Saturday, August 26, 2006

Policy trades

Today's WSJ includes, "In Tony Monterey County, Slums and a Land War ... Environmentalists fight to preserve scenic beauty while immigrants cram into housing and garages ... Who will pick the vegetables? ... Monterey County is torn by competing priorities. On one side are farmers, developers and immigrant advocates who want to see more housing built. On the other are environmentalists and residents, including those in the upscale coastal towns who want to preserve open space and their quality of life. As the two camps fail to reach a middle gound, low-income immigrants have borne most of the fallout: limited housing with sky-high prices."

It is the old story. The high-minded hector Wal-Mart and others about low wages but, at the same time, work hard to block development if it threatens to infringe on their own life styles. In the bargain, they also get to feel good about themselves as the protectors of the environment.

At the time of the NAFTA debate, many Americans pressed for assurances that our labor and environmental standards would be extended south of the border. A quid pro quo might have been Mexican insistence that Americans do something about their land use practices.