Despite today’s polarized political atmosphere, it is possible to construct an ambitious and highly promising agenda of pro-growth policy reform that can command support across the ideological spectrum. Such an agenda would focus on policies whose primary effect is to inflate the incomes and wealth of the rich, the powerful, and the well-established by shielding them from market competition. A convenient label for these policies is “regressive regulation” — regulatory barriers to entry and competition that work to redistribute income and wealth up the socioeconomic scale. This paper identifies four major examples of regressive regulation: excessive monopoly privileges granted under copyright and patent law; restrictions on high-skilled immigration; protection of incumbent service providers under occupational licensing; and artificial scarcity created by land-use regulation.
- Natural experiment in greater Dallas area on whether fracking is good for local land values or not [Peter Van Doren, Cato]
- Inclusionary zoning drives up housing costs, allowing greater density would be better way to serve interests of poor [Scott Beyer] “The ‘Plan Bay Area’: Restricting Housing Development Isn’t Reform” [Jonathan Wood and Randal O’Toole, Forbes/Cato]
- “Poorly argued, destructive in intent”: Vatican’s eco-encyclical is old nonsense in green new garb [Andrew Stuttaford, Secular Right]
- “Lion hunters warn U.S. conservation rules could backfire” [Helen Nyambura-Mwaura, Reuters]
- California’s notorious Prop 65: any hope for reform? [Cal Biz Lit, more]
- Citizen suits and consent decrees: in New England, “Conservation Law Foundation wields tremendous power” [Peter Ubertaccio, WGBH]
- “EPA Shifts its Legally Suspect ‘Environmental Justice’ Agenda into Higher Gear” [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
- Breaking: Supreme Court rules 5-4 against EPA on Clean Air Act power plant emissions rule [CNN, Michigan v. EPA, Daniel Fisher, Andrew Grossman]
Discontent at a land-use control process perceived as “condescending and obnoxious” helped fuel a surprise voter revolt in affluent Chevy Chase, Md., just across the D.C. border in Montgomery County. [Washington Post] Aside from intensive review of requests to expand a deck or convert a screened-in porch to year-round space, there are the many tree battles:
[Insurgents] cite the regulations surrounding tree removal as especially onerous. Property owners seeking to cut down any tree 24 inches or larger in circumference must have a permit approved by the town arborist and town manager attesting that the tree is dead, dying or hazardous.
If turned down, residents can appeal to a Tree Ordinance Board, which applies a series of nine criteria to its decision, including the overall effect on the town’s tree canopy, the “uniqueness” or “desirability” of the tree in question and the applicant’s willingness to plant replacement trees.
- Environmental law’s oft-praised public trust doctrine may have made California drought worse [Gary Libecap, Regulation magazine, via Peter Van Doren, Cato] Blame Nestlé for California water crisis? Well, people can try [Coyote]
- True to “so-called Seattle Process of inclusive and abundant dialogue,” tunnel to replace Alaskan Way viaduct has developed into expensive fiasco [Karen Weise, Bloomberg]
- Jefferson’s method of surveying “abstract and commodifiable” land, well suited to flat Midwest, curbed litigation and greatly advanced American prosperity [Steve Sailer, Chronicles]
- RFK Jr.’s Waterkeeper “tightly intertwined with more than one of the players in [Skelos] investigation” [Scott Waldman, Capital New York]
- High overhead: “what they are doing is pricing people out of the ceiling fan market” [Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, re: Rep. Marsha Blackburn criticism of energy regulations]
- Didn’t know San Francisco had such a high rate of vacant rentals: “America’s Rent-Controlled Cities Are Its Least Affordable” [Scott Beyer] Craziness of city’s housing policy long predates today’s war against techie newcomers [Coyote]
- “Chimpanzee almost gets habeas corpus — and in any event the Nonhuman Rights Project gets a court hearing” [Volokh, earlier on chimpanzees and rights]
- Plaintiffs in Michigan v. EPA, now before U.S. Supreme Court, argue that cost-no-object regulation oversteps EPA’s authority [The Economist, Ilya Shapiro on Cato’s amicus brief]
- Apex predator? Class action firm and perennial Overlawyered favorite Hagens Berman sues Sea World demanding consumer refunds over animal handling [Orlando Sentinel, San Antonio Business Journal]
- Privately designed and operated cities can provide answers to tough growth questions [Alex Tabarrok and Shruti Rajagopolan]
- Following pile-on of publicity and lawsuits over formaldehyde levels in flooring, Lumber Liquidators distributes free test kits to consumers, gets sued over that too [Bloomberg, related]
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission won’t charge men who posted Facebook video of their hang-out with an apparently injured Great Horned Owl, but feds might [Lowering the Bar]
- Urban markets often blocked from providing supply of affordable housing [Adam Hengels, Market Urbanism] “Minimum parking requirements in the planning profession are closely analogous to bloodletting in the medical profession.” [Donald Shoup via Tabarrok]
- In Louisiana, legacy lawsuits over past oil and gas drilling roil Plaquemines Parish [WWL]
- Biggest gaps between views of scientists and those of general public come on topics of animal research, GMO foods [Pew/AAAS]
- New study challenges prevailing assumptions: controlling for such factors as poverty and race, “no differences [found] in asthma risk between children living in urban areas and their suburban and rural counterparts” [Science Daily; Knappenberger and Michaels, Cato]
- Interview with NYU’s urbanist Alain Bertaud, formerly of the World Bank [Market Urbanism]
- Little free libraries on the wrong side of zoning law [Conor Friedersdorf, Sarah Skwire/Freeman, L.A. Times]
- “Who knew following the trail of ‘clean energy’ money could make you feel so dirty?” [Oregonian editorial on scandal that led to resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, more, Watchdog] Actually, the correct answer is “plenty of us”: green-barrel projects rife with cronyism in other states too [Mark Newgent, Red Maryland; Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun]
- “EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Has Chilling Consequences For Many Rural People” [Larry Bell, Forbes]
- “The digital poker magnate who financed an epic pollution lawsuit against Chevron has disavowed the case and accused the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer of misleading him about the underlying facts.” [Paul Barrett, Roger Parloff]
“Little free libraries,” book-swap kiosks on a “take one, leave one” model, can no longer operate in Shreveport, Louisiana because the city deems them commercial activity in a residential zone. [Shreveport Times]
At Reason, Baylen Linnekin has a year-end survey asking “a handful of food law and policy cognoscenti” (thanks!) what they would pick as the story of the year in that area, and also the story to watch next year. (Others surveyed include Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Ron Bailey, and Jeff Stier.) As a significant story in the past year, I nominated the flare-up of social media resistance to changes to the federal school lunch program (“#ThanksMichelleObama“), noting that while purveyors of “food policy” could barely contain their disdain at the insolence of the students spreading the tag, the protest did make an impression in Washington: “of all the ways to irritate the political class, making fun of them is among their least favorite.”
So far as a sleeper issue to look for in 2015, my nomination was:
Have you heard of “Health in All Policies”? It’s a buzz-phrase for inserting public health dogma into everything from land use to taxation. Imagine if sticking up for your taste in milkshakes and margaritas meant you had to attend zoning meetings. It might come to that.
At “The Pulse”, a series on health based at Philadelphia’s public radio station WHYY, reporter Taunya English describes “Health in All Policies” at more length and quotes me providing a voice of skepticism about the idea.
Can New York City really support an army of an estimated 8,300 “expediters” who run paperwork around to city offices, wait in line, haggle with officials, and generally navigate the bureaucracy on behalf of those who need permits, licenses and other municipal decisions? It’s a testimony to the dysfunction of the city’s governance [Kanner, Renn/Urbanophile]
Is a cemetery an objectionable land use, and does it matter if the neighbors’ objections are religious? [Gideon Kanner]