I'm not a pessimist by nature, at least I never used to be. Most days I think things are pretty good as they are and I suspect there's a good chance they'll be better tomorrow, given our ability to learn and grow and adapt.
But in my day job I deal with a lot of people in finance, people who have been participating or studying the capital markets for a long time. When they get worried, I figure it's time for me to pay attention to what they're worried about. They're worried about a lot of things, but mostly they're worried about debt, and what happens with people and governments can't pay back what they've borrowed.
Debt gets spread around to a lot of places. So when there's a default, the effects are felt far beyond the original lender and borrower. People much smarter than I am are concerned about what could happen to the global banking system if, say, European countries like Portugal, Italy and Spain default on their debt. I'm actually a little worried about what might happen if cities and counties and, yes, even states default on debt in the U.S.
Systems are so interconnected these days. A default someplace far away by an entity we've never even heard of can have consequences much closer to home than we might ever expect.
And so I guess it's from this perspective that I think about the future of where we live. I think resources—including money and energy—are going to be more scarce than we have been used to. I think more people in cities will be looking to walk and bicycle and use whatever public transportation is available than drive. They're going to want stores and services that are useful to them close by and easily accessible. For that reason, I see a new development with a giant parking lot as a bad investment. To me, it makes more sense to use the money we have available now to build something we have a pretty good idea will work in the future no matter how we get around. Traditional towns have been around for centuries because they work, and so it stands to reason they will work in the future.
That doesn't mean I'm right. It's just what I believe, and what I believe forms the basis for what I write. So when I write about how I don't like strip malls and how I'd like to see denser, more traditional development it's because I believe that's what will work best. I think 20 years from now we'll look at a town center at the Plaza site and be glad we bucked the strip mall trend. I think we'll look at a strip mall and wonder who's going to fix the cracked and weed-choked pavement.
There are days I wish I'd never started covering finance and met these people concerned about the future. I'd probably be a lot happier just driving to work every day and complaining about how The Man is gouging us at the gas pump. But that's not my reality. I worry about the future, but I don't want to just sit here and worry. There are things we can do now with the resources we have that could benefit us no matter what. We're fortunate to have this platform, Patch, to share those ideas with one another.