In Danish happiness: bicycle infrastructure I described the Danish system of road/curb/bike path/curb/sidewalk. What if a significant percentage of a society used bicycles for transportation, but nobody bothered to build infrastructure? That’s the Netherlands!
I recently visited a friend in Delft, a university town south of Amsterdam. There are no generally no curbs at all in the downtown area. The road is informally divided into car/bike/pedestrian, but these divisions can change depending on what exactly is sticking out from a house, possibly forcing pedestrians into the bike area, or whether a truck is trying to use the road.
The risk of injury has ballooned in the last few years due to the popularity of cargo bikes and electric bikes. Instead of getting hit by a 200 lb. person-bike combo going 8 mph you’ll get hit by a 400 lb. person-small person-groceries-bike combo going 15 mph. “Trouble in cyclists’ paradise: Amsterdam accused of favouring pedestrians” (Guardian 2021) describes the increasing conflict between walkers and bikers in Amsterdam.
There aren’t as many collisions as you’d imagine, but pedestrians are required to be constantly mindful. This works for the Dutch, but tourists are frequently wandering casually into near-collisions with cyclists. What the cyclists have gained is balanced by a loss of mental peace and capacity among pedestrians.
Here’s a narrow street designed for pedestrians in The Hague:
The bicycle is being used for transportation, not recreation, so it might be whipping by these pedestrians at 10-20 mph. Here are the two transportation modes interacting in Delft:
Maybe those white boxes are supposed to delineate between walking and biking? Or maybe there are two lanes for opposite directions? I didn’t figure it out.
Just a few of the bikes parked near the Amsterdam Zuid secondary station:
What if you choose “neither” but don’t have a car and/or don’t want to pay what my rich local friend said were insanely expensive parking fees? Take the tram!
Interested in escaping to the mountains for all or part of the summer? Here’s a report, based on 2023 visits, regarding three possibilities.
Park City, Utah (elevation 7,000′) is the best choice if you’re passionate about Pride and 2SLGBTQQIA+. The city purchased at least 100 trans-enhanced rainbow flags and has hung them from every lamppost in the small downtown area. You can pay obeisance to Rainbow Flagism before you think about entering a business establishment, which might in turn have its own 2SLGBTQQIA+ talismans on the windows or door. If you’re not a follower of the state religion, however, you might be annoyed by Park City’s tilted situation. There are no level streets downtown. Park City is great if you’re planning to break a bone doing an adventure sport or if you’re planning on suffering a total body meltdown due to old age. A friend went from ski accident in Park City to world-class University of Utah hospital in 25 minutes via ambulance. The surrounding area is certainly more scenic than most of Florida, but it is far from any National Park.
Big Sky, Montana exemplifies everything that is bad about American sprawl. There are three main developments spread out along a highway, none of which has sufficient critical mass to constitute a city or even a “town”. Let’s call them three strip malls, one of which includes ski lifts. Everything is part of a single “resort”, which is able to impose a 4% sales tax on everything sold by the stores within Big Sky (Montana itself has no sales tax, so stock up in Bozeman or West Yellowstone!). But the resort corporation ignored all of the principles of New Urbanism and the sprawl does not feel planned. You can be crammed into a townhouse or condo development or you can be isolated and car-dependent far out from one of the three strip malls.
For peasants, Big Sky is tough to access. It is a 1.5-hour drive from the regional airport in Bozeman. The elite will sometimes do this or Gulfstream it to KWYS, a 35-minute drive away and blessed with an 8400′ runway and approaches down to 200′ AGL.
The exception to the above might be for the rich folks who hang out together in the Yellowstone Club (two shared and one private helipad inside so that the above drives are rendered unnecessary). Otherwise, Big Sky shows the genius of the New Urbanism folks who created our community. The shared gym, pool, lawn, playground, etc. for every 150-200 households and the compact layout (but still mostly single-family homes) facilitate social connections.
If you’re going to check out Big Sky and coming from sea level, I recommend the Marriott “Wilson”, which is in the middle strip mall that is 1,000′ lower than the base of the ski hill. This hotel was built in 2019 and folks say that the base lodges are getting worn and tired. There is a good walk down to an impressive waterfall. Bidenflation is a Republican lie: my haircut (without shampoo) at the local barber shop was only $55 plus tip. Here are the prices at the local Mexican food truck where local laborers get lunch (13 Bidies for a sandwich):
Jackson, Wyoming (elevation 6,237′) shows the importance of flatness. Hills are great if it is winter and you want to ski, but they’re annoying if you’re going to the supermarket. Jackson has a huge amount of more-or-less flat valley area that enables the development of a functional city, an extensive bike path network that you don’t need to be a hero to enjoy, etc. The wildlife art museum is a great place to hang out, especially because the members’ room is open to all and there is a good restaurant on site. You could spend 4-5 hours here with a meal and then doing some reading while looking out over the elk refuge. Jackson has its own regional airport (kind of a short runway and the approaches aren’t great, but airlines serve it). It also has an in-town low-elevation ski hill that looks good for beginners (the eponymous ski resort for Jackson is huge and terrifying).
Jackson offers quick access to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that it will take nearly 5 hours to drive to the nearest real city: Salt Lake. I’m sure that the local hospital is great for orthopedics, but if you need any other high-end specialist it will be quite a project to see a doctor in Salt Lake City. The lack of inflation meant that it was only $30 plus tip for Pad Thai in Jackson:
Residential construction was proceeding at a feverish place in all of the places that we visited (on our way to a Chinese level of population density!), but even where it seemed that a lot of land was available the prices were stratospheric. Park City was perhaps the most affordable. In Big Sky and Jackson, the townhouse lifestyle is $1-2 million and the single-family houses with a big of land and a gorgeous view were mostly $4-10 million. Here’s the downtown Jackson view on Zillow. Note that many of these multi-$million properties are either apartments or vacant land.
Tax implications: Wyoming has no personal income tax. If you end up getting stuck there for more than 6 months or fall in love with Jackson and decide to make it your primary home, you won’t pay income tax. Utah and Montana both have income taxes. None of the three states have estate or inheritance taxes. The family law systems and associated profits for alimony and child support plaintiffs are quite different among these three states as well. See Real World Divorce.
Conclusion: I think that Jackson is the nicest place among the above three. Unfortunately, it is also everyone else’s favorite so it is super expensive. The long distance from a major city is concerning as well. Due to the urban layout, it should be easier to build a social life in Jackson than in Big Sky or Park City. That said, it probably still wouldn’t be that easy due to the large percentage of transients.
On the third hand: If you stay in Florida for the summer, you are unlikely to suffer from forest fire smoke, a problem that has been common for thousands of years in the mountain states, especially up north. Here’s the sky in the Titusville/Cape Canaveral area on July 1, 2023, when folks in the Midwest and Northeast were putting their N95s back on:
In his most forceful pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered sweeping new federal vaccine requirements for as many as 100 million Americans — private-sector employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors — in an all-out effort to curb the surging COVID-19 delta variant.
Speaking at the White House, Biden sharply criticized the tens of millions of Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said, all but biting off his words. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”
The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Biden is also requiring vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
Biden announced the new requirements in a Thursday afternoon address from the White House as part of a new “action plan” to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots.
What is there to like about any of the above?
Let’s consider disability lifestyle enhancements during the Biden administration.
Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities
I.e., a pretty good summary of how I feel every morning while attempting to get out of bed. Is there anyone over age 40 who wouldn’t qualify as a long COVID sufferer?
Once your claim for disability due to long COVID is accepted, you don’t have to pay back those student loans that have been overwhelming your finances (NYT: “$10 Billion in Student Debt Erased Under Biden, but Calls Grow for More”).
(Separately, have we noticed COVID Karens displaying thinner/fitter bodies compared to 1.5 years ago and compared to their COVID-ignoring Deplorable counterparts? If people are more worried about COVID, shouldn’t they have been exercising a lot more over the past 1.5 years compared to people who weren’t afraid to resume their lives?)
Other than qualifying for disability, how could a working age American escape being hassled by all of these new requirements and simultaneously avoid the risks of contracting COVID-19? A purely remote job sounds like a possible solution, but the government and employer can presumably still impose requirements as a condition of continued employment (anti-racism training, sexual harassment training, vaccine requirements, etc.), just as Rutgers constructively expelled an unvaccinated student who was taking classes from home.
As we celebrate Tax Day (updated date for coronapanic) and you add up what you’re paying to the Feds and states, it might cheer you up to look back to this 2019 article from a former Senator and a former top executive at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Wall Street Journal article on income inequality:
Official measures of income inequality, the numbers being debated, are profoundly distorted by what the Census Bureau chooses to count as household income.
The published census data for 2017 portray the top quintile of households as having almost 17 times as much income as the bottom quintile. But this picture is false. The measure fails to account for the one-third of all household income paid in federal, state and local taxes. Since households in the top income quintile pay almost two-thirds of all taxes, ignoring the earned income lost to taxes substantially overstates inequality.
The Census Bureau also fails to count $1.9 trillion in annual public transfer payments to American households. The bureau ignores transfer payments from some 95 federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, which make up more than 40% of federal spending, along with dozens of state and local programs. Government transfers provide 89% of all resources available to the bottom income quintile of households and more than half of the total resources available to the second quintile.
Today government redistributes sufficient resources to elevate the average household in the bottom quintile to a net income, after transfers and taxes, of $50,901—well within the range of American middle-class earnings. The average household in the second quintile is only slightly better off than the average bottom-quintile household. The average second-quintile household receives only 9.4% more, even though it earns more than six times as much income, it has more than twice the proportion of its prime working-age individuals employed, and they work twice as many hours a week on average. The average middle-income household is only 32% better off than the average bottom-quintile households despite earning more than 13 times as much, having 2.5 times as many of prime working-age individuals employed and working more than twice as many hours a week.
Condensed version of the above: Your spending power will be roughly the same if you don’t work at all (and therefore don’t have to file tax returns, extensions, estimated tax, etc.) than if you work full time, unless you are a high-skill worker who can command a wage that is well above the median. The article includes a chart from 2017, before all of the Coronawelfare was ladled on top:
Note the flat shape of the “Net income” (i.e., spending power) curve until one is in the top 20 percent. The old sourpusses who wrote the article conclude with a scolding tone:
America already redistributes enough income to compress the income difference between the top and bottom quintiles from 60 to 1 in earned income down to 3.8 to 1 in income received. If 3.8 to 1 is too large an income differential, those who favor more redistribution need to explain to the bottom 60% of income-earning households why they should keep working when they could get almost as much from riding in the wagon as they get now from pulling it.
But, as Cicero noted more than 2000 years ago, “The cash that comes from selling your labour is vulgar and unacceptable for a gentleman … for wages are effectively the bonds of slavery.” Maybe the fact that we’ve created the world’s largest group of humans who don’t work is a feature, not a bug?
(Separately, I don’t see how the above calculation can be done accurately. Many of our brothers, sisters, and binary resisters who receive free housing and/or reduced rent are in private-sector apartment buildings that have been ordered by local governments to provide free or reduced rent. The rent subsidy is reflected in higher rents paid by market-rate tenants, not in a local government’s budget.)
A European eyeglass retailer published a screen time index based on data gathered in mid-October 2020 (i.e., during coronapanic).
Americans were champions at watching TV, dominating all other nations (175 minutes/day compared to 119 minutes in Ireland and 113 in Switzerland). Colombia and Mexico were the only other nations that came close to matching our couch potato achievement.
And, before we wisely decided, in response to a virus that attacks the obese, to lock ourselves into our apartments and park next to the fridge, how were we doing with obesity? Our government loves to sort us by race:
If you’re a white guy whom United Airlines doesn’t want to hire, there is a 75 percent chance you’re “overweight” (i.e., fat). If you’re a Black woman whom United Airlines does want to hire, there is an 80 percent chance you’re “overweight”. Maybe after a few of these quota-arranged training classes graduate it will be time to un-mothball the Airbus A380s (1,265,000 lbs. max gross weight)!
[My recollection is that taking an average within the NHANES data reveals that American “women” (whatever that term might mean) actually have a higher BMI than American “men”. That’s not necessarily inconsistent with the above tables, which look only at those who’ve exceeded a threshold, but maybe it is worth exploring.]
During my travels around the U.S. and in conversations with people from various European nations, I’ve come to realize that COVID-19 could be considered primarily a mental condition in that the same virus has radically different effects depending on an individual’s or society’s psychology. People in Sweden, Florida, South Dakota, for example, have the same information regarding COVID-19 that everyone else has, but they process this information differently than folks in Germany, California, or Massachusetts. Given the information that life has become slightly riskier, it isn’t inevitable that a human or group of humans would choose a particular course of action.
One thing that is unusual about the U.S. is that we have the power to move among radically different social, economic, and legal environments simply by moving from state to state. Think that having sex with a high-income person such as Hunter Biden should result in higher spending power than going to college and working? Move to Massachusetts (the sex act yielded $2.5 million tax-free in the Arkansas courts). Think that college+medical school+working as a physician should pay more than having sex with a dermatologist? Move to Texas, where child support profits are capped. Agree with Bernie Sanders that Black Lives Matter, but don’t want to live with any Black people? Move to Vermont. Want to live among Latinx and pay a total tax rate of 4 percent? Move to Puerto Rico. Love guns? Arizona.
The same situation applies with reactions to Covid-19. If you want the governor to tell you when it is legal to leave your house, California and Massachusetts are great choices (ranking). If you don’t think shutdowns and school closures are effective ways to deal with Covid-19 and/or you simply think that continuity of education, social life, and fitness are more important than avoiding Covid-19, you could move to any of the states ranked 70+ on that list: Iowa, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Idaho, South Dakota, Alaska, Utah, Florida, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin.
Can it make sense to move permanently in response to a temporary situation? COVID-19 will be gone soon, thanks to the vaccines, and we’ll be “back to normal”, right? My personal theory is that there is enough potential for the virus to evolve that people who want to be restricted will continue to seek restrictions going forward. I personally know quite a few people who, despite being vaccinated and/or having had actual Covid-19 (mild symptoms, but positive PCR tests) continue to be afraid to go out, wear masks even outdoors, etc.
(See also Tyler Cowen’s “Covid Has Made Where You Live Matter Even More,”Bloomberg, April 5: “Overall the Southeast would seem to be a big winner, as the psychological effects of low rates of unemployment may prove more durable than the effects of high rates of casualties.”)
It doesn’t make sense to move to a state with a state income or estate tax, however. Let’s intersect with income-tax-free states. Now we’re down to South Dakota, Alaska, Florida, and Tennessee. South Dakota is an awesome state for domestic asset protection trusts (along with Nevada, this is where America’s billionaires keep their trusts, but the ultimate protection may not work unless you live in SD or NV) and thus is a good place to preserve wealth from potential plaintiffs. It is a lovely place to spend the summer, but if you have school-age children you don’t want to be stuck there December through February. With apologies to friends in Anchorage, that goes double for Alaska! Now we’re down to Florida and Tennessee. Nashville, for example, is reasonably nice in January, with average highs of 48 degrees, but Tennessee is more of a working state than a fun/retirement state. If you’re going to move, why not move to a playground? And Miami, oddly enough, despite being much warmer in winter is actually slightly cooler in the summer than Nashville. Finally, I am not sure that the WalletHub ranking of Coronafreedom makes sense. The Tennessee governor declined the Central Tyrant job and did not order everyone to wear masks. However, unlike in Florida, where the governor forbade local tyrants from imposing mask laws with fines, the Tennessee governor simply delegated tyranny to counties: “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has not been a statewide mask mandate in place in the state of Tennessee, however, local authorities were given the authority to issue mask mandates within their own jurisdictions.” A state with empowered local tyrants is not exactly free! Thus, as so many fleeing Wall Streeters have discovered, it all comes down to Florida.
This is a report on my own January/February exploration trip to Florida in the Cirrus SR20...
Covid Olympics. If you assume that masks are effective, from a practical disease transmission point of view, Florida should have roughly the same coronaplague rate as Maskachusetts. Just as in MA, people generally wear masks when inside retail stores. Just as in MA, restaurants are open and servers wear masks, but people don’t wear masks at the tables. Florida has a higher percentage of schools that are open (100% since October), but MA has enough schools open that Covid-19 can certainly spread. It is uncommon to see someone outdoors in Florida with a mask on, but #science hasn’t established that coronaplague is among outdoors. Death rate chart from the CDC, with MA in green:
The chart shows that the denial of education to urban children, wearing masks in the forest, sitting at home next to the fridge for 12 months, etc. here un Massachusetts have not resulted in a lower death rate statistic. But if you were to point this out to someone in Florida, most likely he/she/ze/they would respond with “So what? We didn’t send a team to the COVID Olympics.” The post-Covid priorities of the typical Floridian seem to be the same as the pre-Covid priorities. If he/she/ze/they has children, the priorities are ensuring that those children get a good education and a variety of mask-free fun after-school sports. If he/she/ze/they does not have children, the priorities are gathering with friends, working, staying fit, etc. (I was there in late January and few people had been vaccinated, so those over 70 would avoid crowded indoor spaces and seek to dine at outdoor tables whenever going to a restaurant.) Where someone in Massachusetts might talk about whether he or she felt “safe” [from Covid] doing something, the Floridian will simply talk about the activity itself.
Yard Signage and Bumper Stickers. Although Florida is a swing state and it is possible that a yard sign advocating for a political candidate might change the outcome of an election, yard signs occur at only 1/100th the rate of what we have in the Boston suburbs. The same goes for bumper stickers. Would you like to know whether Black Lives Matter to your neighbor? You’ll have to ask him/her/zir/them. Driving around and wondering “In this house, what do they believe?” You’ll have to knock on the door to find out unless….
Gainesville. Beautiful campus for University of Florida, but not a beautiful or vibrant town. Apparently when the smart young people graduate they go somewhere else. Particularly unsuitable for aviation enthusiasts as the (great) airport is on the opposite side of town from the nicer real estate (tucked away in suburban developments that have a minimal relationship to Gainesville). At least with respect to Covid-19, the students seem smarter than the (cowering out of personal fear) Ivy League to whom I’ve talked recently. “We’d behave differently,” one sophomore said, “if we lived with our grandparents, but we don’t. There is no reason for us to be afraid of getting the virus and we live more than 100 miles away from our older relatives. Classes are mostly remote, so the only people that we interact with are other young people who aren’t at risk.”
Guess which department has the ugliest building? Note the students hunting for shark’s teeth in a nearby park and the selfie park at the FBO.
Sarasota. Folks with kids will want to live on the mainland rather than one of the islands (great for beach access, but the traffic can be slow getting on/off for the various services and activities that kids need). The neighborhood around the Southside Elementary School is probably the most desirable, with Camino Real being the best street and anything east of the Tamiami Trail being cheaper. Overall, however, Sarasota is more geared around the retired than those of school age. Great airport shared by air carriers and general aviation, about 13 minutes from the Southside school.
The Ringling (world’s only fine art and circus museum!) and the latest condo development for oligarchs (from my friend’s boat).
View from my friend’s apartment and his neighborhood from the air on departure…
Naples. A nice walkable downtown area. Attractive architecture. World-class restaurants at Manhattan prices (if restaurants in Manhattan were open!). There are some young people in town, but they’re apparently mostly tourists. As with Sarasota, this is a place where people go to retire. Great airport, 10 minutes from downtown, that is used only for general aviation. It was so busy in late January that jets parked on the ramp were interlaced like jets in a hangar (i.e., it wouldn’t have been possible to get one out of the middle without an hour or two of tugging).
Miami. The ultimate party town now that Los Angeles and New York have locked themselves out of the running and probably even before. “I can never get any work done here,” said one of the private equity guys I was with. KTMB is the preferred airport and it is along haul from Miami Beach (nearly 40 minutes without traffic). KOPF is a little closer, but nobody seems to like it. If you aren’t going to hit the clubs and don’t have to be in the city for work, why put up with the congestion, traffic, and high real estate prices?
The Wynwood Walls (decluttered now that they’re charging $10 to get in), breakfast cereals for the Age of Coronapanic (Franken Fat, Cap’n Corn Starch, Obesie Os from Killkidds), transportation on which it would be good to get Dr. Fauci’s opinion regarding safety, and a group of #ScienceDeniers gathering at a rooftop club.
Key West. We went there in a Cirrus Vision Jet to visit a friend who is a passionate Massachusetts Democrat and just happens to live here for 183 days per year (that way he skips on state income tax and folks other than him can pay for the bigger government that he advocates…). In such a small place I think it would be tough to find specialized teachers, coaches, doctors, etc. for the modern-day helicopter parented child. The airport has a short-ish runway (5,000′) and is monopolized, with associated monopoly rates, by Bill Gates’s Signature Flight Support (jet fuel for those as concerned as Bill G about climate change). Fun to say that you’ve been here.
Wellington Aero Club. West of Palm Beach, right up against the $25 million horse barns of America’s billionaires, you can open your garage door and taxi your twin-engine turbojet out to the 4,000′ private runway (FD38). Good public schools. Great country club for golf and tennis next door. I had a nice time here visiting a friend whose wife is a serious horse rider, but I wouldn’t want to be this far from the beach (30-40 minutes, depending on the specific beach). (See “How a Sleepy Florida Town Became the Horse Riding Capital of the World”
In their righteous muscular efforts to “control” coronavirus, some state governors and city mayors have ordered restaurants shut down, except for outdoor dining. In response, restaurants have built four-sided tents filled with CO2-emitting propane heaters. It is unclear why this is different from being indoors, other than the lack of a real HVAC system. The tent sides are necessary, though, because otherwise the propane heat will blow away.
A lot of cars have heated seats. When the seat heater is on, most drivers will set the interior temperature 3-7 degrees lower than with the seat heater off. Why not apply the same technology to houses?
Imagine being at home in a 65-degree house. Even in a T-shirt and jeans, it would probably be comfortable to walk around, stir a pot on the stove, carry laundry, scrub and clean, walk on a treadmill while typing on a computer (as I’m doing now!). However, if one were to sit down and read a book, it would begin to seem cold. Why not install heat in all of the seats and beds of the house? And sensors to turn the heat on and off automatically? In a lot of ways, this would be more comfortable than a current house because the air temperature would be set for actively moving around while the seat temperature would be set for sedentary activities.
There is a fine line between brilliant and stupid, of course, but could it be that coronaplague has pushed this idea over the line?
A Dutch company, sit & heat, seems to have thought of this: heated cushions that can fit into a standard frame. Serta makes a chair-shaped electric quilt (could not survive outdoors) for only $64. A plastic chair with a built-in 750-watt heater is $900 (Galanter & Jones; they have sofas too at roughly $6,000 and claim they are “cast stone”).
If heated chairs were mass-produced in Asia, presumably the cost per chair would be only about $100 more than a regular outdoor chair. That should be affordable for a restaurant.
The elderly folks whom I know that live in “independent living” retirement homes have now been locked down for six months. They can’t socialize, which was their motivation for moving into the dorm-style environment. The dining rooms are closed and meals are brought to their apartments. The shared athletic and activity facilities have been closed. Many are widows who are essentially locked into solitary confinement.
For folks who had only 4 years of life expectancy remaining, in order to protect them from a 5-20 percent chance of dying from coronaplague, they have now had a 100 percent chance of losing out on most of the things that they valued for 12 percent of their life expectancy.
(A friend’s mom has actually lost nearly 100 percent of the things that she enjoys for 100 percent of what turned out to be her remaining life. This widow was locked down in March, giving up her four weekly exercise classes and her multiple hours per day of socializing and excursions. She was feeling worse and worse. Eventually she got to see a doctor and was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She is almost certain to die befor the lockdown is lifted.)
On the other hand, the elderly folks that are living in regular houses or apartment buildings are free to visit family members, free to socialize with each other, free to go out to stores (whichever ones the governors and state license rajs will permit to open!), free to go to the beach, etc.
Independent living facilities are fairly expensive. Hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy in (co-op or condo) and then thousands of dollars per month for services, most of which are now shut down. Why spend this money and put oneself at risk of a multi-month or multi-year lockdown, whatever the state governor feels like ordering? Why not instead stay in an ordinary house or apartment building and hire a helper for a few hours per day if needed?
The first of many ironies, of course, is that single-family zoning became the standard for American suburbs during the New Deal when the Roosevelt administration, through various programs such as the Home Owners Loan Corporation, required it for home refinancing assistance.
These onerous regulations were further mandated for new construction by the Federal Housing Administration as well as the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
So if you want federal support for your housing, build a single-family home. If you want to live in that downtown shop with the house on the second floor, convert your house to a two- or three-unit building and rent it out—or do any number of normal and reasonable things that humans had been doing with their property for centuries to build their own wealth and prosperity—don’t expect assistance from the government.
Regarding some new proposed laws and regulations:
So, suburban governments, you won’t get the subsidy this time unless you repeal the regulation we required you to enact decades ago to get the subsidy we were offering back then. And we oppose this today because we are conservatives?
This article seems ill-timed in light of the fact that Americans, as evidenced by recent policy and spending, care about only one thing: coronavirus infection. Isn’t the bleak isolated car-dependent suburban lifestyle (“broad lawns and narrow minds”) the best defense against the evils of Covid-19?
A friend has a beautiful house, decorated to a museum standard, here in our boring suburb of Boston (Zillow). I thought that it would be snapped up by an eager buyer, but it has been on the market for a while.
I’m wondering if coronaplague will push a rich Back Bay condo dweller to say “If we’re going to have lockdowns every few years, I want to live in 6,000+ square feet on 2+ acres.”
Cities like New York pay a price for being both dense and cosmopolitan. As a new study from Heartland Forward reveals, the prime determinants of high rates of infection include such things as density, percentage of foreign residents, age, presence of global supply chains, and reliance on tourism and hospitality. Globally, the vast majority of cases occur in places that are both densely populated and connected to the global economy. Half of all COVID-19 cases in Spain, for example, have occurred in Madrid, while the Lombardy region in Italy, which includes the city of Milan, accounts for roughly half of all cases in the country and over 60% of the deaths.
In the long run, the extraordinary concentration of COVID-19 cases in New York threatens an economy and a social fabric that were already unraveling before the outbreak began. The city’s job growth rate has slowed and was slated to decline further, noted the New York City Independent Budget Office. Critically, New York’s performance in such high wage fields as business services, finance, and tech was weakening compared to other American metros. Half of all the city’s condos built since 2015 lie unsold as oligarchs, drug lords, celebrities, and others lose interest in luxury real estate now that cash, much of it from China, is drying up.
What happens when folks who say that the deplore inequality all get together in one big city?
Today the top 1% in New York are taking in over 40% of the city’s income—about double the top 1-percenter income share nationally in the United States—while much of the city’s population find themselves left behind. Even the epicenter of gentrification, Brooklyn, actually got poorer in the first decade of the new millennium.
This reflected in large part a precipitous fall in middle income jobs—those that pay between 80% and 200% of the median income. Over the past 20 years, such jobs barely grew in New York, while such employment soared 10 times as quickly in Texas cities and throughout much of the South and Intermountain West. Of the estimated 175,000 net new private sector jobs created in the city since 2017, fewer than 20% are paying middle-class salaries. Amid enormous wealth, some 40% of working families now basically live at or near the poverty line.
(Let’s hope AOC will reverse this trend!)
Readers: Is it possible that virtual socialization tools and habits honed during the coronaplague will make the suburbs cool (again?)? My pet idea would be a video wall in every home that would let a family’s best friends visit virtually (similar to my pet idea for a video wall that can show a life-sized co-worker). At a minimum, will coronaplague help the suburban real estate market? (At least here in the Boston area, downtown real estate has performed much better in recent years.)