February 07, 2006


In this corner...

Thomas Sowell, stalwart conservative columnist/author, has in a recent piece of work pointed his head at yet another American injustice – greenspace. And amazingly enough, Sowell says it’s the wealthy causing all the trouble. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Sowell cause without the ever-scapegoatable “media elites” and his opinion that they are among the wealthy more likely to be living in the highest-priced housing markets of our country. He blames them for sticking to their agenda of keeping out other people in the name of preservation while decrying developers as selfish and greedy.

Sowell cites a study from the Journal of Law and Economics that concluded, “In the sprawling cities of the American heartland, land remains cheap, real construction costs are falling and expanding supply keeps housing costs low.” Please note the use of the word sprawling. Why then, Mr. Sowell asks, are there parts of the U.S. where housing costs have skyrocketed? I am amazed that a supply-sider like him points the “ah-ha!” finger so quickly at... land-use restrictions?

Oh, they are disguised by names like “open space” and “greenbelt” laws, or “whatever will sell politically,” he says. “People who already own their homes don’t worry about whether such laws will drive housing prices sky high. Somebody else will have to pay those prices...” Or not, Mr. Sowell – welcome to free market America. Not everybody can afford to have the (second?) house on the lake or coastal beach. But Sowell wants to cynically paint an elitist conspiracy against the laws of supply and demand, when the fact is there’s simply not enough room for many more people to live in America's most desirable places if they are to remain desirable. He feigns concern that there are those in California who have to smash the old rule of thumb that your housing costs should be about one fourth of your income (a dire situation that is more likely to be exploited by the mainstream media because, he says, "bad news sells"). Hey, I’m no economist, and I am baffled by how California can maintain full employment in the service occupations, but people live where they can afford and if not they are making an unwise choice that will eventually be corrected through tragic financial hardship or a simple skeedaddle to someplace else.

Sowell says that protected open space “that might otherwise provide homes for others becomes in effect free parkland for (the existing homeowners), while such upscale communities use ‘open space’ laws to keep out the masses.” Be still, my bleeding heart! Parkland is parkland, so I would not consider it selfish until a resident adjacent to it would rise up and say “Not in my taxpayer-funded viewshed!” to passing birdwatchers and mountain bikers before I had a problem with more of less housing.

From there Sowell incredibly points out that “green liars” and “environmental zealots” overlook the fact that forested land in the U.S. is more than three times as large as what is covered by urbania, and that somehow belies their concern for preservation. A three-to-one ratio is a good thing, Tom, and in my opinion could be improved upon. More incredible still is his assertion that surplus crop production shows that there is “too much farmland producing more than the market can absorb,” and then adds to his feigned concern all the chemicals in the soil, etc. that the green liars don’t mention. I think they do mention it, Mr. Sowell, and are certainly more sincere than you. But how does this relate to say, the price of housing in China Grove, N.C.?

I’m not going to say there has never been an abuse of preservation laws, and I generally disagree with the overbearing green philosophy that our wild places should be roped off. But on the list of “evil things produced by capitalism” I don't think greenspace is an issue worth complaining about, unless you’re trying to stir up class resentment with a specious argument about the “cost” of open space (Sowell must have learned it from those damned liberals). When it comes to acquiring more land for the public and preserving it “down to the seventh generation” as the saying goes, there is no better time than yesterday to get started as far as I’m concerned. May the world we leave them be a better one than was left to us.

Why no link to Sowell's article so we can read it and judge for ourselves?
Done. Thanks for pointing that out, Mark. Say, have you ever visited any of the mid-peninsula open space preserves in the Bay Area?
"Say, have you ever visited any of the mid-peninsula open space preserves in the Bay Area?"

As a matter of fact, I just worked on a house smack in the middle of one. The house, a new construction, is owned by an ex-employee of MEGACOMPUTERCOMPANY that shall, as of now, go nameless.

Mr. Green and Clean Air himself, this little pencil neck would drive to the job each day in his oh-so-prominently marked CLEAN AIR VEHICLE to meet with the prime contractor while painters were busily spraying laquer in an open environment, a huge EPA and OSHA violation. The 8,000 square foot house is being built on land that he must access via open space. But no one else is allowed to drive up there.

If you have enough money, you can buy the right to trash the environment while preaching to others about what they must do to save it.

Fucking hypocrites.

Um, why do you ask?

I ask because it's beautiful, no?

As for the pencil neck (as well as your Rainforest Action Network buddy), like I said, there is abuse of open space, and in Cali you know its gonna be where the rich can build their "eco-friendly" single-family hotels. But as I also said, the concept of green space for me goes WAY beyond real estate prices in our lifetime.

I can think of 1,001 worse things about which one could be a hypocrite.
For example?

There aren't that many high-paying JOBS in the "sprawling heartland." It really isn't that complicated. If you're making $50K as an inhouse counsel to a heartland company and get offered a $150K job plus a mortgage break in Los Angeles, well...
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