Matt’s new book

by on March 7, 2012 at 7:11 am in Books, Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

As I had predicted, it is very good.  Most of all I like the suggestion that the economy is becoming more Ricardian with higher resource rents.

I am assuming that most of the United States will not follow Matt’s policy prescriptions, which are unpopular with homeowners to say the least.  Which secondary adjustments and rent-seeking losses will result?  If you cannot easily live in Manhattan, next to the stylish people, how will you respond?  One option is to damn them and tune into NASCAR.  Instead you might compete more intensely for their attention and approval.  Write a blog.  Send them ads.  Try to chip away at the privileged status of their attention and capture some of that value for yourself.  Either way cultural polarization seems to increase.

For all their other virtues, lower rents also help satisfy the demand for affiliation.  I know people who are proud just to live in San Francisco and not only because it signals their income and status.  It sounds cool.  At what level of zoning is this consumer surplus maximized?

What is the most serious estimate of how much denser agglomeration — boosted by lower rents — would increase productivity?  I do not take the urban wage premium as the correct measure here, since at the margin the extra worker currently does not move in.  I would like to read a good study of this issue, which I have discussed with Ryan Avent as well.

Is this available improvement a level effect or a rate effect?

If people were the size of ants, without encountering any absurdities of physics or biology, how would the “public choice” of urban building change?  Would urban centers be equally exclusionary?

How much space do we need to live?  Say you have a 3-D printer nanobox which can produce (or obliterate) any output on demand.  Is a studio apartment then enough?  Just print out your bed come 11 p.m., or summon up your kitchen equipment before the dinner party.  How much of the demand for space is for storage and how much is for other motives?  My personal demand for space is highly storage-intensive, but I may be an exception in this regard.

If zoning stays too tight, are there (second best) general negative externalities from storage?

I don’t recall Matt calling for the widespread privatization of government-owned land, but would he agree this is the logical next step?  It’s hardly as important as freeing up more urban and suburban building, but is there any good reason for government to own all that turf?  I don’t think so.  Let’s keep the public works and military facilities and national parks, and sell most of the rest.

Here is Matt’s summary of the book.

1 Jim Pavlik March 7, 2012 at 7:27 am

Matt has lauded the government, especially in DC, when it has sold off publicly held land (office space). He also has encouraged them to do more of it. I can’t remember the posts or the properties off the top of my head, but it is definitely something he has done.

Given the amount of questions you have, and the discussion that would be required to come to anything like a satisfactory answer, I wonder if the e-book format is adequate. Matt has argued that the shorter-than-a-book-but-longer-than-a-magazine-feature is the perfect size for the e-book and that the e-book was a good size for TRITDH, but now I’m not sure.

2 david March 7, 2012 at 7:35 am

Must the government sell land to earn an equivalent of rent from the private-sector from it?

3 Doc Merlin March 8, 2012 at 2:26 am

The point is to reduce efficiency-reducing rents, selling the property would do that.

4 Martin March 7, 2012 at 7:55 am

Tyler, you should just throw out your CDs and books, and go digital. It saves so much space and trouble. The price of scanning your books is prohibitive right now, but there is no reason to keep books that are in print. You may choose to scan your out-of-print books despite the price in case your house is destroyed by fire or weather.

5 joshua March 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm

What are the comparable odds of “house being destroyed by fire or weather” vs. “digital files being lost or corrupted”?

6 Peter March 7, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Depends how well you back up. It is quite possible to have the odds of your data being destroyed go substantially below those of your house being destroyed, though it’s generally not cheap to do so well.

7 joshua March 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Yes, not cheap in terms of cost or time, especially regarding the overhead of maintaining multiple backups of files that are constantly changing. And then you have to make sure those backups don’t belong somewhere that will be useless if the house is destroyed.

Don’t get me wrong, I think digital storage is generally cheap and reasonable. But it’s not a slam dunk replacement for physical.

8 Daniel Dostal March 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm

It is getting close. Using a reputable cloud service is becoming cheap and reliable. Then the problem becomes one of rent and control. I happily give my data to google, so rent is paid. Google has given me no signs that they would renege on my ability to use their services or lose my data.

9 Benny Lava March 7, 2012 at 7:59 am

There are some problems with the density crowd. One is that density was a problem in New York when Manhattan had over 2 million people. Teeming tenement housing was bad. Are the negatives of density addressed? And what about people’s preferences for square footage of yard? It seems like rent is a price vs commuting time equation for most people. Isn’t this more important than zoning? Why not just annex Yonkers and run a subway out there. I mean that is what happened to Brooklyn 100 years ago.

10 Paul March 7, 2012 at 10:34 am

I think you might enjoy the book.

11 Slocum March 7, 2012 at 8:01 am

This finding is important but Gordon is, I think, misinterpreting it. The measured inequality in earnings may vanish when you control for cost of living, but the actual money doesn’t vanish. It’s rent. Imagine two tenant farmers, one of whom sells crops worth twice as much as the other. At first glance, inequality seems high. At second glance, it turns out that the “richer” farmer’s earnings are mostly vanishing in the form of higher rent. That’s not an optimistic story about inequality being lower than it seems. It’s Ricardo’s story about diminishing returns, the limits to economic growth, and an increasingly unequal society in which the rewards of human labor are going to landowners rather than working people.

What!? No, the ‘landowners’ in America’s big cities aren’t making out like bandits while their urban tenant farmers toil in hot glare of their computer monitors. In many cases, the occupant *is* the landowner (the owner of his house or condo), but that does not make him rich (or even reduce his costs). And where there is an actual landlord, the amount the landlord had to pay to buy the property reflects the level of rents paid by his tenants — the prices of apartment building have long been bid up to the point where extraordinary profit margins are not available. In New York, about the only people who are making out like bandits are the ones with the ‘luck’ (or connections) to enjoy cheap, rent-controlled apartments. But housing costs are not the only contributor to the high cost of living in coastal urban enclaves — taxes, too, are very high, and much of that goes not to services, but to inefficiency, corruption, and rent-seeking (not that it’s always easy to tell the difference between the three), which is one of the main reasons that so many people have happily fled less fashionable cities for the suburbs and exurbs. I have not read the book, but Matt has been correct on development restrictions and rent-control in New York, which greatly contribute to restricted supply and elevated prices (comparing rents in New York to those in Chicago reveals just how screwed up things are). But the analogy to tenant farmers is just bizarre.

If you cannot easily live in Manhattan, next to the stylish people, how will you respond?

The desire for such an existence has always been a minority taste. New York was threadbare and nearly bankrupt a generation ago, and Chicago (during the Bilandic/Byrne/Washington era) wasn’t doing all that great either. Some big cities (though not many others) became more livable and, therefore, desirable during the 80’s-90’s economic boom (a reversal of a longer countervailing trend), but will it last?

12 Ricardo March 7, 2012 at 8:17 am

“And where there is an actual landlord, the amount the landlord had to pay to buy the property reflects the level of rents paid by his tenants — the prices of apartment building have long been bid up to the point where extraordinary profit margins are not available.”

The first step is to compare the growth rate of the price of urban real estate to other assets over a long enough period of time to smooth out the most recent bubble and crash. If the growth rate is higher than for other assets, then this reasoning really doesn’t apply.

As an anecdote, my former landlord in San Francisco was a retired firefighter who had bought the house he was renting out in the 1970s. Contrary to stereotype, SF has a lot of older middle-class homeowners who simply got lucky and bought houses back when people like them could actually afford to do so. Of course, buying urban real estate is a high-risk proposition. You may end up like my landlord or you may end up like property owners in Detroit. Guessing which cities and neighborhoods will be desirable in 30 years is pretty difficult.

13 Jimmy March 7, 2012 at 10:36 am

Though if the city is only 7 x 7 miles, your chances are higher. What is called a ‘bad’ neighborhood in SF is still leaps and bounds better than living in most parts of Oakland.

14 The Anti-Gnostic March 7, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Really? They’re right across from each other, same weather, public transport, progressive city administrations. What could possibly be the difference between the two? What, I ask?

It’s a paradox, an enigma, a mystery. Some things the mind of man will just never be able to contemplate.

15 Jimmy March 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm

My sarcasm detector is not sending a clear signal.

16 Zephyrus March 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I’d disagree, actually. Even ignoring the hillier parts of Oakland, I’d probably still choose anywhere in around half of Oakland to live in than, say, in Hunter’s Point or the Tenderloin.

Though if I were to be dumped into a random place in either, SF is definitely better, so your core point stands.

17 Jimmy March 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I too don’t think we’re disagreeing on the core point, but I fall on the other side and think much of the TL is pretty alright. I would rather be there just to be in the city than live in a nicer place in Oakland, as I now do. It is more annoying than I anticipated getting to SF and back as often as I would like.

18 ad*m March 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Guessing which cities and neighborhoods will be desirable in 30 years is pretty difficult.
Actually one can guess which will be not desirable, but one cannot mention that in polite company.

19 corey March 7, 2012 at 8:10 am

The conversation gets really interesting if and when driver-less cars become relevant. Though I’d probably lose my job as a valet driver.

20 Nicoli March 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

Fuel and transportation infrastructure costs are always going to be a constraint. Even if people had driver-less cars with beds in them, you would probably only have a small percentage of people willing to put up with 3 hour commutes each way to work. That being said, driver-less cars could significantly improve capacity in certain areas. It would be interesting though is sometime in the next 20 years or so, certain roads like I-66 into DC and 95 between Baltimore and DC only allowed driver-less cars during rush hour and what’s it impact would be on commuting patterns. Given the limitations of DC’s local roads, I don’t think the change would substantially increase numbers of people able to drive to work. A more practical fix would be more density and efficient commuter rail.

21 corey March 7, 2012 at 8:39 am

My dream scenario is for me to walk out of my house, press a button on my key chain, have the car pull up in 5 minutes, drive me to my destination, and finally let the car go park itself. I think question of where the car goes to park is the most interesting. It could be somewhere 10 miles from where I was dropped off.

Could you imagine a world where manual driving is outlawed? It would no doubt be a safer world. Also if all driving is left up to computers then perhaps cars will be able to travel 10x faster than they do now. Maybe I could make it from my home in Reno to Las Vegas in 2 hours instead of 6.

22 spencer March 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

If the car parked itself 10 miles away in a dense urban setting it is doubtful that it could get back to you within five minutes of your signaling it.

At 60 miles per hour it would take 6 minutes for it to cover 10 miles.

23 bluto March 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

Or the could do something like expand the highway from 2-3 lanes to 4-5 lanes. Though Arlington would act like this guy:
It’s probably a decent idea.

24 Nicoli March 7, 2012 at 10:00 am


Yeah, but all that costs money and I certainly don’t blame Arlington. Adding lanes will just lead to to more sprawl and traffic. A better solution would be to add public transit and demo a few thousand single family homes and replace them with more density.

25 charlie March 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

Nothing that young people in cities have better sex lives?

Or being able to stumble home drunk?

26 Patrick Byrne March 7, 2012 at 8:46 am

Can someone please recommend how I might get hold of this from the UK? is telling me ‘not available’.

27 Leigh Caldwell March 7, 2012 at 9:39 am

I have the same problem. You can apparently change your Kindle registered address to the US, without needing a US credit card (or if it turns out you do need that, you can buy an Amazon gift card from the UK, load it up, register it to your US address and pay with that).

I think you can buy it on the iTunes US store if you want to read it on an iPhone or iPad (or perhaps they have a desktop version of the iBook software).

Seems more hassle than it’s worth, especially as I’ve already read Ryan Avent’s seemingly identical book. I’ll wait till Matt’s comes out in the UK officially, if it ever does.

28 Rahul March 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm

…or nurture a few Yankee friends

29 Lewis March 8, 2012 at 4:47 am

I’m in the UK. I bought it on the website, and then when I turned my Kindle on, it downloaded.

30 Becky Hargrove March 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

The fact that Matt left the book open ended says a lot, for not much discussion has really happened in the U.S. as to ‘full’ cities. I like to imagine new cities popping up all over the place to compete with our ‘full cities’ in terms of knowledge/subject aggregates, sort of like the bookstores one used to find in cities that covered most every subject imaginable. Also it would be fun if cities cropped up that had well understood varying levels of density, especially walkable cities where density is tight and everything is in ready access to one’s tiny space. Who needs a big house when the whole town is one’s backyard. But most towns here aren’t built that way. Perhaps in the future our cities will be built a bit more like walkable cities in other countries.

31 john personna March 7, 2012 at 9:08 am

You say “zoning” but name places which are geographically confined. (You could suggest that “San Francisco” annex “Oakland” to extend the brand.)

32 dbeach March 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm

San Francisco is geographically confined but there’s still plenty of room for many more people to live here if restrictions on dense building were relaxed. More or less the whole western half of the city is single-family homes, mostly detached and with yards. Even in areas that are quite dense, like the Mission, it’s illegal to build higher than about 75 feet, and of course with labyrinthine permitting process, historical preservation overreach, and fierce NIMBys getting anything built at all is extremely difficult. San Francisco’s population would double if it were as dense as Brooklyn.

The other part of the story is that the low density of housing outside of the City is an even bigger problem. If San Mateo county were a tenth as densely populated as San Francisco instead of a twentieth, rents in the whole region would drop considerably.

33 john personna March 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

I would actually favor some injunction like “lot, house and apartment sizes cannot be arbitrarily set, and must be a safety argument.” Mission has the safety argument doesn’t it? Fill land and earthquakes?

34 dbeach March 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm

The Mission is emphatically not fill. It was the first place in the area to be settled by the Spanish. As for earthquakes, somehow the Japanese manage to achieve much higher density than the Bay Area in spite of an even higher level of seismic activity.

35 Rich Berger March 7, 2012 at 9:21 am

So I looked at “Matt’s” summary of his book and found this:

“If you’ve ever read me on housing and wondered “why does this guy think this is so important” or read me on manufacturing and thought “yeah, but what’s his answer” then you will find the answers herein. Andrew Chesley has been reading his copy and liked this line:

Lots of people buy RVs, but nobody “invests” in them. And what’s a house but a giant RV with no wheels?”

Sorry Matt, but a house is not an RV with no wheels. An RV is not as house-like as a mobile home, and mobile homes depreciate much faster than fixed homes. If this is an example of what he is proud of, I am not very impressed with his analysis.

36 The Hon. Sen. Palpatine March 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

Don’t forget the value of the land, which can be quite variable.

37 Paul March 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

“…mobile homes depreciate much faster than fixed homes.”

You’re missing the point. Different types of fixed homes/mobile homes/ RVs without wheels depreciate at different rates for all sorts of reasons relating to their quality, just like all durable goods. Matt understands this. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of their homes this way, because they conflate the value of the land with the value of the building on top of it. He’s using this simple analogy to get people to understand that it’s not their house (as in the structure) that is getting more valuable, but the land.

As readers of economics blogs, we already understand that. The ebook is shooting for a wider audience.

38 Rich Berger March 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

I totally agree that if you assume away all differences between RVs and mobile and fixed homes, they are the same. Maybe that’s the genius of “Matt”.

39 Phill March 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Stop being dense.

40 The Hon. Sen. Palpatine March 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

I think, for reasons that are better left unsaid, SF would prefer to annex Daly City or South San Francisco.

41 Will March 7, 2012 at 9:55 am

I’d like to hear more about keeping “public works and military facilities and national parks.” Certainly, it’s probably very difficult to move a wastewater or drinking water treatment plant, but living in DC, I can think of very valuable land that is technically a military facility, but has no reason to be where it is. Ft. McNair and Bolling are both on very valuable waterfront property and there’s no apparent reason for them to be placed where they are.

42 anon March 7, 2012 at 11:20 am

“I know people who are proud just to live in San Francisco and not only because it signals their income and status. It sounds cool.”

Um ,Tyler..

43 The Anti-Gnostic March 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm

LOL. The deliberate obtuseness in these debates is comical. It’s like watching Arne Duncan explain why his kids don’t go to government schools.

44 KLO March 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm

This comment makes no sense. Arne Duncan’s kids are enrolled in the Arlington County public school system. There really is not much to explain there.

45 The Anti-Gnostic March 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm

My mistake.

But that ain’t just any public school.

46 msgkings March 7, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Nice walkback but you got completely blown up on that one, A-G. Just go back to the bench and wait for the next play.

47 mw March 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm

‘but is there any good reason for government to own all that turf?’

I’m praying that you aren’t talking about, e.g. the massive swaths of town, county, state, and national forest/park/wilderness areas in the SF Bay Area, which are without a doubt one of the main incentives for living there to go with its weather. Compare that to the various east coast metropolis concrete jungles. It is a *tremendous* attraction and yes if it were all filled with high-rises (somehow over the mountain terrain) the area would certainly lose over half of its distinct attractiveness compared to competitors, no question whatsoever.

48 Rich Berger March 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm

When I took a look at the comments on his “book”, I realized Ace of Spades!

49 TallDave March 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

The review from “William Scalia” was sort of a giveaway.

50 Lord March 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Sell central park and build it over? Most valuable government land tends towards those uses. While value could be extracted, it would come at the cost of living in those areas so would not be free.

51 Rich Berger March 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I heard that he is going to be promoting his book on The Simpsons this Sunday.

52 Barkley Rosser March 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Suggesting loosening up on overly restrictive zoning regs and selling unused government properties, particularly in or near urban areas strikes me as highly reasonable. With the exception of a few localities (D.C. perhaps), height restrictions are particularly silly, with the obvious easy way to increase density without forcing people to live in the sort of silly mini-residences that both Matt and Tyler seem to think are at least potentially cool is to simply have taller residential buildings as in Tokyo, which is a very well run and highly dense city.

In discussing selling government land it is not so useful to wave hands while talking about absolute amounts and maintenance costs. Most of the maintenance costs are associated with land that has structures currently being used, such as those military bases. Sure, sell off the unused warehouses. But the major parts of the land area are not urban, but either national forests (one can debate about them) or simply land that is nearly unusable and has never been privately owned, the yellow areas on the map on the link. This is much of the land in Nevada and Utah and Alaska, land that there might be no private purchaser for. After all, outside the original 13 colonies, where the state is the residual owner of land (yes, Virginia, there is actually unowned land in Virginia that is legally the property of the Commonwealth), the residual owner of unowned land is the federal government. Nobody wants it.

53 Major March 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm

With the exception of a few localities (D.C. perhaps), height restrictions are particularly silly, with the obvious easy way to increase density without forcing people to live in the sort of silly mini-residences that both Matt and Tyler seem to think are at least potentially cool is to simply have taller residential buildings as in Tokyo, which is a very well run and highly dense city.

As long as you ignore congestion, crowding, noise, pollution, loss of privacy, aesthetic degradation and all the other negative externalities of higher density.

54 SDFII March 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I seriously cannot believe you continue to grant this guy any notice whatsoever.

55 TallDave March 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm

It’s also getting some glowing reviews on Amazon:

“This book has quality writing with very well spelled words and amazing spacing along with columns of pure genius when it comes to page centering. Over all the typeface is excellent along with the feel of the microfiber used for each page. I noticed too that all of the pages fell in exact numerical order so there was very little effort in deciding what to read next.”

56 Chris March 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Look, is there anyone here who has actually (1) read the thing and (2) identifies as a libertarian or economic conservative? I fit in both categories, and frankly I can barely find a word in the booklet to disagree with. Removing government restrictions on building? Raise the torches, we’ve sighted a liburl!

Are you all “libertarians” who want more building restrictions? If not, then what in the hell is your problem? Why not just shut up for once when someone is AGREEING WITH YOU?! This man is your ally in housing policy, even if he isn’t in your tribe. I know Robin Hanson says politics isn’t about policy, but damn, these comments today and yesterday have been shockingly bad.

57 msgkings March 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm

+ a big 1

58 dead serious March 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm
59 Andrew Edwards March 7, 2012 at 11:55 pm

+ 1

60 Rich Berger March 8, 2012 at 9:00 am

Why fool around with MY when you could read Hazlitt’s ” Economics in One Lesson” and learn about a lot more than TRITDH?

61 Turkey Vulture March 7, 2012 at 4:01 pm

“America-hating Communist argues for reduced government regulation, free-market capitalism.”

62 The Anti-Gnostic March 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I applaud Matt for calling for removal of government restrictions on housing, and it is true that all other things being equal, increasing supply will lower price, assuming also that demand stays constant. But all other things are not equal. Who are your neighbors? How does the place look? Is the area safe enough for attractive single people to walk around at night? Just plopping down another 5,000 apartments only works if housing is fungible, and it’s not.

Also, does Matt consider that it is government regulation itself which creates these urban idylls he finds so frustratingly expensive? It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the strict zoning, the lower density, the architectural regs, the byzantine school districting, the well-armed police force guarding all of it, are features, not bugs. And the hip, innovative people Matt wants to live around like it that way.

And finally, again, I can show Matt plenty of cheap urban properties where he could live. The problem is not some drastic under-supply of cheap, urban digs. The problem is a perceived under-supply of hip neighborhoods where hip people like Matt are willing to live. Like I posted yesterday, you can apparently find an apartment in Central Harlem for around $1500, but if you want to live in Tribeca, it’s not less than $3500. And even if Mayor Bloomberg deleted every single housing reg and allowed developers to build Tribeca to the sky, then all the upscale folks would just move out and find some other neighborhood with a price point high enough to keep out the riff-raff.

So basically, Matt is arguing for solutions to a non-problem. Or rather, his problem is not what he thinks it is.

63 msgkings March 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Gotta +1 this one too. Urban price points are simply not monolithic even in the ‘hip’ cities.

Now, you could argue that maybe Matt is trying to say both the Harlem and Tribeca rents are too high. That is, why do both the good and the bad neighborhoods cost so much more than the good and the bad neighborhoods in less urban places. But then the answer is pretty tautological: costs are higher in dense cities because more people live there/want to live there.

My feeling is Matt’s book is a solution to a non-problem, or at least a problem so obvious that it doesn’t rate a book.

64 The Anti-Gnostic March 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I think some more fruitful areas to explore might be 1) transportation, and 2) the need for all that soul-crushing steel and glass and all those asphalt highways leading in and out of them to begin with. Jim Kunstler has often trenchant and always entertaining commentary, say what you will about his economics.

I’ve been awfully hard on Matt, but I do agree that it shouldn’t be such a pricey decision to avoid commutes. So far, God be thanked, I haven’t had to make that choice.

65 msgkings March 7, 2012 at 9:15 pm

To give a little credit to Matt, and we probably should with some folks here calling him a murderous supervillain, his book can be seen as a ‘Nixon to China’ kind of thing, with the liberal calling for libertarian/free-market scrapping of regulations most of his ‘tribe’ would never countenance. Gotta give credit where it’s due.

66 Lewis March 8, 2012 at 5:10 am

You’re saying “Nobody goes there, it’s too crowded.” If additional construction makes a place into a worse place to live, then the price would fall so low that additional construction would not take place. It doesn’t prove anything that you can show Matt cheap places to live in dangerous neighbourhoods with decrepit housing stock. Matt is advocating that construction be allowed so that middle-class people can afford to live in good areas with decent housing. And no, it’s not the fact that no middle class people live in good neighbourhoods that makes them good neighbourhoods. Geography and the quality of housing are essential.

Also, if developers were allowed to build up Tribeca, it’s unclear why rich people would move out. They live there to be near the countless cultural amenities, workplaces, and transportation. If developers were allowed to build up Tribeca to the point middle class people could afford to live there, then there would just be more people in Tribeca. Rich people would probably just have bigger, nicer apartments with more amenities in their buildings like exclusive gyms and pools. That’s the “price point.” Besides, Ed Glaeser estimates the cost of adding an apartment fit for a family in lower manhattan is about $500,000 in construction costs (since , which would put a floor on price anyway. It’s unclear why it would even be a problem if some of the rich people moved out. It’s not as though a middle-class neighborhood next to jobs, subways, restaurants is some kind of hell-hole. Do you think an area is only nice because rich people live there?

Anti-gnostic’s criticism is pretty typical of conservatives who dislike hipsters, yuppies, urbanites, and everyone like Matt who they perceive as inherently liberal by lifestyle. Randall O’Toole at the Antiplanner does the same trick. You say “I applaud Matt/Ryan Avent/Ed Glaeser for wanting to end regulation of housing, but it wouldn’t do any good for reason X I’m making up off the top of my head.” If you think removing restrictive zoning wouldn’t do any good, then you believe zoning is an amazing exception to your anti-regulation ethos–an exception in which massive, universal, heavy-handed government regulation is doing amazingly little harm.

67 GiT March 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Rent in Harlem being relatively cheap tells me nothing about whether or not it is absolutely cheap.

And guess what, in Albany, NY you can rent an apartment for $600.

So much for cheap living in Harlem.

68 msgkings March 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I discussed this exactly in my post above, the problem possibly can be framed ‘why are urban (NYC) rents, in bad and good neighborhoods, so much higher than non-urban (Albany)?’ But the answer is so basic as to be meaningless, because lots more people want to live in NYC than Albany. Obviously Matt is arguing then let’s increase supply, and anyone should agree. But no realistic adding of units will make NYC rents = Albany. It’s just not possible.

69 bmcburney March 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Of course, Yglesias is very popular on this site and others. I feel confident, however, that if Matt Yglesias had access to a weapon which was capable of causing the immediate death of every conservative on the planet, I would already be dead. I find it difficult to do anything which might lend support to his career.

70 dead serious March 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Wishing death is a little much, but I’d be forever grateful for a Shut the Fuck Up ray gun to use on y’all.

71 bmcburney March 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Yeah, hearing a diversity of opinions seems to cause something close to actual physical pain to some. I imagine conservatives could be found who might use their ray-guns on you as well.

But Yglesias wants us all dead and after the conservatives are gone I get the feeling he wouldn’t feel too very bad about killing the libertarians next. Tyler and Iglesias seem to have quite a friendly relationship but once the revolution is here, Tyler will be on Matt’s very long list of class enemies.

And all class enemies will be liquidated.

72 Tom West March 7, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I find imputing motives and guessing hypothetical actions of those whose views disagree with mine tends to be both inaccurate and unproductive, I suspect the same applies to you.

Simply saying “I prefer not to financially support those whose views disagree sharply with my own” has the advantage of accuracy without raising disquieting questions of exactly who might have murderous instincts given access to non-existent super-weapon.

(I mean, seriously, what on earth brought to mind Yglesias as mass-murdering super-villian?)

73 msgkings March 7, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Ah, the internet.

74 bmcburney March 7, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Tom West,

I’m glad you asked that question. I have two answers to offer. First, go to Slate and check out Yglesias’ picture. Seriously. He’s still a little too young but take a good long look (30 seconds, at least) at that pudgy little face and those hurt-but-angry little eyes. Yglesias as “a mass-murdering super-villian” leaps off the screen (at least to me). All he lacks is a few more years and a blue-silver Neru jacket.

Second, I have read his stuff for years. When discussing politics most left wing writers will throw in the occasional “to be sure” regarding the violent excesses of left wing leaders or movements. Not Iglesias, never that I have seen. He is undeniably a “No enemies to the left” kind of guy. He is also very fond of announcing that this or that person should be caused (somehow) to never be heard from again. I hope he means they should be shunned or ignored or subjected to ridicule but that is not always clear.

I did not say “I prefer not to financially support” etc. because that is not what I meant. What I meant is that I have come to the conclusion that his long-term goal is to kill me and most of my family. I admit, it is very unlikely he will succeed and even more unlikely that my four bucks will cause him to succeed. I concede he writes well and admit the possibility that I might gain more from reading his book than he gains from my four bucks. If DeLong or Krugman writes something which is recommended as highly as Tyler recommends this, I would certainly consider it. Yglesias creeps me out.

But, of course, I could be wrong. Build a case, I will read it. Remind me of that time when Yglesias said something mildly conciliatory about conservatives. I dare you.

75 Tom West March 8, 2012 at 10:59 am

First, Matt’s is not far-left by any standard reading – his commenters are almost always to the left of him (especially when he was at Think Progress). I’d put him at about the 90th percentile of ‘leftiness’, which makes 30 million Americans to the left of him.

Secondly, talk about raising disquieting questions about murderous instincts! The trouble with making accusations of murderous intent is that for most normal people, that implies a willingness to respond in kind, if not pre-empt. Making those accusations in a public forum gives of a faint aura of the “quiet guy who ends up mowing down the crowd of ‘leftists’ with an M-16 screaming ‘I’ll kill you all before you touch my family'”.

Presuming you aren’t one of those, giving off that vibe unnecessarily diminishes the respect your arguments are due, to say nothing of creeping out much of the audience.

76 zz March 9, 2012 at 10:46 am

It’s weird that the ” “quiet guy who ends up mowing down the crowd of ‘leftists’ with an M-16 screaming ‘I’ll kill you all before you touch my family’ ” archetype exists given that I can’t recall such a thing every occurring…

77 Brett March 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Rising gasoline prices should have some interesting effects on the problems that Matt identified in his book. They won’t hurt the Upper-Middle Class families too much, since they can usually just eat the loss (possibly getting rid of one of several cars as well). But the poor people priced out of the NIMBY-locked neighborhoods aren’t usually so lucky.

78 Facebook Emoticons March 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I hope he means they should be shunned or ignored or subjected to ridicule but that is not always clear.
Facebook Emoticons

79 dead serious March 7, 2012 at 10:42 pm

“I have two answers to offer. First, go to Slate and check out Yglesias’ picture. Seriously. He’s still a little too young but take a good long look (30 seconds, at least) at that pudgy little face and those hurt-but-angry little eyes. Yglesias as “a mass-murdering super-villian” leaps off the screen (at least to me). All he lacks is a few more years and a blue-silver Neru jacket.”


“What I meant is that I have come to the conclusion that his long-term goal is to kill me and most of my family.”

Do you have any clue how insane you sound?
Seek help. Seriously.

80 bmcburney March 8, 2012 at 11:37 am

Easy for you to say. You’re probably looking for a henchman job in his secret volcano-lair. You certainly seem to have an interest in ray-gun development.

81 Doc Merlin March 8, 2012 at 2:02 am

“I don’t recall Matt calling for the widespread privatization of government-owned land, but would he agree this is the logical next step? It’s hardly as important as freeing up more urban and suburban building, but is there any good reason for government to own all that turf? I don’t think so. Let’s keep the public works and military facilities and national parks, and sell most of the rest.”

YES!!! THIS!!!
It would be a huge boost to the world!

82 Doc Merlin March 8, 2012 at 2:18 am

I’d like to add that Glenn Beck called for this on his show over a year ago.

83 TallDave March 8, 2012 at 11:41 am

My review:

Conventions around Amazon reviews are ridiculous

The world outlook would be slightly improved by the absence of Matt Yglesais’ writing.

84 bmcburney March 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Tom West,

Your estimate of Yglesias’ degree of “leftness” is not so very different from my own but his “leftness” is not my subject for today. As I indicated, I would not refuse to read Yglesias under any circumstances and I would not even refuse him my four dollars merely on the ground that he writes from a left-wing perspective. I am also sure there are commentators at Think Progress who are further left and, perhaps, even some who are more murderously inclined. But when Andrew Breitbart died, Yglesias opined that the world was a slightly better place because of that event. I think he meant it. I also think that Yglesias wants to make the world a much better place (by his lights). And, if he had the power to do so, I don’t believe Yglesias would allow conventional ideas of bourgeois morality to stand in his way.

Of course, lots of people didn’t like Breitbart and I hope I live in a country where everyone is free to refuse to mourn any death they don’t feel like mourning. However, among all the unpleasant commentary following Breitbart’s death, only one commentator of any note observed that the world was improved by the death of someone on the other side of the political divide.

I don’t think the trope of “you only say that because you want to kill everyone on the left” really works in this situation. I would not say I mourned the death of Ted Kennedy but I did not say, and did not think, that the world was a better place because of his death. And, in any case, I am most definitely bound by conventional ideas of bourgeois morality.

Did you look at his picture? Look again while contemplating the Breitbart comment.

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