Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's all Perspective, after all.

As I listen and read about the real estate "crisis" my mind goes back to my earlier life in the pharmaceuticals business. I was working on the launch of a new HIV/AIDS drug, Sustiva. My company was invited to have a presence in South Africa, the epicenter of the epidemic ( then and now), at the World Congress of HIV/AIDS meeting.

There was a huge area set up in an exposition style to feature various Pharm companies and their products. The companies go to great lengths to fashion glitzy display booths that will catch the attention of the prescribers and other allied health professionals to the booth. These booths cost 100's of 1000's of dollars and compete with one another to be grander than the next.

One reporter for a world-wide publication made the comment that all around the convention center are people infected with HIV. They live in cardboard box shanties that are inadequate in protecting them from the elements. The average income of these people might be $200 per year. The cost of various antiretrovirals, protease inhibitors and other drugs that literally have the capacity to interfere with and stop the disease cold, is in the 10's of thousands of dollars per year. The writer went on to say that the people living in the shanty towns with HIV would love to "live" in the display booths used by the pharmaceutical companies to display thier varied medicines. However, that dream was as unattainable as their hope of receiving the life-giving drugs. Their lives were subject to abject hopelessness and death when it came to consuming just a little part of the western lifestyle. The article made quite a ripple across the world and served to highlight the greed of the industry.

Here in Tallahassee and the rest of the USA we feel deprived if we are not able to move up to the 3600 square foot home with the 3 baths, hardwood flooring, decorative alcoves, book shelves, pool, granite counter tops, etc. When and where did it become the norm for us Americans to live like that? We have a standard of living, even in the sub-middle class, that is incomparable to the deprivation known across a huge part of the world. We chase the American Dream in waves. We buy a first home and then after a bit we move up and then up, and up, and up.

We lose the perspective of where we stand as compared to the rest of the world. The media is fanning the current housing crisis as if it is the end of the world. Here in Tallahassee it is pretty soft as compared to other areas. It is a wonderful time for buyers to attain the American Dream of home ownership. People can still sell their houses if they are able to relax their profit motivation a bit. It is all perspective.

People still need housing. It is a basic need. Real estate has gone through a correction and will return to some norm in the not too distant future. I know I will not have to sleep in a cardboard shanty house tonight and I do not know anyone in my family that will. It is all perspective.

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