Policy

Are Farms the Suburban Future?

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More than fifty years ago, Frances Montgomery and Philip O’Bryan Williams bought a 500-acre stretch of prairie north of Dallas as a horse farm. It was designed to be a place for their children to run wild on weekends, ride horses, a family escape light years from the Frette-linen, Viking-kitchen and fully staffed second and third home palaces enjoyed by today’s junior high net worth set. The main residence was a recycled World War II barracks; the one bathroom was the only luxury.  read more »

Is Germany the Planners’ Valhalla?

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Urban planners and anti-sprawl advocates point to Germany as a wonderland of appropriate land use. It is true that Germany has been better at preserving open space between former villages; the non-stop development that seems continuous throughout most of the United States cannot be found here.  read more »

Anger Could Make Us Stronger

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The notion of a populist outburst raises an archaic vision of soot-covered industrial workers waving placards. Yet populism is far from dead, and represents a force that could shape our political future in unpredictable ways.

People have reasons to be mad, from declining real incomes to mythic levels of greed and excess among the financial elite. Confidence in political and economic institutions remains at low levels, as does belief in the future.  read more »

Enough "Cowboy" Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies

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The world has embarked upon a campaign to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is a serious challenge that will require focused policies rooted in reality. Regrettably, the political process sometimes falls far short of that objective. This is particularly so in the states of California and Washington, where ideology has crowded out rational analysis and the adoption of what can only be seen as reckless “cowboy” policies.  read more »

Story of the Financial Crisis: Burnin’ Down the House with Good Intentions and Lots of Greed

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Last week, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, told Congress that he didn’t know what to do about the economy and the repeated need for bailouts. This week, the Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway told the press that he couldn’t understand the financial statements of the banks getting the bailout money.  read more »

Restoring the Real New Orleans

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Like so many others, I have long been a visitor to New Orleans. In my case, the first visit was 1979, when we studied the city to influence the design of the new town of Seaside. I have been back often – for New Orleans is one of the best places to learn architecture and urbanism in the United States. My emphasis on design might seem unusual, but it shouldn't be, for the design of New Orleans possesses a unique quality and character comparable to the music and the cuisine that receives most of the attention.

During those visits, sadly, I did not get to know the people – not really. The New Orleanians I met were doing their jobs but not necessarily being themselves. Such is the experience of the tourist.  read more »

How Elite Environmentalists Impoverish Blue-Collar Americans

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The great Central Valley of California has never been an easy place. Dry and almost uninhabitable by nature, the state's engineering marvels brought water down from the north and the high Sierra, turning semi-desert into some of the richest farmland in the world.  read more »

Different Shades of Green

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Last month marked the 15th anniversary of the settlement of Plotkin vs. General Electric, the landmark “greenwashing” lawsuit I filed in 1993. At the time, GE was misleading consumers by selling phony lookalike energy efficient light bulbs that were in fact just old fashioned incandescent wolves in green packaging.

I took no money from the case. But I required G.E. to make labeling changes and to pony up $3.25 million dollars in consumer refunds and donations to environmental and public service groups. The labeling changes made it easier for the manufacturers of real energy efficient light bulbs, which were just then entering the marketplace, to distinguish their products on the shelves.  read more »

One Fundamental Problem: Too Many People Own Homes

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Ben Bernanke made the following statement as he attempted to justify bailing out bad borrowers:

“…from a policy point of view, the large amount of foreclosures are detrimental not just to the borrower and lender but to the broader system. In many of these situations we have to trade off the moral hazard issue against the greater good.” – Ben Bernanke, February 25, 2009

I think he is wrong on this, and the moral hazard issue is only a small part of my objections.  read more »

Don't Mess With Census 2010

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The announcement last week that Congressional Black Caucus members plan to press President Obama to keep the 2010 census under White House supervision, even if the former Democratic Governor of Washington, Gary Locke, is confirmed as Commerce Secretary, brought back memories of a movie I’d seen before — a bad movie.  read more »