Monday, November 11, 2013

San Francisco's Anti-Progress Factions Need Some Old-School Discipline

I recently blogged about my trip to the Commonwealth Club last week where lame-brained attendees supported paying more in taxes for less effective schools.  I'm listening to a repeat radio broadcast of KQED's Forum on gentrification right now where more local whiners are bemoaning the ills of wealth, progress, mobility, and sanity.  Here we go again.

One of the participants bemoaned the gentrification of West Oakland.  The host delineated that city's statistical transformation from a crime-ridden backwater into a vibrant community thanks to the influx of wealthy tech workers who could afford to pay for more services that create jobs.  These idiot activists want to have it both ways.  They want demographically homogeneous neighborhoods with taxpayer subsidies.  They can't admit that inviting successful people into a bad neighborhood cures dysfunction.  I'd love to take these panelists to a meeting of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) where they can hear how Indian-American immigrants built high-tech businesses after arriving in this country with zero net worth.

Another whiny bee-yatch moaned that progress and the free market were bad things.  She doesn't like it when rich people build shiny new condos.  I'll bet she would love to live in some late 19th century version of San Francisco with little electricity or indoor plumbing.  All of those old buildings are gone and modern edifices stand in their place thanks to billions of dollars worth of progress, but I don't think that matters to people like her.  She also managed to throw misogyny, racism, and street manners into the mix with zero economic or sociological data to support her claims.  That's not exactly prize-winning genius.  Poets and novelists don't make public policy but they have an outlet for their ramblings on NPR.  I like poets and I even write my own haiku but I keep it distinct from my critical thinking.

Here's a caller advocating the end of tax breaks for high tech companies.  I had high hopes for the show's audience members who had called in to defend the progress and innovation that critics call gentrification.  My hopes dropped once I one of the panelists agreed with the caller and said more taxes on innovation would pay to solve "problems."  The only problem I see is the inability of aspiring poets to study economics.

Here's some common sense.  High income residents who migrate and displace low income residents are not a social ill requiring government redress.  This is how a free market in housing works.  Renters who can't afford to live in one area must move to a cheaper area.  California owes much of its population growth in the 20th century to Dust Bowl migration from the Midwest during the Great Depression.  This is not a tragedy.  It is history and California is richer for it.  One of the callers even admitted that new developments open up new vacancies elsewhere.  Even the poorest of the poor have to live somewhere but the same restrictive zoning codes that discourage rich peoples' condos also disincentivize developers from building affordable housing for the poor.  Physical mobility enhances social mobility and America suffers from a severe lack of upward mobility from its lower classes into its ruling elite.  More flexible zoning that allows frequent physical moves will let the social classes mingle and migrate.  Innovation happens when different types of people get together.  Boxing them into immobile neighborhoods with quaint zoning laws and disincentives reinforces the class disparities that progressive activists say they dislike.

I could go on but the zero-brain activists who resist civic improvement won't listen.  These local progressives sound just as resistant to social change as the conservatives they say they dislike.  They have no idea how much they both have in common.  Both sides exist in sheltered worlds because an entire malevolent ecosystem of subsidies that support social dysfunction has reached its apotheosis.  I've blogged before about how every income level in our society is addicted to subsidies.  Eliminating every welfare program and Wall Street bailout will cure a lot of this nonsense overnight.  I'll support tax breaks for true innovation, which attracts employers like Twitter.  I'll oppose tax policy that supports income redistribution, whether it's through food stamps or Wall Street guarantees.

I'll give you one more solution that even progressives will love.  One audience member I really liked at the last Commonwealth Club event I attended wondered aloud whether our social ills stemmed from overly accommodative parenting.  He asked us all to consider the benefits of disciplining our undisciplined children.  I've got the answer to that.  Bring back a military draft, along with a national service option for conscientious objectors, and put more military veterans on fast track careers into business and politics.  Rich and poor alike will serve side by side.  The American military is the most disciplined microcosm in our society.  Its alumni aren't going to whine about society's unfairness once they take off the uniform.  They're going to work like crazy to succeed and model responsible behavior for the rest of the country.

I liked Michael Krasny's shout-out to veterans at the end of today's radio show.  Thanks dude.  I defended the rights of morons to mouth off on the radio.  I mouth off on the web.  God bless America.  Now I think I'll go look at some pictures of attractive women who aren't wearing any clothing.