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Progress in the Struggle Against Exclusionary Zoning

Reforms in multiple jurisdictions could help loosen restrictions on development that infringe on property rights, inflate housing prices, and cut off large numbers of people from job opportunities.

The impact of exclusionary zoning.The impact of exclusionary zoning.

There may not be a lot of good political news these days. But one notable exception that should cheer you up during the holiday season is the gradual progress being made towards cutting back on exclusionary zoning in multiple jurisdictions around the country. Earlier this month, I wrote about how the city of Minneapolis achieved a major breakthrough by abolishing single-family home zoning requirements throughout the city. Since, Oregon House speaker Rep. Tina Kotek has introduced a bill in the Oregon state legislature that would abolish such mandates throughout nearly the entire state (with the exception of very small communities). Kotek's bill would make Oregon the first state to cut back on single-family zoning requirements to such a great extent, and would do much to alleviate housing shortages by deregulating housing construction statewide. The very fact that this is an initiative proposed by the Speaker of the House increases the likelihood of success.

The City of San Francisco, long notorious for having some of the most restrictive zoning rules in the entire country, recently abolished minimum parking requirements for new construction. This might not seem like a big deal. But such mandates add many thousands of dollars to the cost of new housing construction, and thereby reduce the amount of housing, and raise the price of what is available. San Francisco still has numerous other restrictions that block housing development. But this is a notable step in the right direction, and follows in the footsteps of several other cities that have adopted similar reforms.

It's worth noting that abolishing parking requirements and single-family home zoning mandates would not forbid the construction of either single-family homes or buildings with lots of parking spots. It would merely permit the construction of new housing of other types, which previously had been banned. But, in so doing, these reforms would facilitate a great deal of new construction, and thereby reduce housing prices.

Finally, California state Senator Scott Wiener has introduced Senate Bill 50, a revised version of last year's failed SB 827, which would have greatly reduced zoning throughout much of the state. The new version includes some unfortunate (though perhaps politically necessary) concessions to NIMBYism, such as allowing many communities to get a 5 year exemption from the law, and a ban on developers' demolishing current rental housing to take advantage of the new rules. The latter exemption prevents old housing from being replaced with newer buildings that could house more people or provide better-quality amenities.

Nonetheless, if SB 50 passes, it would still represent massive progress, for much the same reason as SB 827 would have, had it passed. And the new version also has some improvements over the old one, as well, including expanding its scope to cover "jobs rich" communities, as well as those near transit facilities. Whether SB 50 will succeed where its predecessor failed remains unclear. But it's at least a good sign that advocates believe they have a real chance.

Why should any of this interest you, unless you're planning to rent or buy a home in one of the affected communities? The answer is that exclusionary zoning is possibly the most important policy issue most nonexperts have never heard of. In addition to greatly increasing housing costs, it also cuts off many poor and lower-middle class Americans from valuable job opportunities, thereby greatly reducing economic growth and cutting GDP by as much as 9.5%. It is one of the main factors holding back both poor minorities and working-class whites, and preventing millions of Americans from having the opportunity to "vote with their feet" for areas that offer greater opportunity.

The issue unites economists and land-use scholars across the political spectrum. But until recently, progress has been stymied by a combination of public ignorance and resistance by powerful interest groups. But the firewall holding back zoning reform finally seems to be cracking.

Obviously, the struggle is far from over. The reforms discussed above only represent incremental progress, and none go as far as I and other libertarians would want - or even as far as many mainstream liberal economists would want. But they are important steps in the right direction. And the more such efforts succeed, the more they might stimulate imitation in other cities and states. That's a thought that should bring some cheer during the holiday season!

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  • DASGUY||

    It is a good way of getting people out of their cars and packing more people into a given area.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "packing more people"

    Yes, its not benevolent. Its designed for social engineering.

  • Dilan Esper||

    It's packing more people into areas where those people want to live. That's not social engineering. That's facilitating a free market in housing.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "That's facilitating a free market in housing."

    They are not eliminating zoning, they are just permitting uses preferred by the government to gradually crowd out disfavored uses. None of these city governments are remotely pro "free market".

    Its at best favoring potential new residents over existing residents.

  • Dilan Esper||

    Bob, by that definition, it is impossible for a government to ever liberalize market conditions.

    Obviously there are a lot of rules that create favored and disfavored uses. But that doesn't mean that a rule change that allows A GREATER VARIETY OF USES is not in the direction of the free market and away from social engineering.

    Those "existing residents" are using government power and the threat of force to keep new residents out. Let's make that clear. There's nothing libertarian about getting the government to impose a zoning restriction.

  • Absaroka||

    "There's nothing libertarian about getting the government to impose a zoning restriction."

    I'm not a libertarian theoretician, but I thought that the government stopping person A's actions from harming person B was consistent with libertarianism.

    So when zoning stops a pig farm from opening up in a residential neighborhood, or disallows roosters, etc, my understanding is that libertarianism doesn't have a problem with that. Is your understanding of libertarianism different?

    Are rules in general bad, or just zoning? For example, if a landlord objects to late night band practice by a tenant that disturbs other tenants, is that morally objectionable, or is only bad if a city imposes noise related zoning restrictions?

  • Dilan Esper||

    We are not talking about pig farms here, which can be handled just fine with trespass and nuisance torts.

  • Absaroka||

    "We are not talking about pig farms here"

    I'm not following. What'e the principle that differentiates 'your neighbor can't have roosters on his 1/5 acre lot' and 'your neighbor can't build a 5 story 24 unit apartment on that same lot'?

    (I don't generally like restrictive zoning or covenants; I'd rather live in more free wheeling areas. But I don't see why people who like to live in structured environments shouldn't be able to do so.)

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "So when zoning stops a pig farm from opening up in a residential neighborhood, or disallows roosters, etc, my understanding is that libertarianism doesn't have a problem with that."

    I'm not sure that that's true. If I can operate a pig farm, or have roosters, on my lot without creating negative externalites, they why shouldn't I be allowed to? It's the externalities that should be regulated, not the activity itself.

  • Davantage||

    What do you think rent control is? It's too late for San Francisco, Los Angeles to avoid social engineering.

  • ||

    It seems to be an unexpected property of the modern era that long-held public beliefs can flip in just a few years.

    One can only speculate that if public opinion on abortion had been allowed to change by itself instead of being forced by SCOTUS, that we might have been spared lifetimes of never ending conflict.

  • David Welker||

    Conflict is not a bad thing. As long as it is peaceful.

  • Longtobefree||

    And how many dead babies does it take before something is no 'peaceful'?

  • Dilan Esper||

    I don't think Roe has any effect on public opinion on abortion. You can find divisions over that issue in many other countries with completely different legal regimes.

    Abortion happens to be a thorny ethical issue. You have a developing fetus, which, over the course of a pregnancy, gains more and more of the characteristics of a human baby (and indeed eventually gets to a point where it can be viably delivered as a human baby). On the other hand, in order for that fetus to develop, it has to be implanted inside the body of a host who has to bear enormous burdens during the pregnancy. And the instant cause of that pregnancy is sex, an aspect of life where libertarian and privacy arguments are extremely strong. Finally, only women have to bear that burden, which means abortion prohibitions have enormous implications for gender equality.

    Roe or no Roe, we would still be debating it, and there would still be a range of positions from feminists who feel that women should have near-absolute control over what happens in their uterus to religious conservatives who were never on board with gender equality or the sexual revolution in the first place and who would like to see near-absolute legal prohibitions on any interference with fetal development. And there would be a lot of squishes and moderates with various in-between positions too.

  • mad_kalak||

    Regardless if whether Roe had an effect on public opinion or not, what it did was enshrine it as a "right." Once you make something a "right" then you fundamentally alter the field of debate, preventing any sort of "what are the trade-offs" type of decision-making on the item. In most of Europe, because abortion was never made a "right" you have pretty much an acceptable compromise where very early abortions are legal and pretty much non-controversial, but not abortions where they rip the baby into pieces and put it out a bit at a time.

  • Dilan Esper||

    That's not true.

    We debate trade-offs all the time in this country, and Roe did not declare an absolute right (and the right it did declare got cut back further in Casey).

    And Roe and Casey constitutionalize exactly the regime you say that Europe has arrived at as a compromise: very early abortions are legal, and late term abortions are banned.

    I would suggest to you that there is extensive debate about this in Europe. There are significant pro-life movements in countries like Spain and Portugal and Italy, and until recently, pro-lifers controlled the policy levers of Ireland and banned abortion.

    Roe and Casey do not prevent the debate over trade-offs from happening, they just set a minimum floor that precludes the former Ireland-style regime from being imposed in the United States.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    The insight that asserting rights is a debate stopper traces at least back to Ben Franklin. It's a good point to keep in mind. For instance, your remark that, "Once you make something a 'right' then you fundamentally alter the field of debate, preventing any sort of 'what are the trade-offs' type of decision-making on the item," might have come from Franklin himself. I suspect if Franklin were around now, we would have heard from him almost that very assertion with regard to the 2A debate.

  • UVaGrad||

    Regarding SB50:

    SB827 died in committee, specifically the Senate Housing and Transportation Committee.

    California Senate leadership has already announced that in the new session, that committee will be split in two, with the chair of the old combined committee chairing the Transportation Committee and Scott Wiener chairing the Housing Committee.

    This suggests Senate leadership is very supportive of SB50, which is a good sign.

  • David Welker||

    Hopefully these laws will pass.

    The public also recently voted against rent control. Which is a good thing.

    If you want to control rent, build more housing. Rent control allows incumbent renters to avoid recognizing the REAL reason their rents keep on going up. And, as such, it takes some of the steam out of real reform, which requires building more housing. Rent control benefits current renters, but leaves everyone else out of luck. The only real limit on rents is competition among landlords and the willingness of renters to "vote with their feet" and move to other areas altogether.

    But we will see what happens with SB50. There is still time for it to be killed.

  • Mesoman||

    If you do away with zoning, something even less democratic will arise: deed restrictions / covenants. Because these are private contracts (in theory), they can be far more restrictive than governments. And, they are virtually impossible to get rid of, because of the way they are written.

    They will arise because people reasonably would prefer that their neighborhoods, where they live and where their largest investment (typically) exists, maintain certain characteristics.

    Deed restrictions in new developments tend to be based on boilerplate form existing developments, creating a mono-culture of legal restrictions that it is hard to get away from. I have run into this personally as a ham radio operator. If I want to have an adequate antenna system, I have to either buy in a decades old subdivision, or out in the country. Every place else has restrictions dating from the '70s, when the CB craze led to way too many antennas around, at the same time that the only asset that seemed to be able to fight the ravages of high inflation.

    In other words, in this case, government restrictions are more democratic than those arrived at via private contract.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Anyone who thinks a single government restriction is more democratic than individualized restrictions is thinking of majority rule, not of liberty. To also label government as more "democratic" only shows how useless that word has become.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Typical libertarian sleight of hand with regard to "liberty," a ab abc . . .

    The founders' "liberty" referred to self-government on the basis of majoritarian popular sovereignty. Of course, one word can have multiple meanings, but it's never helpful to invoke them all, at once, creating a deliberate conflation. I wish libertarians would stop doing that.

  • Dilan Esper||

    "If you do away with zoning, something even less democratic will arise: deed restrictions / covenants. Because these are private contracts (in theory), they can be far more restrictive than governments. And, they are virtually impossible to get rid of, because of the way they are written."

    This is what happened with racially exclusionary zoning, and the courts eventually struck down the covenants.

    It's not inconceivable that if exclusionary zoning is invalidated, that contracts that attempt to restore it could be found to be contrary to public policy and unenforceable.

  • LiborCon||

    The affluent don't want the lower classes to live too close to them. Just close enough for them come and serve them their food and coffee, maintain their essential services, do to all their manual labor and then commute home again.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Seems a standard human sentiment. Look at how the lesser elements of our society approach immigration these days.

  • swood1000||

    The affluent don't want the lower classes to live too close to them.

    But you're different, right? I take it that you would have no problem living in this neighborhood?

  • Bob from Ohio||

    These left wing councils are not doing it for libertarian reasons, they are trying to punish the people who prefer single family housing.

  • I Callahan||

    I'm really split on this issue.

    For one - I openly admit that I don't want the people in my cookie-cutter ranch subdivision to start selling their lots to apartment building developers, for the same reason that's already been mentioned: apartment dwellers tend to be poorer and more apt to bring crime to a neighborhood. However - it's their land, not the government's. Any zoning rule is a restriction on what an owner can do with his/her own land, whether it be rules against parking your RV in your driveway for more than 48 hours, to telling you what color your paint scheme can be.

    If I were being consistent, I'd say that it isn't up to me to decide whether someone else can sell their land to apartment building developers. Although I hope they won't...

  • David Welker||

    I Callahan:

    I live in an apartment. I am certainly no more likely to commit crime than you are and, based on statistics, it is unlikely that I am poorer than you.

    Do you base all of your reasoning on fear-based stereotypes and ignorance?

  • mad_kalak||

    Your personal anecdote doesn't discount that poverty and criminality go together like bread and butter. Note, I'm not saying which comes first, just that they are correlated. Ghettos, the places that are high crime, are full of section 8 housing with slumlord property owners renting out buildings. Do all those people with felony records and perfect credit ratings live in the 'burbs or what?

    Crime rates may cause people to not buy in an area, leading to rentals, or criminals cannot afford to buy, either way, crime rates are higher in areas with rental properties.

    Yes, yes...white collar crime, blah blah blah. We are talking averages here.

    A single DuckDuckGo search reveals the following paper on Research Gate; "Rental Housing and Crime: The Role of Property Ownership and Management" where the abstract is: This paper examines how residential rental property ownership characteristics affect crime. It examines the incidence and frequency of disturbances, assaults, and drug possession and distribution using police incident report data for privately owned rental properties. Results show that a small percentage of rental properties generate incident reports. Count model regressions indicate that the distance that the owner resides from the rental property, size of rental property holdings, tenant Section 8 voucher use, and neighborhood owner-occupied housing rates are associated with reported violations."

  • Davantage||

    That is exactly right. He is implying people living in NYC high rise is inferior to single family home.

  • mad_kalak||

    I mean, I understand the impassioned sentiment on Welker's part. Welker rents, so if someone says renters are more likely to be criminals, then Welker assumes that I Callahan is saying that Welker is a criminal.

    This mistake of logic does not bode well for other policy disagreements, dare I say.

  • David Welker||

    The idea that we should limit the supply of housing to keep people with more modest incomes out in order to decrease crime is demented. So demented, in fact, that in that case I support the criminals. Because that is a criminal abuse of government power.

    Also, Stereotyping people is bad. If that is what you do, you are bad. QED.

  • mlwjr||

    Okay, then lets talk about parking, congestion or something else. I live in an area that has a high percentage of single family homes and as a result street parking is decent. 1 mile away you have to drive around for an hour to find a parking spot.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Stereotyping people is bad.

    Hahahahahahahaha!

  • Sarcastr0||

    Basing government policy on statistics about groups is pretty collectivist.

  • mad_kalak||

    That's what happens when people vote, both at the ballot box and with their feet. I'm not saying it's write or wrong, just acknowledging it.

  • Sarcastr0||

    This is one reason why we need Constitutional rights: to hold back the populace's lust for collectivist policies.

  • mad_kalak||

    You're not going to get any disagreement from me on that. We just draw the lines in different spots as to what should be a right and what should be majoritarian. Thing is, once something is a "right" it never goes back again to not being one, unless there is a radical altering of society.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Since rights operate by creating a bias against governmental regulation, I don't know why you'd see that as a problem.

    But you are half right: the main way to contract rights once in existence is with other rights: See Lochner. Or the current Free Exercise shenanigans some are trying to pull.

    But see also Prohibition. A very bad idea, but another counterexample to your general thesis.

  • mad_kalak||

    I only see a problem, in that in a republic, the majority has a right, by definition of the form of government, to decide on issues. Rights should be the exception, not the default.

    Okay, I see you're point, there are counter rights, something I and others have said before but forgot about in this context.

    Prohibition was at least done correctly, in that there was an amendment and a repeal amendment. The progs tried to save us from ourselves, and predictably failed. I'm not saying, and never have, said that all majoritarian decisions were good ones. For a person who calls out strawmanning left and right, you're awful fond of it yourself.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I don't know that I put words in your mouth, other than to repeat what you seem to agree is your general thesis. I made no normative points, nor did I say you did, about the virtue of majoritarian or rights regimes.

    I concur that rights by their nature must be the exception for a republic to function as it is supposed to. Majoritarianism is in tension with libertarianism, and adding in rights is a good way to maintain some middle ground.

    Add in the populism-elitism axis, and you really have some fun designing systems of governance that split all the differences! I think we actually do very well, though I'm beginning to question our more steady republican style versus a more agile parliamentary one.

  • mad_kalak||

    Fair points, all. Thanks.

  • David Welker||

    Imagine this. An increase in freedom that passes for non-libertarian reasons that libertarians agree with. Hard to grasp, I know.

    Imagine, for a moment, asset forfeiture being curtailed out of concern for poor people. A libertarian should celebrate because it is the right outcome, even if undertaken based on different reasoning.

    It is the same here. Less government intervention and more choices for many property owners about how to use their own property. If you are against this, it isn't for libertarian reasons, but because you regret the loss of the ability to use the government to control property that you don't own.

  • WJack||

    Somin needs to live next door to rent subsidized housing for 48 hours, sending his children to the neighborhood school for two days, etc. then write another article.

  • I Callahan||

    The libertarian argument for that view is to get rid of rent-subsidized housing. Not to tell someone they can't do with their OWN LAND what they want to do with it.

  • WJack||

    Then (of course) super cheap, high volume apts. will produce the same result for all concerned. Doubt that Somin would be happy for two days.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "Somin needs to live next door to rent subsidized housing for 48 hours, sending his children to the neighborhood school for two days, etc. then write another article."

    Try living in a cardboard box because the law makes it difficult to build enough housing.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Somin needs to live next door to rent subsidized housing for 48 hours, sending his children to the neighborhood school for two days, etc. then write another article.

    Won't someone PLEASE think of the well-off, and ignore the poor?

  • swood1000||

    If single family zoning is being removed because it has/had a racist motivation then maybe minimum wage laws will be next, since the historically racist motivation behind them is unquestionable.

  • I Callahan||

    All aside - California (Silicon Valley in particular) is where they should be doing this. The property values there are so ridiculous as to be laughable.

  • Davantage||

    They should only apply this to place with housing problems - i.e. cities with rent control (tenant controlled cities).

    Places like Los Altos Hills certainly don't need SB 50.

  • Longtobefree||

    What a wonderful libertarian concept; state laws pre-empting local ordinances.
    What next, federal legislation requiring states to - - - - - -

  • Eddy||

    ...respect the privileges and immunities of American citizens?

  • See Double You||

    Individual liberty should always trump over local government, and sometimes that means the state (i.e., one of the fifty states) should override local law which infringes on that liberty. That kind of "reverse federalism" is a good thing.

  • Eddy||

    We often hear about the housing crisis in various CA cities.

    While CA is hardly the only state where communities want to limit cheap housing via zoning, sometimes it seems as if they combine a particularly stringent set of housing restrictions with a lot of hand-wringing about Teh Poors.

  • David Welker||

    "hand-wringing about Teh Poors"

    What is with the attitude? Is being concerned about the well-being of poor people a bad thing?

  • ||

    Yes. In America, if you're poor, it's because you're lazy or stupid. Time to let them starve. And if they try to commit violent crime to feed themselves, shoot them.

  • David Welker||

    Being less intelligent is no crime. Otherwise, you would belong in prison.

  • mad_kalak||

    ARWP right after Christmas, plays the role of Scrooge, and says - "Are there no prisons, are there no poorhouses" and that we need to "decrease the surplus population."

  • Eddy||

    "Is being concerned about the well-being of poor people a bad thing?"

    The way Californians do it? Yes.

    "Let's screw the working poor while wringing our hands about how tough it is for them!"

  • gormadoc||

    It reminds me of all the harm committed in protecting women from the vote or black slaves from paralyzing freedom.

  • ||

    It's time to cut to the chase. The issue is not zoning, the issue is forced integration. Bring back racially restrictive housing covenants and no one will care whether their neighbors live in an apartment or house.

    Most whites don't want to live with blacks, for very good reason, no matter where they're living.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I should have seen the racial angle coming on this one but had been lulled into expecting the gay angle. Or maybe the immigration angle. The lesson here is that one should never count out the racial angle when dealing with right-wingers.

    Carry on, clingers.

  • ||

    You can sing kumbaya all you want, but the fact is, even in the vaulted "black middle class" neighborhoods like Prince George's counties, they have bad schools, local corruption, and much higher crime.

    Blacks, as a group, cannot successfully run a society. Period. Small numbers of intelligent blacks can live in a mostly white/Asian neighborhood successfully, but no large scale migration of blacks leads to anything but ruin.

  • David Welker||

    You are trying to troll Rev?

    This should be good.

  • gaoxiaen||

    No. He's channeling Charles Manson.

  • mad_kalak||

    No, he's pointing out that blacks, as a class it was left up to them 100%, can't maintain a 1st world civilization.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Eh, they did pretty well until we showed up to colonize them.

    Don't defend ARWP's abuse of correlation in defense of apartheid.

  • mad_kalak||

    Meh, "very well" is a relative term. And from the very article you cite, the Mali empire didn't get colonized by Europeans, it collapsed after being invaded by other African kingdoms.

    And if you think it's correlation.....what would you say about the Australian aborigines?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Australia has screwed their native people since the beginning as well - probably worse than the US did. Via the usual historical routs - taking the best land, taking any additional national resources on the suboptimal land, breaking up their internal governance systems to fit them under their own, etc.

    Mali got over 400 years, that's as good as Rome.

    Once again, don't argue for apartheid.

  • mad_kalak||

    Comparing Mali to Rome? C'mon. Perhaps given enough time, perhaps. Which is why I brought up the aborigines, who lived with stone age tech for 50,000 years, and if the Brits hadn't shown up, would likely live with stone age tech for 50,000 more. Is our civilization worth more than theirs? In a cosmic sense, no. But in a very short term sense when we examine human flourishing, yes.

    I'm not arguing for apartheid. Try again.

  • Sarcastr0||

    What's your distinction? I'm a Latin dork, and had my required Rome and Greek phases. But we love Rome because we descended from Rome. Mali was smaller than Rome, but much richer. Or larger than Rome and somewhat poorer, if you discount the Roman client provinces.

    The Iroquois were stone age tech, but had a governmental system we based our Constitution on. Your use of technology as your metric of success is of dubious value.

    Glad you're not arguing for apartheid, but then what is the policy upshot of what seems to be your thesis that blacks are intrinsically not as good at self-governance? Especially in a country like America where self-governance is part of our whole deal?

  • Sarcastr0||

    The way I got interested in Mali was I saw them in Civ V and looked them up.

    But my personal favorite empire is the Mamelukes. An anti-dynasty; you gotta start a slave to be eligible to be Sultan!

  • tkamenick||

    Sarcastr0 my respect for you just increased enormously. Do you play Civ VI?

  • Sarcastr0||

    :-D

    Nope, I don't need to district shenanigans.
    I got sidelined into Stellaris.

  • mad_kalak||

    When you look at human flourishing, technology is of supreme importance. That's the metric I was using, human flourishing, what the Greeks called eudaemonia. The average middle class American lives like a king from the middle ages, and an emperor from the Bronze Age. You're discounting of technology level is silly. Go ahead and live in the stone age, but with a proto-constitution with the Iroquois, but die when you got an infection.

    BTW, that Iroquois constitution was used for the US constitution is utter revisionist crap. The English colonists, who were proficient in the classics, based the constitution on the English constitution, with particular attention to avoiding the problems of Athens and the Rome. To support the idea that it was based on anything else, you have to show substantial communication between the Iroquois and those who attended the constitutional convention, and there just isn't. What you do have, though, is parallel construction due to similar concepts and problems in governance.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Our federated republic was pretty new, and though the Greeks had one before, Benjamin Franklin has recorded speeches championing the Iroquois example as he presented his Plan of Union.
    History is as much a study of narrative as of facts; what you bring forward, what you discard as revisionist or exceptions to the main. My point is that the Iroquois had a pretty advanced social system by any standard.

    Anyhow, while I love tech, as a racial corollary it's on even shakier footing than self-governance. At one point the undisputed leader in science and technology was the Muslim world, surpassing a foundering western civilization.

    But seeing tech as the sole metric of merit, and defining merit as 'human flourishing' as opposed to 'human happiness' or 'human freedom' seems empty and circular to me. The fact that the west is great by the metrics of the west doesn't say a lot globally.

  • mad_kalak||

    Revisionist claptrap. A straight line can be drawn from the English example to the American Constitution. In fact, they were just codifying what many of the unwritten rules were in the English system. Again, so show that our system is based on the Iroquois, you have to show substantial communication. It's not there.

    Human happiness as a stupid metric when one thinks how many get happy from making others miserable. Human freedom is even worse, because your freedoms are often an imposition upon others, and rights should be counterbalanced with responsibility. Human flourishing is what the best and brightest philosophers have come up with for millennia. Moreover, to counter your point, "flourishing" encompasses many avenues of humans reaching their full potential, whereas happiness or freedom cover only one vector, which when maximized, often lead to a detriment of the person. I love ice cream, it makes me happy, but to much of it is bad for me.

    If you see this comment, I'll look forward to your better answer.

  • ||

    The policy upshot is that governance should be limited to those with the intellectual capacity to appreciate self-government. An IQ test for voting would disenfranchise a much higher percentage of blacks, but would leave high IQ blacks with exactly the same power as high IQ whites.

  • mad_kalak||

    You cannot trust anyone to give the test.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Seems like Somin's commitment to increased living opportunities for the underclass ought logically to extend also to the abolition of gated communities, and elimination of security-desk-protected apartment buildings. Those are more overtly exclusionary than any zoning ordinance. Without those special protections for rich people, the residences behind the walls would fall sharply in price, creating yet more opportunities for the less-well-off to move in. Every argument Somin offers against zoning applies with equal force to private security havens. Why haven't we seen any Somin advocacy for getting rid of them?

    Ilya Somin, do you live in an un-zoned community, without any private security arrangements? If not, why don't you use your foot-voting privilege to vindicate your advocacy, and move to some place like the ones you prescribe for everyone else?

  • WJack||

    Yep, Somin ought to be consistent, open borders, open communities, open apartmentment buildings, that ought to work for everybody. Yea!

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Some here have pointed to a likelihood that an end to zoning would bring forth systems of private covenants tailored to exclude minorities and the poor. In that context, it's worth noting that before such covenanted arrangements were generally struck down by law, they co-existed in many areas with zoned communities that had no covenants. That's evidence to refute Somin's claim made against zoning, that it is about discrimination. Mostly, zoning has always been about separating incompatible land uses. Somin seems persistently to ignore that commonplace understanding.

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