Making Iranian oil as unpopular as the McMansion

Here is an argument that compares McMansions to Iranian oil:

The United States would like to perform a magic trick, and our economy might depend on its success. The illusion? We want the world to think Iran’s oil is practically a Las Vegas McMansion.

Now, nobody is going to confuse a barrel of crude with a four story desert abode. Las Vegas houses have been widely shunned and practically unsellable. As a result, their prices have plummeted for the few remaining buyers. We want the same thing to happen to Iran’s oil: We want it to become so unpopular that Iran is forced to sell it only at a significant discount.

Perhaps it seems odd that the United State should hope Iran sells any of its oil. After all, we’re using sanctions to turn Tehran into a pariah within the global financial system, making it next to impossible for them to actually export crude, with the hope that it will force the country’s leaders to drop their nuclear program. But you can’t cut the world’s fifth largest oil producer entirely out of the global petroleum market and not expect prices to surge even more than they already have.

Instead, our government wants Iran to keep shipping oil to some of its major customers — but for cheap. “Policymakers need to ensure that they are not creating an embargo of Iranian oil but, instead, implementing these sanctions so that Iranian oil becomes a distressed asset,” Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz, who advised Congress while it drafted the sanctions legislation, told Bloomberg today.

An unusual comparison. I can see the general point: we want Iranian oil to stay in the market but we don’t want Iran to benefit from being able to sell it for high prices. So we need Iranian oil to carry a stigma so that the price has to be dropped.

But the comparison breaks down if you think this through to the end. Most critics would argue that McMansions shouldn’t be built in the first place. At this point, we can’t stop Iran from producing oil but we can effect how it is sold, similar to the ways in which McMansions have publicly been denigrated. However, we have more control over McMansions: if we really wanted to as a country, we could ban the construction of McMansions (though this would most likely have to happen at the local level).This makes me wonder if McMansions could ever be considered okay or even popular. If I remember correctly, the New Urbanist authors of Suburban Nation suggested McMansions might be acceptable if they were modified slightly to fit into traditional looking neighborhoods that encouraged civic participation. This particular comparison ties the popularity of the McMansions to their price; so they would be acceptable as long as they are cheap? Perhaps then the housing could be considered affordable housing, not just the province of the wealthy or nouveau riche, even if critics are correct in suggesting that such houses are poorly built, poorly designed, and are often in sterile neighborhoods.

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