Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Inequality and cities

The trend to bigger government and bigger politics is clear. With that we get ever more discussions of inequality. Current tax reform discussions gravitate to who will get (or lose) what. Growth (a bigger pie instead of allocating pie slices) gets second place.

In a world of Death of Distance or The World is Flat, cities would have a minor part in the increasing inequality discussion. But neither of these have come to pass. The highly skilled are paying big bucks to be near similar people.  They surely engage in electronic interaction but feel strongly about complementing these with the possibility of personal interactions. Hence the value of proximity (even if not cheek-by-jowl) -- and very high rents in San Francisco (and environs), Los Angeles, New York, etc.

That's the demand side.  The supply size and the role of regulation have been commented on in various places. For one-stop shopping (reading) has assembled much of the relevant research. See also Enrico Morretti's The New Geography of Jobs.

Many people now have the wherewithal to bid high for selected locations and, in the process, greatly enrich property owners in these places. We get housing wealth inequality compounding the inequality trend.

What can be done? Make it less difficult to build and develop. A minor irony involves the fact that those who fret most about housing "affordability" problems like the tough regulations the most. Their answer is more "affordable" housing provided via various programs. But programs make it worse -- and will never match what market forces could accomplish -- if allowed to.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Driverless future: not everyone aboard

Randal O'Toole writes "It's the Last Stop on the Light-Rail Gravy Train ... Mayors want new lines that won't be ready for a decade. Commuters will be in driverless cars by then." Sounds ironic but only if one ignores Bootleggers and Baptists cronyism.

Jim Moore and Tom Rubin write about LA's MTA. Fewer riders but evermore spent on expensive fixes rail. This is the MTA's long-running and continuing story. In their alternate universe, red ink is not a sign of flagging demand but an indicator of "underfunding".

The mega-dollar waste is plain enough. But in an age of dazzling entrpreneurial breakthroughs, think of the opportunity cost. Dollars diverted from genius work hurts more than ever.

Today's New York Times Magazine has a special issue devoted to driverless cars. Just as Henry Ford's inventions changed the world, so will driverless cars. Futurism is hard but several writers take their shots. The imaginative Molly Young writes about "The Future of Sex in Cars."


Wendell Cox adds information on the expanding alternate universe.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Not about profit-loss

Don Boudreaux has been (almost daily) punching away at protection and the crony capitalism involved.  Here is a sample.

Almost daily we hear that Wharton grad Trump sees the balance of trade (and the "trade deficit") as the economy's (the country's?) profit-loss statement.  This mistake pops up in almost all of his remarks on trade, including who is"winning" and who is "losing."  But this silliness is picked up by many others. Whether it is Fox News or the PBS News Hour, the talk is the same. What will we do about that perennial trade deficit?

Smart people should know better. The U.S. dollars that foreigners accumulate eventually come back. Either via trade or via investment. Capital "imbalances" and trade "imbalances" cancel each other almost every day because exchange rates are always adjusting. There is no reason for panic or anything like it. Instead, celebrate that there are the adjustments and responses throughout.  Each of us benefits via the links to the world's sellers and the world's investors.

The economic ignorance goes way beyond Trump and his followers.  That's the problem.