Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Book Review (#30 of 2013) The Rent is Too Damn High by Matthew Yglesias

The Rent Is Too Damn High: What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think does not deserve the disparaging ratings/comments posted on Amazon. It is a fine book written by a market urbanist who explains basic supply and demand very well.

I can sum the book up with a few quotes:
"The point is that there are many ways in which expensive land can contain large numbers of people. The question is whether we’ll adopt rules that permit this rather than sticking with rules that often ban row houses and multifamily structures, generally require low buildings and large amounts of parking, and typically prescribe minimum lawn sizes—even minimum apartment sizes...This directly reduces real wages by increasing the cost of living for people in high-income metro areas. It indirectly reduces real wages by preventing people from migrating to places where job opportunities are most robust...infrastructure improvements can and should be tied to a demonstrated desire to increase population density...Progressives and urbanists need to move beyond their romance with central planning and get over their distaste for business and developers. Conservatives need to take their own ideas about economics more seriously and stop seeing all proposals for change through a lens of paranoia and resentment. Last, politicians of both parties who like to complain about “regulation” and “red tape” ought to spend some time looking at the specific area of the economy where red tape and regulation are most prevalent."

Yglesias advocates deregulation of housing and zoning, and even hypothesizes that such regulations are what is contributing to the "Great Stagnation" popularized by Tyler Cowen (my review). He aims to convince Progressives that this deregulation will lower rent in cities, shorten commutes, and improve the standards of living for people in the bottom end of the income spectrum. He criticizes conservatives for hypocritically opposing this deregulation. He explains ideas taught by Adam Smith and David Ricardo very clearly for the lay reader. In a perfect world, Yglesias would be appointed to be HUD commissioner.

4.5 stars. The only thing keeping this book from five stars is the lack of a bibliography for the economic studies Yglesias cites.

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