America’s Cities Are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals

Farhad Manjoo writing in the New York Times brings the fire:

Then there is the refusal on the part of wealthy progressives to live by the values they profess to support at the national level. Creating dense, economically and socially diverse urban environments ought to be a paramount goal of progressivism. Cities are the standard geographical unit of the global economy. Dense urban areas are quite literally the “real America” — the cities are where two-thirds of Americans live, and they account for almost all national economic output. Urban areas are the most environmentally friendly way we know of housing lots of people. We can’t solve the climate crisis without vastly improving public transportation and increasing urban density. More than that, metropolises are good for the psyche and the soul; density fosters tolerance, diversity, creativity and progress.

Yet where progressives argue for openness and inclusion as a cudgel against President Trump, they abandon it on Nob Hill and in Beverly Hills. This explains the opposition to SB 50, which aimed to address the housing shortage in a very straightforward way: by building more housing. The bill would have erased single-family zoning in populous areas near transit locations. Areas zoned for homes housing a handful of people could have been redeveloped to include duplexes and apartment buildings that housed hundreds.

…Reading opposition to SB 50 and other efforts at increasing density, I’m struck by an unsettling thought: What Republicans want to do with I.C.E. and border walls, wealthy progressive Democrats are doing with zoning and Nimbyism. Preserving “local character,” maintaining “local control,” keeping housing scarce and inaccessible — the goals of both sides are really the same: to keep people out.

I applaud the fire, although it’s amusing to me that Manjoo treat this as big discovery (“I am struck by an unsettling thought.”). Look, this isn’t new! Progressives created zoning and other housing regulations to exclude people they didn’t like from “their” neighborhoods. Nor, by the way, is the desire to exclude limited to “wealthy” liberals (Manjoo surely knows this but is afraid of punching down). It’s also amusing that Steve Sailer has been making exactly the same point about hypocritical Malibu liberals for years, the only difference being that Manjoo wishes to shame liberals into giving up NIMBYism while Sailer wants to shame them into giving up national diversity. I call a pox on both their houses and support individual property rights at both the local and national levels.


I am really heartened to see that Alex has come out in support of subsidized affordable housing, allowing a single family home owner to break the house up into rentable units, and support alternative dwelling units on top of a garage. And, if we get the zoning, or lack thereof, we have in some southern cities, like Houston, we can even get a gas station moving in next door. How convenient.

Thats already happening in places like San Jose. The housing thing at least. Maybe not legally...

Houston's lack of zoning caused a number of homes in easily flooded areas to be built that never should have been. BTW, I'm not pro or against zoning, there's a time for each. Things have to be well thought out is all I'm saying.

Properly priced flood insurance could help keep those houses from being built too.

Nah, I'm with Alex. Zoning is bullshit ...

Zoning is OK to keep noise and smell away from residences but to limit residential building in almost any area is bad policy, it excessively reduces people's private property rights. You should need a very good reason to limit people's private property right to build housing.

Do private property rights carry with them the zoning that was there when you purchased the property? You can argue the property value when you purchased it was based on the zoning at the time, and that changing the zoning without a hearing or randomly is a taking.

No because current zoning carries no promise of future zoning, everyone should know that. Politicians have no power to bind future politicians (BTW it is the same with Social Security there is no guarantee. SS will exists as long as politicians support it is as public good.)

So, zoning carries zero promise of not paying much higher property taxes?

Buy into a low property tax town based on two acre lots limiting the population of kids, then change zoning to allow multifamily housing for working class families of 2-3 kids, which will require building new schools and hiring 3-3 times as many teachers, not to mention road expansion taking land from homeowners to widen streets, banning street parking, putting in llots of traffic lights and other traffic slowing investments, especially with all the new retail traffic entering and exiting, the upgrading of sewer treaatment, and probably building wastewater piping.

One reason for one and two acre minimum lot sizes is the soil quality that drives septic system design. If the typical soil is clay, or ledge close to the surface, or water table only 4 feet below ground level, building a septic system for a five person home can be difficult, thus expensive, even on a two acre lot.

My town stopped being required to expand its waste water treatment plant that exists only because A-B paid the town to build it to process the brewery wastewater. The town got Federal subsidies to build it bigger and thus open up land for workforce housing, back when NH envied the Massachusetts economic growth, or at least the NH real estate developers who ran for office as citizen legislators.

Three bad things happened:
1. Developers built lots of starter home quickly
2. young workers moved in and had kids.
3. Taxes had to be hiked to expand schools
4. Roads got clogged
5. Developers built shoddy streets and turned them over to the towns, which then had to hike taxes to rebuildd them
6. Developers built community septic which was owned by homeowners, and homeowners rebelled when they discovered the costs and wanted to be connected to town sewer.
7. Ground water pollution from businesses was discovered, so taxpayers demanded to be connected to town water.

Libertarians won support from NH old timers: individual responsibility!

If you build a new housing unit, you must pay for all the public services so taxpayers aren't forced to pay for something they do not benefit from.

Thus developers are faced with millions in costs before putting a shovel in the ground. These costs were covered by higher taxes on the existing property owners before the 80s, unless the new housing was several times greater than what existed and thus new comers paid the most taxes to pay off public debt.

And which pols will argue the GDP of the US needs to go down as 15% of consumers become homeless and hungry unless their grandkids take them in and feed them. Economies are zero sum. Stop giving money to consumers, consumers stop buying GDP.

Why does it have to be "zoning bad," or "zoning good?"

That's an awfully simplistic way to think about things.

Exactly! The laziest ideologues in history, except you (byomtov) and I, are those who think zoning is either an absolute good or absolute bad. Zoning is something about which there should be heaping amounts of dialog and extraordinary careful thought as to the degree and kind of zoning applicable. Anyway, many who write in this forum have no excuse for their stupid ideology, as they have no justification or excuse for it--unlike those in North Korea, kept in a cognitive prison. Oh, wait, the ideologues that write on this site (libertarians and lefties) build and maintain their own, seemingly inescapable, cognitive prison cells.

But why subsidized??? Rent to who you want by why should I and other taxpayers have to subsidize it???

Do you think that if the areas that Manjoo talked about--Nob Hill and Malibu--constructed high rise apartment buildings that the residents of those high rises would be the poor, or would they more likely be other affluent persons or maybe even airbnb'ers who want to rent their apartment--or the poor.

Wanna guess.


Good point. In our are many homes are scooped up by rich investors for Airbnb. Even downtown apartments. You can't do anything about because, you know, private property rights and all that libertarian nonsense.

Unintended consequences are a b*tch.

But that begs the question. Why subsidized?
If you want to see affordable housing go to a trailer park. Yes some are run down but those are most affordable. However if the government builds "affordable" housing it costs about $200K a unit and then it loses about $1000-$1600 a month forever. That is stupid and clearly not "affordable".

Go to once thriving rural Ammerican towns which have elected conservatives, either Democrats or GOP, in higher numbers for 50 years, all promising to cut costs.

Rural towns are not getting older and older and thus closing schools, closing libraries, closing hospitals, closing businesses, and becoming unaffordable for businesses, new families, because of zoning, liberals hiking taxes, etc.

Zero sum means lower costs mean lower incomes, less investment, less ggrowth, less opportunity.

Adam Smith said it best in 1776. Book I, Ch. 11 of Wealth of Nations:

" ... every improvement in the circumstances of the society tends either directly or indirectly to raise the real rent of land, to increase the real wealth of the landlord, his power of purchasing the labour, or the produce of the labour of other people."

Thank you. A little reminder of Adam Smith on this blog is what the good doctored ordered.

Maybe one's neighborhood shouldn't be turned into a slum to make up for the government's unwillingness to attack the root cause of homelessness: poverty.

Poverty is an unsolvable problem. I say again, unsolvable. It is a combined result of self-caused, social, environmental, and economic forces. The last time the USA tried to really tackle poverty (LBJ's great society) it had precisely the opposite intended effect.

A lot of these people are addicts, have poor impulse control, or poor decision making skills. That, and other peoples' desire to cease assisting them because of it is the cause of their poverty and homelessness.

So that is it. The richest country in Man's history is essecially giving up on his people. As Mr. Chambers has said about Ayn Rand's ideology, "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber–go!'".

DId Mr. Chambers READ Atlas Shrugged? If anything, the protagonists can best be described as saying "Fine, I'll take my ball and go home." Outside of rescuing a man who was undergoing torture, I can't think of a single instance where a protagonist A) acted in accordance with Objectivism, and B) harmed someone.

As for poverty: We're not giving up on our people. We're staying out of their way. Individuals, left to their own devices, will sometimes make stupid choices--sometimes exceedingly stupid choices. The only way to eliminate poverty is to eliminate individual choice. Are you honestly proposing that we should do that? (No, we can't just eliminate SOME choices, as our entire history demonstrates that this umbrella will only get bigger through time.)

Secondly, where do you get the absurd idea that merely because government isn't doing it, the society isn't? Private charities and individuals taking action can have profound impacts--ask any small town with a volunteer fire department. The dichotomy "Government does it" vs "It doesn't happen" is not just false, it's deliberately misleading in order to grant power to those in the government. It's also a confession, I've often found, that a person is unwilling to actually take action to address a problem they say they care about.

To put it another way: A society is more than the sum of its rulers. That you not only ignore that, but dismiss the entire possibility of it--on an economics blog!!!--is terrifying.

Thank you for reminding me of the abysmal level of discourse this blog encourages.

So that is it. To poor people, the gas chamber.

Re: " You can't just limit dome choices"

Of course we can. We've been doing so for time immemorial. Every single law is an example of something that penalizes certain choices while leaving others untouched. The fact that it's illegal to drive 130 mph, have sex with children, take a dump on the sidewalk, or kidnap your neighbor for ransom is not a stepping stone to the Gulag.

Taking a dump on the sidewalk is legal in SF.

Actually it's mandatory. But that's stupid liberals (redundant) for you.

I very much doubt it's legal. People may get away with it sometimes, but people get away with breaking other laws too, from speeding to murder. Doesn't speak to my original point.

Homelessness is not the issue

Yes, it is. There are many honeless people in so-called NIMBY cities, such as San Francisco:

If people had good jobs, they would be able to pay rent. If they could pay rent, they would not be homeless.

How do drug addicts and schizophrenics get jobs and pay rent?

My point is, America's jobs were stolen by Red China and the tax base was destroyed. What will America do to ensure every capable person has a good job and those who are unablw ro live in society can get the treatment or punishment they fully deserve?!

" every capable person has a good job "

Everyone can't have a "good" job. Everyone can have a job as good as their ability - which includes their ability to get to work in a state suitable for working.

OTHO, if the gov prices the less capable people out of the market with a high min wage, then there won't be a job for those people.

One dif between US and China: US environmentalists kill high paying jobs.

There are plenty of high-functioning drug addicts and schizophrenics. Please don't slander all of them.

Think on the margin.
People are not too drug addicted or too schizophrenic to work and keep up any residency/pay any rent at all, or able to pay $1,000+ in rent. There are people who are slightly schizophrenic, I know from experience, and there are drug addicts that go to work every day. Some places with $500/month rent can help the marginal.

Can't some of those people move to places with $500 a month rent? They may not even have to move far, every city has a slum.

A lot of people have looked into the homlessness problem in SF and concluded that rent isn't the reason for homelessness. Functional people with an income find an affordable place to live, even if it's sometimes small, uncomfortable, or involves a long commute. If a particular city is totally unworkable for a person, they move to another city.

Most of the homeless problem in SF (and elsewhere) comes from people who aren't functional. Either due to mental health issues or drug addiction. Places like SF become a magnet for these people because they spend a lot on them while requiring very little in lifestyle changes. If your a druggie why wouldn't you move to a city where the winters aren't cold, where the cops never harass you, and where the local government spends like 100k a year on people like you.

You are a genius.

The high cost of rent certainly contributes to homelessness. If you have to work 40 hours a week to live in a slum and spend 2 hours a day commuting (which means you have to spend 50 hours a week on work+commute) then more people will choose to not work and live as a druggie.

Of course, other favorable conditions for homelessness such as the weather and the cops also play a role but the sky high rents are certainly an important.

Manjoo is correct about progressives' hypocrisy. But it's a terrible notion to likewise make crowded areas dependent on government mass transit the primary option. It's the other side of the same zoning coin.

Alex is right -- property rights is the answer, but what results will satisfy neither the hypocritical NIMBY progressives nor people who think like Farhad Manjoo.

Are you saying property rights without the restrictions of zoning is the answer?

I love driving out to the exurbs on 70 mph 8 lane freeways. Get me away from government control. Freedom baby.

Who decided where the freeway was built? Who's paying for it? Sorry, can't hear you over the noise of the tires on the road.

As Manjoo points out, it's a dual problem: lack of housing and public transportation. Density is impossible without good public transportation. I suspect that if cities built good public transportation, density would flow from it, including the necessary changes in state and local laws. In this article, Fanjoo blames liberal Democrats for the NIMBYism in the Bay area, but that's not quite right: it's the wealthy who can afford expensive homes in the area who oppose more housing, not the workers in tech who can't.

Something similar is happening in Charleston. Housing prices in historic (downtown) Charleston have risen to levels that only the very wealthy can afford them. And with rentals being converted to single family in response to the spike in prices, working class people can't find housing in or near the area. What this means is that Charleston's reputation as the most popular destination for tourists is taking a big hit. Why? The restaurants, for which Charleston is known, can't hire good workers because the workers have no place to live. Indeed, even famous Charleston chefs are leaving Charleston because they can't produce good food without good workers. To put this in terms Cowen can appreciate, excessive inequality is devastating the quality restaurants in Charleston. Bon appetit.

You raise an important factor: the relation between residential real estate prices and rents seem again to be going out of whack (or is it equilibrium?).

I'm not an economist. I had a personality, so I went into Accounting. You econ girls and guys ought to give this out-of-whack scenario some thought.

.."I had a personality, so I went into Accounting."

thanks, DtB, just when i was beating myself up for 35 years n the accounting wasteland.

Sorry, Dick, this story does not hold now. It did during the bubble of the aughties, which really started around 98 although nobody noticed it then because everybody was watching the bubble. Prices soared while rents did not, as verified by Robert Shiller especially in 05 in the second edition of his book, Irrational Exuberance.

The problem now is that rents are soaring which reflects fundamentals. The price to rent ratio has not gone up all that much, certainly nothing like the bubble back then. There really is a supply problem, especially in parts of California and some other locations.

That's not fair to Tyler. It's inequality, excessive or otherwise, that fuels his preferred strip mall ethnic eatery that relies on the early morning arrival of a vanload of illegal aliens from the communal apartment they share to chop up the veggies for the sizzly stir fry.

I don't think Tyler cares whether the New Southern farm-to-table bistro with the jalapeño-infused tequila, purple cabbage Curaçao, lime, and agave cocktails in the expensively-maintained period house lives or dies.

Thank you for this imagery

The whole “strip mall ethnic eatery” enthusiasm is just weird. It’s certainly a poor basis for public policy.

Nobody makes a public policy for such a thing. That is all in your head.

Instead of "good public transportation", why not just give low income people "Uber-stamps". There's no need to create semi-corrupt, barely functional fiefdoms like the DC-Metro or NY Transit system.

That doesn't solve the congestion problem.

It would surely help if you could get the buses off the roads, and reclaim the land used for hubs and rail routes, wouldn't it?

Also, you could make Uber-stamps work only for Uber Pool. It's not like the poor people exclusively use public transit; you'd draw some from car ownership. You'd cram more into one car and get rid of the need for parking in the city center.

While I use Uber and Lyft, I much prefer mass transit to the pool versions of those services.

And why do you think getting busses off the road, as opposed to filling them with passengers, will reduce congestion? Make mass transit cheaper/more attractive and you pull people out of cars as well.

>>Make mass transit cheaper/more attractive and you pull people out of cars as well.<<

Good luck. Do you really think the primary goal of public transportation is their customers?

America's declining big cities are run by Progressives of varying economic status, not just wealthy progressives.

American Progressivism is a form of socialism that took strong hold of the U.S. governmental system in the Progressive Era (~1890-1920) and has expanded that grip ever since.
Socialism is a fundamentally flawed social and economic theory that erodes both societal harmony and economic productivity to the degree it is imposed upon the populace.

Socialism has strong emotional appeal. Apparently only hard personal experience dampens that enthusiasm. American cities are starting to get that dose of reality.

The big cities being discussed are not declining, they are booming and are the economic engines of the nation.

They will be booming, big time.

They're feverishly laboring to resolve the fatal flaw in the US Constitution that allows a Republican to get elected president.

After the left covertly abolishes the Electoral College, the big cities, like Chicago, NYC, and LA, will name all US presidents.

It don't mean nothing.

Actually, the EC is a flaw, as is the Senate, which makes the EC a bit worse than it would be otherwise.

the big cities, like Chicago, NYC, and LA, will name all US presidents.

The big cities won't name anyone. They are just pieces of ground. The voters will. That seems like an improvement.

We never intended to create a democracy with mob rule.

Democracy is now "mob rule?"

You can have a perfectly good republic without giving arbitrarily selected voters disproportionate power.

What's so great about the damn EC? It's an idiotic way to elect a President.

You are missing the point. The United States is a union of states. Each state chooses its representatives to the federal government. (In this case, we are talking about each state's representation in the electoral college, not the House of Representatives.)

How many representatives should each state get? You might think it should be f(N), where N is the state's population. But no small state would want to participate in such a union... and remember, the United States is a union of states. So the function looks more like f(N) + K, where K is selected so that it is in the interests of the smaller states to stay in the union.

At some point, maybe the big states tell the small states to like it or leave it. But we aren't there. (Yet?)

In Brazil, there is no EC, every vote equally counts. So we got great people like Lula for 4 terms (or his puppet, Dilma), and now we got Bolsonaro.

EC is much better than other systems because it means that to get elected a president needs to have broad support over the whole country. In Brazil terrible people like Lula only managed to get elected because he brought the votes of the poorest people from towns in the Northeast and managed to get over 90% of votes in some towns there, so he even won elections where he was losing across most of the country.

The main advantage of EC is to not allow a politician to win based only on acquiring massive majorities in some small "electoral fiefdoms".

"Declining big cities" - say what? Most big US cities are doing better now than they have since before the freeways of the 1950s and white flight of the 1960s/70s emptied them, and have been on the upswing for a couple decades now.

Most coastal cities with large FIRE sectors are doing "well"...and yet nobody can afford a house in them. There is also a strong correlation between not having a lot of black people and success.

The Rust Belt cities of the Upper Midwest haven't done well. And they have the highest black population % and had the most white flight.

It's probably more accurate to say that a small subpopulation of high IQ people in some coastal megacities are creating a lot of wealth but having a good deal of it taken by landlords. They also to varying degrees are surrounded by unproductive minorities that live twelve to a room and subsist on state subsidy.

..and yet nobody can afford a house in them.

asdf subscribes to the world according to Yogi Berra. "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded".

A more precise way to put it would be that only DINKs or those with one spoiled child can afford to live in those cities, which is a significant part of the problem with the declining fertility rate.

Those cities are also full of poor black and brown people that can scrape by even with lots of kids. White people complain too much and need to hustle more.

Yes, it's amazing what can be accomplished with lots of government subsidy and low standards.

East coast cities do not have black people in them? Who knew?

The best east coast cities are NYC and Boston. Boston doesn't have many black people. NYC doesn't have too many either, and they are concentrated in one of the shitty boroughs nobody care about. Manhattan, real NYC, has seen an outflow of blacks.

Newark, very close to NYC, has a lot more blacks and is a shithole.

Baltimore has the highest black % and is the most dysfunctional east coast city.

DC has been shedding blacks for some time, and those that remain are all on the east side. West and East DC might as well be different cities.

NOVA, where our good GMU people are, has few blacks despite being surrounded by blacks. In fact I'd say NOVA being the richest area in the country has a lot to do with racist southerners having kept blacks out, making is the most valuable real estate near the capital.

NYC doesn't have too many either, and they are concentrated in one of the shitty boroughs nobody care about. Manhattan, real NYC, has seen an outflow of blacks.

A quarter of New York City's population is black, 70% of them don't live in the Bronx, they exceed 10% of the population in all five boroughs and they exceed 18% of the population in four of the five boroughs.

You don't know much, do you?

Detroit: 84.3%
Baltimore: 65.1%
Wilmington: 58.0%
Cleveland: 53.3%
Newark: 52.2%
Cincinnati: 45.0%
Phili: 43.4%
Chicago: 32.9%

You could basically rank how broken the city is by black %.

At 25%, NYC isn't that black compared to a lot of other big cities on this side of the Mississippi. This is just a fact. And Manhattan is very low on blacks at 15% (down from 25% in the 1970s).

The administrative area of the core city is of significance only in evaluating the tax base and quality of service provision. It's not a delineator of any social organism. And you're moving the goalposts.

Atlanta is over 50% black but isn't considered a dysfunctional mess. The distinction isn't one of race but of class: the more poor people a city has the more dysfunctional it will be.

ooooh---"Malibu liberals"-----I like that! Especially ones with pompadours!

Truth be told, there are no atheists in foxholes, and no libertarians when neighborhood property zoning is under review.

Libs or libertarians, when your neighbor wants to build a 10-story condo with ground-floor retail...well, let us forsake posturing and gut new development!

PS Malibu is too far from the city center to worry about mass transit-related development.

Exactly. As the saying goes: A liberal is a conservative who's been charged with a crime... or, whose neighbor wants to do something besides build the same mcmansion, on the same footprint, in the same style, with the same garage.

Try to put up a multi-tenant halfway house for sex offenders next door to your faux-Georgian mcmansion on the 9th tee, and watch the fur fly from a bunch of outraged born-again Republican zoning regulation freaks.

Few people would be deluded enough to think using a halfway house for sex offenders is a good example for exposing hypocrisy.
You had a good point buried in there, and one most here would agree with, but you seem to think complete anarchists are more than a tiny sliver of conservatives and libertarians.
It's a pretty common delusion for people who spend too much time getting outraged at non liberals and writing snarky comments to them. It's like the conservatives who see Communists everywhere.

When in Rome my friend

PS. What's anarchist or extreme about a halfway house? You've revealed your own bias there I'm afraid. Zoning disputes for halfway houses and nontraditional (i.e multi family in a SFR) arrangement is a major friction point around the country, at least in suburban type communities. It is precisely where the rubber hits the road on zoning.

In my experience, most NIMBYs are virtue-signalling liberals chasing "good school districts" who won't even take public transportation to the airport.

If they only knew how little difference a "good school district" makes!

Sub silentio: it's actually not "good school districts" that they're chasing.

Truth be told, there are no atheists in foxholes, and no libertarians when neighborhood property zoning is under review.

Libs or libertarians, when your neighbor wants to build a 10-story condo with ground-floor retail...well, let us forsake posturing and gut new development!

I'm calling BS, do you have polls showing what percent of libertarians vote for residential building restrictions?

I'm a land use lawyer, and though you may doubt my anecdata, I can tell you that the level of opposition to the projects I work on has precisely nothing to do with whether the jurisdiction in which it's proposed leans right or left. The single best predictor of opposition is this: does anyone live anywhere near the thing we're proposing? Greenfield development in the exurbs is (relatively) easy. Infill is always a battle.

I live in NH, the State picked as the "Free State" by the libertarian Free State Project, and since libertarians have come to the State, the lawsuits blocking development have risen by a lot.

While NH pols are generally backers of building pipelines to produce cheap energy, that applies only to Texas, Nevada, Utah, etc farms and ranches, but all pipelines for natural gas are opposed in NH, all powerlines to import cheap hydro power are opposed, housing developments are opposed unless the developers pay to build new schools, new roads, etc.

But building and improving roads is opposed even using lots of Federal funds because the State gas tax needss to be hiked to match the Federal funds. The son of Bush advisor Sununu ran on cutting the gas tax hiked by Democrats to pay for replacing critical bridges that were being closed because they were unsafe, and to finish highway projects that had been stretched out for decades because of too little funding.

A series of public radio shows have discussed the severe labor shortage in NH. The economists state NH bigggest export is young people. 60% of high school graduates leave NH, and seldom return.

Out of State tuition is often lower in other States than tuition at NH State universities.

Housing is either very expensive, or cheap but completely unsuitable for any worker or business owners due to no Internet or transport or skilled workers or good schools for kids or accessible health care.

Thinngs have gotten worse since libertarians picked NH in terms of how bad government harms the economy according to all the public debate, with lots of demands that government fix all the problems, by getting out of the way and mandating others to pay for stuff the speakers want.

Where I live, infill is a way of life. No one will oppose your infill project if it is consistent with the historic area you're building in. It's sad to see an old house torn down, but the economic reality is that fixing it up to modern standards is usually much more expensive than starting over.

What does tick people off is building with no sensitivity to the architectural or social context. The halfway house is a non-starter. A modern house or an unusual design is fine, because what people care about is the values of the occupants - peace and quiet, safety, the beauty of the area, and excellent schools. And, speaking at least for myself, I don't care if they're white, black, yellow, brown, or purple. I have Indian neighbors, gay neighbors, and a black neighbor. They're all fine.

Cardozo said real estate is a bundle of sticks. One of the sticks is the building; the others are the physical and social environment, city services, etc. When you buy that bundle of rights, you should be able to expect protection of all the sticks. Thus zoning is not anti-libertarian. It protects private property and the value of the homeowner's investment. Libertarians should support it.

"We can’t solve the climate crisis without vastly improving public transportation and increasing urban density. "

That's balderdash. At least the argument in the linked article that implies cities can't have cars is balderdash. Electric cars will displace ICE cars for the majority of personal use in the next 30 years assuming the trends remain constant. California can't build economic trains, but they can design & build electric cars.

I do agree that the country would benefit from cheaper more economic public transportation, but that option isn't currently on the table. The climate crisis will disappear as solar power, wind power, (with power storage) and electric vehicles become the cheapest option.

We'll still have plenty of vehicles burning diesel moving goods around or jet fuel flying through the sky. But in absolute terms the numbers won't change much from today. And the coal plants will all be gone. In the long run, because the cost of mining coal won't drastically change. However the cost of renewable power (with storage) will become lower than the cost of the mined coal. We'll still have plenty of natural gas plants, but they'll operates as flexible base load power. Effectively renewables will be used to save natural gas for when it's needed.

A future climate change crisis assumes that mankind's CO2 releases keep going up by large amounts. If we just keep them the same, then future climate change will be far more gradual.

It's amazing how terrible people are at understanding climate science. Almost nobody seems to get it right. Sometimes, we're all monkeys throwing poo at each other.

Ride sharing, electric cars, and eventually autonomous vehicles are probably the end of collective public transit. Buses will go first, because they're mostly operating empty and big environmental offenders, but the marginal train systems will follow. Don't let your city vote for a subway expansion ever again!

Now, it's not clear to me that this will mean the end of all public transit, just the end of big shared vehicles going to and from hubs. I would not be terribly surprised to see governments enter the ride-sharing market with some sort of subsidized service.

I don't understand.

Do electric cars take up less space than ICE cars?

I thought the complaint was pollution? What's the space complaint? It might take a while to fill in all the roads with buildings. Even if you wanted to do that, you could plausibly build over the roads.

That said, no, I don't think electric cars take up less space that conventional cars.

Autonomous cars on the other hand, they will take up less space, both by being able to pack more densely on the roads and by being able to park remotely. As I've mentioned before, parking in my office building costs more than the lease on a nice BMW. Four miles west, parking is free. That difference can pay for a lot of autonomous driving gadgets.

I guess I appreciate and concede that really high levels of density, ecumenopolis levels of density, probably requires your transport scheme to go underground or at least inside your buildings. If only to preserve a reasonable ratio of outside space to inside space for people.

But I do think we're a long way from needing to worry about that. No city in the world is close right now.

If your concern is traffic, electric and autonomous car technologies both enable longer, more comfortable commutes, and higher road capacity.

I think you grossly exaggerate the advantages of self-driving cars. While there may be fewer driver caused traffic jams with them on the road, you can't nullify the physics of turbulence with software. Too many particles in a flow and you get non-linear, chaotic results- traffic jams when the particles are vehicles.

I can't be grossly exaggerating the advantage - I didn't even put a number on the advantage. I just said there was an advantage, which I think is indisputable, assuming the technology works out.

FWIW, I'm kind of skeptical about the self-driving car timeline.

Regardless, it's not like it's hard to beat empty diesel buses.

Those diesel buses are driven by union drivers, usually government employee union drivers.

They aren't going away anytime soon.

You're also ignoring the fact that the main reason cars need a certain distance between them, which increases with their speed, is so they stop SAFELY at need. Nothing to do with reaction times, everything to do with the physics of deceleration.

>We can’t solve the climate crisis without vastly improving public transportation and increasing urban density.

We can't solve the climate crisis without some out-of-the-box thinking. And 18th century style buses/trains aren't that.

>More than that, metropolises are good for the psyche and the soul; density fosters tolerance, diversity, creativity and progress.


What are the dimensions of the "climate crisis" that we need to solve? Is Phoenix becoming a ghost town? Is the sea level in Puget Sound causing the inundation of Seattle's Pike Street Market? The only climate exceptionalism recently has been a late, frigid and unpleasant spring in most of the northern US. Two inches of snow fell in Duluth, MN earlier this week.

'Declining Cities'

... the top three most populated cities--New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are fiscal disasters approaching bankruptcy -- according to Forbes Magazine.

Maybe they have nice museums, restaurants, etc, but their governmental institutions and infrastructure are rapidly deteriorating.

America's cities are declining. America's rural areas are declining. America is declining. Such is life in Trump's America.

"Manjoo wishes to shame liberals into giving up NIMBYism while Sailer wants to shame them into giving up national diversity. I call a pox on both their houses and support individual property rights at both the local and national levels."

What does this mean? Alex is in favor of NIMBYism and in favor of open borders? I don't understand how either flows from property rights. If anything I would argue just the opposite- property rights means people being allowed to develop their property as their choose, and a nation being allowed to control who crosses its sovereign borders.

Zoning laws mean you can't do what you want with property you own, like say, build an apartment complex in a neighborhood zoned for single family residences. Hence, to get rid of zoning laws is to be in favor of stronger property rights. Alex is consistent here.

"Hence, to get rid of zoning laws is to be in favor of stronger property rights."

Not now, not have 75 years of zoning.

Eliminating single family zoning destroys the property rights of the homeowners.

Allowing multifamily dwellings will quickly destroy the property values in order to provide some alleged collective good.

"The Gang Discovers Negative Externalities"

Right, but Alex says "A pox on [Manjoo's] house" Why?

Because Manjoo's probably not a consistent property rights advocate? I don't have all the answers, my man.

Alex T intended the pox on both the liberal NIMBYs and the immigration restrictionists. Manjoo isn't either one of those. This is just a poorly edited post.

"The bill would have erased single-family zoning in populous areas near transit locations."

Perhaps it's a bit late to ask, but why build expensive transport infrastructure (subway, BRT) for zones with single family homes?

If the transit locations means buses, they are far easier to redirect to high pop density areas instead of converting low density areas to high density.

California was built around the single family home and car combination, and so any transit going anywhere is going to have to traverse that sprawl.

So, it's a real gridlock. In LA, 62% of the developable area is zoned for single-family homes, SFO ~37%

What about founding a new city with less restrictive zoning? Can it be done? Enough land and water?

Perhaps Paul Romer should look at California instead of Honduras.

I mentioned that I did the drive up from LA to Santa Cruz recently. Its amazing how empty it is between the LA and SF sprawls. But no jobs, less amenities, so less homebuilding.

Out in Arizona there is that Bill Gates (associated?) tech city.,_Arizona

There is much protected agriculture, coastal zone, Big Sur, and parkland too.

That's true, probably especially along the 101. Of course if you go the other way you get to see how the Los Angeles region is hemmed in by mountains. Pretty much built up to the start of the Grapevine.

So that this doesn't just become we "we hate progressives, episode 128" .. what is the best example of conservatives giving up their zoning?

If I recall correctly, Park City and the surrounding area, in an ultra-conservative state, is pretty segregated by income. Mansions on the hills, workers not even in Park City, but surrounding towns.

It didn't even occur to me that I could cite my own California beach city. Solidly Republican. Very strict zoning, height limits, NIMBYs.

It could be a bit convenient to call an "I got mine" problem "progressive," like they are the only ones.

Similarly to suggest that "progressives" are the only ones responsible, because they should be the only ones to care.

I agree, whataboutism is the best strategy to avoid any cognitive dissonance here. Good work.

I supported the California bill to open zoning.

But I did it from a NIMBY conservative neighborhood. California has tipped Democratic, and the Los Angeles area. But there are stubborn Republican enclaves.

To my knowledge those enclaves are just as NIMBY as their neighbors.

So stop blaming one side for a general problem.

Excellent point. "Both sides do it" equivocation is a great way of avoiding discussion of the failures of our side. Bravo.

Obviously that has no burn, because I support action in my town, county, state.

Do you? Or do you just "blame progressives?"

Wait, I thought we were changing the subject to avoid blaming progressives?

I am attacking the myth that "progressives" are the only ones who don't want an apartment complex going in next to their single family home.

As the great poets the Butthole Surfers once sang, "Cinnamon and sugary and softly spoken lies. You never know just how you look through other people's eyes."

The mouse is caught in a trap and he can't get out, yet he scurries to and fro like a clueless mofo.


There is no such myth. The leftists are the hypocrites, though. There's an inherent tension between what they espouse and how they live

I knew we'd get to this post.

Because conservatives don't pretend to like poor people, they have no responsibility!

You are right, nobody wants poor people living near them, not only progressives. It's just especially mendacious to support mass amounts of poor people moving into the US while actively blocking them from living anywhere near you. The conservative claim to support poor people is backed up by attempting to limit mass immigration of more poor people that compete with them for jobs and affordable housing which we barely build anymore. The conservative policy mix (build barely any housing as I am acknowledging you are correct on....but don't import poor people) would cause way less human misery for pre-existing Americans already here. Progressives come in for special criticism because its their mix of policy preferences we have *actually* been following: Don't build housing + mass immigration.

Evil, racist conservatives oppose free-for-all (is it?) zoning because they are evil and racist

Virtuous (signalers) progressives are 100% for open (is it?) zoning but don't do it because they are hypocrites. Related: when they left the White House, Barack Hussein and Michelle Antoinette didn't steal the silverware or remove to the projects in Chicago. Leo DiCaprio travels by private jet. Go figure.

What's not to like? Kill your children. Import 35 million hostile immigrants. Eat your rich. Disarm yourselves. How civilization collapses.

Some with a thoughtful, reasonable, not-at-all-hysterical comment here.


I'll play. Though he can hardly be described as a conservative in the sense of wishing to preserve what's good, Steve Forbes, Heritage Foundation trustee, comes to mind.

While I'm sure he has a number of options of where to sleep, he appears to be most closely associated with Bedminster, NJ. I've never been there, obviously, but judging from its 2018 Master Plan Reexamination Report ...

... it is not exactly Dodge City?

"Protecting the environment, conserving community character, retaining farms and protecting Bedminster’s history will always remain key objectives of the Master Plan."

Right. "conserving community character" is the reason they have a height limit along much of the SoCal coast.

Because global warming

Take the link on the claim that two thirds of Americans live in cities. Two thirds of Americans live in "incorporated areas". I know of an incorporated area whose population is a family of 5, and lord knows, the incorporated area I live in is in no way a "dense urban area".

In my state, progressives live in cities (which are rarely dense or urban). Suburbs? Not so much.

Yep. And even within large metro areas, only a fraction of residents live in dense central cities (in Chicago, it's about a quarter, in Detroit, it's only about a seventh). Also, most American cities are not like LA, SF, DC, and NYC. Most Americans do not live in places suffering from runaway housing prices due to development restrictions. I have never seen stories of people living in RVs along roadsides in Indianapolis, Nashville, Dallas, etc.

Green field development is always easier than redevelopment and rezoning.

Ridiculous to compare the two and blame the difference on "development restrictions."

Actually I do see vigorous redevelopment going on in LA and OC, but of course it will be more complicated. Everything from land acquisition to utility infrastructure is more complex.

But they are doing it:

"Green field development is always easier than redevelopment and rezoning."

What makes you think all development outside CA is greenfield?

You want to talk factions?

Certainly SoCal has less green field development going on than Phoenix.

And here is a nice Bay Area trend chart:

(Some nice regional comparison at that link.)

Pfft. Tyler just went full partisan and used that green field divide to blame Democrats.


Tyler isn't being partisan; it's just that you see him that way because you're incapable of seeing the world through anything other than a partisan lens, yourself. Sad!

I've given you the data.

Yeah, you're still wrong.

Yes, "urban" includes lots of small cities (Salisbury MD, Jackson MI, Prescott AZ...) and suburbs as well. It's not like 2/3 of us are living in a handful of megacities.

and support individual property rights at both the local and national levels.

Mass immigration is not subsidiary to 'property rights' and what you do with your real property has externalities.

while Sailer wants to shame them into giving up national diversity.

No, Sailer wants them defeated and makes sport of poseurs like Rob Reiner. Some of the rest of us would like them defeated and destroyed. If they had any shame, they wouldn't advocate what they do.

The obvious solution is more gated communities. Let individuals have property rights in their neighborhoods as well as their homes. Protection from Soviet-style rezoning campaigns allows homes in gated communities to sell at a premium of around 15% over comparable homes in unprotected neighborhoods. Freedom from arbitrary zoning changes is wealth enhancing.

lol, that must be sarcasm.

Either that, or you are unfamiliar with HOAs

NIMBYs are the alt-right of the left.

Cities are easily the most environmentally destructive ways to house people.

No. You have no idea what you are talking about and are way wrong on this. In fact, I have never seen you make a comment here that was either stupid or ignorant or both, if not outright malevolent and disgusting..

I'd actually like to hear from you why you think that

There is nothing at all wrong with "wanting to keep people out". NOTHING!

Yes, you should blame wealthy liberals, like those in San Francisco, who created new businesses with their intelligence and effort, for making places become desirable places to live because there are jobs and opportunities.

We should follow the example of Mississippi.

"America’s Cities Are Unlivable."

Somebody please explain what zoning has to do with Los Angeles being incapable of providing even minimal basic services. while spending $29 million a year on top of $383 million in tax-free construction bonds to keep a crappy art museum open.

Or what zoning has to do with San Francisco's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing not being able to house its population of 2,294 chronically homeless with a current annual budget of $284.5 (5% of San Francisco's total budget).

And why does San Francisco with only 5.7% of the estimated percentage of California's homeless get all the press when it is far larger and unconstrained Los Angeles that has 38.4%?

Or why California, already among the worst states in the country in terms of the cost of residential electricity, doubled down and decided to increase both housing costs and electricity costs by mandating solar panels on all new residential construction?

The government elite (and that includes state employees like Tabarrok) have a vested interest in distracting attention from their policy failures and general imbecility by demonizing individuals looking out for their personal interests. The elite know best and should be in charge of the world is their gospel and no amount of evidence to the contrary will dissuade them from their crusade to disenfranchise local voters from having local control of their lives and wellbeing.

And what qualifies as "good" public transportation?

Would that be ublic transit that provides door-to-door transport (instead of a walk to a bus to a train to another bus, with waits in outdoor "shelters" that are only partially sheltered from rain, cold and snow?

Would that's available all the time (e.g., late at night), even without absurdly long waits in places one might not be entirely comfortable waiting?

Would that be public transit where one is not assaulted by audio and video ads that can't be turned off (or even turned down)?

Would that be public transit that doesn't occasionally become unavailable because the transit union has gone on strike? Or public transit that's good enough for people to be willing to pay enough to ride it to cover at least 50% of its cost from the farebox? Public transit that doesn't make one feel a fool for paying the fare when others are jumping the turnstiles with no consequence?

Public transit hasn't really changed in any fundamental way since the early 20th century: now there are electronic fare cards instead of nickels or tokens, and perhaps a sign or app to tell you how long you'll have to wait, yet it remains the same inflexible, inconvenient, unpleasant thing it has always been.

Thus, public transit is like a public toilet: you're glad it's there if/when you really need it, but you wouldn't care to live next to it and really don't much wish to even use it except from dire necessity.

So long as that's the case there isn't going to be any great political pressure to build more of it, especially given the fantastic cost inflation of building it. Nor are citizens in any great hurry to be forced (or at least strongly nudged) into living in the high-density housing that seems necessary to support this century-old technology.

Then again, a century ago urban crowding itself was seen by Progressives as a great evil in need of mitigation: it was perceived as unhealthy (vulnerable to the spread of communicable diseases) and soul-destroying in its denial of a natural environment, as well as its constant noise and pollution.

I used S. Florida's Trirail commuter train most days to commute from Ft. Lauderdale to my job in Boca Raton. The trip time was about the same as driving on horribly congested I-95 and since gas was pushing 4$ in those days the fare was a bargain too. It was much less stressful than driving, and I even got to enjoy some Schadenfreude zipping by the the stopped cars on the freeway next to the tracks.

Leftist attacks on single family zoning is just another version of collectivism.

Stacking people in tentements is good for leftist politics. A renter society is a left wing one, we see this in all big US cities.

Yeah man, when the city keeps my son from turning his own house into a duplex to get some extra cash for the baby, true freedom.

You'd think the MR comments section would be at least somewhat thoughtful, rational and informed. Think again!

The site is somewhat overrun with trolls and sock puppets at this point. Not requiring a log on password means that any user name can (and is) impersonated by trolls. So essentially, you get what you pay for.

I would think the comment section would improve immensely if there was a charge to comment.

Just a password logon and a down vote / hide low score system would work wonders.

It's a reasonable inference that the most assiduous impersonator works for Mercatus, and is doing what she's told to do.

Reasonable = paranoid?

I hate Nimbyism as much as the next guy, but it is more than a little disingenuous to say that zoning restrictions are causing the affordability crisis. As Tyler himself has pointed out, there is no evidence that allowing more construction will lead to anything more than more luxury condos being built.

What needs to be done is to change zoning restrictions, *and* change incentives so that more low-income housing is constructed. Incentivizing low income housing can be done by subsidizing low-income construction projects, a common, and often corrupt practice. Alternately, it can be done by increasing property taxes on luxury spaces, taxing foreign investors, taxing spaces unoccupied for much of the year, etc. Increasing the earnings of low-income people would also help.

Without changing incentives, all loosening zoning restrictions will do is enrich a select few.

Luxury condos are what should be built. Its wasteful to invest money in new construction of low value homes. The low value homes are already in place. When the rich can move into their new luxury condos, the poor can move into their crappy SFH.

Then you better start paying the teachers, drivers, sanitation workers, service workers, etc. you depend on enough for them to live in luxury condos. Rich assholes don't live completely in a bubble, as much as they try to. They haven't automated everything away yet.

It's like those millionaires building bunkers in New Zealand in preparation for societal collapse. Yeah, good on you for being prepared, but how are you going to get there? You have a pilot you can trust? What about the pilot's family, they coming too? Do you know how to maintain your own bunker, because if not you are going to need some proletariats in there. Hope you can keep them happy.

Then you better start paying the teachers, drivers, sanitation workers, service workers, etc. you depend on enough for them to live in luxury condos.

Why on earth do all those folks need to live in brand new construction of any kind (luxury or not)?

Two main reasons:
1) Because there is not enough existing affordable stock.
2) Because the new stock is often replacing the little existing affordable stock.

That means you either need to convert existing higher-end stock to lower-end stock, or build new lower end stock. You can prefer the former approach if you want, but the incentives I list in my previous post encourage both.

Slocum is obviously right.

Aside from lot value, buildings themselves are depreciating assets. Their value and price normally decreases over time. Buying a new building costs a large premium. The premium priced assets should go to the big spenders in a normal market. Financial investors pouring money into building new homes should maximize the return on their investment and we should expect investments to follow the high return opportunities.

Buildings being depreciating assets isn't as true as it once was. New construction is cheaper and easier to maintain than it used to be, and so buildings do not depreciate as quickly (at least, compared to most of the 20th century). The incentives to take good care of the building are are also higher, due to huge demand on the high end. The turnover into lower-end housing just is not as reliable compared to historical trends. This is especially disrupted by the desire of many wealthy people to have homes with "historical character", at least on the exterior, leading a large amount of existing old stock to be completely gutted for more luxury use. After all, we are also much better at renovating buildings than we once were!

And again, I am not faulting investors! They are doing what is expected of them. I am just arguing for adjusting the incentives that investors face, to increase the stock of available low-end housing. Without those incentives, the share of high end housing with grow unsustainably due to the inherent scarcity of land relative to demand and extreme income inequality.

... for the incentives?

The “cost” of units in the existing stock is determined by supply and demand. Demand is exceeding supply, so relatively wealthy people now bid for places that were formerly middle class. And it cascades down the price scale. So, yes, more market-supplied units for wealthy people will give many middle income people a break. Eventually, as supply expands, this strategy can stop working, but we are SO far away from that right now in the high cost metro areas we’re talking about.

As Tyler himself has pointed out, there is no evidence that allowing more construction will lead to anything more than more luxury condos being built.

The developer does not control sale prices.

...which is why I am arguing for a form of government intervention that will affect sale prices, and with it change the incentives of developers?

I'm not blaming the developers, They are simply responding to incentives. *Good government is the management of incentives.* Right now, the incentives are not optimal for a functional city. Part of that is because of bad government incentives like the mortgage interest deduction, but a lot of the problems are more structural (as I point out in my response to Slocum). Some of it is even seemingly innocuous technological improvements, like newer buildings being easier and cheaper to maintain than they used to be, thus staying higher-end longer.

I'm not exactly arguing for he abolishment of private ownership of land here, just tweaks to existing tax rates!

...which is why I am arguing for a form of government intervention that will affect sale prices, and with it change the incentives of developers?

You want solutions in search of problems. When a developer creates high priced condos, the rest of the housing stock doesn't vanish. Either he can sell the condos or he cannot. If he cannot, he has to cut the price or have his assets liquidated in bankruptcy. If he can, the people who buy them aren't bidding for the extant housing stock, which affects the price. This isn't that difficult.

First, I think we both agree there is an affordability problem in cities. I dispute that your proposed solution of easing zoning practices alone will fix it, and as such my solution is not "in search of a problem", just different than yours.

Maybe you need to hear it from our lord and god, Tyler Cowen, but liberalizing zoning alone will not fix our problems:

Land in cities is very scarce, by its nature -- this makes demand from all income levels basically permanently high, at least until the city collapses. Demand in the luxury sector today is near bottomless, due to higher wealth concentration, increased mobility, and foreign investors.

But wait, you say, deregulating zoning will allow denser settlement, thus making land "less scarce" and able to match demand! How great the free market is! Now show me one city where this has proven true.

As Tyler himself has pointed out, there is no evidence that allowing more construction will lead to anything more than more luxury condos being built. What needs to be done is to change zoning restrictions, *and* change incentives so that more low-income housing is constructed.

Building luxury condos increases overall housing supply and reduces pricing pressures. You don't need to build brand NEW housing for lower-income citizens. Older housing stock is the place to look for affordability (so long as overall construction is permitted to keep up with demand).

That would be great, if the new housing stock was not replacing old housing stock, and if city populations were no growing. There was a good article recently in Citylab on the problems the "bulid more housing" solution faces:

The crux of the matter is that, right now, it is much more profitable than usual to rent/sell to the very rich than the poor. Much more than historical norms. This is due to rising inequality, and, strangely, greater mobility of people and capital (instead of having to sell to the limited number of rich people in your state, region, or even country, you can sell to any rich person in the world. The number of poor people you can sell to is still geographically restricted). Unless you change those incentives, no new low-income stock will be created, and there will be an affordability crisis.

That probably has nothing to do with the fact that the government stopped building subsidized section 202 housing, yet the government continues to massively subsidies upper-middle and luxury housing (albeit less directly).

That would be great, if the new housing stock was not replacing old housing stock

In the SF Bay area, the vast majority of older housing stock is single-family detached homes. If and when new housing replaces that, it should be higher density. If *that* is not permitted, then there's your problem. If it's possible to build multifamily only where multifamily exists, then, again *there* is your problem. In that case, the rules don't even allow increasing the housing supply. And your proposed solution is no better -- if your new affordable housing project can only go where older apartment buildings already exist then it simply can't help. At all.

You are correct! That is why I am arguing for zoning deregulation. if you remember from my original comment:

What needs to be done is to change zoning restrictions, *and* change incentives so that more low-income housing is constructed.

All I am saying is that zoning deregulation alone will not solve the affordability crisis. There simply is no way for supply to meet demand, as increasing supply makes cities denser, more productive, and more desirable for businesses, driving demand up further. Altering incentives to ensure adequate development of low-income housing benefits everyone in the city, and ensures cities grow in an equitable way.

Again, I'm not proposing anything extreme. Just altering the values in already existing taxes should do, and maybe a new fee or two for frequently unoccupied units. Tracking how these taxes influence housing availability would be pretty simple, and fine-tuning these values would also help fund the city government.

People vote with their wallets and feet for lower population density. And if they can get their local government's thumb on the scale, they will. That's otherwise known as democracy.

California is hilariously under-developed, not that there's anything wrong with that. If I got to live in a white hippie playground like Marin County I'd protect it too.

I hear lots of talk of cities as economies of scale but to my observation they're diseconomies of scale. The bigger they get, the more taxes they levy, the more corrupt and unresponsive their governments. They're fertility and crime sinks and you have to be a millionaire to find a safe neighborhood. They're not scale so much as churn.

and you have to be a millionaire to find a safe neighborhood.

About 1 person in 6 in a typical dense settlement lives in a troubled neighborhood. (Less in passably governed core cities like New York, more in badly governed cities like Baltimore). The homicide rate in the tract-suburbs around Detroit averages about 2.4 per 100,000. That in the Detroit municipality is about 48 per 100,000. About 18% of the population of the whole dense settlement lives in the Detroit municipality.

[toe of boot catches on mouse poop, falls off 500-foot cliff]

Nimbyism is not preventing Los Angeles from continuing to build new housing at the same rates it has for decades:

yeah yeah yeah, and conservatives pretend to be anti-regulation, until you move into a golf community with an HOA - ruled by 1,000-page covenants documents and petty tyrants that have foreclosure power.

By the way, please support the statement that zoning was created to keep out other people, as opposed to, say, hog farms.

Preach my Aryan Brother!! Preach!! Keep (((them))) away from us!

*I’m really glad no one else hears your dog whistles. I don’t want any of (((these people))) to think they belong amongst us. ;)

This topic really gets him worked up. It must hit very close to home.

Hi, mouse!

That's not me. This is kinda weird, using someone else's fake name instead of their own fake name. It's fake. It is a deliberate attempt to mislead, a type of sabotage - the behavior of a narcissistic psychopath.

Is it any more narcissistic than following a poster around saying 'hi' to him/her using a derogatory nickname? What's the point of that?

Because a set of land use rules that tends to segregate dense transit-dependent development from less dense auto-oriented development is the moral equivalent of separating poor and desperate families from their children - people who just made a multi-thousand mile journey to escape poverty, crime, and oppression - and then confining them in poorly-run concentration camps, with no plan for tracking or reunification, and for extra cruelty, making it a crime to provide them with water.

people who just made a multi-thousand mile journey to escape poverty, crime, and oppression

They're not oppressed by anything except the human condition. The crime is generated by their neighbors, who are insufficiently oppressed by the state. They are 'poor' because their quantum of human capital does not generate the income stream to be something other than poor. These are abiding problems in human history, and they aren't addressed by having Hondurans colonize San Mateo. They can only be properly addressed on site. And the nurse can help you to the toilet, but she can't pee for you.

You view Latin American countries as little vacuums, don't you? Like a snow globe.

You're operating under the illusion that uttering non sequiturs makes you sound clever.

You're operating under the illusion that calling something a non sequitur makes it one.

Yes, but I'm telling the truth and you're lying. As always.

Art, this is why your wife made you a cuck:
Art: 8=>
Other Guy: 8=====>
Any questions?

About a third of those “families” are families only due to an unrelated rent-a-kid. Completely unexpected, right? And perhaps hard on the rent-a-kids.

>We can’t solve the climate crisis without vastly improving public transportation and increasing urban density.

Really? I'm not so sure. Why can't we reduce emissions by retaining suburbia, obtaining a nuclear power grid, and adopting electric vehicles and trucks? Essentially zero emissions without public transportation or density. This seems a lot easier than conforming to the dense, urban aesthetic technocrats drool over. Ask yourself, are they selling a unique solution, or a desired aesthetic?

"A pox on both their houses."

Way to stick the landing.

I call a pox on the academics and the universities that preach ideals of open markets and individual rights and inclusion from the highest towers of government privilege and authority and exclusion.

Aren't there private alternatives to zoning in the form of HOAs? HOAs seem to be more restrictive than traditional zoning (i.e., what color you can paint your house). I'm all for the pushback against NIMBY, but the market does demand something like zoning (and government in general) given HOAs. It seems that some sort of agency committed to pro-choice development is necessary to avoid this from happening.

I suppose one could push back against this and say that HOAs are usually confined to a single neighborhood, but given a few hundred years I could see a few HOAs the size of major cities.

The pattern that I see is that real estate, commercial, and industrial businesses (that aren't vying for monopoly) are fairly supportive of unrestricted development. Whereas long-time renters in gentrifying neighborhoods, homeowners, and environmentalists are the biggest NIMBY supporters.

I was doing some data analysis on gun violence last year, and was surprised to see that population density had a far higher correlation to both homicide and suicide than either gun ownership rates or gun control laws. So I think empirically, cities are not good for the soul.

Hmm. The data I've seen says suicide rates go down with density.

I agree. Nicholas is lying. Here are the 10 states with the highest suicide rates and the ten cities with the highest suicide rates. To summarize, all the states are largely rural, some of them extremely so, and only one or two of the cities are actually large, with several being small and in rural areas. Furthermore, after #1 (Las Vegas vs Montana), the cities have lower rates. These are per 100,000. Oh, and what is super highly correlated with suicide rates, as Alex has noted before is per capital guns.

Montana 28.9 Las Vegas 34.5
Alaska 27.0 Colorado Springs 26.1
Wyoming 26.8 Tuscon 25.0
New Mexico 23.3 Sacramento 22.7
Idaho 23.2 Albuquerquw 21.0
Utah 22.7 Mesa, AZ 19.6
S. Dakota 22.5 Miami 17.1
W. Virginia 26.1 Denver 16.2
Arkansas 20.8 Jacksonville 15.6
Colorado 20.3 Wichita, KS 15.2

Really, Nicholas, did you think you could come in here and spout a bunch of Fake News bs like this? Who do you think you are, Donald Trump with his 10,000 + lies since taking office?

Just looked up your data source and that is from 2004.

I have no insight in terms of the density-suicide relationship, but certainly a lot has changed in 15 years demographically and societally. I'm not sure that the data you provided is relevant.

all the states are largely rural, some of them extremely so,

Most people in Utah and Colorado live in what the Census Bureau classifies as an 'urban area' (agglomeration exceeding 50,000 people in which all block groups have population densities exceeding 500 persons per sq. mile or are surrounded by such block groups). Only West Virginia and Montana have exurban, small town, and rural populations which sum to more than 75% of the total.

And evidently Barkley cannot be bothered with multi-variate analysis.

Oh gag, Caning, you are another one constantly lying here.

So, average percent urban in US is 80 percent. Only Colorado and Utah are above that on the list. The rest are below, some of them way below, with indeed WV and MT the lowest.

Jonathan S., not much has changed.

Oh, and for all of you, here are the top ten states in order for per capita gun ownership, which pretty clearly shows the strong relationship between guns and suicide.

W. Virginia
New Mexico
North Dakota

Here is a map of deaths of despair.

"Everybody has left the Bay Area because it's too crowded."

You didn't say half the things you said.

Cities are full of people who wish they could escape but can't because their jobs are in the city. Their biggest expense is the check they write to the landlord every month. They can't play an electric guitar at night - even at the lowest audible setting - without a neighbor banging on the wall, yet they get to listen to the couple on the other side bicker every night. They walk to the subway to wait in line to squeeze into a standing room only car, hoping the person in front them took a shower at least won't pass gas while a wild-eyed crazy dude rants about the government putting chemicals in the water. Once at their destination, they walk down the noisy street, their minds filtering incessant cacophony of the city, to the high rise where they work all day in a climate controlled glass box. At the end if the day, they do it all over in reverse. Once home in the landlord's apartment, they watch TV or YouTube or read an economist's blog, looking at images if green living spaces with birds and butterflies.

Meanwhile, I like on my bed looking out the glass doors of the suburban home surrounded by native vegetation that I own free and clear. I look at the leaves of the big leaf maple hanging over my house. When I open the patio doors I can hear the flapping of the song birds wings. I hope the deer didn't eat too much of my apple tree or the native woodrats didn't strip my meter lemon tree. I keep the cats in at night because we can see the mountain lions on my neighbors wildlife camera on Facebook. After I drink my coffee I drive to work on uncrowded semi-rural roads watching for deer while listening to an audio book. I go to work where I help other people create the kind of natural environment I live in.

When I return home, I stop to pickup my mail from my unprotected mailbox. My neighbors wave at me. I know most of them. They newest neighbor sometimes gives my son a ride to school. Another neighbor works at the school and gives him a ride home. My other son rides his bike to school on the leafy roads, stopping occasionally to pick grapes or blackberries - he knows all the spots. When the weather warms he and his friends swim in a creek so clean that it supports a native rainbow trout population.

I know where my water comes from - I sometimes attend water board meetings with my neighbors. One of my neighbors, an elderly retired credit union manager, is the chairman of the water board. Our water is clean but it is not cheap but water is important. My sewage goes into my own recently inspected septic tank, is filtered by a fully functioning and recently inspected leachfield and us this returned to the environment and eventually percolates, very slowly, into the water table and the steelhead creek a few hundred feet below. The creek is monitored and is free of organic pollution. As I said, my son swims in it. I pay for the monitoring through my water bill and property taxes.

The community is racially diverse. My next door neighbor, the chief if the local volunteer fire department, is of Mexican descent. On the other side is an Indian woman. She's a lawyer and new - 3 years - to the neighborhood. A few houses up the road lives another volunteer firefighter - he's African American. On the other side, two houses away is a white guy married to a native American woman. His neighbor is mixed race Asian-American married to recent Mexican immigrant. They have a young son I have watched grow up and the little guy waves to me whenever he sees me - it makes my laugh. The next two houses are owned by long time neighbors - a German immigrant couple that have had two daughters my sons age, and like my son's have lived their entire lives in the same house. The next house is occupied by a white American woman, a musician, married to a Swedish immigrant - he's a mechanical engineer like his German neighbor who has a master's degree in engineering.

We live in a tightly bonded neighborhood, not without disagreements, where we have never had a crime in my 30 years here. I can leave my tools and all our bikes outside unlocked, I know my neighbors and their kids and in some cases their parents, my family is safe, we are engulfed in nature, the air is clean, we can swim and even drink the water in the creek, I volunteer in my kids school, the teachers call me on my cell phone, our neighborhood is kind and welcoming and diverse, and we are not wealthy, just middle-class.

A non-profit, using public funds, bought a pristine piece of native woodland and grassland perched above a creek with endangered steelhead and designated for reintroduction of extirpated coho salmon. They wanted to destroy the whole thing to build high-density housing, with solar panels and other virtue signalling green goodies. They were going to populate the housing with people drawn from prioritized waiting lists with diversity goals. The people in the community, which voted 80% for Hillary and Obama, put so much pressure on the political elite that the project was cancelled. They'll be back. Right now, the meadow and woodland sits there waiting to be destroyed - the developers - non-profits - are relentless.

For now we have the clean air, the wildlands, the mountain lions and wild flocks of bandtail pigeons, the small schools, and neighbors we know and trust.

You want us to give that up?

For what? Why?

Because women in Africa can't control their birthrate? Because Central America is overcrowded, poor, and destroyed by crime?

So you want to stack and pack us? Cut the forests down to build high density housing for strangers?

We look at the cities and see "homeless" encampments, needle exchanges, and feces on the sidewalks. We don't see clean running streams, meadows, nor wildlife.

No. We don't want that.

Interesting tidbit, the nonprofits waiting to develop pristine woodlands. Because that happens, like, almost never.

Google "non-profit affordable housing"

Oh I know it happens sometime. But compared to for-profit development, particularly of prime suburban uplands. I'm guessing something less than 5% of the time, maybe even 1%.

Living in the center of a city, albeit in Canada, what makes it unlivable are the neo-white trash late McLennials.

The Democrat party is well named. Restrictions on residential building are the class case of 2 wolves and lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
Democrats seem to think the majority should mostly get what they want, money from rich people, mandated wages, almost unlimited healthcare paid for by others, cheap drugs even though they made the patent laws and drug companies played by there rules.

Floccina! Bravo! You mention patents. Like James Parry (kibo), I sometimes check for this keyword... And you're right: generic drug companies also 'game the system' about as much as the patenting drug companies, and charge very high drug prices without actually creating anything new, but the liberal lawmakers rarely slam them for it.

On topic, what never ceases to amuse me is that conservatives defend "fee simple absolute" with a vengeance, calling it almost a sacrosanct right of capitalism, but give almost no credit to intellectual property. Why is that? Because the government makes judgement calls in IP whereas for real property all they do is maintain land records, which is less subjective to bad judgements? I dunno. I will say however our hosts, AlexT and TC, both largely anti-patent, sometimes put in a good word for Henry George, so they are at least being consistent with their worldview and I respect them for that.

You can't call a city where hundreds of thousands of people live pleasantly enough unlivable. There are some good suggestions offered to my SF a better place to live, but some of the views expressed are over the top, almost petulant. SF is sill a wonderful place, but progress takes time.

"He calls himself an innate optimist, despite the unpopularity of many of his ideas.
When he moved to San Francisco in the 1970s, the city was debating rent control, he recalled. So he wrote a letter to The Chronicle saying, "Anybody who has examined the evidence about the effects of rent control, and still votes for it, is either a knave or a fool."
What happened? "They immediately passed it," he laughed."

As I say, change takes time. You might want to read, btw, the excellent book "Two Lucky People, " Milton & Rose Friedman, with the often omitted subtitle, "except for living in the hell of SF."

It's hilarious how Manjoo assumes all cities are examples of "progressives" then describes them thus:

"Dense urban areas are quite literally the “real America” — the cities are where two-thirds of Americans live, and they account for almost all national economic output. Urban areas are the most environmentally friendly way we know of housing lots of people. We can’t solve the climate crisis without vastly improving public transportation and increasing urban density. More than that, metropolises are good for the psyche and the soul; density fosters tolerance, diversity, creativity and progress."

So...what must the "conservative" areas be like?

Filled with Unreal Americans, accounting for almost no national economic output? Terrible for the psyche and soul, fostering bigotry, intolerance and utterly devoid of progress and creativity?

Ok, if you say so, Farhad!

He assumes "the suburbs" are part of "the city" despite not really being there but hey its in the MSA. And he assumes that because work is done in the city, even though all those workers have to commute in from the suburbs because the cities are dysfunctional places to live, that the cities themselves are productive. He also ignores that large portions of many of these cities are unproductive slums. And he ignores the majority of cities (how's Detroit or Cleveland doing?).

But other then all that...

He assumes "the suburbs" are part of "the city" despite not really being there but hey its in the MSA.

Of course he does, he's not an idiot. Municipal boundaries are conventional. (In New York, they are where they happened to be in 1924, when municipal annexation ceased to be practiced). The actual dense settlement with it's signature features generally extends well beyond core city boundaries. He's interested in land use and modes of service provisions. You're obsessed with blacks.

Again, about 1 person in 6 in a typical dense settlement lives in an unsafe core city neighborhood. It might be 1 in 5 around Detroit or 1 in four around Baltimore. The neighborhoods have low levels of retail trade, some industrial and service concerns which don't have to put up a front (e.g. warehouses), and residences for low skill wage earners and lumpenproletarians. Residential suburban tracts aren't 'productive' either. They're filled with residences, i.e. people consuming.

Again, the picture of the city being sketched here is bizarrely schizoid.

It a place of astounding creativity and economic activity, but also dystopian misery and economic ruin;

It is a place that is good for the psyche and soul, but also a terrifying hellscape of crime and decay.

Its..almost like cities have some weird sort of dichotomy, one might almost say an inequality about them where some live pleasant creative lives while others do not.

Certain kinds of people are productive. For a variety of reasons, they have to organize together in specific geographic places from 9-5 every day to be productive, so that's cities. Attached to these productive people like a parasite are a lot of unproductive people and institutions that the productive people have to put up with because of geographic capture.

Manjoo wants us to think that the geographic areas create the productivity, rather than the people. And he wants us to believe that because people in the city limits, many of them not even the productive people but the parasites, vote D that the productivity is coming from the cities. In reality, most of the productive people live in the suburbs and vote R, and would love to move away from the city and its discontents if they could move their jobs physical location. And some of the productive people that vote D do it as a cultural pose, but really have the same R concerns when it intrudes in their lives.

The most productive people in the country don't live in the suburbs. They reside in places like Grundy County, Iowa, literally the breadbasket of the US. The rural folk that produce the crops that feed the city dwellers are the basis of our civilization. Without them, sending the food that sustains life to the city, there would be no city. Wheat and corn can't be grown on asphalt and concrete.

It's easy to be productive when most of the R&D was done by nature itself and your main energy source is free.

In addition to my previous criticisms, I also don't think it is right to call these rich NIMBY sorts "progressive". They are liberals, in the most Phil Ochs sense of the term:

"Blame Wealthy Liberals..."


Here's an article about wealthy "conservatives" trying to take over public beaches.

The post topic "Blame wealthy liberals" is as biased as anything I have seen in a life time.

Congratulations Alex!

I am amazed, and disappointed, that Alex forwarded this piece of trash. It tells me he didn't look very closely at the claims. Bad form.

? You may disagree with AlexT's opinions, but this is a typical AlexT piece, consistent with what he's written before, nothing trashy or amazing about it.

Alex is correct in his assessment - you might not like it, but it is true. The left is not used to criticism - the MSM, entertainment industry, government employees, and academia are all located well to the left of at least half the nation.

Otoh, all those institutions regularly and viciously lampoon people with more traditional (a la Jonathan Haidt) values.

I have been calling these leftist villages apartheid neighborhoods, surrounded by walls of zoning regulations, for a long time. It is so obvious. All the virtue signalling about immigration, housing, and inequality while protecting themselves from the consequences of the policies they espouse is a perfect setup for a hard landing.

Payback is a b*tch, but well deserved.

If you don't like it, fix it.

I don't have a well-formed opinion about zoning; however, I'm not sure what people mean when they say life in big cities is much better. Yes, I live in a city and I like it, but there's a bunch of evidence supporting that subjective welfare in rural areas and small towns is usually higher, despite lower income and education (curiously, I haven't seen conclusive evidence about differences in life expectancy - but I'd really like to). Why? Probably we evolved appreciating open landscapes, nocturne silence, air quality, or something like that.
So, even if one wants to argue that zoning is wrong or elitist, at least we should debate over the truth of the premise "urban density is great".

Actually, a friend just pointed out that there are many papers failing to confirm the "rural-urban happiness gradiente"; so the evidence is not so consistente as I thought. However, my point is that "urban density increases welfare" must be proved in order to be used as a premise

With all due respect, you article is full of flaws and bold, broad stereotyping. First, you refer to a McKinsey report that was done almost a decade ago (2010 and published in 2012). The fact is, many of those trend sited in the report have reversed. We are now seeing greater growth in rural and suburban areas (thanks to the internet and mindset changes). Of course the high cost of living in larger cities is a driver, among others. Then you make reference to zoning laws that were created in the 1940's and slap the label of progressives on the makers of those laws. Um....that was a long time ago, and I'm pretty sure it would be difficult to determine who were progressives vs. conservatives translated into those of today. For your article to have any credibility whatsoever, you will need to start by fixing at least these items.

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