Immigration and Trust


Do we only really trust people who are like us? And if so, is that a mistake?

Distrust of the unfamiliar and the foreign is a natural survival mechanism for most species, including the human species. But, if empirical evidence is worth anything, a reflexive distrust of the foreigner cannot be said to be equally benign. Distrust sows fear. And fear plays in the hands of demagogues and can turn into a contagious pathology with numerous undesirable consequences.  read more »

Portland’s Congestion Plans Are Working


Portland’s transportation policies are working. At least, they’re working if you think their goal is to increase congestion in order to encourage people to find alternatives to driving. At least, the increased-congestion part is working, but not many are finding alternatives to driving.  read more »

Mind the Gap


I spent the last several years on an extended tangent exploring land use policy, the dynamics of a shifting economic and political landscape, and popular interpretations of how things should be. I’ve come to a peculiar set of conclusions and it’s not what I expected.  read more »

To Revitalize Rust Belt Cities, First Stabilize Their Budgets


We seem to be in the process of rediscovering the Rust Belt, as a result of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election. Anyone who has recently visited Detroit, Youngstown or Erie can understand what Trump meant when he spoke in his inaugural address of “American carnage.”  read more »

Protecting Cities in Fire-Prone Regions


If you live in a fire-prone area, which includes most of California, it is not a good idea to allow ivy and other plants to cover the sides of your building, as this winery and this church did near Santa Rosa. Both were lost to last week’s wildfires.  read more »

Housing Unaffordability Policies: "Paying for Dirt"


Issi Romem, buildzoom.com's chief economist has made a valuable contribution to the growing literature on the severe unaffordability of housing in a number of US metropolitan areas.  read more »

Local Empowerment Should Be About Local Matters


I’ve generally been someone who wants to see local governments have more power and flexibility to meet local needs. My rationale is simple. States are full of diverse communities that are a bad fit for one size fits all policies. Chicago, Danville, Peoria, Cairo, etc. are radically different places. They have different circumstances, needs, and local priorities. Hence it makes sense for them to have the ability to chart their own course to some degree. Some states have accommodated this to some extent through classes of cities with different powers based on size.  read more »


Does the Tax Code Favor Homeowners?


For many years, a common complaint has been that the provisions of the Federal Internal Revenue Code, and most state income tax codes, favor homeownership in the form of major tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes. With the exception of those who reside in government housing of some type (subsidized apartments, public college dormitories, military housing, jails and penitentiaries), the homeless, almost all U.S. residents either live in a home they, or their family, owns or is paying off the mortgage, or they rent.  read more »


How To Deal With An Age of Disasters


When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, followed by a strong hurricane in Florida, much of the media response indicated that the severe weather was a sign of catastrophic climate change, payback for mass suburbanization — and even a backlash by Mother Nature against the election of President Donald Trump.  read more »

California Politicians Not Serious About Fixing Housing Crisis


California’s political leaders, having ignored and even abetted our housing shortage, now pretend that they will “solve it.” Don’t bet on it.  read more »