IPFS Menckens Ghost

More About: General Opinion

How’s that good life working out?

The HGTV show “Househunters International” is almost as good as “Judge Judy” in providing insights into human behavior in conditions of abundance and the welfare state.  It shows that shortsightedness, impulsiveness, indebtedness, wanderlust, and starry-eyed dreaming are universal among the populace of Western nations and are not just American traits. 

The typical segment follows a single person, married couple (with or without children), or a gay couple, as they move from their native country to another country and search for a house or condo to rent or buy.  Most are moving from England or the USA to Southern Europe, the Caribbean or Central or South America.  (For some reason, gay couples and interracial couples are shown on HGTV way out of proportion to their representation in the general population.)

Most don’t have much money, a marketable trade or profession, or any job prospects in the new country.  However, they do have a common urge “to enjoy the good life” or “enjoy different cultures,” as they are prone to say, sounding like a talking travel brochure or a college lecture on multiculturalism.  In their dreamy imaginations, that means enjoying the café scene in some European city, or the tranquility of an Italian village (wait until they try to sleep with the racket of passing motor scooters), or an ocean view from some island, or a completely different cultural experience in Columbia, Peru, Brazil or similar country.

Somehow, they don’t notice the graffiti plastered all over the European city, or the lack of wealth-producing industry, or the strolling natives who don’t appear to have jobs.  They don’t notice that most of the buildings are crumbling in the quaint Italian village, or that most of the inhabitants are elderly, or that there are few retail stores or any signs of prosperity or economic opportunity.  Nor do they notice the security bars, filth, widespread poverty, and nonexistent building codes in the South American city.  

Ah, the good life.

Many of them buy rundown places and plan to renovate them, although they spent all of their savings on the purchase and have nothing left over for renovations.  But even if they tried to renovate, where would they buy the materials--the wallboard, pipes, electric wiring, nails, screws, fixtures, paint, etc.?  Hardware stores and lumber yards appear to be nonexistent in most of the locales, and for sure, a Home Depot isn’t down the street.

In a few of the episodes, dreamers have bought places with swimming pools--or I should say, pools of brackish water and debris.   Mrs. Dreamer turns to Mr. Dreamer and coos, “Ooo, I can see us sitting out here with a glass of wine watching the sunset.”  If either of them had any sense, they’d be picturing themselves frantically searching for a place to buy pool pumps and chemicals, for a contractor who knows how to re-plaster pools, and for a source of income to pay  the cost of electricity, water and maintenance for the pool.

The one thing that some of them get right is that if they establish residency in the adopted country, they can mooch off the social welfare system and be eligible for free medical care and free college tuition.  However, here’s the problem with this thinking:  As un-ambitious people like them move to welfare nations for the good life of free stuff, ambitious people move from these nations for economic opportunity elsewhere, thus leaving fewer and fewer producers to pay for more and more loafers.   

Speaking of which, before the current recession, Spain had been a magnet for house hunters, especially Southern Spain, where most of the native and immigrant loafers are concentrated.  But since the economic turndown, home prices have plummeted, unemployment now averages over 25% and over 50% for young people, and there are 85% fewer foreigners buying real estate.  I’d pay for an admission ticket if HGTV were to run a special segment in which they return to Spain (or some other country) and ask previously featured house hunters how their move for the good life is working out.

Of course they won’t do that.  Similarly, none of the travel shows will tell the dark side of the good life, either.  Rick Steves on PBS, and Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain on the Travel network, will continue to extol the wonders of Europe and other countries, especially the architecture, cuisine, Bohemian lifestyle, and public transportation.  At the same time, they will continue to say nothing about the lack of industry and industriousness, as if the good life can be had without work, savings, investment, and that ugly, crass thing known as free enterprise.

In any event, there is no reason to move to bankrupt socialist countries now that the USA has become like them. 

How’s that good life working out?



Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at ccan2@aol.com.