The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Mark Tapscott paints the broad outline of our rent-seeking legislatures:
This is why there is no evidence of increasing public support for the GOP in recent weeks despite the failling ratings of the Democratic majority in Congress. The root problem is a bipartisan inability - or refusal - to adopt policies supported by clear majorities of the American people. Those policies for the most part involve a significantly lower level of government activism, whereas the political class for the most part seeks only a higher level because it benefits, financially and otherwise, from the higher taxes, greater federal spending and heightened importance of public institutions.

This is the inevitable result of safe incumbency -- with little or no fear of losing their offices, legislators can safely concentrate on how best to reap their benefits.

Kimberley Strassel shows the fertile new ground currently being explored:
It's a green dream come true, carte blanche to promulgate endless regulations barring tree-cutting, house-building, water-damming, snowmobile-riding, waterskiing, garden-planting, or any other human activity. The section is vague ("protect," "assist," "restore") precisely so as to leave the door open to practically anything.

To maximize the value of a good, one must make it scarce. To maximize one's own profit, one must ensure a steady supply of that good. The energy bill is an exploratory venture, an attempt to seed a valuable resource for our rulers to reap in the fulness of time. And here the good in question is developable land, almost certainly the most valuable single thing in our society.

Green groups and other self-appointed protectors will cooperate with lawmakers to accomplish the first goal, throttling development with a hail of regulations and complaints. But when the lawmakers have a hand in the till, whether it be a percentage stake or a favored nephew, the second goal will be paramount; the regulations will not be promulgated, and the green groups will remain silent rather than jeopardize support for the "larger goals". [Among which I do not suppose governmental honesty is paramount. ]

To see the consequences, compare America to England, with its green belts and local development vetoes. The average American home buyer spends 3.5 years income to buy 700 square feet per person; the average Briton spends 7 years income to buy 350 square feet. This is not due to England's greater population density -- huge swathes of the countryside are empty. It is the deliberate result of regulations designed to favor the ruling and landowning classes.

On the plus side, your air-conditioning bills will be low.

[Via Glenn Reynolds and Bruce McQuain.]