- Richard Pipes: “Private Property Sets the Boundary of the State” [Istituto Bruno Leoni video via Arnold Kling and Alberto Mingardi; my 1999 review of Pipes on property]
- “‘Housing is a human right,’ says [L.A.] group founded for the sole purpose of preventing new housing from being built” [@MarketUrbanism]
- “EPA Putting Red Light on Amateur Car Racing” [Kenric Ward, Reason]
- Publicity stunts in our time: “Gov. Rick Snyder target of RICO lawsuit over Flint water crisis” [Flint Journal]
- Speaking of which: lawsuit “on behalf of the future” in Oregon federal court seeks to represent youth against the federal government and major energy companies [Eugene Register-Guard]
- Some things to expect as autonomous vehicles take over, including the freeing up of a lot of expensive stuff and space urban areas [Johnny Sanfilippo, Market Urbanism]
Billboards in Washington state urging tougher environmental regulations on farmers were funded by (if this still comes as any shock) the federal taxpayers, through a grant program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And that wasn’t disclosed, although by agency rule it was supposed to be. [Don Jenkins, Capital Press] A few months ago EPA got caught illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of its own powers on the “Waters of the United States” rule. More on advocacy funding here.
Related, from way back in 1999, “Smart Growth at the Federal Trough: EPA’s Financing of the Anti-Sprawl Movement” by Peter Samuel and Randal O’Toole, Cato Policy Analysis #361:
The federal government should not subsidize one side of a public policy debate; doing so undermines the very essence of democracy. Nor should government agencies fund nonprofit organizations that exist primarily to lobby other government agencies. Congress should shut down the federal government’s anti-sprawl lobbying activities and resist the temptation to engage in centralized social engineering.
The advent of ridesharing and driverless cars will make it an even better idea to relax zoning that bars business use of household garages [Nolan Gray, Market Urbanism]
Plus, mobility and freedom: Randal O’Toole joins Trevor Burrus and Tom Clougherty at Cato “for a discussion on land usage, urban planning, public transit, transportation, and driverless cars.” [Libertarianism.org podcast]
The Slate Star Codex blogger decided to read, and belatedly review, The Art of the Deal (1988) by real estate developer and now-GOP nomination frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump and his campaign aside, the book affords insights into the legal and regulatory side of the development business. Following a funny description of the role of the real estate developer in coordinating deals, Alexander writes:
…The developer’s other job is dealing with regulations. The way Trump tells it, there are so many regulations on development in New York City in particular and America in general that erecting anything larger than a folding chair requires the full resources of a multibillion dollar company and half the law firms in Manhattan. Once the government grants approval it’s likely to add on new conditions when you’re halfway done building the skyscraper, insist on bizarre provisions that gain it nothing but completely ruin your chance of making a profit, or just stonewall you for the heck of it if you didn’t donate to the right people’s campaigns last year. Reading about the system makes me both grateful and astonished that any structures have ever been erected in the United States at all, and somewhat worried that if anything ever happens to Donald Trump and a few of his close friends, the country will lose the ability to legally construct artificial shelter and we will all have to go back to living in caves.
But if you are waiting for new proposals from Trump about reforming regulation, you might need to go on waiting:
Here is a guy whose job is cutting through bureaucracy, and who is apparently quite good at it. Yet throughout the book – and for that matter, throughout his campaign for the nomination of a party that makes cutting bureaucracy a big part of their platform – he doesn’t devote a lot of energy to expressing discontent with the system. There is no libertarian streak to Trump – in the process of successfully navigating all of these terrible rules, he rarely takes a step back and wonders about a better world where these rules don’t exist. Despite having way more ability to change the system than most people, he seems to regard it as a given, not worth debating. … the rules are there; his job is to make the best deal he can within those rules.
- “And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.” — Scalia, J., noting the commonness of violence in youthful entertainment over the centuries, in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2005), his landmark opinion confirming full First Amendment protection for videogames as works of expression [Jim Copland/City Journal, Owen Good/Polygon; contrasting Hillary Clinton position]
- Scalia made crucial fifth vote for many First Amendment liberties. Which ones are safe now? [Ronald Collins first, second posts]
- Wisconsin redux? Montana ethics official targets political adversaries with subpoenas [Will Swaim, Reason]
- Goaded by governments, Facebook now has big program in Europe “finding and then removing comments that promote xenophobia.” [Independent, U.K.] Sad to see Israeli official backing legal curbs on freedom of social media [Times of Israel]
- “Flemming Rose talks about the decision to publish 12 cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.” [“Free Thoughts” podcast with Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, Cato’s Libertarianism.org]
- 2016 workplan from ACLU doesn’t include free speech as a main concern, and some aren’t surprised by that [Ronald Collins]
- “Appeals Court Tells City It Can’t Use Its Terribly-Written Zoning Laws To Censor Speech” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Fourth Circuit, Norfolk, Va.]
- Remembering William Tucker, author of books on many subjects including the 1982 classic on environmentalism, Progress and Privilege, and a valued friend of long standing [RealClearEnergy, where he was founding editor]
- Scalia took lead in defending property rights vs. regulatory takings, but mostly not by deploying originalist analysis. A missed opportunity, thinks Ilya Somin;
- What? Children in parts of Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, etc. have higher blood lead levels than in Flint [Detroit News] Flint water department didn’t use standard $150/day neutralizing treatment. Why not? [Nolan Finley, Detroit News] Children in Michigan generally ten years ago had higher prevalence of lead in blood at concern thresholds than children in Flint today [David Mastio, USA Today] Earlier here and here;
- On eminent domain, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seem to be “talking past each other, about two different things” [Gideon Kanner]
- Saboteurs going after Canadian pipelines [CBC]
- “Mission or Craftsman style” was insisted on, but the resulting vacant lot doesn’t seem to be either: south L.A. grocery scheme dies after decade-long urban-planning fight [Los Angeles Times]
- As prices plunge: “Where Have All the Peak Oilers Gone?” [Ronald Bailey, Reason]
- On the Flint water fiasco, building for many months now, multiple levels of governments have plenty to answer for [Detroit News (“Lower-level [state DEQ] officials continued to downplay severity of Flint’s drinking water problems for almost 3 more months.”), The Hill and Detroit News (EPA), earlier and on government impunity] More: David Mastio, USA Today (even after fiasco, prevailing blood-lead levels in Flint children greatly improved from ten years ago); Rob Sisson/ConserveFewell; Matt Pearce/L.A. Times.
- Background on Oregon standoff: what would a market-based federal lands grazing program look like? [Randal O’Toole, earlier on Malheur refuge occupation here, here]
- “Trying to Build a Catskills Resort Despite Mountains of Regulation” [Cori O’Connor, WSJ]
- “Next stop for Paris climate deal: the courts” [Politico] Chart overview of climate change litigation in U.S. [Arnold & Porter via Kyle White, Abnormal Use]
- “The emerging cross-ideological consensus on zoning” [Ilya Somin] “Zoning Laws Transfer Wealth in the Wrong Direction” [Noah Smith]
- Time for Supreme Court to revisit its doctrine on exhaustion of state litigation remedies in takings cases [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- Pulitzer logrolling, politicization of Columbia J-school are old stories, but vendetta against Exxon adds a few new twists [Fraser Seitel, O’Dwyer, earlier]
Bay Area progressives are fond of blaming new-arriving rich techies for the dizzying rise in San Francisco housing costs. Yet the trail just as plausibly leads back to the door of some of the same people doing the demonizing, who have resisted the building of serious new housing capacity in the city. [Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic]
Like me, Friedersdorf was also struck by the story (told on public radio’s This American Life) of a San Francisco after-school program’s school musical, an anti-“gentrification” propaganda effort, which trained kids as young as six to go on stage in a production portraying their parents’ class as moral monsters. Shouldn’t that wait for college?
- Cato podcast with William Fischel on his new book Zoning Rules! The Economics of Land Use Regulation;
- If traveling with your pet skunk, avoid Tennessee [Mental Floss, “15 Surprising Animal Laws That Are Still on the Books”]
- “How Land-Use Regulation Undermines Affordable Housing” [Sanford Ikeda and Emily Washington, Mercatus via Market Urbanism] Head of Obama administration Council of Economic Advisers gives speech pinning high housing costs on land use regulation, but don’t get hopes up about policy changes quite yet [Randal O’Toole, Cato]
- Panel on role of Congress in environmental law at Federalist Society National Lawyers’ Convention with David Schoenbrod, Eric Claeys, Matt Leggett, and Nicholas Robinson, moderated by the Hon. Steven Colloton [YouTube]
- “Market urbanist” position criticized (Steve Randy Waldman) and defended (Jeff Fong);
- Mysteries of Los Angeles: drive to limit large residential developments is being led in part by… AIDS Healthcare Foundation? [L.A. Times]
- “On the misuse of environmental history to defend the EPA’s WOTUS rule” [Jonathan Adler, earlier on Waters of the United States rule]
So does this mean better days ahead for New York, a terribly misgoverned state? As one who has been writing about New York politics since way back, I can’t bring myself to be too optimistic.
I got interested in Silver originally because of his distinctive role as protector of New York’s trial lawyers… But legal policy was only one of the many pots in which Silver kept his fingers, as Steven Malanga and Seth Barron detail in separate articles at City Journal. New York sluices huge amounts of money in its gigantic social services apparatus through non-profits, and friends of Sheldon were there to profit. Real estate development in New York is subject to famously convoluted restrictions, and huge sums are at stake in its rent control and rent stabilization system. Again and again, Silver was there to broker deals for his friends behind the scenes….
So long as New York pursues failed policies like rent control, it will open huge leeway for hidden favoritism. And then, sure as day, in will move the Sheldon Silver types.