My scuffle with Matt Yglesias

by on December 14, 2016 at 2:05 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

“Why is the Rent So Damn High?”, you can watch the video here:

I should note that the debate nature of this video is for instructional purposes, and I do in fact agree with Matt more than I let on in the exchange itself.  We also debate cities vs. suburbs, and you can guess which side I take on that one, no preference falsification there!

Here is a Soundcloud podcast version, here is iTunes.

1 Massimo December 14, 2016 at 2:59 am

Living locations have a lot of externalities, and, yes, they need to be flexible to adapt to technological changes (for example, the expansion of the car ownership 60 years ago, which made spaces without parking obsolete, or the increase of the role of Internet in retail now, which is challenging the traditional mall built around an anchor department store). In a non-distorted world, this would imply large proprietary communities listed in stock exchanges and managed by specialized professions (utilities, zoning, security services…), with most people renting instead of buying. Unfortunately, as in most cases, the State comes and creates a mess. In this case the tools of distortion are two: 1) the fiscal treatment of mortgages, that makes buying more convenient than renting, and 2) the fiat money, that create a continuos unnatural inflation and makes housing a simple way to keep value (anyone here whose mother or wife keep saying: “let’s buy at least a small house to leave a roof to the children”?)

This issue has been studied and analyzed in depth by Spencer Heath (a disciple of Chodorov before falling out) and his nephew Spencer MacCallum, that wrote the beatiful “Art of the community”. As Rothbard put it, their position is a kind of “reverse Georgism”, where the private landlord provides all the services and cover a fee, without need of a government. Potentially, it is an elegant way to picture how an anarchist society would actually work. MacCallum studied the traditional multi-tenant communities: hotels, RV camps, commercial malls, cruise ships and so on, but he clearly stated that, to internalize externalities, the logical next step would be for entrepreneurs to develop entire proprietary towns or cities. It is actually happening, although still timidly. There are examples in India and even one that I heard about in the South of the US. More importantly, there are the free-zones around the world, which in many cases have a single owner. They already enjoy a certain degree of economic and fiscal autonomy, but they are becoming in many cases so important that they are starting to have also some levels of political autonomy. All the problems mentioned in the pod-cast would be resolved, entrepreneurs would offer specialized products for every segment of the market.

2 mulp December 14, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Do private cities allow the working poor and disabled and infirm with few assets to move in?

In a private city, abortion and euthanasia need to be common just like all forms of creative destruction. If an asset can’t pay for itself, tear it down and replace it with one that does. If a human is unable to pay for itself, euthanize it and turn the housing over to a replacement that can.

3 RJ December 15, 2016 at 11:12 pm

” … the fiscal treatment of mortgages, that makes buying more convenient than renting”

You are overlooking the property rights ownership brings, ranging from painting rooms the color you want to keeping motorcycles and a trailer in your garage. That bit of sovereignty over my own space is what keeps me being an owner instead of a renter.

4 Mark December 14, 2016 at 3:48 am

The white privilege here is astounding.

5 Grant Hall December 14, 2016 at 4:43 am

What?! I thought Tyler Cowen was a libertarian, and Matthew Yglesias was a socialist. This is unbelievable.

6 Colin December 14, 2016 at 6:45 am

In the comment under the video, you’ll see Tyler note that he does in fact mostly agree with Matt, and the combative nature was mostly for show.

7 dearieme December 14, 2016 at 10:16 am

The combative poses are the least authentic I’ve ever seen.

8 Picador December 14, 2016 at 11:20 am

Yeah, Tyler, you’re going to break a bunch of your fingers if you try to punch somebody like that.

Nice video though.

9 Joan December 14, 2016 at 5:29 am

As long as there are black slums in our inner cities I won’t believe zoning not racism is the major reason for high rents.

10 dan1111 December 14, 2016 at 5:46 am

Why do middle class black people also tend to move out of inner cities?

Why are there white slums in UK inner cities?

11 Joan December 14, 2016 at 6:59 am

I have not been in all the cities in Europe but the ones I have been in the slums are on the edges of cities or even suburbs, not near the center of their expensive cities.

12 GoneWithTheWind December 14, 2016 at 11:04 am

Why not reverse that trend and move into the slummy inner city near you. Get back to us in a year or two if you are still alive and tell us what you’ve learned.

13 JonFraz December 14, 2016 at 11:07 am

Increasingly slums are not found in “inner cities” in the US either– the inner cities are being gentrified.

14 Jan December 14, 2016 at 12:14 pm

But Donald Trump kept talking about inner cities like they are hell on earth. I guess Manhattan is rough, but that’s not true of all inner cities.

15 Marton December 14, 2016 at 11:10 am

London has a proud centuries-long tradition of inner-city slums – when one gets cleared (say Old Nichol or the Southwark Mint district a hundred years ago), a new one pops up right nearby (say Shadwell and Camberwell respectively).

16 Troll me December 14, 2016 at 10:22 am

People do not tend to move to places where they cannot afford the rent. (staying part)

When you can afford a nicer place, it is not in the slum. (leaving part)

17 Tarn December 14, 2016 at 7:18 am

Zoning and racism aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s a pretty common belief among people studying those inner cities that racist zoning a few decades ago is at least partially responsible for the current state of things.

18 Hari December 14, 2016 at 11:19 am


Any time the Black man has a problem, I know who to blame. Don’t even have to think about it, don’t bother trying to convince me, I know the truth: it’s the White devils!

19 Jan December 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Alternatively, I know that racism has zero negative influence on people of other races. I know this because racism doesn’t even exist, as decades of living on this planet has taught me.

20 Hari December 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Decades of living on this planet has taught me that Blacks are always better off where there are more White people around to inflict “racism” on innocent Black bodies. American Blacks > South African Blacks > Rest of Africa’s Blacks. So, yeah, I have my doubts about “racism.”

21 Taxes Can Be a Worthwhile Investment in Our Future December 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Good comparison. The geographical, economic, technological etc. environment of the U.S. is exactly the same as that of Africa, so all other factors besides being around white people are totally the same and held constant, while you compare only the presence of absence of white people. NOT.

Also, good things about living in South Africa, for blacks, could easily be the result of the strong influence of Mandela, whom you may have noticed, was not white.

You really are reaching, to try to find “proof’ that all problems of black people are their own fault entirely, and that everything good they experience is due to their white benefactors. Maybe next time you can reach all the way into a different solar system to find your “proof.”

22 Hari December 14, 2016 at 1:54 pm

“The geographical, economic, technological etc. environment of the U.S. is exactly the same as that of Africa, so all other factors besides being around white people are totally the same and held constant, while you compare only the presence of absence of white people. NOT.”

You guys used to pull out that excuse for the poverty of the Soviet Union and China. It has nothing whatsoever to do with communism, it’s all a big coincidence!

“Also, good things about living in South Africa, for blacks, could easily be the result of the strong influence of Mandela, whom you may have noticed, was not white. ”

Considering Blacks were sneaking into the country before Mandela, during apartheid, I rather doubt it.

23 JosefK December 14, 2016 at 6:33 am

After 11/9 it’s extremely dangerous to argue the left on such things as urban dwelling. As a matter of fact it would be much wiser to accept many more left-wing positions and focus on core free market principles. The alternative will be an association with 11/9 and a complete destruction of free market philosophy. Time to make a deal with the left.

24 dan1111 December 14, 2016 at 6:38 am

I didn’t know what you were talking about, so I tried Googling it. Turns out the answer is 1.22222222222.

25 JosefK December 14, 2016 at 6:52 am

Try the European format, that will give you a clue.

26 Adrian Ratnapala December 14, 2016 at 9:04 am

I got the reference. But the problem is that the totallity of your comment has no discernible meaning.

27 P Burgos December 14, 2016 at 10:26 am

I agree, and thought dan1111’s reply was humorous. Sort of like the Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42.

28 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 11:26 am

I think he’s saying that we should pack as many leftists as possible into the cities so that when terrorists nuke them, they will be eliminated.

29 Taxes Can Be a Worthwhile Investment in Our Future December 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm

One dependable thing about Right Wingers, you can always depend upon them to be cruel in thought, word, and deed.

30 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 2:24 pm

And you can count on left wingers to be humorlessly pious.

31 JWatts December 14, 2016 at 3:46 pm

“And you can count on left wingers to be humorlessly pious.”

Oh, sometimes they have humor. But it tends to be of the smug, our morality is so much higher than those knuckle dragging right wingers, pious variety.

32 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Yeah. It’s usually the sort of humor that involves making fun of people that one thinks are stupid and backwards.
As in “We’re not laughing with you, we’re laughing at you. “

33 Axa December 14, 2016 at 6:55 am

There’s also a cultural component for high rents. Rich people like to live in a cool place and makes the rent go up. Working middle-class people pays for apartments that take a significant fraction of their income to signal wealth, success or whatever. Poor people just rents what they can afford. The problem with the rent is that status signaling has become more important than utilitarian concerns when choosing a place to live. Every time I listen to a comment about the rent being “to damned high”….I end pondering: What is people looking for? A safe, comfortable and convenient place to live or an envy provoking one?

34 Slocum December 14, 2016 at 9:04 am

But the rent goes up much less where the housing policies are not screwed up. The north side of Chicago along the lake has a lot of cool neighborhoods where rich people like to live, and real estate is not cheap, but nor is it insane as in New York and San Francisco. To get really insane real estate prices and rents, you need both rich people and destructive policies (particularly rent control and strict restrictions on development).

35 Troll me December 14, 2016 at 10:27 am

Doesn’t rent control just mean that landlords cannot exceed previously calculated gains until a tenant leaves and they can capture the unexpected gain?

Why should renters always face the full cost of unexpected changes in property values, while property owners always see the full gain of unexpected changes in property values?

Specifically, if we’re talking about unexpected changes (otherwise it’d already be priced into real estate and thus rental prices), it’s not obvious that the effect on investment should be that big of a deal.

And, it would really rub a lot of people the wrong way if one class of users were systematically prevented from ever enjoying the upside while the other class of users were systematically guaranteed to obtain every possible upside gain that comes along – specifically at a direct cost to that first group.

36 Lord Action December 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

“Why should renters always face the full cost of unexpected changes in property values, while property owners always see the full gain of unexpected changes in property values?”

Well, partly, that’s not how it works: rents fall in down markets or apartments go vacant and landlords take a bath. It’s much easier for a renter to walk away than an owner.

And, partly, seeing the full gain of unexpected changes in property values is why you become a buyer and not a renter.

Nobody forces you to be a buyer or a renter. Generally a renter is likely to be worse off for renting under most circumstances, but in extreme circumstances he has more downside protection.

You saw this reflected in some naive young people’s response to the mortgage crisis, after which they became deathly afraid of buying real estate.

37 Troll me December 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm

“Nobody forces you to be a buyer or a renter.”

I missed the part about that place that hands out mortgage downpayments to anyone who wants one.

I agree that downside risk is lower when you have nothing to lose.

38 Lord Action December 14, 2016 at 12:15 pm

“I missed the part about that place that hands out mortgage downpayments to anyone who wants one.”

It’s called employment. They give money to people in exchange for work.

39 Troll me December 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm

Sounds like someone who lived life on easy mode.

40 Lord Action December 14, 2016 at 1:52 pm

I’m an immigrant who never went two weeks without a job all through college. But thanks.

You sound like someone who has no idea what he’s talking about.

41 mulp December 14, 2016 at 4:40 pm

“It’s called employment. They give money to people in exchange for work.”

But costly regulation and higher minimum wages requiring too many workers earning too much kill jobs and make workers poorer. Thus your policy is job killing and harmful. Policies that let workers get mortgages are destructive leftist big government. More jobs and growth will come from cutting labor costs and increased worker homelessness.

42 A Definite Beta Guy December 14, 2016 at 10:49 am

Not sure how we’re evaluating construction policies. New York City is massively denser than Chicago. Would Chicago’s building policies really result in higher density than NYC if property values were similar? Seems tough to say.

43 Patrick k December 14, 2016 at 11:37 am

Whenever San Francisco gets thrown in the mix discussing economics, housing and the like it signals that the folks doing the discussing really don’t know much about San Francisco or its history. Whatever excuses are used SF will always be one of the world’s most expensive cities regardless of how dense it is made. Location, location, combined with Silicon Valley minting millionaires every hour for the last 30 years guarantees the current situation. As a forty year resident there’s very little I have not seen in transforming SF from a city that was falling apart to a situation where 1 in 6 people walking down the street is a millionaire. When Silicon Valley passes its hay day SF will go back to being a small city with beautiful views and needing a paint job. Lost in the discussion—SF has only 800k and 49 sq.mi.

44 Nick December 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Part of the problem is people think too much of San Francisco’s official boundaries while real estate markets in practice act as mini-regions where local land use regulations in, for example Marin County, also affect San Francisco’s housing prices.

45 Cooper December 14, 2016 at 4:40 pm

And the transportation infrastructure is awful. The subway stations are overcrowded and the cars break down frequently. There’s a chronic shortage of parking which forces people to circle around looking for a spot, slowing down other traffic. Highways are bumper to bumper for most of the day. Bike lanes are either non-existent or they get blocked by Ubers which slows down the bike traffic. The above ground trolley system is painfully slow. It’s actually slower than it was a century ago!

Getting around SF is a hassle. Getting to SF is a hassle. Getting to your job in Silicon Valley is a hassle.

The region has fundamentally outgrown its transportation network. Without a serious investment in transit schemes, further population growth will just drag out the morning commutes of existing residents. That’s partly why new development is so unpopular.

46 Roy LC December 14, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Proximity to their social group, which is largely based on occupation, educational background, and ethnicity. Add in school districts and other child raising issues and you are dealing with a lot of stuff that is more complicated than mere signalling.

Of course if you are dealing with a large metro mostly in one city without real growth boundaries, mostly in one school district without signifigant zoning and planning issues you are talking about Houston, which is a place where saying the rent is too high is generally considered whining.

It is also the most atypical major US city.

47 Axa December 14, 2016 at 2:41 pm

There are desirable neighborhoods and aspirational rentals. Even in the most desirable neighborhood you don’t pay the average or the median rent of the neighborhood. There’s a price distribution that resembles a log-normal distribution.There are cheaper and more expensive rentals in the same desirable zone. I’ve rented, the difference between the cheap and the expensive rental is not the proximity to the social group but the size of the kitchen/living room, years since last remodel, furniture/no furniture, pool, gym, whatever.

On a second thought, my experience comes from diverse old cities and towns with a mix of houses and apartment buildings. A wide rent price range in relatively few blocks. But, I can imagine what happens in the suburbs where housing units are the same… can’t live in a nice suburb paying less than the average.

48 Anon December 14, 2016 at 6:59 am

Good video, but may I make a suggestion? Instead of debates, you should make rap battles similar to the popular Epic Rap Battles of History. Not only would these be entertaining, but they would also have the added benefit of appealing to minority viewers.

49 Taxes Can Be a Worthwhile Investment in Our Future December 14, 2016 at 1:14 pm

LOL. I like your suggestion, Anon.

50 Rich Berger December 14, 2016 at 7:28 am

Tyler is no Russ Roberts.

51 Ray Lopez December 14, 2016 at 7:58 am

TC is better, from the RR I remember, though it’s been over 10 years since I last heard him.

52 Rich Berger December 14, 2016 at 9:19 am

Given that Russ’ first podcast was March 2006, you may never have heard him.

De gustibus and all that, but I find Russ’ selection of guests to be far superior. Matt Yglesias? Next thing he’ll be interviewing little Ezra Klein.

53 N.K Anton December 14, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Russ Roberts unfortunately has too many episodes with hosts that basically get into a echo chamber with Russ Roberts to the glee of all the old boomers in the comments who worry about the inevitable road to serfdom.

Russ Roberts is actually great when he has people he disagrees with or at least doesn’t agree with wholeheartedly. He’s a great conversationalist and despite his heavy ideology, very open-minded and charitable – he just needs more guests that aren’t ‘mood affilation 101’ with EconLog.

54 Ray Lopez December 14, 2016 at 8:02 am

Yglesias –which means “Church” in Greek–is quite right. For example, it’s impossible to get a variance in Fairfax and Arlington counties unless the entire neighborhood agrees (just one dissenter will get the zoning review board to deny your application, and that’s after you’ve spent thousands to get architects plans).

55 Andre December 14, 2016 at 12:30 pm

My mother in Falls Church has become and HOA nazi in her dotage. Someone in the neighborhood built a gazebo in their back yard that was over some agreed upon height limit. Even though you couldn’t see it from the street and the back yards face a graveyard (!!) they made him take it down. I think they are just bored.

56 Ray Lopez December 14, 2016 at 8:08 am

Cities are dead IMO in the USA, notwithstanding I like Matt’s ideas. For one thing, Boomers might want to move to more easy suburbs when they age. For another, the post-scarcity “Star Trek” economy means more machines and fewer people working, so less need for city networking.

The most dense city in the world is greater Manila, which is roughly 20-30M people in an area roughly the size of the beltway DC. I lived there for a while, and it was a bit too much density, though I’m sure property owners love it for the obvious reasons.

57 JWatts December 14, 2016 at 3:50 pm

“For another, the post-scarcity “Star Trek” economy means more machines and fewer people working, so less need for city networking.”

Couple that with far better telecommuting opportunities and you may well see city population densities stop or at least decrease their rate of increase.

58 Thanatos Savehn December 14, 2016 at 8:16 am

“Nice cities for rich people and then some other places like Houston.” Well … while the ship channel is admittedly less scenic than the San Francisco Bay (but a far better generator of solid middle class jobs) Houston has managed to pull off what you two suggest. If you want to live in a high density area with excellent parks and high end shopping / eating there’s the Galleria and iincreasingly downtown; if you want to live on four acres with a pool, tennis court, etc for the same price you can try Pearland or Tomball. And, pickup trucks not withstanding, there are a few rich people about who find it all rather nice.

59 Decimal December 14, 2016 at 9:04 am

What is ugly about pickup trucks?

60 Thanatos Savehn December 14, 2016 at 9:29 am

We have three and my new 2017 F-250 super duty crew cab is roomier than those $1 million New York micro apartments 😉 Just sayin’

61 Rich Berger December 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

I like the cut of your jib, sir.

62 Moo cow December 14, 2016 at 10:50 am

Need a room?

63 Roy LC December 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm

The Galleria area is on the down swing, even the high end shopping is moving inside the loop, straight up Westheimer interestingly enough, along with the densification.

The better restaurant are all inside the loop or out at or beyond Beltway 8, the second loop about 6 miles further out.

64 rayward December 14, 2016 at 8:38 am

In many American cities the slums are moving to the suburbs and exurbs, leaving behind a city core with the best jobs and most skilled. Think about that: the city core and its affluent inhabitants surrounded by slums and the poor and unskilled. White flight meant escape (from the slums of the core) to the suburbs and exurbs. In what direction does white flight take the affluent and skilled as the slums of the suburbs and exurbs close in on the core? One can envision a city core besieged, the inhabitants with no place to escape. Will the inhabitants once again escape, this time to places beyond the suburbs and exurbs, or will Matt’s towers become fortresses, safe havens from what’s below in the streets. As I travel around Florida I often wonder what’s to become of the many retirement communities that are located far from cities and industry when the inhabitants are gone. Will they become ghost towns or slums?

65 rayward December 14, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Developers in my sunbelt city are building high rise housing in the city core faster than the temperature rises in the summertime. My friends and I wonder who do these developers believe will buy these expensive places, given that our population isn’t exactly highly skilled or highly paid. Not to mention that there’s nothing in the city core to attract anyone to actually live there and housing prices in the suburbs aren’t that high. But who am I to question these folks. One developer purchased 40 acres (that he could assemble 40 acres reflects his commitment) in the city core to build high rise housing, retail shops, a hotel, etc., and the local port authority is building much the same on another 45 acre parcel nearby. Maybe these developers have the vision thing. The only vision thing I can envision is a city core transportation network that is (almost) exclusively autonomous vehicles. For those not paying attention, autonomous vehicles could be deployed in a year or two and provide a complete network of transportation if non-autonomous vehicles are taken off the road: non-autonomous vehicles and autonomous vehicles get along about as well as Putin and his many dead enemies. That’s likely possible in the city core long before the suburbs and exurbs. Yes, autonomous vehicles will be the catalyst for the re-population of the city core and the (near) death of those suburbs and exurbs.

66 dbp December 14, 2016 at 9:42 am

Tyler should lower his chin and tuck in his elbows a bit, this rotation will get his fists into the proper vertical orientation. Matt has a good stance but needs to raise his fists and bring them more to the outside.

67 Slocum December 14, 2016 at 10:00 am

“In many American cities the slums are moving to the suburbs and exurbs, leaving behind a city core with the best jobs and most skilled”

Not really. The middle classes are the ones who have been moving out, leaving cities to consist more and more of the rich and the poor with less and less in between.

And keep in mind that during this period since 1970, the metro area outside Chicago has gained about 2 1/2 million people while the core city lost 1/2 a million. Also during that time the exurb of Naperville, for example, grew by a factor of almost 7x and became one of the wealthiest cities in the Midwest. Notice the list is dominated suburbs, exurbs, and college towns with Minneapolis the only central city that makes it into the top 20.

68 Slocum December 14, 2016 at 10:09 am

Should have been posted as a reply to rayward’s comment at #25

69 A Definite Beta Guy December 14, 2016 at 11:01 am

Seriously, this “Death of the suburbs” thing seems greatly exaggerated, and this talk of city renewal the same. Sure, River North is doing nice, sure there’s a few improving neighborhoods like Wicker Park, but a lot of the city is still borderline-garbage. No one talks about those other places because it’s still a highly segregated city. I work in the “nice” part and 85-90% of the walking population is white. That’s not reflective of the city as a whole.

Glencoe is still fabulous, Northbrook was on that NPR “biggest bubble in the USA” feature and has only become wealthier since its days in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Breakfast Club, and Naperville is…well, you know.

70 Lord Action December 14, 2016 at 11:46 am
71 Brian Donohue December 15, 2016 at 9:33 am

I went to college on the south side of Chicago three decades ago and have lived and worked in Chicagoland my whole life.

It’s highly segregated, but there are much more nice areas than there used to be, and the nice areas are much nicer than they used to be, but the bad areas aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be either.

72 PD Shaw December 14, 2016 at 11:24 am

And the trend for Minneapolis/ St. Paul may be following: “Virtually all growth has been in the suburbs, with Minneapolis and St. Paul continuing to make up a declining share of all metro residents.” “Both central cities grew markedly poorer over the last decade. Average incomes hover around $46,000 in each city. Adjusted for inflation, that’s down by 6.7 percent in Minneapolis and 7.7 percent in St. Paul from a decade earlier. ”

Seems like an unreported story from the recent election. Midwestern cities did not provide the Democratic vote, because many of the voters have left.

73 Roy LC December 14, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Minneapolis-St Paul is one of the lowest density metros in the US. But then it is a heck of a lot more car dependent than most as well.

74 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 11:48 am

Nothing wrong with that. People with kids move to the suburbs because they want their kids to have green spaces to play in, and not get run over or kidnapped or stabbed. I suppose some people probably fantasize about dense cities that have great play-spaces for children, but those people are delusional. Cities are awesome if you’re single or childless. Suburbs are awesome if you’re married and have kids. Why does there have to be a one size fits all solution? Cities could be great when you’re old too, due to more services, less need to drive.

75 Slocum December 14, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Right. The tendency for educated single people to move to cities after graduation for urban excitement and then to the suburbs to raise families has been around for a very long time (100 years at least), but even with that the city/suburb pattern has been changing in recent decades. Chicago and other big cities used to be full of middle and working class neighborhoods where people lived for generations and did not decamp to raise families (think of Jane Jacob’s New York). As the animated GIF link earlier shows, those neighborhoods have been disappearing rapidly into either gentrification or decay.

76 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Well, as population has increased those neighborhoods have become more dense and urban and therefore less good places to raise children.
Why is this surprising?

77 Slocum December 14, 2016 at 2:51 pm

But population (and population density) in core cities haven’t increased, they’ve decreased. Chicago has lost almost a million since its 1950 peak. The middle class has been leaving a city that’s growing less and less dense.

78 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Unrelated phenomenon. Economic decline in the midwest is an independent variable.

79 Slocum December 14, 2016 at 4:46 pm

“Unrelated phenomenon. Economic decline in the midwest is an independent variable.”

But the Chicago metro region as a whole has not declined — it has added 4 million people since the city’s peak in 1950 and about a million and a half since 1990. The same pattern is seen for other cities that experienced population declines since 1950 (Detroit, St Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh) — the core cities shrunk, often dramatically, while the surrounding regions continued to grow. In 1950, about half of the 3.7 million people in Metro Detroit lived in the core city. By 2010, less the 15% of 5.2 million did so. The city lost over a million while the surrounding area added almost 3 million.

80 A Definite Beta Guy December 14, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Different locales have different benefits, agreed. Some people have an ideological crusade against different lifestyles, accompanied with huge blinders. Earlier in the 20th century you had Garden City movements and the like which were virulently anti-city (depicting them all as bums). These days you have a lot of yuppies shouting from the roof-tops. Yglesias strikes me as one such guy.

A lot of these types are upset when they cannot afford to live in an urban paradise. For example, my friend working as a temp in San Fran with her $2600/month apartment.

It’s not at all clear this should be considered a national issue. Yglesias suggests this is impacting economic growth, but that’s operating under the assumption that these coastal cities are really where all the economic growth is/must be. However, it’s not clear that my friend with her temp marketing gig is really performing unique work that can only be done in San Francisco, and isn’t just a spoiled princess who wants the govt to feed her sense of entitlement.

And then there’s questions of scope. Who should write zoning laws? I’d be pretty pissed if Springfield decides we need to have a new skyscraper right next to my single-family home in the Chicago suburbs.

81 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Well, obviously the libertarian position should be that there should be fewer zoning laws and building restrictions in the cities. That seems to be Matt Yglesias’s position in this case. If there’s no demand for more dense housing in cities the market won’t produce it. What’s wrong with getting out of the way and letting the market decide where to build more housing?

82 A Definite Beta Guy December 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Individual parcel holders can take actions that degrade community values as a whole. For example, that gaudy Trump sign on the Trump Tower degrades from the value of the Chicago riverfront. Which is why Chicago based some zoning laws preventing such tacky displays in the future and the Chicago river-front does not become a series of flashy Vegas lights.

If you don’t like it, you don’t have to live in Chicago, or you can petition the government for redress of grievances.

83 EC December 14, 2016 at 4:25 pm

“move to the suburbs because they want their kids to have green spaces to play in, and not get run over or kidnapped or stabbed”
I live in a city with my wife and two kids. We like it. Suburbs have their advantages, but I don’t think they’re safer. It’s actually in the burbs where kids regularly get run over by cars or, when they get to be teenagers, kill themselves by driving drunk. When I was a kid, there was not a single drunk driving death in my high school of 2200 students–because we could drink without driving. The same can rarely be said of suburban high schools.

84 Slocum December 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm

Here’s a question I don’t know the answer to — what’s the largest city in the U.S. where the public schools are on par with the best of those in the surrounding suburbs?

85 Urso December 15, 2016 at 4:56 pm

This is one of my theories about Yglesias and his cohort (Klein, Silver, etc). They became “famous,” at least in terms of public intellectual fame, when they were early to mid-20s firebrands, and their causes were those espoused by the well-off well-educated single early to mid-20s cohort. eg, everyone should live in superdense housing in cool city centers. Now they’re in their late-30s but they’re still locked in to those positions they took back in the heady days of the early aughts, and there’s no changing them now without losing all credibility among the Vox set.

86 Just Another MR Commentor, King of the Komments December 14, 2016 at 10:49 am

Matt Yglesias is a Cuck

87 anon December 14, 2016 at 10:52 am

Here in Orange County, California, we have this playing out with some really classic local politics (petitions, “fake” petitions).

88 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 11:23 am

Having only watched the first 30 seconds, I’m surprised that it’s Matt Yglesias arguing the position that building restrictions are pushing prices higher and should be reduced. Did you guys, like switch places or something? Are you each arguing the opposite point of view? (Confused)

89 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 11:39 am

Wow, Tyler’s position is seriously retarded. The more people move into big cities, the nicer the suburbs will get. Denser cities mean more open space further out, less sprawl, less deveopment out in nice places like Loudoun county. Right now, you can’t build in San Fancisco, but you can build faraway and force people to have longer commutes. That’s bad for people that live in nice suburbs like Tyler.

Also, that is just such total bullshit about how all the rich people are so productive they deserve to live in Manhatten and it’s so cruel to deprive them of their property values. Fuck that with a rusty chainsaw.

90 Hari December 14, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Tyler’s afraid that if all the smart, upper middle class people move into the cities, the quality of the suburbs will decline. With the quality of the suburbs reduced, smart upper middle class people will be less likely to move back into the suburbs later, staying in the cities and reducing their fertility. This was the meaning of the reference to “beautiful children.”

91 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 2:33 pm

That makes no sense. If rents get cheaper in the cities, poorer people will move IN, and smart upper middle class people will move OUT.
His whole point is that he thinks it’s okay that only smart upper middle class people get to live in the expensive city.

92 Hari December 14, 2016 at 4:23 pm

When I say “upper middle class,” I mean people at around the 80th percentile of income. These are college educated folk who work in offices in the city but can’t afford to live there, they commute from the suburbs. The fear, which I agree with, is that they’ll move into the cities to see the “city lights” and be closer to their workplaces, and, once there, will be less likely to have children.

93 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Oh, I see. If so that is stupid. Nobody’s biological imperative is going to be squelched by living in a city. People who want kids will figure it out and move into the suburbs.

94 Hari December 14, 2016 at 11:56 am

He said he agreed with Yglesias more than he let on. There’s also a dog whistle in there: the reference to “beautiful children.”

95 Norman Pfyster December 14, 2016 at 3:35 pm

To be fair to Matt, he’s been making that argument for quite some time. He’s even got a book on the subject. It is the one obvious point where he touches base with “liberaltarians,” when such was attempting to become an ideology and not just some libertarian bloggers uncomfortable with being associated with the Republican party.

96 Hari December 14, 2016 at 11:50 am

What’s (((Yglesias)))’s angle? In the short run, I think it’s to cram White people into high rises to reduce their fertility. In the long run, you’ve gotta have places to put the hundreds of millions of immigrants he wants to invite in.

It’ll generate “opportunity” for high IQ people like Yglesias. For the low-IQ people, including many recent graduates of our worthless colleges, the only opportunity which exists in the cities is McJobs. There’s nothing to replace the factories of old.

97 Troll me December 14, 2016 at 12:14 pm

I was unaware of the contraceptive effect of apartment living.

Also … is a McJob any worse than a 1960s factory job? Ignoring that housing was absurdly MORE affordable then relative to wages that could be expected for a higher school graduate, I really don’t think the work itself was anything to write home about.

98 Sam Haysom December 14, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Being a facially disfigured agoraphobe doesn’t have a contraceptive effect either but it’s probally going to cut down on the number of children you father.

Are you seriously pretending that urban dwellers have as many children as suburban dwellers in the USA? This ignorance as a weapon of trollery is nauseating.

99 Troll me December 14, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Causality is in the other direction.

It is true, people with fewer children are less likely to buy or rent larger living spaces. This is as compared to people with more children, who are more likely to buy or rent relatively larger living spaces.

I’d be more concerned about how difficulty of entering job markets impedes the savings which underlie the ability to feel secure in having children. It is the lack of secure jobs, not the barrier to home ownership, which has the contraceptive effect.

100 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm

You’re reversing the causality. Having children causes suburban living, not the other way around.

101 Lord Action December 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm

That’s not clear, and I think probably not true.

Exhibit A: Singapore.

More generally, when moving somewhere suburban is not an option, people have fewer children.

102 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Moving somewhere suburban is an option pretty much everywhere in America.

103 A Definite Beta Guy December 14, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Path dependence is a thing, though. Switching from urban to suburban is not a costless transition.

104 Sam Haysom December 14, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Where in my answer do you find anything about causality. The fact that two antinomians hyper-defensively hopped in with the same objection does suggest that Hari is probally one to something. Clearly quite a few people have a political interest in reducing the white birth rate.

105 Taxes Can Be a Worthwhile Investment in Our Future December 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm

“the hundreds of millions of immigrants he wants to invite in.”

Hazel apparently has been consuming and believing the falsehoods spread by fake news about liberals. Or just being a Trump supporter and listening to Trump.

See Politifact’s rating for Trump’s statement as an extreme “pants on fire” lie. You would have to go to politifact to get it and then do a search for it. I would insert the link here, but for some reason Tyler or someone who runs this site has disabled my ability to insert links here.

Pants on Fire! Trump says Clinton would let 650 million people into the U.S., in one week

106 Troll me December 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm

Even with free flights, visas arranged and everything … I doubt you could find 650 million who would actually want to make the move.

Besides maybe not wanting to leave everything they have now (what little that might be), for some reason brown people have this funny idea that some people in America might treat them bad, and most Europeans are not eager to lock into 50 weeks a year for life as a presumed minimum contribution to be welcome in the workforce.

107 Hari December 14, 2016 at 1:48 pm

” for some reason Tyler or someone who runs this site has disabled my ability to insert links here. ”

For some reason. Yeah, it’s a real mystery.

108 a Fred December 14, 2016 at 11:46 pm

All posters whose names contain “Texas” or any of its common misspellings, have that feature disabled.

109 Hazel Meade December 14, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Wtf are you talking about? I loathe Trump with the fire of a thousand suns.

110 Daniel Weber December 15, 2016 at 4:03 pm

When you are in the middle of raging away at the keyboard, it doesn’t matter if you get the target right. What’s important is your self-righteous rage.

111 Tom Warner December 14, 2016 at 1:46 pm

I’m going to sound the grumpy old codger here, but in my experience most of the “rent is too damn high” complaints come from left-leaning privileged young whites who think they’re too cool to live in the suburbs and too white to live in majority non-white neighborhoods. So they pile into neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, typically sharing apartments to make it affordable, and then complain that these neighborhoods’ rent is too high, and at the same time about the ugly modern developments on the East River. And to top it off they get all huffy about Air B’n’B using up space that “should be” residential, as if hotels don’t also use space. They could rent for 40% the price/sf in the Bronx, but that’s not cool and/or white enough for them. And if you want to give me some pathetic ignoramus Trumpist whiney wimp inner city horror story crap about the Bronx, please, keep it to yourself and please don’t worry, the Bronx is not coming to your room in your mom’s basement.

Of course my absolute favorites are the ones who live in pretty areas like Brooklyin Heights and are positively against new construction, and still are morally outraged by their rent. But I don’t agree with the general hating on NIMBYs. NIMBY is an absolutely legitimate position as long as you’re not hypocritical about it. I would probably support it in any old, pretty neighborhood. Nobody should be obliged to permit neighborhood-wrecking ugly modern construction just because their neighborhoods’ property values are going up. It’s called devolved democracy, folks, live with it.

112 GoneWithTheWind December 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Ironically one of the major causes of high rent and high home prices in cities in the U.S. is government efforts to provide “affordable housing”. In the government lexicon “affordable housing” means housing that is heavily subsidized to keep the rent low such that a person receiving public assistance of one sort or another could afford to pay the rent. Kind of interesting that both the housing and the renter need large amounts of the government money to be “affordable”. Sometimes “affordable housing” is created out of thin air so to speak by refusing to give a developer permission to build homes/condos/apartments unless they also include a certain percentage of “affordable” units that are only available to a select group of “poor” who essentially “win the lottery” by qualifying for this reduced rate/rent housing forever as long as they don’t make the mistake of actually working and becoming productive in the society. As long as they remain a drag on society they qualify for this “gift” from the taxpayers. But the cost for this must be paid for in some way and one of those ways is that the cost of all the houses and apartments built outside of this government largess must cost more, and more, and more, over time the costs keep going up because every year every election cycle more “affordable housing” is created and locked up forever by the latest “affordable housing lottery” winner in the non-productive community.

But there is actual “affordable housing” not subsidized by your taxes, not causing housing prices to go up and not available only by winning a “affordable housing lottery”. It is known colloquially as trailer parks.

113 Hiawatha Jones December 14, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Yglesias is an infamously bad forecaster. See his forecasts for the success of Obamacare. He is so bad that, like a dissident in a Soviet photograph, his entire twitter feed mysteriously disappeared one day. Having posited this, my question to the esteemed commenters here is as follows: what worth, if any, should be ascribed to the comments of someone who has so little understanding between the present and the near future?

114 Jason Bayz December 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm

What’s Yglesias’s position on suburban development? Honest question, I don’t know the answer. The suburbs around these big cities are almost as un-affordable as the cities themselves. A consistent position would be to argue for both urban and suburban development. Urbanites tend to vote Democrat and not have many children, as you’ve noticed, so there’s an obvious benefit to the Left in promoting urbanization.

115 Pip December 14, 2016 at 10:18 pm

I live in San Francisco and I more or less agree with Matt. Cheaper and more plentiful housing would be a huge benefit to most people who live here, and probably to the economy as a whole. I also believe that a better public transit system would be a huge help. It would offset some of the problems caused by overcrowding, and it would also potentially make it more viable to live in the rest of the bay area and the surrounding suburbs, if it was expanded enough.

So I think that the subject of public transit should play a larger role in discussions like this. Though it was a pretty good video otherwise. I’m definitely glad I watched it.

116 The Anti-Gnostic December 15, 2016 at 7:40 am

Rich people will always move somewhere to be around other rich people and price out the riff-raff. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg bought four homes around himself and a bug-out plantation in Hawaii.

You can build housing in giant city blocks 30 stories square, it still won’t mean journalists can afford to live around their Investment Bank and BigLaw friends.

117 bill December 15, 2016 at 8:09 pm

I favor Matt’s position here.
This post on open immigration is analogous:

The key point is that providing more housing in the city may actually lower the average income (and utility) in the cities and in the suburbs while raising the average of the total because more people would end up in high income/utility location.

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