Reason Podcast

Government Caused Housing Segregation. Do We Need More Government to Fix the Problem?

The Manhattan Institute's Howard Husock debates Economic Policy Institute's Richard Rothstein at the Soho Forum.


"Racial segregation in America was, to a large degree, engineered by policy makers in Washington," writes the Economic Policy Institute's Richard Rothstein in the February 2019 issue of Reason, in an article adapted from his book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America (2017).

The Manhattan Institute's Howard Husock agrees, calling Rothstein's book an "admirable work" in a 2017 review. But the two part company over Rothstein's confidence "that government today is the appropriate instrument to effect housing integration" and his dismissal of the idea that "the private housing market, guided by rigorously enforced antidiscrimination laws, offers African-American buyers the surest route to wealth accumulation and upward mobility."

On January 14, 2019, the Soho Forum hosted a debate between Rothstein and Husock. The resolution read: "Since the federal government fostered housing segregation in the 20th century, the government should foster housing integration in the 21st."

The Soho Forum, which is partnered with the Reason Foundation, is a monthly series held at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village. It hosts Oxford-style debates, in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious.

Husock prevailed by convincing over 13 percent of audience members to come over to his side.

Comedian Dave Smith, host of the podcast Part of the Problem, was the opening act.

Rothstein is also a fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and is the author of Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right (2008), Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (2004), and other titles.

Husock is the author of Philanthropy Under Fire (2013) and The Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake: The Failure of American Housing Policy (2003). From 1987 through 2006, he was director of case studies in public policy and management at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Edited by Todd Krainin.

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  1. >>>Do We Need More Government to Fix the Problem?

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  2. Here’s to alcohol government: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.

  3. It seems to me that the government could easily integrate housing problems by mandating a certain portion of new housing be set aside at below-market rates for poor people or otherwise capping rental rates by some rent control scheme. Has anybody ever thought of that? Has anybody ever tried such a thing? It seems like such a simple idea, I don’t see how it could fail to work.

  4. Government force created a problem – more government force is needed to fix that.

    How can anyone ever argue that side?

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  6. Democrat progressive communists are very racist

  7. Allowing the government to fix a problem is like allowing a drug lord to be a junkie’s drug and alcohol abuse counselor.

  8. Since government ARE the problem in nearly every instance, how’s about letting the shut down remove about eighty percent of government “workers” and let a truly free market solve the problems, like it has for a long time? The remaining twenty percent will be borerline overworked for long enough to sort things out, then a new normal will settle in. They will be just busy enough to not have the time to meddle in everyday life matters of the rest of us. Oh, and make certain NO public employees at any level can be represented by any other entity. Don’t want to work under the conditions and terms offered for the government job? Fine. There are ten thousand willing, able, availble folks who would be glad to replace you. Harsh? Not really. WHOSE money is it anyway? WHY are SEIU and AFSCME allowed to take so much of it, for the little to nothing they return on that investment?
    Read the piece, above, about the $750K each price tag on some small hovels in Los Angeles area, “affordable’ housing at its most dear. SOME folks got VERY wealthy on that “project”, the main goal of which appears to have been fleecing the well-heeled taxpayers… and the not so well heeled into the bargain.

  9. Government did not cause segregation. Government enabled it because that is what people wanted.

    “We have met the enemy and he is us”

  10. Here are several questions for the conservatives and libertarians out there. What would you do if the federal government, aided and abeted by state and local governments, intentionally abridged your property rights, limiting where you could live and the value of the property you could own and whether you could access the housing credit system? What would you do if those wrongs were only corrected after nearly 100 years and the adverse effects of those government actions (such as the racial wealth gap) had grown larger and more pronounced with passing time? Would you look first to the marketplace to right those wrongs?

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