Pro-Growth Bi-Partisanship: A Realistic List?
Tim Lee has a very Vox list at Vox about four things he thinks pro-growth people on the left and the right can agree to. Unsurprisingly, the sections come from CATO. I am not so sure that we can agree on these things.
1. “Let Developers in Coastal Cities Build More”
I fully agree that more housing needs to be built as fast as possible, but the problem is that a lot of people (probably sincerely) feel that the housing being built is not for them. Some people stage jeremiads against this. Others might be more amenable to housing if a developer said that they were building middle-class flats instead of “luxury condos”. People are fighting for their homes and places where they have lived for decades. We shouldn’t be surprised that they are not willing to go silently away. Perhaps a good compromise here would be proposals about how to let people stay while the housing is being built. Right now the pro-development side just seems to say, “Let developers build and build and build until there is a glut or crash and then housing will become cheaper again. This could take a few years.” This does not assuage the person kicked out of a place they called home for 40 years or more who moved hours away. I think there is a real demand for middle-class flats but why would anyone build those when you could build a studio or one bedroom that sells for close to a million or more.
2. “Boost High-Skilled Immigration”
I am generally pro-immigration. There is a big difference between letting people (especially children) seek asylum from really dangerous situations and a corporation trying to replace their entire IT staff with HB-1 Visa Holders. I am pretty sure that it is only a media backlash that got Disney to halt their plans for now. One thing I’ve noticed about people who call for more HB-1 Visas is that they are in positions of power or positions that rarely get outsourced. Has a Think Tank ever tried to outsource policy wonkery to fellows in countries with a lower cost of of living? Surely universities elsewhere have just as much access to JSTor and I am sure you can pay them 40 percent less than you do for American academics. The same goes for opinion journalists.
3. “Reform Copyright and Patent Laws”
I am generally for this. I suspect that the most elite disagree, however. Most copyrights are not worth the full scope and length of copyright protection. There are some that are extremely valuable and are generally owned by major corporations. Do we expect Disney to allow Mickey Mouse into the public domain where people can portray him as a dope smuggler? Will Time Warner want to put Superman or Bugs Bunny into the public domain? The answer is no and they will spend a lot of money to get their way.
Copyright and Patent Reform are just not hot-buttom issues for a majority of Americans like they are for a certain variety of wonk. There are few people saying “You know, Frank we could really end inequality if we just really reformed the Copyright and Patent Laws.”
4. “Liberalize Occupational Licensing Rules.”
This is another one that seems to be a cry for a certain kind of wonk but it is probably a low-burning issue for most people, including informed voters. Occupational Licensing Rules can and do create barriers to entry which allow for higher costs. They also serve a valid function of consumer protection. I (and I imagine many other people) do not like caveat emptor. I like seeing that my barber has a license from the government. It shows that he or she achieved a level of competency and training. I imagine that clients feel the same way about my law license. Now, while I do think that we can probably shorten the amount of training necessary to be a barber, consumer protection is rather important — especially if a person has a client’s health, liberty, and financial well-being in their hands. These are serious responsibilities.
The big problem with Tim Lee’s list is that there is probably a wide-spread consensus among elites that these are things that need to be done. The problem is that the elites are not listening to the concerns of everyday citizens on the left and the right over these issues. The list reads like a parody of Beltway Punditry. There is probably plenty of agreement for this at Washington D.C. cocktail parties and BBQs but not much of anywhere else.