Kirn is seriously wrong on this one, and commenters called him down.
When my son was very little he asked me: “Why do so many people live in little houses when there are mansions?”
“It’s not their choice,” I said.
“Then whose choice is it?” he asked me.
I am still trying to come up with an answer for him.
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Many people choose apts or small houses when they could afford larger places, not necessarily mansions. Many people who live in mansions allowed status-seeking wives to make the choice for them, and would be happier and richer in a more humble place with lower payments and lower maintenance.
Oddly, I had a dream on the exact subject last night before reading Kirn. In the dream I bought a giant beautiful Wrightian split-level with a magnificent view of a lake from the upper balcony. As I started moving in, I said: Wait! I’m old now. I don’t climb stairs easily. How am I going to manage here? I should have stayed in my little one-story house.
Granted, these choices are irrelevant in the current economic situation. All prices are mansion prices. There’s no linear relationship. Either you can afford a mansion or you’re on the street. This peculiar situation will probably resolve itself now that the central banks have stopped feeding the speculative frenzy, but it will take time to settle.