What I’ve been reading

Randy Shaw, Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America.  A YIMBY book, with good historical material on San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other locales involved in the struggle to build more.

Conor Daugherty, Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America.  Coming out in February, this is a very good book about the YIMBY movement and its struggles, with a focus on contemporary California, written by a NYT correspondent.

Jennifer Delton, The Industrialists: How the National Association of Manufacturers Shaped American Capitalism.  Why don’t more books fit this model: take one topic and explain it well?

Economists, Photographs by Mariana Cook, edited with an introduction by Robert M. Solow.  Self-recommending.  Interestingly, I recall an old University of Chicago calendar of economist photographs, still buried in my office somewhere, with pictures of Frank Hyneman Knight, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, and others.  At least in terms of personality types, as might be revealed through photographs, the older collection seems to me far more diverse.  Or is the homogenization instead only in terms of photograph poses?

Michael E. O’Hanlon, The Senkaku Paradox: Risking Great Power War Over Small Stakes.  A very useful practical book about what options a U.S. government would have — short of full war — to deal with international grabs by China or Russia.  There should be thirty more books on this topic (#ProgressStudies).

Christopher Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties.  This is both a very old thesis, but these days quite new, namely the claim that 1965 and the Civil Rights movement created a “new constitution” for America, at variance with the old, and the two constitutions have been at war with each other ever since.  It will be one of the influential books “on the Right” this year, I already linked to this Park MacDougald review of the book.

Robert H. Frank, Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work.  From the Princeton University Press catalog: “Psychologists have long understood that social environments profoundly shape our behavior, sometimes for the better, often for the worse. But social influence is a two-way street—our environments are themselves products of our behavior. Under the Influence explains how to unlock the latent power of social context. It reveals how our environments encourage smoking, bullying, tax cheating, sexual predation, problem drinking, and wasteful energy use. We are building bigger houses, driving heavier cars, and engaging in a host of other activities that threaten the planet—mainly because that’s what friends and neighbors do.”


The Robert Frank book seems like a 'chicken and egg' thesis. We buy big houses and cars because our friends do and that makes our other friends do it too...kind of circular.

I think Robert Frank is really sharp, and I followed everything written until the last sentence. We are doing bad things that threaten the planet. OMG!

You strike me as the sort of person that would have opposed the introduction of the idea of sustainable development in Germany, while supporting the expansion of transportation networks.

Back in 1700, that is, when the effects of deforestation were starting to create a serious impact on Saxony's mining industry, a problem that became impossible to ignore, as noted in the wiki article of Hans Carl von Carlowitz - 'The idea of sustainability, wherever it occurs in the history, emerges in time of crisis and scarcity. Around 1700, the mining industry and livelihood of thousands was threatened in Saxony. It was not that the mines had been exhausted of their ores, the problem was an acute scarcity of timber. The mining industry and smelting of ores had consumed whole forests. In the vicinity of places of mining activity the old growth forests had disappeared completely. Trees had been cut at unsustainable rates for decades without efforts to restore the forests. First, the river systems in the Erzgebirge was engineered, so logs could be transported from ever more distant forest areas, but these measures only postponed the crisis. The prices for timber rose ever more, which led to bankruptcy and closure of parts of the mining industry.'

Considering that Australia still has a couple more months of summer, it is possible that most Australians would also find your perspective a bit narrow, shall we say?

"Back in 1700, that is, when the effects of deforestation were starting to ...": could be - I don't know anything about German landscape history.

But I do know that in England there were at least two panics about the depletion of woodland that were entirely bogus. One was "Oh God, we shan't be able to build warships" and the other was "They've cut down all the trees for iron-making." Similarly there was a bogus panic in Ireland - "They've cut down the woodland to make barrels for Guinness." As I say, all balls, but one literary cove would repeat the views of earlier literary coves without the least attempt to check the facts, to even to think critically about the claims.

The reason they did not run out of woodland, is that they switched to dirty messy coal for heating. It is one of the major precursor to the steam-driven portion of the industrial revolution. Once coal was available , the steam pump (originally at the coal mines where coal was super plentiful) could be designed for power purposes.

+1. Even the parody account here gets it.

"Or is the homogenization instead only in terms of photograph poses?"

Although the subject of a photo is clearly critical, so is the photographer. And there seems to have been one photographer who did all of the portraits for this new book.

I think I might remember that economists calendar; with people such as Edgeworth, Knight, and I presume some then-contemporary economists, the portraits would necessarily have been done by a variety of photographers (or even painters or etchmakers, if they had portrayals of Adam Smith and other economists). Greater heterogeneity is pretty much guaranteed.

Shaw and Daugherty: Look, all these things are personal problems. If a locality goes down the tubes, in whatever guise and for whatever reason, there are many other localities available for growth in a geographically blessed country like the United States.

RE: YIMBY book. CA even with the nation's worst housing crisis and homelessness once again failed to build build build:

"California lawmakers failed to pass high-profile legislation on Wednesday to dramatically increase homebuilding in the state — the third year in a row that the effort has stalled ."


Repeal the Civil Rights Act, he says.
While your at it, delete the Ten Commandments and the 14 Points.
We'll see, we'll see, as Georges Clemenceau supposedly said.

Comparing the Civil Rights Act to the Ten Commandments tells me more about you than . . .

No, wait! They deleted the Ten Commandments. We are experiencing how that is working.

‘Christopher Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties. This is both a very old thesis, but these days quite new, namely the claim that 1965 and the Civil Rights movement created a “new constitution” for America, at variance with the old, and the two constitutions have been at war with each other ever since. It will be one of the influential books “on the Right” this year, ‘

Not a claim, but a simple observation. Actually the war to replace limited government with unlimited government goes back to the “progressive” movement. Also, the overall effects of the civil rights legislation has been pernicious. First, the laws rewarded racial grievances. Second, they brought the affirmative action regime, where merit has been displaced by identity.

I wonder when TC will read Amity Shlaes “ Great Society”.

Do any of the housing books take note of a well known economist's suggestion to build higher quality favelas in America as a way to reduce housing costs? This being the sort of thinking outside of the box that shows a bold thinker willing to look at more options to make America a better place than simply supporting the real estate industrial complex.

We can do better than favelas. Singapore has public housing for 80% of its people. But that's the kind of pragmatic thinking that doesn't sit inside the current Overton window.


We already have them: They're called suburbs! :-)

A well-known commenter with T(yler)DS never passes up the opportunity to repeat his snark about TC's support for favelas, whose virtues will be extolled by another well-known "Brazilian" commenter.

'We also would build some makeshift structures there, similar to the better dwellings you might find in a Rio de Janeiro Favela. The quality of the water and electrical infrastructure might be low by American standards, though we could supplement the neighborhood with free municipal wireless. Hulu and other web-based TV services would replace more expensive cable connections for those residents. Then we would allow people to move there if they desired. In essence, we would be recreating a Mexico-like or Brazil-like environment in part of the United States, although with some technological add-ons and most likely greater safety.' - Average is Over

In case you were alluding to me, I was referencing the Caldwell reviewer's comment. It isn't neccesarily my personal recommendation.
And by the way, there are lots of different kinds of favelas in Brazil. Some are quite nice and comfy, relative to the costs of living. Better than the options available to many Americans these days. Don't scoff, you may be living in one yourself in the not too distant future.

Prior in full autism mode.

Go back to using your handle.

a well known economist's suggestion to build higher quality favelas in America as a way to reduce housing costs?

"To build" implies that some higher-than-the -individual entity, maybe a government agency, constructs housing. That's not what favelas are all about. They are non-organizational, anarchistisc communities where expensive zoning requirements are ignored in favor of practical realities. They wallow in freedom.

Wait Progress Studies now includes foreign policy?

Of which considerably more than 30 books have been written.

And the previous answer to such grabs could be summed up in alliances - NATO and ASEAN - and the skilled use of America's assets in soft power which were unmatched in 1995. Shame about the last 20 years though.

And is one sure that Caldwell is really talking about 1965 when writing about how the Constitution was changed, or is he really talking about 1865?

In Sun Belt cities the way to lower housing costs is to divorce home from land. So create truly mobile homes. So between 2 am and 5 am on weeknights allow double wides to be moved around on roads which would put pressure on landlords to keep lot rents low. In addition allow companies to provide lot rent as a benefit like health insurance. So Walmart could provide lots for employees with pre-tax revenue to its employees. So historically NYC had a tradition known as Moving Day or Rent Day which served a similar function to put pressure on landlords to keep rent low.

And it only took about 4 years, which is the sort of blinding speed and competence that the world has come to expect from the UK.

And you are going to love being America's pet - the U.S. doesn't care about rules at all when telling its inferiors what to do.

Caldwell's "simple justice": https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/books/review/christopher-caldwell-age-of-entitlement.html

Under the Influence: Rene Girard's acolytes have put his insight about human behavior to use making enormous profits, many believing the acolytes' exploitation of Girard's insight is causing great harm to civilization. Is Robert Frank proposing an antidote, one that will destroy the value created by those who have exploited Girard's insight? Is Frank opposed to markets?

Shaw book is so typical of every left wing YIMBY activist out there these days. They get one part of the argument correct-we need to build A LOT more and ditch the single use and FAR ration zoning. Then on the other hand they want to prevent land lords from evicting tenants and raising rents. The prohibition of those things only exacerbates the problem. It makes developers only want to pursue luxury product.

Developers pursue luxury product because that's where the money is. Low end demand will have no effect if there is enough high end demand to consume all available supply. In particular, given the demand it's unlikely that the city of San Francisco can build its way out of this.

It’s hard to asses exactly what the Profitability would be in a pure free market for land development in San Francisco. Is it luxury product is it super tall affordable product? I don’t know.

The problem with San Francisco is it’s super NIMBY and all of the other nearby areas are also nice and very NIMBY.

So no, San Fran probably isn’t going to build it’s way out of the issue any time soon because the nearby towns are just as awful.

It would take insane levels of construction and infrastructure renovation in the Bay Area to get supply where it needs to be....

The production of luxury product is a symptom of the disease, not a cause.

Glad Tyler is reading all these books so that I don’t have to. I find most non-fiction books on current topics to be one-idea books. If you read a good summary, you know what the whole book is about. I remember with fondness when I read for the first time real classics like Schumpeter or Nozick, who would take different sides and argue with themselves throughout their own book.

While no one can argue that the results of civil rights legislation has not ended de facto segregation and has had unintended consequences, I find the thesis of Caldwell’s book, as much as I can understand it from the review, hysterical. Is he advocating a return to Jim Crow and lynching? While he’s at the work of ‘obliterating whole cultures’, why not launch a campaign to exterminate all of the descendants of African slaves, or expel them to West Africa from whence they came? Problem solved. Although I’m sure he want to out source the wet work.
The election of Trump, by less than half the voters, may mean that the country chose the ‘old’ constitution but modesty prompts us to wait a bit longer. Modesty doesn’t sell books however.

Not everyone worships negroes.

Having read some reviews--but not the book!--I gather he is saying people should be allowed to discriminate, because of freedom of association, etc. No government-mandated segregation, no lynching, no forced movements.

"personality types, as might be revealed through photographs" ?

Caldwell thinks we need to repeal the civil rights act because aggrieved people will never be satisfied. I don't think his theory is very good, because SJWs are disproportionately urban white college-educated millenial types, not aging black folks who were actually alive prior to the civil rights era. There are solutions to SJWism, but they involve tweaking the dynamics of social media and things like that, not calling up the ghost of the 1960s.

He's got a good point, though. Today nearly all civil-rights complaints are about minority people gaming the system to get undeserved benefits and enforce bias in their favor -- and by busybodies using the system to punish the same very legitimate behaviors that Robert Frank wants peers to butt into. That's not the kind of country I want to live in.

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