Holding a McMansion mortgage limits your American freedom and liberty

Here is another argument why you should not own a McMansion: it limits your ability to be a free American.

Want to sever from your body an arm and a leg in the name of the American Dream? It’s certainly at odds with what the dream is supposed to be about. If the idioms ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ still reign supreme in the minds of Americans, a mortgage on a single family McMansion is losing its shine.

The lifestyle manufactured by the burbs lacks the luster it once held. Working incessantly to maintain payments on your suburban box and pay for gas to drive EVERYWHERE is less desirable for those who have the luxury of choice in today’s America…

I recently visited a very well planned subdivision. It had a small row of shops, a park, lots of trees and wonderfully manicured lawns as far as the eye could see. It felt false. It felt like the neighborhood committee was the Joneses that enforced the keeping up. In older neighborhoods there are intermittent shops, bars, community halls, schools and houses of all shapes and sizes. Some neighbors are house-proud and commit themselves to a fine garden and home. Others have bottomed out station wagon in their front yard. The lots are different sizes. The houses have assorted kitsch, architectural details. There are old people who have lived there since the Great Depression.

It’s time for an organic refit of those suburbs that reek of bland mass-market ideals. They come from a time that was most certainly thrown overboard in the 2009 housing crisis. Surely, the frugality that was thrust upon us can manifest itself in creativity!

I interpret this argument as an updated version of a decades-old suburban critique. First, the old part of this critique which was quite common in the 1950s. Living in the suburbs stifles your creativity and ability to innovate. This is because all of the houses look the same, everyone has to drive, the zoning only allows for one use at a time, and conformity is encouraged. In this view, you can’t really be an individual in the suburbs because the environment pushes everyone to be the same.

The updated part of this argument is that owning a single-family home may not be worth the cost. For the last 100 years or so, the United States in both policy and culture has pushed homeownership and its ties to individualism and being part of the middle-class. But, taking on a big mortgage limits your options. Indeed, even conservatives like Dave Ramsey might agree with this critique as there has been an increase in advice to avoid taking on unnecessary debt.

In the end, I suspect this argument hinges on what you consider American freedom to be. Is it the “right” to get ahead and purchase a nice home in the suburbs where you can raise a family? Or is it the “right” to be an individual outside of the mass market and mass society and enjoy and contribute to vibrant communities?

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