- File Size: 976 KB
- Print Length: 64 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 6, 2012)
- Publication Date: March 6, 2012
- Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0078XGJXO
- Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,796 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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The Rent Is Too Damn High: What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
If you've ever wondered why rent constitutes such a large share of your paycheck living in NYC or SF or LA or really any other big city, this'll tell you. Common misconceptions abound about high rents, high housing prices, and all the negative side-effects they wreak on our economy. Matthew Yglesias walks you through them from an economic perspective without all the economics jargon, but he doesn't treat the reader like an idiot. His explanations are thorough. He tackles the criticisms of his ideas. And I think you'd be hard pressed to decipher any sort of connection between his ideas and any particular political philosophy, which, let's face it, is kind of what people tend to complain about. He keeps it short and sweet rather than drawing the book out.
Among the friends and family members I've talked with about it, most of them seem to have a hard time believing that 'Cost of Living' doesn't factor into wages at all. But from an economic perspective this really shouldn't be very hard to believe since employers are not charities. They're trying to get the most value out of you for the least money possible. They'll pay you the market clearing wage and if that isn't enough to live comfortably on, well then *Amazon censorship* you. To be clear, 'housing prices' do factor into 'cost of living' and 'cost of living' does determine what constitues a 'livable wage'. But there's no particular axiom of economics that states that employers have to pay you a livable wage. People can work more than 40 hours a week. Or they can live in poverty and squalor. So high rents don't help to explain high wages. As you'll see in the book, there is a good explanation for high wages and Matthew Yglesias walks you through it carefully and caringly.
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. 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.
You know he "only" has a BA in philosophy. Sure, sure, it's from "Harvard". But that really means it was taught by advanced grad students. My state degree came from actual "Doctors".
And his Slate stuff was often insufferable. I don't think it was entirely his fault though. He has to spill a lot of content.
I really thought he was an insufferable writer, but then I read this.
Matt shows how current zoning is bad for both left and right reasons. Maybe we should allow better and smarter zoning so that more dense development is allowed where the market asks for it. If the measure of a book is that is convinces a reader of the writer's position, this book works (in spite of my preconceived notions of Matt's writings).
The only issue, as it remains with all public policy books, is the "What is to be done" section. I have an appreciating piece of land in an inner-ring suburb of Chicago. Why would I accommodate what he wants? Otherwise, go Matt, I might want to learn how to spell "Yglesias".
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