Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Passions and interests

I had heard about "tiny homes" but we are seeing more discussions, suggesting that there is a serious (still tiny)audience. The WSJ includes "West Texas Town Finds 'Tiny House' a Bit Too Earthy ... Luring eco-conscious builders to 120-square foot homes seemed like a great idea until plans for yurts, straw dwellings popped up; no anarchists, please."

Americans consume more living space than others. People like space and many policies and programs (no surprise) cater for that preference. But it seems that there are also some who want to go the other way. They want less space. This preference my be influenced by beliefs that we are running out of space. Cities, certainly and by definition, are places where we see various degrees of crowding. Some of these folk may be just plain old ascetic.

But where there is crowding of any sort, there are externalities, some of which may never be transacted. We get conflicts and the demand for rules. This may be zoning. Some find a way to come up with zoning codes. No politics without conflict; no conflict without some semblance of politics.

This is why the brief "tiny homes" story illustrates, that we are all environmentalists. The ambit and the scope of our environmentalism differs from person to person. Neighborhood externalities and the consequent environmental interests are universal. We even get NIMBY.

I care more about the block I live on than I do about a coal burning utility in India. I suspect many others feel the same way. But we are not very good at sorting out our sensibilities. Can we untangle our passions from out interests (Hirschman)?  It is easy (tempting) to wrap our own interests in a "greater good" story. Some of the Tiny House people are learning all about this.