Freedom

Ezra's damn right about this. Go to pretty much any populated part of the United States, buy some land, and try to build something on it and you'll find that there are a lot of land-use restrictions in place. Some of these rules are good, some of them are bad (on balance I'd say we're over-regulated in this regard) but they're really all-pervasive. Then along comes the LA City Council to say you can't open a new fast food restaurant in South LA and libertarians and Will Saletan are freaking out. It's about freedom, damnit.

Well, it is on some level, but this is hardly unique. Is Saletan for abolishing liquor license regulations? Maybe he is. I don't think that's a crazy position but that would be a radical change in the way we do business. Banning fast food outlets, by contrast, is very much in line with the status quo. And though it might shock Saletan to hear about it, there are lots of upscale towns and neighborhoods all across the country that do the same thing.

Meanwhile, according to Wikipedia Saletan lives in Chevy Chase Maryland. According to the zoning regulations I downloaded from the Chevy Chase town website, it is illegal in Saletan's town to build a house on a lot of fewer than 6,000 square feet. It is also illegal to build a house that covers more than 35 percent of a lot. [UPDATE: I originally posted some erroneous math here, which you can read about in comments but I've now deleted]. This makes housing more expensive than it would be if you were allowed to use the land more intensive, or if you were allowed to slice lots up into smaller homes.

I'm pretty skeptical that these proposed South LA regulations will do any good. But it's not unique or unusual for land use regulations to exist. And working class people around the country suffer dramatically larger concrete harms from the sort of commonplace suburbanist regulations that Saletan's been living with, without apparent complaint, in Chevy Chase. Those kind of regulations are bad for the environment, bad for public health, and serve to use the power of the state to redistribute upwards. So if you're going to rail against land use regulations, maybe pick the ones that really hurt people.

Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Pittsburgh: 'It's Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Video

The Case for Napping at Work

Most Americans don't get enough sleep. More and more employers are trying to help address that.

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

Video

Stunning GoPro Footage of a Wildfire

In the field with America’s elite Native American firefighting crew

More in Politics

Just In