The Rent Is Too High, Partisanship Versus Democracy

Expanding affordable housing in America’s major cities is the key to reducing inequality.

Homes in San Francisco, California, April 5, 2010
Homes in San Francisco, California, April 5, 2010 (Jerome Vial)

Will Wilkinson of the libertarian Niskanen Center tells The Washington Post that expanding affordable housing in America’s major cities is the key to reducing inequality.

Wages have barely budged in decades, yet housing costs have soared due to restrictive zoning and land-use policies. Young and working Americans are now unable to save. Homeowners are getting richer.

Kevin D. Williamson, a conservative columnist who was recently hired and then fired by The Atlantic for his right-wing views (more on that here), has similarly argued in National Review that working-class Americans left behind in the Rust Belt need to move to the coasts. He partly blames them for staying put, but recognizes that policy plays a role.

Consider California, where so many of the jobs in the new economy are. Its housing crisis (you can buy a private island or a castle in Europe for the price of a San Francisco apartment) is entirely man-made, “a result of extraordinarily restrictive zoning and environmental codes and epic NIMBYism of a uniquely Californian variety.”

A Republican Party wishing to renew its prospects in California (which it once dominated) or in American cities could — and should — make affordable housing the centerpiece of its agenda for the cities.

More on why Republicans ought to compete in American cities here. Handelsblatt reports that Berlin fears San Francisco-style housing problems.

Partisanship versus democracy

Lee Drutman, a political scientist, warns that the United States may be heading for a confrontation between the power of partisanship and the attachment to democracy.

The forces of authoritarianism, Drutman points out, are collecting in the Republican Party, and the chaos-and-threat rhetorical politics of Trumpism are key correlates of anti-democratic attitudes.

The more [Donald] Trump and fellow Republicans stoke fears of immigration, of Muslims, of crime and drugs and “American carnage,” and the more they disparage elites and experts, the more they are increasing attitudes that correlate to anti-democratic views.

What happens if Trump fires Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election? What happens if he refuses to accept election results? If he proposes postponing an election?

We don’t know, writes Drutman. “That’s because we’ve never had such a powerful political leader with so little respect for basic democratic processes.”

In a two-party system, there is no other option for those who don’t want Democrats to gain power. There might soon be no party of conservativism and liberal democracy. If so, voters will have to pick one or the other.

All the more reason for Americans to seriously consider constitutional reform.

Free-speech myths

David Marcus busts five myths about free speech:

  1. Free speech only involves the government.
  2. There is no right to an audience.
  3. Valuing speech according to privilege.
  4. Speakers are responsible for listeners’ actions.
  5. Speech is violence.