This post from Andrew Sullivan I think is guilty of the tendency to attack individual actors within a culture and not put the blame on the people who helped create that culture or the culture itself.
There are villains to go around, here, across the ideological spectrum. But it seems to me to be the urge among conservatives to often punish the last cog the in machine, the end-of-the-line consumer. It's conservatives, after all, who have told us for years that consumption and spending are the keys to happiness. Conservatives who have counseled us that growth is the engine on the train to prosperity and abundance. Conservatives who deride urbanism and cities, and praise the suburbs and rural areas that offer no alternatives to individual home ownership. President Bush and his administration who pushed for more home ownership. Alan Greenspan who kept interest rates artificially, irrationally low. Conservatives in the financial sector who pressed for deregulation and laissze faire conditions that led to this collapse. And it's conservatives who have long held two fundamentally conflicting virtues to be a part of the American character: fiscal responsibility, and endless consumption. There's many working against the latter impulse, of course, like Rod Dreher and the Cruncy Cons. Andrew himself has been an important voice in that regard. But here, I think, he's dropping the ball.
Should people have taken out mortgages they couldn't afford to pay off? Of course not. Do they deserve some blame? Sure. You know who deserves more blame? The lenders who eagerly offered them the loans. The banks that eagerly underwrote them. The investment banks that collateralized and bought them. The ratings agencies that went along with the charade, going against the express purpose of their existence. The boards and executives at the investment banks who knew the risks and did nothing to inoculate themselves or our economy against those risks. And what's really to blame is a culture that tells people they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it, that they can buy something today and put off paying for it forever, one that tells people that their value is actually synonomous with their belongings, with their consumption.
Our culture, our profligate, celebrity-addled culture, is cross-ideological or a-ideological. We need people from both sides to change it. Part of that is scolding, sure. Homeowners need to be chastised for shirking individual responsibility. They had people enabling them all the way along, and they were actors in a culture that has long held home ownership to be an elementary facet of American middle class identity. All of that has to change, and it can only change by applying our displeasure equally and fairly.