Sunlit Water

November 29, 2010

Well, You Know, They Didn’t

Filed under: Politics — by teofilo @ 4:57 pm

Presumably there are some things that the Swiss are in favor of doing through government spending, but a quick look at history shows that buying tanks to stop Hitler was decidedly not one of them.

November 12, 2010

We’ve Got Ours

Filed under: Culture,Planning,Politics — by teofilo @ 10:04 pm

I generally agree with Matthew Yglesias on immigration issues, and this post is overall a good statement of some ideas he’s been talking about for a long time, but there’s one thing he says that I think is just factually wrong:

America’s gotten into the odd habit of thinking of ourselves as a country that’s burdened by the desire of other people to move here. But nobody thinks that way about a town or a neighborhood. Being a desirable place to live is an asset that we should take advantage of.

I agree with the normative point here, and I think the analogy to the local level is apt, but lots of people feel that their towns and neighborhoods are burdened by the desire of other people to live there, especially if those people are different from the current population.  You see this perhaps most obviously here in New Jersey with the perennial mess that is exclusionary zoning and attempts by suburban municipalities to avoid affordable housing mandates, but it manifests itself in all kinds of situations.  The bottom line is that one thing that many people like about the places where they live is that not many other people live there.  How many is too many varies substantially with the situation, of course, and concerns about gentrification of urban neighborhoods are usually starting from a much higher “acceptable” baseline of density than concerns about “overdevelopment” in affluent suburbs.  Nevetheless, the underlying dynamic is the same: the people who are already living in a place like things the way they are, and they don’t want that to change, while people elsewhere see how nice the place is and want to get experience it for themselves, which inevitably means changing the place at least a little.

It’s actually a little surprising to see Yglesias missing this point, since it’s very closely related to one of his other hobbyhorses, which is overly stringent barriers to entry to various occupations promoted by incumbent operators.  Basically, and this is a point I should elaborate on at greater length some time, everyone loves regulation when it protects their stuff and hates it when it protects someone else’s stuff that they want.  This dynamic operates in many different context and on many different scales, from decrying the gentrification of U Street to building a fence along the Mexican border.

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