Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Regional Government (again)

Bismarck may have been the first to warn about politics and sausage making: if you enjoy either one, you do not want to observe either being made. Many people have figured this out. Many now realize that politics can cause them grief. Perhaps they also book fewer guided tours of sausage factories.

Most Americans also own a risky asset portfolio, having the largest share of their wealth tied up in the real property that is their home. They, understandably, have a demand for property rules, including zoning and subdivision laws. Professor Bill Fischel has written most clearly about the "homevoter hypothesis" and points out that people look to local government to protect their prime asset. Their interest in municipal government is, therefore, greatest.

Among municipal governments, Americans seem to balance their skepticism of local government with their demand for its services by moving to smaller cities. Between 1980 and 2002, most growth has been in the mid-sized cities, those with a population in the range of 50,000-250,000. Not only have these gained the greatest population share but this group is the one with the most of the newly incorporated cities. The numbers are in Table 29 of the latest Statistical Abstract. It is always wonderful to see what one learn just by looking.

People suburbanize for many reasons and most of these newly incorporated places are in the suburbs. What else do we know? We know that most big-city leaders and their acolytes want "regional government" whereby the escape to small cities that so many people choose would be denied them. It is a safe bet that most of the regional government advocates want Microsoft to compete but are reluctant to do so themselves.