Had an interesting conversation with the Creative Time crew who came through town from NYC last weekend. Been mulling it over ever since. There seems to be curiosity/wonder about this project from people who instinctively think it does not make economic sense. “You’re giving the homes away?” Yes. “But what if they resell it?” Well, we have the right of first refusal, but maybe we won’t buy it, then they’re free to sell it. “So, what’s your economic upside?” And that is when it’s clear that we’re talking to people who don’t really understand the situation here. Which is understandable, since Detroit is in a wholly unique situation. In the days since that visit, I’ve been working on a theory of what I call exoeconomics, which is about what happens when something moves outside the realm where our traditional economic answers can answer it, when they go back into the wilderness outside the supply chain scenarios where capitalism thrives. It seems to me that Detroit’s struggling neighborhoods, our foreclosures and our vacancy problems, are seemingly unsolvable partly because people are attempting to use the same tools to solve it that got us into the problem in the first place. It seems there are times when you need to put those tools down (mortgages, profit, loss, loans, interest rate, etc) and use other tools. Actually, I would say we have already put the tools down, banks seem uninterested in the fate of the thousands of homes they own in the city and use the economic tool of wishful thinking to hope they come back. This relates to a larger question on the vanishing of responsible neighborhood lending institutions, etc. But what we are left with are problems where economics levers can’t gain any traction. Eventually, using creative, non-market based strategies, these exoeconomic situations can be solved, allowing them to reenter the warm clutches of capitalism. I would suggest that this is one of the goals of Write A House, to use a unique situation-specific answer to provide a model of how to address this one seemingly intractable problem. We are not the answer, but in this small example there might be clues to real solutions. (so, I’m calling my agent to pitch this as a book, because exoeconomic issues are growing. Ironically, the arts themselves are becoming exoeconomic, as the internet, digital piracy, and a flooding of content remove the economic incentives that made so many arts – music, journalism, filmmaking – thrive.)