The Mixed Message Economy

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184 Responses

  1. Christopher Carr says:

    I just bought a car actually. I paid for it outright with money I actually had in my bank account. (It’s not a very nice car by any objective standard, but I really like it.)

    The whole process took me about two months, and, since this was the first time I bought a car for myself in the United States, I solicited a lot of people’s advice. Members of the Baby Boomer generation invariably tried to convince me to buy a new car (or a newish used car) with a car loan (even though I’m in the process of applying to medical schools).

    This always led to me explaining to them that debt is not an asset, during which time they kind of just stared into space.Report

    • Kimsie in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      this is why i don’t buy cars.Report

    • It’s amazing the financial advice some people will give*. We considered taking out a loan, and sometimes it actually isn’t the wrong way to go. But if you have the money on hand and can remain at-all comfortably liquid after? That’s a no-brainer.

      * – I have an ex-girlfriend who was grounded because she chose to pay off her credit card debt rather than let that fester so that she had more money in her bank account. And it wasn’t a matter of their not knowing about the credit card debt, they just felt that having less than $1,000 in the bank was fiscally irresponsible.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’m gobsmacked that someone was in a situation to both have a credit card, and be groundable.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog says:

          I had a credit card at 16. She was 19, but still living with her parents while she worked and attended college.Report

          • Christopher Carr in reply to Will Truman says:

            In contrast to that, I had a student credit card with a 500-dollar spending limit briefly during my senior year in college, paid it off before leaving the US, and have not had a credit card (or any other debt for that matter) since.

            Ironically, I find, extreme financial responsibility has made it *more* difficult for me to do things like rent a car.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I think it is about balance and self-control.

              There is nothing wrong with credit or debit cards but you just have to be able to budget. “I can spend X amount on my credit card this month unless I need to use it in an emergency.”Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to NewDealer says:


                My greater point is that your credit rating is not based on how you pay your debts but on how much money your payment patterns make for your creditors. The idea that I should base my spending habits on maximizing my credit rating is highly dubious advice.Report

            • zic in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              A savings/checking account with a debit card can be used for things like car rentals and hotel reservations; I do it all the time.

              I do have a credit card, but I rarely use it.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to zic says:

                That depends. Car rentals in Massachusetts will not let you rent unless they have a credit card. Some will, but you have to keep it in state (or within a few states) or only rent certain models.Report

              • Pierre Corneille in reply to zic says:

                In some cases, using a debit card to rent a car can lock up money in a “just-in-case” authorization onto the card/checking account.

                Also, at least in the 1990s when I was a bank teller, it wasn’t unheard of for banks to deny people a debit card (not credit, but debit) because they didn’t have good enough credit or credit history. I was denied one, by the bank I worked at, on the ground that I didn’t make enough money although I had no debts.

                I’m not sure how universal this practice was or if it’s still done, however.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman says:

            I lived with my folks throughout undergrad; I suppose I could have gotten a credit card too, though I had no particular need for one.

            But it was very clear at that point that we were a household of independent adults. They would no more have presumed to ground me than I would have dared try it on them.

            At 16 my parents could certainly have grounded me, and probably did once or twice – but I would think it an act of fiscal folly to issue a credit card to my 16 year old self…Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        My parents taught me the exact opposite. Every bill simply must be paid in full every month so you do not go into debt because going into debt is one of the worst things possible.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Which is what I would consider “good advice.”Report

          • Kimsie in reply to Will Truman says:

            that’s what makes you a conservative! ;-P
            I’d say: Know how much it’s actually gonna cost ya.
            For instance: if I go into debt because my roof is leaking (and pay said debt back in a year…) — that’s adding say, $300 to the total price of the roof. But the roof would cost more to fix in a year.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

            See, I don’t think all debt is bad. Very low interest debt is acceptable if you are making the money work for you, one way or another.

            Of course, credit card debt is not low interest.Report

        • James K in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Debt has it’s place, but credit cards are one of the most expensive ways to borrow. Debt should be reserved for big purchases, and ideally it should be a secured loan (like a mortgage) since those are cheaper.Report

      • Kimsie in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yeah. rule number one of financial counseling is “make credit card debt go away”Report

    • Pinky in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Debt is not an asset, but a high credit rating is a commodity. The extra dollars that you pay by financing a car can THEORETICALLY reduce your eventual house payments. Did I capitalize any words in that last sentence? Good, because I wouldn’t want to be accused of giving financial advice, only stating theory.Report

      • Kimsie in reply to Pinky says:

        oh, man, I had my credit rating gamed three ways to sunday before I got a mortgage. It paid off BIGTIME. I got a Prime Mortgage (and dude, nobody does that anymore. )Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky says:

        When I bought my first new car, I could have paid cash, but everyone told me to establish a credit history. So I took out a credit union loan (that my Dad had to cosign, because I had no credit history), and paid it off in six months. It seemed to help, because I was never turned down for a loan after that.Report

  2. Will Truman says:


    Baby in my lap, so I’ll have to be short (for once!).

    The tension between home ownership and job mobility is indeed underdiscussed. It’s something I personally struggle with a great deal, as it’s the very symbol of economy and community and the struggle between the two.

    I also agree that mobility isn’t actually a very good argument against rent control. There are much, much better arguments against rent control.

    I don’t think that cars belong with housing in this calculus, though. Cars don’t decrease mobility. Indeed, they increase it (if you have a car, it’s easier to move to one of the many, many cities where cars are necessary). On the other hand, are people really lamenting that young people aren’t buying cars? It seems more celebrated than lamented, from what I’ve seen.

    That’s an interesting point about day care. I have to admit that taking care of the little one has given me a much greater appreciation for the “free day care” argument. On economic grounds, if nothing else. The amount of money I would have to make by going back to work would increase notably because of the cost of day care. On the other hand, economic-types would say that if I can’t command the salary that would pay for day care and make it financially worthwhile, I am economically better not working. Or something.

    But I hadn’t really considered the effect of day care on mobility. I know that if something happens to Clancy, I may well be tied to Colosse or Beyreuth (where my parents and Clancy’s parents live, respectively) due to the day care question. And it would complicate my going to North Dakota or Midland, where my skills may be most needed. That’s something I will have to think about.Report

    • Kimsie in reply to Will Truman says:

      The tension between home ownership and job mobility is indeed underdiscussed…
      Absolutely. It’s the key argument against Job Sprawl — and why jobs really ought not to be encouraged to move out to the suburbs.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kimsie says:

        There’s nothing to stop people from renting in the suburbs, or encouraging suburban rental. I think that rental, urban and suburban, is probably going to be more common going forward. Not only for mobility across cities, but mobility within them (“I live in the west side of town, but just got a job on the northeast side of town…”)Report

        • Kimsie in reply to Will Truman says:

          People really seem to hate renting. I think that’s for a variety of reasons.
          1) shitty, shitty absentee landlords.
          2) Landlords that belong to the mob.
          3) Landlords that don’t seem to care about black widow spiders in their buildings.
          4) Tenants that are really noisy/otherwise suck.

          In my experience, folks really, really seem to like staying in one place for a while.
          They’d rather find someplace nice, and “do their thing” with it, rather than be forbidden to have non-white walls.

          I see rentals decreasing, in the nearterm. They’re running pretty high now, at any rate.Report

          • Matty in reply to Kimsie says:

            1) shitty, shitty absentee landlords.

            You want to try shitty live-in landlords, I had one once who was – let’s say interesting. Among his tricks.
            -Digging a six foot hole right outside the back door in the hope of making himself a cellar then loosing interest and just leaving it there.
            -Bringing round random drug dealers and not paying them leading to the ‘disappearance’ of anything of value they could find
            -The girlfriend who moved in for two weeks and then left with the loudest shouting match ever

            Then there were the bizarre plans like his attempt to persuade Richard Branson to form a mercenary army and take over the world.

            At least it was entertaining.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Kimsie says:

        Considering that most jobs have already moved into the suburbs, I think the ship already sailed on that one. Still your right. It makes much more sense for jobs to be relatively centrally located in their metro area like they are in New York metro area.Report

  3. dexter says:

    I think a lot or most of the answer to the problem is located in you first sentence: “why we have a so-so recovery even in the age of record making corporate profits.” The money is not trickling down, it is gushing up. Another part of the problem is because when people buy a house now they build it with some foreign made materials and furnish it with mostly foreign made materials.
    Another part of the problem is wages for the masses. My first post high school job was an incredibly menial one that paid 34.00 an hour counting for inflation.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to dexter says:

      I had a small part time job while in grad school that paid 10 dollars an hour.

      Around the same time a guy who graduated college in the late 1970s told me that his first post-college job paid ten dollars an hour. The difference was as you note that in 1978, you could support yourself on ten dollars an hour.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        In some parts of the country, you can support yourself on $10 an hour.Report

        • (Not part-time, of course. Well, maybe in a very small subsection of the economy.)Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

          Maybe but I was in grad school and couldn’t really drop out to move to one of those places could I?

          Also I am not so sure about this being true in most places except the most rural (where 10 dollars an hour is probably a high wage and unlikely). There was a story in the media about two-people with the same last name. One was a Columbia educated MBA who was part of the Bear Sterns meltdown. The other was an African-American woman who worked as a home-health aide for 12 dollars an hour or so in Tennessee. She hadn’t received a raise in years. The Columbia MBA found a new job that was equally well-paying fairly quickly despite his negligence. The woman lost her her in foreclosure.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

            To be clear, my point actually wasn’t “Maybe you should move to that place,” rather just to point out that different wages take you different lengths in different places.

            I can tell you that living off $10/hr is possible because I’ve seen people do it. I did it myself. And not in the boonies.Report

          • Kimsie in reply to NewDealer says:

            A friend of a friend pulls bottles out of the local dump and resells them. (not near me).
            He makes a high wage in his town, and that’s barely above $10 an hour.

            It’s not “most rural” (none of pa counts as that, except maybe forest county) either…Report

  4. dragonfrog says:

    I’m not sure how increased ownership of homes by their inhabitants is supposed to significantly stimulate the economy.

    Assuming the homeless make up only a very small part of the population in any case
    – there will be enough housing for the households in need of housing, and construction will keep pace with that need.
    – someone will own the housing, hold mortgages on it, maintain it, pay the property taxes, etc – GDP figures don’t care if the owner of a house or flat also lives in it.

    In fact, if people are renting their home, there is an additional transaction available for taxation – the exchange of housing for rent – that wouldn’t take place otherwise.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to dragonfrog says:

      “I’m not sure how increased ownership of homes by their inhabitants is supposed to significantly stimulate the economy.”

      I imagine it is all the improvement and upkeep. Remodeling the kitchen, garden supplies, cleaning supplies, BBQs, entertaining, etc.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to NewDealer says:

        Renters can garden, barbecue, and entertain just as much as owners; if they’re cleaning significantly less than owners then they’re slovenly by nature and not by housing arrangement; landlords who fail to do basic upkeep are just accelerating the decay and eventual need to demolish and rebuild their rental properties, thus stimulating the construction industry.

        The only thing remaining on the list is remodelling done out of preference rather than necessity – i.e. throwing out perfectly functional stuff. If that’s what the economy needs more of to recover, that’s a sad state of affairs.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to dragonfrog says:

          I am currently a renter.

          The issue with renting is that if a market gets hot, you have landlords eager to replace renters so they can jack up the rents. This is a big issue in SF right now because we are the midst of a tech boom or bubble that doesn’t seem to end. You have a lot of really young people making a lot of money and displacing long time renters who are not techies. Or landlords want to turn their rental units into TICs or Condos because it is easier:

          • Kimsie in reply to NewDealer says:

            yawn. no, you’re in the middle of a housing bubble… which isn’t really a bubble. just a lot of people deciding to spend all their money on housing (rather than on transportation, or food — cheaper in SF than Pittsburgh!).Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to NewDealer says:

            I don’t dispute that renting has disadvantages (as does ownership), particularly the risk of exposure to rapacious landlords – I’ve had a particularly vile landlord myself. But decreased exposure to crappy landlords isn’t an economic stimulus.Report

          • Wardsmith in reply to NewDealer says:

            My ex brother-in-law just got “evicted” and received $50,000 as a going away prize from his rent-controlled apt he’d lived in for almost 30 yrs in San Francisco. Now he’s going to take his California police retirement package (appx 100K/yr) and move out of state at 1/4 the living expense.Report

            • Patrick in reply to Wardsmith says:

              That doesn’t suck.

              (At least, not until the police union signs away the out-of-state cost of living adjustment for the retirees.)Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Wardsmith says:

              1/4 the living expenses but also 1/4 of the entertainment optionsReport

              • Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

                High Speed Internet magically turns Hazzard County into NYC.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

                You still don’t have:

                The Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York Theatre Workshop, the Hoyce, Shakespeare in the Park, Film Forum, Lincoln Center, various good restaurants, MOMA, the Met, The Guggenheim, The Whitney, the Frick, 24/7 Bodegas, various music festivals, etc.

                I would go to BAM 8-9 times a year when I lived in New York.

                There is more to entertainment and culture than what can be found on the Internet. Viewing theatre on the Internet is not the same as seeing theatre live.Report

      • Kimsie in reply to NewDealer says:

        And, if we’re talking ownership of houses that are significantly bigger than apartments, the utilities… (as well as increasing the tax base above “previously unoccupied buildings”)Report

  5. zic says:

    Mobility is expensive; even if you’re so inclined. Finding a job in a new place is difficult; getting there is difficult. And the lower down the economic ladder you exist, the more difficult those things can be; particularly if you’re low enough down that potential employers aren’t going to pay to bring you there for an interview. If you don’t have money stashed for travel expenses, lodging while you look for work, and no safety net (i.e., family/friends) at the destination, how do you even begin to relocate? Do you just hop a bus with a one-way ticket and what you can fit in a backpack? Drive your 20-year old car?

    I’d point out that these problems compound if you’re female, too, from a normal standard of sensible safety.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to zic says:

      “If you don’t have money stashed for travel expenses, lodging while you look for work, and no safety net (i.e., family/friends) at the destination, how do you even begin to relocate? Do you just hop a bus with a one-way ticket and what you can fit in a backpack? Drive your 20-year old car?”

      I know people who did this but they were very adventuring sorts. Or the home situation was so intolerable that they moved somewhere else asap. Still it is not for everyone.Report

      • zic in reply to NewDealer says:

        Younger sprout basically did this after getting laid off when the economy fell apart. He was home 2.5 years later, needed a lot of recovery time; it was rough on him.

        He’s got his eyes on a particular industry that would require a repeat; this does not make him happy. And he is what I would call a very adventuring sort.

        We are working on other ways to approach things.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to zic says:

          Yeah. I know people who did it and were successful and I know people who did it and eventually had to move back home because they got laid off when the economy fell apart.

          I had an interview yesterday for a job that is 54 miles from my apartment. If I get it, I am not going to move right away and that commute is fairly reasonable by Bay Area standards. Luckily it is also against traffic largely.

          I have also been applying to jobs in NY because I am bar licensed there but I can’t move back to NY without a job even if crashing on my brother’s couch is an option. He is not going to put up with me forever and I don’t want to burden him that way.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

      All of this is generally true and why I tend to support relocation assistance in my Kansas City Plan.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

        What is your Kansas City plan in detail exactly? How much of it is just trying to take power away from blue cities like NYC, Boston, SF, Portland, etc?

        Also do you think Kansas City would remain Kansas City if the population increased to 2 or 3 times?Report

        • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

          If enacted, and if Kansas City was a frequent destination, Kansas City would take on the identity and politics of the people that move there. So there’s no political angle.

          The Kansas City Plan was named back when KC had a desperate need for people. These days, it might not be Kansas City at all. But basically it’s an effort to take the long-term unemployed (those whose benefits have run out) and relocate them (at government expense) to places where workers are needed. Get them back into the workforce, hopefully they learn new skills or dust off the ones they already have, and so on.

          Essentially, an effort to remove geographical barriers from employment/unemployment disparities.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

            Wouldn’t this raise the issue of taking people away from their familiy, friends, and other support structures?Report

            • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

              I don’t see where he said forcible relocation.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

              As James says, it wouldn’t be forced relocation. More of an incentive. It does put me against indefinite unemployment for those that can work, though, while you might seek to alleviate the need of anybody to move anywhere.

              It’s unfortunate when people have to leave a community they are a part of for another place. But it’s also the history of America. Living precisely where you want (but cannot find work or cannot afford) shouldn’t be a right secured by the government.

              A lot of people who would prefer to remain in their home town in ruralia have to leave to the city to find work. It’s unfortunate, but necessary.

              Ideally, someone who has to leave Los Angeles or Fresno to work in Midland for a while would be able to get skills, job experience, and savings to move back when they are back on their feet, if that’s what they want. Except that they return with a resume they didn’t have before.

              Or they choose not to return, having set down roots in the new place. Or go to some third place for greater opportunity.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:

                Notably, this comes from a guy who’s about to relocate for, hopefully, better economic opportunity, with–IIRC–a likely subsequent move being necessary in about another year. Somebody who actually has lived, and is living, the experience of which he speaks.Report

              • Once our next move is complete, that’ll be six places I’ve lived in the past decade. If I had my druthers, I’d still be in Colosse (or back in Colosse). But Clancy’s career doesn’t really allow for it. And we’ve wanted to set down roots, but haven’t had the opportunity yet.

                So, as the guy who never would have left if circumstance hasn’t demanded it, I am sentimentally quite sympathetic to what ND is saying.

                As the guy who did leave, and won’t be back, I am not as sympathetic as I could be.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:

                If we meet in real life, do I get to learn where Colosse is in real life? (If I read more closely, should I already have figured it out? I do have a guess.)Report

          • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Will Truman says:

            It would be nice in general if companies would hire those out of work more than 6 months.

            They really don’t like doing it.Report

    • Kimsie in reply to zic says:

      It’s called couch surfing. It sucks, but… I suppose it might not get you killed.
      (or you could live in a shelter, if absolutely necessary, I suppose).Report

      • zic in reply to Kimsie says:

        Couch surfing presumes you have friends/family in the area.Report

        • Kimsie in reply to zic says:

          Oh, not at all. There are semi-organized places where you can find someone who will let you sleep on their couch, if you’ll do … one chore for them.
          (ya know, like “feed my snakes” — 100 snakes, rat/mouse to each).Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Kimsie says:

            It takes a fairly brave and trusting person to crash with a random stranger? I can see why people would not being willing to do it.

            Also do you just know everyone who has done everything?Report

  6. Roger says:

    This entire post represents a particular world view. Namely that when you have a widespread problem, it needs to be fixed in a particular consolidated and rational fashion. I saw it similarly in a column recently that to paraphrase said that “we all agree we need to address poverty.”

    Let me clarify what I take exception with… Of course we want to “address poverty.” I spent a good part of my life addressing poverty. I went to work. Most people I know did the same. We also taught our kids the value of education and honesty and hard work. We also contributed to safety nets for rainy days and contributed money to the poor via various sources, only some of which were coercive in nature. All these actions in our fight against poverty. However the difference is that we address poverty in a greatly decentralized fashion. It isn’t necessarily a policy prescription, or a new congressional bill, or a change in tax code.

    There are decentralized solutions and top down solutions. And there are top down solutions which interfere with or foster decentralized solutions.

    Getting back to this post (sorry for the detour) I do not agree that we need to design state subsidized day care or regulate job security. We do not need the government to have the foolish conceit that it is responsible for the robustness of the economy, the proper movement among classes or the delivery of monopoly education.

    This entire post represents the Big Kahuna world view. It is incremental master planning by enlightened individuals that are ignorant of the value of decentralized problem solving and who constantly misuse their power to trample on decentralized activities. It is the cultural equivalent of intelligent design in evolution.

    Don’t get me wrong, decentralized systems do need rules. And these rules can sometimes be set in a top down fashion. But doing so reflects the wisdom that the proven efficient way to solve problems is by creating and harnessing the power of decentralized, networked, positive sum voluntary interactions.

    Master planning and the blindness to distributed planning is actually the problem. Doing more of it feeds the conceit, but makes the problems worse.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Roger says:

      And I still don’t see how strong family and welfare state policies like universal daycare have turned Northern Europe into an anti-freedom socialist nightmare. Doesn’t Denmark often rank high on economic freedom lists put out by the Heritage Foundation?Report

      • North in reply to NewDealer says:

        It does because while the Nordic countries have brought about something approaching liberal dreams with an extremely robust safety net (and taxes to pay for it) they have smacked liberals back hard in the category of business regulation. It takes a lot less red tape to do business in those countries and a lot of licensing and other regulatory intrusion generally thought of as liberal is reined back.

        Essentially they’ve accommodated their liberal nurturers impulses but locked their liberal busybody impulses in the woodshed.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to North says:

          I’d be perfectly willing to have less redtape and regulatory intrusion if it meant getting rid of At Will employment (job security), support for unions, and a robust safety net.

          I don’t see American conservatives willing to make that bargain.Report

          • North in reply to NewDealer says:

            Oh neither do I, but to be fair, there’re a lot of liberals who would not give up bad or destructive policies like intrusive regulation, cartel building licensing requirements or city blighting abominations like rent control in exchange for better safety nets. We lefties have our dogmatists too.Report

            • North in reply to North says:

              To clarify: we have our dogmatists, but they’re not helming the ship (and boy are they pissed about that).Report

              • NewDealer in reply to North says:

                The problem is though is that we end up with having the worst of all worlds without them having control though. The DLC/Blue Dog set are perfectly willing to enact less-regulation but cave on welfare state stuff.Report

              • North in reply to NewDealer says:

                Your DLC/Blue Dog types would retort (I’d say accurately but then I’m virtually a neoliberal myself) that improving the regulatory issues is, in of itself, beneficial to the poor and the country as a whole. If you could get it in exchange for improved safety nets but in the absence of such a trade (and with our current madhouse GOP there’s definitly an absence of any such deal) it’d still be good to enact on its own virtues.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to North says:

                I’m going to have to say that I have not seen much conclusive proof for that yet and am highly suspicious that claim.

                I’m under no requirement to think that Matt Y speaks truth to power and challenges orthodoxies just because Andrew Sullivan thinks he does.Report

              • North in reply to NewDealer says:

                Of course you’re not. It’s the classic liberal/neoliberal divide when it comes to regulations. Neoliberals point out all the ways various regulations are hurting many people a little to enrich the few and are generally making government less efficient and effective, Liberals retort with examples of people the regulations help and the bad scenarios they help prevent.
                I’m skeptical that the two groups will ever see eye to eye.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


                I also think it is a lot of argumentation about what the purpose of a policy is, who should be helped, and whether the negative side-effects are worth having or not.

                One of Matt Y’s recurrent themes is upzoning. Not surprising because he grew up in Manhattan. He is especially adamant about cities like San Francisco upzoning and creating more skyscrapers.

                SOMA can have more upzoning probably but I am general that this will help the housing crisis. When people talk about building new housing what gets built tends to be:

                1. Luxury Condos and often for people looking for second or third pied-a-tiers. The latest in construction is not about building rental units but all about condos and has been for years. 650K for a one bedroom is not affordable housing.

                2. Micro-apartments which might be great for people right out of school and the monkish among us but are not so great for families. These tend to be rental units.

                This is not affordable or adequate housing for middle class families.Report

              • North in reply to NewDealer says:

                Agreed ND, but when upper class people vacate into new buildings the old buildings don’t vanish into the ether. More housing means more supply in general and more supply means lower prices which benefits everyone but especially the poor. If we artificially cap the supply we simply devolve the housing market. Instead of what you can pay to get into housing in an area it turns into who you know (either at the housing authority or friend/relation connections who’ll hook you up with a sublet). I don’t think the intention of this kind of policy is to create a new (even more exclusive) landed class but that’s what it trends towards.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:


                Two points on what gets built.
                1. Rent control actually leads to more building of luxury apartments, because they are exempt, so there’s a bigger ROI differential there than in cities withou rent control.
                2. There’s a limited supply of the super-wealthy. Build new luxury apts. and they move out of their old luxury apts. The merely wealthy move into the apts. the super-wealthy vacated. The not-as-wealthy move into, etc., etc. So building luxury apartments does actually provide more housing for those less well off, even the working poor, as long as the rate of building is faster than the population growth. I know that sounds a lot like trickle down–well, in fact it is–but it’s a reality. You live in SF, so I know you’ve seen apartments where less than wealthy people live that were once upon a time upscale Victorian homes. Obviously it’s not an instantaneous transition, if luxury apts. are built after a long stall in expanding the hosing supply, but if there is little interference with the process–no stalls, particularly ones artificially induced ny regulation–it is a perpetually occurring transition process that very effectively provides housing for the lower classes.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                I am really at a loss as to how increased capacity will make the housing situation worse. The benefits may be more marginal than Matthew Yglesias argues, but housing prices are pushed up in large part due to scarcity. Alleviating that scarcity can’t really hurt and would almost certainly help to some degree along the lines that North mentions.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

                Oh, and “SOMA.” Did that finally catch on? When I lived there everyone except the Chron regarded that as too New York. (And as the bumper sticker pasted on the Escape From New York pizza joint on Haight St. (and, marvelously, left on the sign) said, “We don’t care how they do it in New York.” But that was circa 1989.)Report

              • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


                1. The luxury condo building boom has been going on for several years now. Maybe my perception is skewed by living in New York and San Francisco though. My brother moved into one of the first condo buildings in Williamsburg. This was built in 2006 and one of the buildings is for renting to low and moderate income families for a tax abatement. Now in 2013, there is even more development in Williamsburg and it is all luxury condos for the national and international upper-middle class and above. All the construction I see in SF is luxury condo as well except one building on Market Street across from BART. I get that the number of upper-middle class and above people is finite but when do we hit this limit with 7 billion people in the world? There is an 84 floor luxury condo being built in New York right now. This could be folly but possibly not. Developers seem more interested in building and marketing for people who want pied-a-tiers than homes.

                2. SOMA is now a fairly trendy and up and coming area. It is still fairly sketchy in some or many parts. But there is no CostCo and some other big shopping. There are cool restaurants and cafes like Floor and Water and Prospect. There is a large and very Manhattan-esque building called The Infinity (it looks like an office building but has very nice views of the Bay Bridge), so yeah it is gentrifying.

                3. My neighborhood is gentrifying as well but when you were here, I think it was a neighborhood where a lot of people dared not tread. No we have some nice destination restaurants, 4 Barrel Coffee, and uber-hipster grocery Bi-Rite’s second store.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

                James, I agree with you on the problems of rent control and the limited suply of super-wealthy. My main concern is that your systerm takes to long for the apartments to trickle down to the less well-off and that the less well-off still get bad places to live. We need to provide more housing now, not sometime in the future.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

                New Dealer,

                I don’t think I was clear enough. My point is that even if you only, ever, build luxury condos, you still make lower income housing available, because the housing those upper income people lived in before they moved to the new luxury condo is cleared out and gets occupied by those a step below, and what they move out of gets occupied by the step below them, etc. A large housing supply is the key–supply outstripping demand drives down prices. It’s kind of weird, because we don’t see the lower income housing getting developed because there’s no construction cranes–it comes from already existing housing stock.

                What’s your neighborhood again? Near Western Addition? There were some sketchy areas around there, including some hellaciously scary high rise projects on, iirc, Turk St.

                Lee, but my point is that if we would stop interrupting additions to the housing supply the process isn’t too slow, it’s steady, happening at exactly the rate of new building. So, strange as it may seem, the more quickly we build luxury housing the more quickly we transition older housing stock to lower income housing. This approach also can provide higher quality housing for the poor. Instead of someone cutting corners in building because they know they’ll only be able to charge lower rents, we’re often moving lower income people into housing that was top notch when it was built. Of course it may be out-of-date in some ways, but the basic construction is often very high quality, and often the interiors have a (perhaps faded) glamor of an earlier era. At the least, it beats 90% of government housing projects hands down (not that it has to be so bad, but that’s been the norm in the U.S., because we think the poor should suffer for their lot, or something).Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

                James, NYC has been building luxury condos and rentals at a fairly fast and high rate in recent years. I can find several constructions sites within in a mile of me. It doesn’t seem to have the affect you seem to think it will have yet.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

                Lee, once again, if we don’t interfere with the development of housing stock–ever–it works smoothly. When you interfere with the development of the housing stock it won’t work so smoothly. After falling behind it will take time to catch up. We can’t just look at a snapshot of the present moment, but need to watch the film from the start.

                NYC has effed up their housing stock with rent control for decades. And now you expect things to sort out with a “few years” of luxury condo building? When the city isn’t willing to abandon rent control? Of course in that case it’s not going to work as fast as we like, because the city literally has to play catch up for decades of housing stock-constraining policy. This is not a market caused housing problem; it’s a policy caused problem.

                Here’s a good article on how rent control actually affects the housing stock.Report

              • Dave in reply to NewDealer says:

                Developers seem more interested in building and marketing for people who want pied-a-tiers than homes.

                There is a very substantial amount of offshore money that see the NYC and London residential markets as safe havens to park their cash. My firm gets inquiries about this all the time and we have people that represent offshore buyers. The firm does a lot of this business in London.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

                Here’s the problem: while this society continues to bandy terms like Welfare State about, we’re not going anywhere. We need to start looking at domestic spending in terms of cost/benefit ratios.

                Regulation and Bureaucracy have become pejorative terms: they don’t have to be. We don’t hold government accountable because we don’t see it as Our Government. It’s “The” Government, wicked and tyrannous. Truth is, government is often wicked: look at this IRS mess, the DOJ’s overreach, a zillion such instances only reinforce the vicious cycle alienating “We The” People from “Our” Government.

                And all that mooing down at the Sacred Cow Ranch about Regulatory Intrusion into our lives. But when it’s someone else a-violatin’ our freedoms, boy howdy, we can’t haul The Government over the coals fast enough because It didn’t save us from this Force or that Fraud. Why didn’t “The” Gummint detect the Tsarnaev brothers before they set off those bombs? Why didn’t “The” Gummint do something about the Benghazi murders? The very same people who howl the loudest about Gummint Overreach are not above using the Gummint to their own ends or blaming it for failure or damning it for Welfare Statism, when it suits their purposes: that government is both inevitable and necessary never quite registers with them.Report

              • North in reply to BlaiseP says:

                You’re quite right there Blaise, regulatory structures have some natural inclinations that can be very destructive. Cover-your-ass-ism being one of the worst.

                And people in the agregate are short sighted self interested fishers. They always want to do away with that there other fellows subsidy while their own is upholding all that is just, natural and patriotic.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                I have a fairly straightforward solution: I once did a gig for USDA. Amazing penetration, I’m pretty sure every farming county in the USA has an FSA and Cooperative Extension outpost. Tremendous value for money in that proposition. Nobody ever seems to complain about it.

                Now imagine we could get a Federal Government outpost into every state capital, basically a one-stop shop for every possible interaction between a state and the Feds. A liaison officer, of sorts. Put him somewhere good and close to the governor, so the governor has someone’s ear to twist or shoulder to weep on, as varies the need.

                We send ambassadors to all these jimcrack countries. We need ambassadors to the 50 states. Complaining to Senator Squarehead or Representative Dogfroth is not the same.Report

              • North in reply to North says:

                We could probably use a lot more congresscritters too. Maybe even some more Senators.

                But while I’m wishing I’d like to haze Liza over for brunch.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                How would increasing the size of Congress change things for the better? I’m not sure we’d get more accountability out of ’em. We need to empower the states, imho, improve the logistics of government.

                Here’s the proposition. Consider a firm like UPS or FedEx. These outfits have central hubs. It’s demonstrably superior logistics. That’s what Washington ought to be. But look at the outbound logistics from those hubs. There’s where we can make significant reforms, at least the most obvious reforms.Report

              • zic in reply to North says:

                BlaiseP, as I understand it, the theory is that increasing the size of the house to something like one rep per so-many folk (about 10,000 is what I recall) would create a house that was not only more responsive, the reps would actually know their constituents better, but that’s so big that it would not be cost effective to bribe, excuse me, I mean lobby them.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                I used to think that way, Zic. It only seems reasonable, though. In practice, it hasn’t made us any more democratic as a nation, except in a strictly numerical sense. The House of Representatives is the most dysfunctional body of government and it’s only getting worse.

                Sure, we need a House of Representatives and some of that dysfunction is by design. But Congress has only gotten worse, the larger it’s gotten, the less power and accountability any one representative has. That’s what we’ve seen over time.

                We need more powerful states. Promote them, somehow, to more independent entities. A certain amount of Federalism is needed, inbound to the hub. But outbound, toward the destination, we need some ruthless efficiencies applied to the problem.Report

              • zic in reply to North says:

                BlaiseP, I don’t know that I think it would work either; though one advantage would be a need for better coalition building and potential of some decrease in party-lock step. But that could also happen through a strong 3rd party.

                It’s sort of like the suggestions of term limits; sounds great, but the practice leads to funny results; less adept folks running for office, and (perhaps most disturbing to me) more power concentrated in congressional aids. Plus I think we loose sight of the fact that there’s some real benefit to having someone do a job year after year; Olympia Snow and Barney Frank both spring to mind as powerful examples. Going back a bit, one of my favorites would be Margaret Chase Smith.

                And yet all three, in some ways, sold out constituents to special interests.Report

              • zic in reply to North says:

                And on ‘We need more powerful states,’ I have some concerns there; particularly as a woman. Rights should, I think, be universal.

                More powerful states, meaning more experimenting, also leads to a lot of confusion in national dialogue; my favorite example being the national debate before ACA was passed. Health insurance regulation was at the state level; and so you could watch a discussion between two people on a forum like this, and it would never really dawn on them that they were talking apples and oranges; that in one state, the problems might root in the size of available groups, in another, in lack of rules saying an insurer couldn’t dump you if you got sick, etc.

                I often see similar conversations about education; though there’s more consistance since there’s more nation-wide requirement for testing; and I’m likely to think that’s negative progress.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                Term limits are a dumb idea. With everything else in life, you get better value for money with a specialist. Look at these chumps, hootin’ and hollerin’ and making all these dumb noises about how they’re gonna Change Washington. They never do. So admit as much. Just don’t send too many people there. Only makes things worse.

                All interests are Special. Lobbying is our right as a people. Just keep an eye on the money and the rest of it will take care of itself. Simplistic, I know, but it’s true. Based only on my round-trip theory of democracy, the most-efficient path is not always the shortest but that’s how people think. Until we make ordinary people feel as if they have a say in the process, our alienation will only increase. Like the Chinese say about chaos and lawlessness “Heaven is high and the Emperor is far away.”Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                More powerful states, meaning more experimenting, also leads to a lot of confusion in national dialogue; my favorite example being the national debate before ACA was passed.

                My proposition goes to the exact opposite tendency: to more uniformity in the Federal government and considerably less of it. UPS trucks are all brown. You can go to and follow your shipment through their system. “Experimenting” in most of these cases at a state level means screwing around and building little private fiefdoms. But state capitols keep things from having to flow up to Washington — and I don’t like the idea of the Feds funding the states. Never promote a problem out of scope. Such a promotion only guarantees your problem will end up tabled in some committee and will never get solved.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


            I call my area The Western Addition.

            More trendy people call it NOPA or the PanhandleReport

        • trumwill mobile in reply to North says:

          If I thought it would work here as well as it works there, I would definitely take the Sweden compromise.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to trumwill mobile says:

            Why don’t you think it would work here?Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

              Had this discussion with an American ex-pat who’s lived in Sweden for the last 30+ years.

              America’s too damned big for large-scale socialism to work. The round trip from taxpayer to beneficiary is too long: too many hands in the bucket brigade from here to Washington and back, too much bureaucracy, too many arbitrary decisions being made on the basis of obscure rules — at least that’s how it’s perceived here in the States.

              In Sweden, the round trip is very short. Their citizens don’t mind the high taxes so much because they see the benefits immediately, though in truth, we would see them, too, if only our bureaucracies were seen as operating on our behalf. The Swedish bureaucracies are local. And Swedish society is awfully uniform, which tends to produce a feeling of us-ness we don’t have here, where the dialectic of Us over here versus Them over there is more contested.

              We tolerate SocSec and Medicare and unemployment because we perceive the round trip to be shorter, though it’s not. We pay for our schools with property taxes, again, we tolerate it because the round trip is perceived to be shorter.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise beat me to it.

                And it’s not just on the welfare/safety-net side. I suspect that in Sweden I would probably be more trusting of businesses operating with fewer regulations, than I am here.Report

              • North in reply to Will Truman says:

                Wow, you and BlaiseP together really nailed it.

                We tend to forget how titanically huge the United States of America is, not just geographically but in terms of population and also in diversity.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

                Sweden isn’t exactly a small country geographically, its about the size of California and not that densely populated. Whats really important though is that Sweden, when it enacted its welfare state into law, was one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. Only Japan and the Koreas were probably less diverse. The most generous welfare states tend to occur in the most homogeneous societies. At least the society needs to be pretty homogeneous when the welfare state gets built.

                I think Sweden’s small population also helped. The more populous country is, the less intimate society gets and everything needs to get imperssonal to run properly. Even without taking the heteorgeneous and geographic size of the United States into account, the sheer number of Americans is going to make government less personal than it is in smaller countries.Report

              • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I couldn’t agree more Lee.Report

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Why not mandate socialism where each state (California, NY, Kansas) runs its own version of Sweden?

                The United Socialist States of America?

                The feds just set standards with tax and transfer payment carrots and sticks for the states, the states make their own socialism.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Shazbot4 says:

                I find it noteworthy that the two states I’m aware of that have expressed interest in statewide single-payer are Vermont and Montana. One is geographically small and one is geographically large, one went big for Romney and the other for Obama. But both have in common a fair amount of homogeneity and a small population that thinks of itself as a community.Report

              • Patrick in reply to Will Truman says:

                Vermont and Montana are also very self-contained, community wise.

                There’s “us”, and then there’s the vacationers.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                Patrick brings up a good point. You can move to California and be considered a Californian fairly easily and quickly.

                It takes a while before people from Montana and Vermont take you as one of their own.Report

              • LWA in reply to Will Truman says:

                California has come very close, twice, to passing single payer health insurance. Last time I believe it passed one house, but the other had internal issues that stymied it.Report

              • I’d love to see California give it a go. It’s one of comparatively few states that would give us an idea of how reproducible it would be nationally (and if it crashes and burns, I am only minimally affected). The other two big ones, Texas and Florida, aren’t going that route any time soon.Report

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Will Truman says:

                In a way, Canada runs it’s socialist institutions through the provinces.

                Health Canada sets the standards and will cut money to the provinces off if the province doesn’t meet the standards, but each province has its own socialist healthcare system. Canadian college education isn’t socialist, but you could make it that way too. That would get you most of the way to Sweden, and Canada is pretty diverse and spread out.

                You could do Sweden in Canada (much of the way there already) with admin run at provincial levels. If you can do it in Canada, you can do it in the U.S. So, therefore you can do it in the U.S.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Will Truman says:

                Compared to Vermont and Montana, Sweden looks like the cafeteria line at the UN General Assembly. Almost 15% of Sweden is made up of foreign immigrants, and 20% of Sweden is people from foreign backgrounds. Iraqis, Iranians, Turks, Somalis, and Syrians make up about 4.6% of the population. Somalis alone number about 44,000.

                In contrast, Montana and Vermont barely has enough African Americans to fill a high school football stadium (about 5,000 each).Report

              • George,

                What did Sweden’s demographics look like when their current social contract became a reality?

                Anyway, I don’t think you have to be as homogeneous as those two states to have a Swedish model. But I think it gets harder when you look at the whole of the US of A.

                (FWIW, folks, by “homogeneous” and the USA, I am not solely referring to race. This is a trap that we sometimes fall into when we talk about these things.)Report

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Agreed Will.

                That is why Canada is a pretty good model. Less racial diversity, but similar diversity overall.Report

              • Canada’s success is why I am not totally dismissive of it working here. On the other hands, Canadians in general have a cooler sensibility that Americans lack.Report

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Will Truman says:

                As a Canadian, I disagree.

                IMO, non-Southerner Americans are indistinguishable from non-Quebecois Canadians in the aggregate. And the South and Quebec are becoming more like everyone else pretty rapidly.Report

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Canadian history (as boring as it is) is filled with a lot of regional, ethnic, and racial animosity. Anti-Newfoundlander sentiments that are still very alive. A history of violence against Natives and Metis. A history of anti-Asian sentiment and violence in the far west, including internment. French vs. English (pretty vitriolic on and off for centuries). Feuds between different settling immigrant ethnic groups, especially in the prairies.Report

              • [T]he South and Quebec are becoming more like everyone else pretty rapidly.

                Hehe. I’ve mentioned this to others, but I don’t think to you. Back in 2000, I watched the Prime Minister debates. As an American, Stockwell Day was the most “familiar” of the bunch. But one thing that jumped out at me was Duceppe. Despite being a lefty (or seeming that way), the thing that jumped out at me about him was how much he reminded me of a governor from the Gulf Coast (Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama). Not a specific governor, but the kind of guys that those states tend to elect.Report

              • Actually, “lefty” isn’t quite right. Not like the NDP lady. He seemed kinda “tuff on crime” (that might have been when I initially made the connection) but pretty solidly liberal everywhere else, from what I recall.Report

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yeah, I’ve never lived in Quebec or the South, but there are some similarities for sure.

                The Cajuns are doubly interesting in that light.Report

              • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

                While I don’t disagree, I find there’s another way to think of this, BlaiseP.

                In general, I find people peeved about taxation in general tend to exert downward pressure where they can, and that typically ends up being on local taxes, particularly property taxes. The tax dollars they would most benefit from — the shortest journey, as you say — is the place they have the greatest voice in, so the place most amenable to ‘less.’Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

                We probably need a new constitution. Taxation policy in the USA is madness, completely out of control at both at a state and federal level. Ask four different preparers to do your taxes: you’ll get four different returns. American taxation policy is a disgraceful fat man doing a fan dance. For a fleeting moment, every so often, you’re given a peek at its awe-inspiring, naked ugliness….

                Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as you say, Joe Citizen is actively exerting pressure on those taxing bodies under his control: the county and municipal bodies. The taxing bodies he truly hates are those he can’t control: those are stage managed by the powerful lobbyists. It’s them Joe Citizen ought to be hating, not the poor prostituted politicians who must submit to their carnal demands or they won’t get any money for their re-election.

                When the lobbyists write the bills, it’s time for a change of the guard, constitutionally.Report

      • Roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        New Dealer,

        I wrote about the cognitive blind spot of just assuming problems are best addressed top down. Specifically my point was to be aware of the value and potential of decentralized problem solving and to be wary of using centralized master planning that interferes with individual planning.

        Your response:
        “And I still don’t see how strong family and welfare state policies like universal daycare have turned Northern Europe into an anti-freedom socialist nightmare. Doesn’t Denmark often rank high on economic freedom lists put out by the Heritage Foundation?”

        I am pretty sure no one state policy will turn any nation into a socialist nightmare. Some policies will even do good. Your post seems to think we need a better plan to achieve your vision of earlier home ownership or higher mobility. My point is that maybe, just maybe, we should let people decide on their own when they want to buy a house or whether or not to fund their pre school, or under what conditions they want to hire or fire people. If the question is plan a or plan b my answer is maybe we should consider no plan at all.

        Of vourse, One plan wont do much harm. Nor will one snort of crystal meth though either.

        The problem comes as we add more plans. Let’s socialize health insurance. Let’s plan hiring and firing rules. Let’s plan out primary education and control it with a wise monopoly. Let’s build a rational plan for funding higher education. Let’s plan interest rates. Let’s accelerate home ownership. And then let’s try to accelerate mobility. Then we can take over preschool.

        Enough. I am convinced most of the plans we are planning are to address the problems caused by our prior plans.

        I could be wrong though.Report

    • zic in reply to Roger says:

      I spent a good part of my life addressing poverty. I went to work. Most people I know did the same. We also taught our kids the value of education and honesty and hard work. We also contributed to safety nets for rainy days and contributed money to the poor via various sources, only some of which were coercive in nature. All these actions in our fight against poverty.

      I know a lot of people who’ve done the same thing. And between lost jobs, new jobs that pay much less, underwater mortgages, etc., they’ve still sunk into poverty.

      Doing the right things is not a sure method of ‘fighting poverty.’ But you’re not talking about ‘fighting poverty,’ either, and you know that. What you said is actually poverty-bashing; presuming people have done ‘wrong things,’ and just want to leech off the system. Some do, but most people don’t; they just want opportunity.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to zic says:

        Right. It is the old saw of saying something must be wrong if you are poor, you must have done something.Report

        • Seconded.

          I tend to be sympathetic to claims that ensuring a robust market economy means more choices and wealth-maximization for all. But to say the equivalent of “I have an anti-poverty program, it’s getting off your duff and working” at least appears to bespeak a certain contemptuousness toward the poor.Report

          • Roger in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

            Zic, ND and Pierre.

            Not sure if you guys didn’t read my full comment or if it is just too alien of a concept for you all to grok.

            Even the sentences you quoted contradict your disingenuous interpretation, Zic.

            What part of education and values and safety nets voluntary and non-voluntary just amount to blaming the victim, ND and Pierre?

            Are you guys really incapable of addressing the dangers of top down design without making up stuff about me blaming the victim?Report

            • Patrick in reply to Roger says:

              There’s dangers in bottom-up non-design, too, Roger.Report

              • LWA in reply to Patrick says:

                Bottom-up, decentralized, systems are always superior.
                Except for the empirical data of cases when top-down, centralized systems prove themselves to be superior.Report

              • Roger in reply to LWA says:

                Disingenuous snark. Try reading my comment again. You can get it if you want to.Report

              • Roger in reply to Patrick says:

                I agree completely, Patrick, and alluded to it at least twice in my first comment. Granted that was lots of comments ago.

                My point is not that one is always superior. It was a warning on the cognitive bias of top down design while neglecting the possibility of bottom up. Or worse, interfering with the latter while attending to the former.Report

            • Pierre Corneille in reply to Roger says:


              I actually agree with the spirit of some of what you wrote in that comment and especially in your warning against assuming that top-down solutions are always the best.

              What I objected to was what I interpreted to be assumptions behind your assertion that your anti-poverty program was to work hard and to inculcate a good work ethic into others. That comment on the surface at least seems to imply that people who are poor don’t have a good work ethic and that the only way people who get poor is through a poor work ethic.

              That’s a lot for me to infer from a single comment, I admit. And after rereading the paragraph from which you made that comment, I confess that I ought to have given more weight to what you said right after: “We also contributed to safety nets for rainy days and contributed money to the poor via various sources, only some of which were coercive in nature.” I either didn’t notice it the first time around or I just read it uncharitably.Report

              • Roger in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                It’s all good, Pierre. My comments were separated by a lot of others and a bit of telephone tag develops. By the time twenty people have weighed in all that was left of the original is “yea, markets!” LOLReport

  7. LeeEsq says:

    On the moving argument, I think that a lot of people are perplexed about why fewer Americans move to places where there are jobs because we have an example of people who make even greater moves for work, really shitty work. We call these people immigrants and many of them give up all the know for a job.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

      That. And for me, also the fact that I have moved long distances for jobs several times. I’m understanding of people who can’t sell their home without taking a big loss, and those who just can’t scrounge up the dough to move, but I have zero sympathy with mortgageless recent grads who just don’t want to leave home. Most of them need to go out and explore new places anyway, so I say to hell with their precious social relationships, especially in the age of Skype. Having done it myself I’m really damned unsympathetic with those who make excuses for not doing so.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I mean yeah, I can understand why a married person or person with kids or some family issue can’t travel much but a recent grad with few family problems, no kids, and no romantic partner doesn’t have those issues. Its not like we are asking them to move to another country and work under really harsh and exploitative labor practices to.

        There are millions of people in this country who have made a long and often dangerous journey in order to do farm work, construction, or restaurant work. These people are coming from societies that are very different but they do it. Moving from South Carolina to North Dakota is less of a culture schock.Report

        • zic in reply to LeeEsq says:

          You may be right; but maybe not, too.

          That family/friend support structure strikes me as one of those things we under value, like the work women did before they began entering the workforce in massive numbers, until we realize what we’ve lost.

          This seems like a ‘socially condoned’ policy that drains a region of it’s labor force, shifting it to another region, making populations fluctuate wildly based on boom/bust cycles. Seems like a better solution might be investment in job creation — meeting bust cycles with infrastructure improvement projects, etc.

          We’ve already shifted much of the burden for job training from employers to employees, particularly in the skilled trades. Workers are entering with workforce with the debt of gaining that education. Now we want to add relocation and isolation to that burden.

          I know it sounds like a good solution, just pack up and move to where the jobs are; like migrant workers. But can you think of any group of people more exploited the migrant workers in the US? And this is the vision for our labor force?

          Excuse me while I go weep.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I wasn’t necessarily thinking of mortgage recentless grads but they still get sympathy from me for not wanting to move away from the family and friend support structures that they have always known. But I’m a softie.

        Right now, I am between jobs. I am a member of the New York and California bars. I also have friends and family in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and NYC. I would gladly consider moving back to NYC or even to LA. However, I’ve discovered it is very hard to get a job interview somewhere without moving and I can’t justify moving back without a job. It is possible but hard.

        I would even consider moving to other cities and states as long as it meant not needing to take a Bar Exam again (two bars is enough) including Portland, Seattle, Washington DC, Boston/Cambridge, Philadelphia, etc. However, I don’t really know many people in those areas and moving to an area without friends or a family support structure is not appealing at 32. Like many people done with school, I am discovering it is quite hard to make friends outside of the school setting. Most of my friends my age now have young families anyway and are super-involved with those people. I’m a bit scarred of the idea of moving to an unfamiliar city or state and losing a job. Moving is expensive in cost and one should probably also have a few months rent in the bank in case of job loss.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

          For what it’s worth, the concerns here are the ones I would seek to alleviate. You specifically probably wouldn’t be eligible due to what I gather is the short-term of your unemployment and it seems as likely as not that the cities you are most interested in going to wouldn’t be eligible. But the whole “Even if there are jobs out there, moving is expensive and it’s risky and I don’t know anyone” concern is quite real.

          I’ve moved repeatedly for my wife’s sake and until this latest move, I’ve been able to find work wherever I’ve gone (and I was offered something here, but it took a while and it was too late anyway). But we’re in pretty different fields. Looking for work long-distance is really, really tough. I’ve never had success with it.

          In any case: Best of luck to you, man.Report

        • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:


          I don’t mean to imply that it’s easy. Just that it’s a hard thing that’s better than sitting around wishing there were more jobs available in your hometown/state.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

            This is true but I think better social-welfare programs would make it easier to move.

            Suppose you have a single parent(probably but not necessarily a mom) in City X who depends on his or her parents or friends to do random babysitting when their kid is sick and they need to go to work. Or said single parent is unemployed but gets an occasional temp job every now and then.

            Wouldn’t known access to universal daycare make it easier and more likely for said single parent to move to city or state Y for a job? Because if his or her kid gets sick, the single parent has options beyond hoping for a sympathetic boss or supervisor.

            Same with universal healthcare for other people.

            I think social benefits and welfare policies can be used to make people more willing to take economic risks and chances.Report

            • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

              Oh, no doubt that would make it easier. I don’t think that’s dispositive in itself, but it’s not reasonably deniable.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to NewDealer says:

              I think social benefits and welfare policies can be used to make people more willing to take economic risks and chances.

              It also makes it easier for people to slack off and not do much of anything at all. Which effect dominates can’t easily be determined a priori.Report

      • I have at least some sympathy for such people. Even if it’s what they could/should do, it might not always be an easy step.Report

      • Shazbot4 in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        The other thing to note is that often young people are part of a support structure for their parents. It’s harder to move when you take care of your brothers or sisters because a parent died, or if you take care of a grandparent. Etc. etc.

        To move to take a job can be impossible if you are part of a support-system for a loved one, and that is a whole lot of people. The social and economic costs of a labor force that moves around much more than the one we have now might be very, very high indeed.

        And often people move to somewhere that there is support. You move to graduate school where there will be friends and colleagues. Same if you move to a higher status job where you were, in some sense, recruited, like a professorship or a cool tech job. You know it’s likely that there will be people to give you a hand, unless you are a total jerk. Not so much if you just pick up and move 15 hours away to get a job at a mill or as a temp in an office.

        Indeed, it’s not clear to me that the labor force can be mobile if the state doesn’t support the elderly, the sick and, the poor (so that they don’t need friends and family as caregivers who need to stay with the sick or poor, and who therefore will have trouble moving) pretty much fully and if unemployment benefits can fully support you in a new environment where you don’t have the help of friends and family.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Shazbot4 says:

          These are pretty much the points I was hoping that my essay would make.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to NewDealer says:

            Yeah, I got that. It’s a good OP.

            I was just trying to give my simple version as a reply to claim that young people can move for work.

            IMO, where there are single moms and unjuslt incarcerated dads from the drug war, young do more supporting of their family (if not with money, with time).Report

  8. Brandon Berg says:

    Both these arguments strike me as being paradoxical and contradictory.

    They’re not paradoxical and contradictory—they’re different ideas from different people who disagree with one another. If you can point to a specific person saying both of these things, that’s a contradiction. If you want a media with a unified voice, you’ll probably have to learn Korean.Report

    • Roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Contradictory problems with the same solution. More government planning and interference!Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      The second one strikes me as … problematic. If the suggestion is that people ought to be more inclined to move to locations with a better job market, then it’s actually requiring people to be different than they actually are (since, by hypothesis, people aren’t so inclined). There’s nothing incoherent about that argument (it may be paradoxical in the way ND says it is tho). But it’s highly idealized question begging: if people are rational to act on the values they currently hold (which disincline them to the option of relocation), then on what grounds is it rational to say they ought to adopt another set of values?Report

      • trumwill mobile in reply to Stillwater says:

        The concern, at least among some, is that not moving is rational due in part to government policy.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to trumwill mobile says:

          The arrow goes the other way, too: it’s rational for an individual to support rent control to achieve the goal of not being forced to relocate.Report

          • trumwill mobile in reply to Stillwater says:

            I get you point, but…

            Even being sympathetic to the aims, rent control is a really tough argument.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to trumwill mobile says:

              Maybe it is. But I don’t think the policy can be argued against in terms of subjective rationality. An argument defeating it would have to be objective in nature, it seems to me. So saying that people ought to have a different subjectively determined utility function than they actually do isn’t going to get it done.Report

              • Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

                I agree. But that is true of theft too. There is no fool proof argument for being a utilitarian.

                That is why I believe the best path to enlightenment is to seek the place where the desires of the utilitarian, the egoist and the altruist overlap.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater says:

        If the suggestion is that people ought to be more inclined to move to locations with a better job market, then it’s actually requiring people to be different than they actually are (since, by hypothesis, people aren’t so inclined).

        I was really only objecting to ND’s claim that the media was contradicting itself. But since you brought it up….

        I understood the one about moving to mean that we should structure the incentives so that people are more inclined to move if they can’t find a job locally. Shorten the duration of unemployment insurance, for example, or say that after so many weeks on unemployment you need to start including other cities in your job search.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          I would be reluctant to use government coercion to influence where people live, since many are tied to their communities and extended families in very complicated ways. The spouse has a local job that’s hard to get, the siblings live around town, and all pitch in to help with their aging parents, aunts, etc. Such a government policy would apply pressures toward splitting up the family, and our experience with the welfare system proves that families can be split up by misguided social policies.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to George Turner says:

            We already use government coercion to influence where people live. The government takes money from some people and gives it to other people in ways that make it more comfortable for them to stay where they are.Report

          • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

            But in doing that, we’re not passing a judgment on where people should live, and few really want to be drawing unemployment.

            Other political objections would be that under such a system, unemployment benefits would last longer in surviving liberal urban cities than in rural areas, as if liberals were once again figuring out how to punish the lesser people in the boonies. One might think that benefits would also be cut in collapsing liberal urban cities like Detroit, hastening the exodus, but urbanites have a lot of skill at making sure they’re not the ones who will suffer any cuts.Report

          • LWA in reply to George Turner says:

            This illustrates how problematic it is to use the phrasing of “We should oppose government coercion/ intervention to do blah blah”.

            Because even the most rudimentary and basic government services consist of coercive interventions that alter public behavior. You don’t recognize them because they are the water in which you swim.

            The suburbs never would have been built without interventions in the marketplace such as the highway system for example.

            Your logic assumes that there is such a state of affairs in which government exists, but does not influence people’s choices.

            I know what you really meant- you mean that this particular intervention you consider to be unwise- and you may be right. But that common refrain of about not wanting government coercion or intevention is false in drawing a bright line where none exists.

            It lends the false aura of the strength of a clear broad principle when in fact you are preferring a specific choice in one particular instance.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to LWA says:

              I know what you really meant- you mean that this particular intervention you consider to be unwise- and you may be right. But that common refrain of about not wanting government coercion or intevention is false in drawing a bright line where none exists.

              This is wrong. There’s always a no-subsidy option. In this case, it would be eliminating government-sponsored unemployment insurance altogether. Let people buy it privately, and let let the insurance companies offer different rates depending on how they define a good-faith job search for purposes of maintaining eligibility.

              The suburbs never would have been built without interventions in the marketplace such as the highway system for example.

              This is questionable. The existence of highways was important for the development of suburbs, sure. But that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t exist if government hadn’t subsidized the creation of highways. Roads, both public and private, can be and in some cases have been supported entirely by user fees. On the margin, it’s likely that suburbs would be somewhat smaller without subsidized highways. But they would almost ceratinly still exist without them.

              And it’s worth noting, of course, that libertariansReport

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:


                …that libertarians support private roads and user-fee funding for public roads. The no-subsidy option.Report

              • LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                The idea that a network of roads- let alone interstate highways- could be created entirely by the private sector is ludicrous. What empirical evidence is there for this?

                Again, asserting that there exists a no-subsidy option, a form of market that is absent any influence or distortion is manifestly false.

                Which is why usually, after about 100 posts, most libertarians grudgingly agree and exclaim “Of COURSE we want roads! Gotta have roads!”
                “But aside from roads, bridges, harbors, airports, sewers, storm drains, and utilities; courts of law, patent protection, emergency aid, first responders- what has government ever done for us?”Report

              • Stillwater in reply to LWA says:

                “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

                “We the People’s Front of Judea, brackets, officials, end brackets, do hereby convey our sincere fraternal and sisterly greetings to you, Brian, on this, the occasion of your martyrdom. ”

                Brian: What?

                Reg: “Your death will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate the parent land from the hands of the Roman imperialist aggressors, excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture and any other Romans contributing to the welfare of Jews of both sexes and hermaphrodites. Signed, on behalf of the P. F. J. , etc. ” And I’d just like to add, on a personal note, my own admiration, for what you’re doing for us, Brian, on what must be, after all, for you a very difficult time.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                Oddly enough, some of Canada’s best roads are privately funded.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to LWA says:

                Your failure to understand something is not an argument against it. But without getting into the all the strawmen and incorrect assumptions and everything else that’s wrong with your perception of libertarianism, I’ll just point out your failure at basic reading comprehension:

                Roads, both public and private, can be and in some cases have been supported entirely by user fees.

                You can satisfy your preference for monopoly provision of certain goods and still have no subsidy, by having the goverment fund a project with user fees rather than tax revenues.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      “They’re not paradoxical and contradictory—they’re different ideas from different people who disagree with one another. ”

      Or they’re based on the same assumption–namely, that property values will always go up. If owned property has equity, then you can sell it without paying money out-of-pocket because the equity covers the costs of selling and moving.

      Which is the trap that people have got into in the past few years–the cost of unloading the owned property is so high that it’s better to stay in an exploitative job (or sit with no job at all) than to move somewhere else to find productive employment. Right now, if a prospective employer is not willing to pay $150,000 plus the cost of moving, then I can’t afford to take that employer’s job, even if it paid $100 an hour and involved doing inventory for a blind liquor-store owner.Report

  9. Damon says:

    I rent now. I used to own a home with the now ex wife, which we had to sell. It was on the market 2 years and we dropped the price to 20k higherr than what we’d paid for it a decade ago.

    Why would I buy something now? From what I hear, load apps are more difficult to get approved, the economy sucks, and sequestration is rippling through the economy. I rent so I can give 30 days notice and move to where the jobs are, or worse case, a lower cost of living area if I loose my job. I already drive an hour to work vs 15 minutes before.Report