosophy; they teach us about economics, liberty, how things are, how things could be. They shape the very way in which we view the world in which we live. This is a vitally important undertaking if we are to ever truly gain widespread economic and personal freedom. But Walk Away builds a bridge between the philosophy that can improve the world and the actions that can improve individuals lives.
In his monograph, Doug French makes the case that, in a world where big banks receive bailout money forcibly taken from the American public and Government Sponsored Entities (Fannie & Freddie) use taxpayer money to buy 97% of all mortgages, “under water” homeowners are not morally or ethically bound to continue to make mortgage payments to Uncle Sam. I am over-simplifying the complex case made by French, a former bank executive who studied under Murray Rothbard. You will have to read the book to really appreciate the libertarian defense he makes for walking away from one’s home and this unique contractual obligation.
This short book is essential for anyone who owns or is thinking of owning a home; it can be read in a single evening and, at a minimum, will change the way you think about strategic defaults.