Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’

Full piece here.

Postrel discusses the work of two Harvard economists and offers this:

‘As I have argued elsewhere, there are two competing models of successful American cities. One encourages a growing population, fosters a middle-class, family-centered lifestyle, and liberally permits new housing. It used to be the norm nationally, and it still predominates in the South and Southwest. The other favors long-term residents, attracts highly productive, work-driven people, focuses on aesthetic amenities, and makes it difficult to build. It prevails on the West Coast, in the Northeast and in picturesque cities such as Boulder, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first model spurs income convergence, the second spurs economic segregation. Both create cities that people find desirable to live in, but they attract different sorts of residents.’

On this analysis, income inequality (a lack of income convergence) is due in part to land use regulation in places like New York, California and Boulder.  Real estate has always been costlier in such places, but since 1980 there perhaps has been a set of legal changes that have made these places prohibitively expensive for a certain kind of mobile labor.  Walls are being built in and around these cities, due to the interests of many in them.  This steers a person, less well-educated (Postrel uses the example of a waiter from Ohio) from L.A. to say, Phoenix, where there is more money and more opportunity than Ohio, but who couldn’t afford California or New York.

This can close the door to a certain kind of “equality” that comes with less economic meddling and fewer land use regulations (and that used to be a possibility in California, if I recall from my early days): plumbers living next to lawyers next to insurance salesman next to retired Navy.  Kids’ schools, sports leagues and activities, generally safer neighborhoods and a more suburban focus can be created in such an economic environment.

In fact, I share some of Postrel’s populist sentiment at the irony that some who claim “income-equality” in the abstract, or seek “diversity” through often burdensome laws and regulations are in fact rich and successful enough to do so.  Perhaps many are just keeping up with the slower, deeper currents of public sentiment that are leading to a more liberal political base in these areas.  But, what made these people rich and successful?  Likely,  it wasn’t the willingness to sacrifice their own hard work, time and money to abstract entities without their consent…and if you make these laws and these politics the norm, then successful people will just learn how to game the new system.

Are you convinced?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition: I should add that what makes, say New York and San Francisco, partially successful, are the museum-like quality world class or nearly world-class cities have:  the actual museums, tourist attractions and tourist dollars, the aesthetic appeal and the consistent operation of many different and important activities like immigration, trade, finance etc.   Manhattan isn’t a family draw, and never was (except for TGI Friday’s in Times Square, of course).

Related On This Site:  Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

You don’t get the progressive base without the restrictive laws…they are baby steps to paradise: Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution Journal: ‘Three Cheers for Income Inequality’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

Look out Omaha…people are coming your way?: …Joel Kotkin Via Youtube: ‘Illinois Is In A Competition’From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

What if you’re economy’s already depressed?  Don’t make a maze of laws and build stadiums and museums on the public dime…get new industry: From Reason: ‘Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey’…Reason also suggests that if such creative/entrepenurial spirit gets off the ground, it will have to get around the public sector in Detroit.  From Reason Via Youtube: ‘Is Harrisburg’s Nightmare America’s Future?’

 
Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?
 
Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have plans for America and India to address some of the corruption there, and it may involve much more state involvement here in America by extension.  Can you see life, liberty and property from here?:  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis
 
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