[I can’t help myself, but don’t expect regular posting. For the record, one of the reasons I gave up on America is the fact that, relatively speaking and in terms of the people who count, Collender really is one of the good guys. There’s no hope.]
An interesting article opinion piece in today’s New York Times Magazine says that it’s okay for a homeowner to walk away from a mortgage if his or her home is underwater. His reasoning is that it’s okay for homeowners to walk away from their financial obligations because financial institutions routinely walk away from theirs.
Putting aside the obviously infantile excuse that it’s okay to do something because everyone else is doing it, I have some real problems with the idea that a mortgage is a disposable legal and financial obligation that ceases to exist whenever a homeowner deems it to be in their personal interest to leave it behind.
This just enforces the double standard that more or less defines American life: corporate persons have legal rights and responsibilities, but no moral obligations, whereas human persons have both (though their rights are dependent on the legal help they have available).
Any well-run corporation will do whatever the legal and economic conditions in place make it rational to do. To do otherwise would be a failure to exercise fiduciary responsibility on the part of management and might be actionable. When wretched and pitiful human persons sue a corporate person, if fighting the suits to the bitter end is more profitable than either paying off the victims or fixing the problem, then the problem won’t be fixed and the victims won’t be paid off. Two thirty-something women I know are still waiting for their late father’s settlement from the Exxon Valdez case. (Perhaps their children will inherit the settlement; perhaps it will be passed down in the family forever like a lapsed medieval title.)
We human persons are better than that. We have ethics. We wouldn’t want to be like them. Sure, corporate persons rule our lives, and human persons who put themselves at the service of corporate persons live much better than the rest of us. But we are above that. We’re good and pure, and will be rewarded in Heaven.
Now, there are those who say that, if you’re contending with an amoral entity like a bank, any ethics you happen to have is dead weight and can only work against you. But this conclusion is horribly wrong and immoral, and all decent people should condemn it, as Collender just did.