Friday assorted links


Rent control is bad. Property zoning is not a polite topic of conversation.

Obvious Noob Troll. If you had been trolling libertarian websites long enough you would know we all hate zoning too.

A very fast pathway to hell on earth is heavy rent control, plus heavy land use regulation, plus heavy zoning, plus heavy union-mob involvement in construction, and heavy historical regulation-I can think of two major-important metropolitan areas in the US suffering from those burdens.

6. I can see why this got play. It has lots of life as computation mumbo jumbo. I just don't see anything that improves, or even criticizes, human society in a useful (actionable) way.

You could write a script to produce this comment. Big deal.

3. adam silver spoke at MIT about why basketball players aren't happy. in-fact it is virtuous to swim against the grain in this regard. i once did a roaring rendition with the chorus of the Carmelites, in the attempt to reconcile the ancients with Israel, ancient meaning Mesopotamia not Greek or Latin, but we soon defrocked into Act 2, which turned out to be a light greasy Wildean take on avant gardism in America in the 20th century.

5. That eight-point summary is brilliant. And the eighth point was a real gut-punch, but rings true, to me anyway.

Point five is the best:

'And it doesn’t help the people with the greatest need, but rather the people most capable of gaming the system.'

#3 & #4 Sure. Why not. However, does my mood change what I pay and for the zero-booze bar are going to charge me $10 for what is effectively a very pricey Shirley Temple? I foresee going long Grenadine futures....

#5 Free-attle is still trying to live up to it's rep I see...


Yours was the only link of any significance today.

My city is at a point on the road, to that. Not as far, but much farther along than we were even 5 or six years ago. It appears our mayor approves, as he's never mentioned the issue, which has accelerated during his tenure.

I will choose to be hopeful, in the way that our host is hopeful. I am hopeful that the fact my city is not majority white, means we will stop short of becoming another Seattle. We will certainly become unrecognizable in other ways, but hopefully we will avoid becoming the stage set for an absurdist play in which trash and public disorder are the only evidence of love and charity.

#5: Restrict Supply, subsidize demand. Plus ca change.

Oy. This is not the first time I’ve read a piece by Wolfram where he takes credit for things which were formulated far more precisely by Godel, Turing, Kleene, and any number of mathematical logicians in the 1930s through today. In particular we have had very well defined hierarchies of computation for almost a hundred years. Aho, Hopcroft, and Ullman was the standard textbook in my undergrad days.
Before that, Kleene wrote a good book in the fifties.

The guy lacks humility.

4. Non-alcoholic beer is not a viable alternative to real beer, non-alcoholic cocktails are not substitutes for real cocktails, and non-alcoholic bars are not an alternative to real bars.

Here's the alternative to real alcoholic drinks and real bars: Life.

If you've stopped drinking, and you still want to hang around in bars, you're still playing footsie with alcohol. Once you've really stopped, you'll see bars for the dungeons of the human spirit they really are.

4. A major reason that people go to saloons is to explore uncharted sex. Drinking helps in the business but it's not for everyone. That's the attraction of non-drinkers to fitness clubs, places to see and be seen and maybe score, without running up a big tab on hooch before consummation. The C2H5OH-free bars are meant to provide a place for sexual adventure that doesn't require stationary bikes, ill-fitting spandex or unpleasant perspiration.

4. I’m sorry but if I am paying $13 for a mixed drink (before tip) it better be stiff.

Again, another prohibition-flavored post by libertarian Cowen.

You are assuming a confusion between should and must which is not in evidence.

People go to bars to meet people. One way to break the ice with a stranger is to buy them a drink. Drinks must be moderately expensive or else the gesture loses its signaling power.

Many years ago a manufacturer of expensive liquor reduced their prices and their sales in Japan unexpectedly plummeted. It turned out that most purchases were businessmen buying corporate gifts. Below an implicit minimum price a bottle was no longer suitable for gifting.

#4. I like having alternatives but I don't much like bars anyways. So...don't count on me being a customer.

Restaurants, however. Give me something decent to drink and maybe I'll buy it. I'm not going to buy soda.

#4 - Caro-Kann coat rack cracks me up! But they could have chosen an opening a big more 'spread out' to give more easy to find 'pegs' in the position, such as maybe the Slav.

Bonus trivia: the Caro-Kann is a solid opening, employed by Karpov and some other masters, and I have a hard time against it as White, often settling for a draw.

#5. Great article up until the last paragraph where he inexplicably insists that the market can't supply enough housing for people who make less than 80% of the median income. Why NOT?????
He spends lengthy paragraphs arguing for why rent control is bad, and zero time defending what is essentially a bald assertion that markets won't supply low-cost housing. Weird.

I had the same reaction. When newer units get built, older ones that would otherwise be rented by high-income people are freed up at a lower (then they otherwise would be) price, and are thus are more affordable to low income people. There is strong substitutability in the housing market, across many margins. That the author seems to completely miss this point, and not even muster an *argument* for his assertion, is bizarre.

@Hazel Meade - housing not built for poor since poor people don't belong in the city, but outside the city, and they should take long commutes to service the rich YUPPIES and other such folk. Hence housing in prime real estate markets are and should be for rich folk only. Here in the DC area, we have some old 70 year old tear-downs (the don't built houses like that anymore, all brick, hand laid) that rent for a premium ($1k a room) because they are in valuable real estate. But the stupid local government insists on having 'subsidized housing' for poor folk. Who gets this housing? Some lucky 'lottery' winners I suppose, who win that state 'fair housing' lottery.

A non-profit was going to build a low-income housing project in our rural/suburban town. They pitched it as low income housing for local people like teachers, firefighters, and police - amusing since all of those people are well compensated in our area and have high rates of home ownership - as well as our elderly and our soon to leave the nest kids. You know, keep the families and community together.

I went to this dog and pony show. They showed slides of little old woodsy cabins and whimsical cottages along the creeks - all in our current neighborhoods.

After the slide show, I spoke privately with one of the employees of the non-profit and asked him "are these housing units really going to go to our kids, our elderly, and our teachers?" The guy said that, as a recipient of certain funds, there were certain requirements that had to be met, and that the residents needed to meet certain criteria. Then he said to me "as I look around here all I see are white people". Yes, he actually said that. Ironically, my wife, and thus my kids, are partly of African heritage. IAC, they have prioritized waiting lists for low income housing and those people could come from anywhere, and most likely would NOT come from our community. There were several such conversations involving other people, and this leaked into the news.

The scam got worse. After hypnotizing us with images of cute rustic low density cottages in the woods - the things we love about our community - these con artists put out a plan with high density, ugly stack and pack boxes on top of boxes, a style anathema to our funky downscale woodsy town.

The project was cancelled, the non-profit defaulted and folded, and the land was sold to a religious organization in a secret deal brokered by the local politicians and their NGO backers. It's a blue town.

So, who gets this housing? You can be sure the process and decisions will be dominated by political patronage and if not out right corrupted, it will be highly questionable

This is a true story - my lived experience.

Regarding #5, on Seattle rent control

There are signs that the supply and demand curves shift based on housing stock, even in socialist Seattle.

However, some news claim rents increased, I am not including the links, because my comment keeps disappearing in the moderation que, I am guessing I am being misidentified as a link spammer.

> Economists have been thorough at convincing themselves that rent control is a bad idea, and inept at convincing anyone else.
Perhaps because rent control is a minor sin compared to the benefits that the state offers to property owners. Why do economists spend so much time demonizing rent control without ever mentioning California's Proposition 13, which has distorted the housing market beyond what rent control could ever hope to accomplish? By all means let's clean up this mess. But the people who think the cleanup starts with rent control usually turn out to enjoy controlled property tax rates on multiple properties.

Seattle is not in California.

How is that relevant to the credibility of economists?

Those in Seattle, which the article is about, are not affected by California law.

You seem to be advocating doing one stupid thing in compensation for not abolishing other stupid things. Do you adopt this as a general principle in life?

until such time as the myriad subsidies for ownership are removed, yes

"Economists have been thorough at convincing themselves that rent control is a bad idea, and inept at convincing anyone else." That's because economists are accountants without the glamor, personality, and super powers.

I need to call my old CA pal, Rich Man, and get his take on Prop 13. Like Brexit, the people of CA in referendum voted Prop. 13 as limitation on residential RE taxes. I guess you could call democratically-imposed limitations on taxes "subsidies." I don't think that way. My case, it swings the other way. My western Nassau, NY RE taxes are almost 300% of NYC RE taxes on houses a half a mile away. Residential RE buying decisions come down to monthly payments,. Ergo my home price is severely decreased by the higher monthly tax escrow - $1,500 compared to the NYC $500/month.

You don't see the equivalence between property tax and rent?
Surprisingly little known fact: San Francisco's rent control law was enacted immediately after Prop 13 and explicitly in response to it.

The Republicans just removed (or at least greatly reduced) the main subsidies for home ownership by limiting SALT deductions to $10,000 and the mortgage interest deduction to $750K. Did you cheer? And now that after these changes only about 10% of households are itemizing (and they're all relatively well off if not rich), wouldn't it be time to eliminate home ownership subsidies in the form of property tax and mortgage interest deductions entirely? Would you favor this change?

Then abolish property taxes altogether if you want to eliminate any distortionary effects. But the opponents of Prop. 13 almost uniformly want higher taxes to feed the government beast.

"Then abolish property taxes altogether if you want to eliminate any distortionary effects. "

+1, there's no magical reason you need property taxes. Just fund local government off of sales taxes or income taxes if you object to property taxes.

And if your point is that property taxes aren't high enough, then you'll need to convince CA voters to change the law.

"But the opponents of Prop. 13 almost uniformly want higher taxes to feed the government beast."

They've been getting higher taxes anyway, just not in the form of property taxes, so any claim that Prop 13 has been successful in preventing CA lefties from creating a high-tax regime is laughable.

The initial impetus for Prop 13 was preventing rising property values and tax rates from pushing older folks out of their homes. Fair enough. But the property tax break is not limited to owner occupied primary residences, which is insanity number one. And then a later provision allowed children to inherit properties from their parents and keep the insanely low tax basis. That's insanity number two. The two combined are creating a class of tax privileged landed-gentry who own extremely valuable residential and commercial real-estate and pay almost nothing in taxes. Here for example is a house in Palo Alto going for $3.7M. At current rates, the property tax bill should be about $40K/year. But the current longtime owners have been paying under $7K. And, with inheritance through generations, the distortions will only keep growing. Eventually Prop 13 is going to have to die, and it's going to be a big mess when that finally happens.

#2..."More than 100 economists and conservative activists on Monday endorsed President Trump’s pending nomination of Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board.

In a one-sentence statement, 105 professors, former government officials and analysts, many with deep ties to conservative circles, said they "support Steve Moore’s nomination to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.”

I'm adding this list of knuckleheads to my collection of petitions, letters of support, etc., of political figures or appointees for political reasons, and for which no serious person could stomach the embarrassment of such subservient status publicly. Here's my advice to the signers...keep a low profile in future.

What are you prepared to do? Shoot them?

Waste of ammo. Mock them, Dick bad moods& sociological sandwich narratives
fuck david brooks & the nytimes
the middle class is not "defined by fear"
we think you use this fear bullshit to sell your books&doritos

if david brooks& the nytimes are fraught
we recommend they order one of these

also looks it would be fun for kids too!

#5 Have there been any notable attempts by landlords (in places without rent control) to price the rent control option? Something like:
You can pay $X / month for a year with no cap on what I'll charge after the year is up or

You can pay $X + $P per month and as long as you live in the apartment, the rent will fluctuate with [CPI / some other formula].

Has there been any examples of legislation that says if you seek to increase the rent by X% or more, then you must provide $Y to the renter for moving expenses if they decide to move (so the transaction cost of moving would be shared)?

"You can pay $X / month for a year with no cap on what I'll charge after the year is up " is the standard one year lease.

6: As other commenters have said, meh. He starts out okay by mentioning the huge advances made possible by the invention of writing, and of mathematical notation. (And he could've mentioned the introduction of Arabic numerals.) And he claims that "computational languages" will be the next step, and Wolfram Language is the only one that does this, and does it fully.

He set himself an impossibly high bar with his description of what a computational language can do, and no, no software in the world does that yet, even HAL the computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey" had limitations.

And Wolfram needs to read say Williamson or Coase on contracts. The computational contracts that he describes have some nice characteristics, but complete contingent claims contracts are basically impossible to create except for specialized simple situations.

There's clearly an increasing role for computation in society, probably including some innovations in contracting, but computers are not going to be taking over contracting.

4: That chessboard rack is quite clever. But wouldn't a playable chessboard be even better, with a hole in each square and pegs at the bottom of each piece so the user could move the pieces around instead of being stuck in the same position forever?

I remember seeing a movie in the 1960s, which I've forgotten almost everything about except it took place aboard a ship, or submarine, or spaceship, and two of the characters played chess against each other by attaching a magnetic chessboard to a wall or bulkhead or bulletin board.

The pieces were magnetic too so each time one of them walked by the chessboard, they'd see if the other guy had made a move and if so they'd pause and make their next move.

What would've been extra clever would've been if tumultuous events on the chessboard mirrored or foreshadowed tumultuous plot twists, but I don't remember if the movie did that.

5. Excellent piece! As a person knee-deep in residential real estate and rent controlled jurisdictions, I agree with all the major points. I should also add that a big driver of rent control is politics. Tenants who currently reside in rent controlled units vote. Folks who are looking for housing, or will be looking in the future (and who do not live in the area) do not vote , or at least don't vote in the specific jurisdiction involved. Also, even if you do live in the affected area, and will be looking for housing in the future (e.g., an 18 year old person living with her or his parents) rent control sounds like a just cause, at least on paper. It often solves for the mood affiliation.

Sadly, the Seattle City Council, which NEEDS to read this, is populated by idiots that are absolutely, economically ignorant.

You forgot arrogant:

Blue city blue state madness. You get what you vote for.


Oh no, not Wolfram again.

I would like to read a paper on modesty written by him.

From the great Wolfie:

"Well, actually, I’ve spent a good part of my life trying to solve that—and I think the key is what I call computational language. And, yes, there’s only basically one full computational language that exists in the world today—and it’s the one I’ve spent the past three decades building—the Wolfram Language."

Trumpets blaring.

Wolfram thinks the sun shines out if his ass. It doesn't, but he is talented enough that it does occasionally sparkle.

Nobody cares about ancient Japanese lighthouses.

On the contrary, I find it a fascinating topic.

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