Links: Housing challenges, Kubrick’s work, where the money’s going, and more!

* 2020 had the warmest September on record. And still we continue to dither.

* “Prefab was supposed to fix the construction industry’s biggest problems. Why isn’t it everywhere? The Canadian company Bone Structure can produce zero net energy homes months faster than a traditional builder. But its challenges highlight the difficulty of disrupting the entrenched construction industry.”

* “Don’t Pay for 95%,” something we seem almost psychologically incapable of understanding.

* Analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s work.

* “College Enrollment Slid This Fall, With First-Year Populations Down 16%.”

* Speaking of education: “Large variation in earnings returns among postgraduate degrees, with returns of more than 15% for masters in business and law, but negative returns for many arts and humanities courses.”

* Psilocybin is going to be legalized, at least therapeutically, in the near future.

* Cruise is actually going to deploy driverless cars as an Uber-like service in San Francisco?

* American magical realism, with Bruno Maçães, who has written various interesting things.

* The Great Unread: On William Deresiewicz’s The Death of the Artist. Seems like a book for which the reviews suffice.

* Where has San Francisco’s money gone? A useful framing starts the story: “In 2009, San Francisco’s municipal budget totaled $6.5 billion—$8.6 billion in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation and population. San Francisco’s budget for 2019 is an eye-popping $12.2 billion, a 10 percent increase just since 2018.”

* Why is wokeness winning?, Andrew Sullivan asks. I’m not sure that it is, or that the reasons stated are really the correct “why,” as opposed to a post-hoc story.

* Are gas stoves bad?

* Where are all the successful rationalists?

* Labor’s share of national income is falling, but it’s primarily going to increased rents—which are increasing due to laws that prevent the development of new housing.

Vote for Biden for president

In 2016 I did something I’d never done before and hoped I wouldn’t do again: encouraged readers to vote for Clinton or Johnson for president. What I wrote then is still true:

Trump is unfit to be president. There are longer explanations as to why Trump is such a calamity and so unfit for office, like “SSC Endorses Clinton, Johnson, Or Stein” or many others, but perhaps the best thing I’ve read on Trump is “The question of what Donald Trump ‘really believes’ has no answer

We’ve seen the basic failures in governance that the last four years have brought: let’s not repeat that mistake now.

I’d like to return to writing primarily about books and ideas, since there is too much political background noise, but I’ve also asked myself what I would have done if I’d been alive during the 1920s or 1930s, when many were complicit with the rise of totalitarian ideologies. Although there are important differences between then and now, the temptation towards totalitarian ideologies apparently remains.  I hadn’t endorsed a specific candidate before 2016 because I’d not seen prominent national candidates who are threats to democratic governance itself. Now I have, and we have.

Links: SF’s decline, the tyranny of IDs, a meaningful career, mushrooms’s moment, and more!

* FYI, you don’t need an ID to fly on a plane for a domestic trip within the United States: courts have consistently found that such a rule is an unfair limitation on the freedom to travel and on interstate commerce. Just because a government agent tells you something is true, does not mean that it is true.

* “How to waste your career, one comfortable year at a time.” Substack writers are doing a lot of disproportionately interesting work.

* “What a Second Bauhaus Movement Means for Europe:” the potential to build lots of new housing and thus lower the cost of housing—something that seems to elude the United States.

* “More Doctoral Programs [in the humanities and social sciences] Suspend Admissions. That Could Have Lasting Effects on Graduate Education.” Maybe word is finally getting out?

* “As everything else changes, my Dover paperbacks hold up.” I note:

The right paperback encountered at just the right moment — the Fawcett Crest edition of “Good Grief, Charlie Brown!” I got in Florida when I was 7 or 8; the Collier edition of Thomas Helm’s “Shark! Unpredictable Killer of the Sea” my father gave me a few summers later, in 1974 — became an object out of time, a marker that would last forever.

Although the books from my childhood wouldn’t become “a marker that would last forever,” because most were printed on pulp paper that yellows and falls apart with age. this obscure tax case is part of the reason publishers use such crappy paper today. There are exceptions: The New York Review of Books imprint makes really physically good paperbacks, but they mostly specialize in literary oddballs.

One problem with having physical books over the long term is the sheer number of moves many people make today. For that reason I’ve shifted to a lot more Kindle reading, even though the totality of the experience is worse.

* On mushrooms’s moment. A charming story: I hope Smallhold succeeds.

* “Adam Tooze on World Order, Then and Now: Do fiscal constraints matter? How contingent was WWII? Can Nazi Germany teach us anything about the CCP? Did the West Win the Cold War? Plus, Xinjiang and Soviet Gulags.” Unusually substantive.

* On the destruction of America’s best high school. Views rarely heard.

* “The Day Nuclear War Almost Broke Out.” Nuclear war is an issue that should be much closer to the top of various policy agendas, and global fears, than it is.

* “People are leaving San Francisco. After decades of growth, is the city on the decline?” For anyone but a startup founder, SF does seem like an awful place to live.

Links: Characters, reading aloud, love hurts, systems, and more!

* “Everyone Has a Tom Pritchard Story. Only I Have His Bike.” Unexpectedly hilarious.

* How to read aloud. If you’ve not, try reading aloud to your partner/lover. Make it a habit.

* “Love Hurts,” on the new culture of fragility and dubious safetyism.

* “How Work Became an Inescapable Hellhole: Instead of optimizing work, technology has created a nonstop barrage of notifications and interactions. Six months into a pandemic, it’s worse than ever.” Fits my experiences, but I also think few people actively push against this. See Cal Newport’s books for more on it.

* “America’s Exceptional Housing Crisis: How the Rest of the World Tamed Runaway Home Prices.” Short answer: the rest of the world built a lot more housing. America hasn’t.

* Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie on various things; the former’s work has always seemed more interesting than the latter’s. Note: “AMIS: I certainly feel part of a generation that saw a fairly radical change in the way novels are written and in the way novels are read. You can no longer expect the reader to surmise, to infer, to second-guess. As an adaptation, writers will cease to imply, to hint, to tease. Now they have to declare.”

Amis also says, “the novel has had to speed itself up—in answer to an accelerated reality. Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift—long, static, and digressive—spent several months as a bestseller in the 1970s. That audience has more or less disappeared.” I’ve started Humboldt’s Gift a few times and never finished: I’d call it rambling and aimless. A novel need not be overly aimed, in my view, but it felt like a lot of nothing.

* On the movie Stay Woke, and more significantly on the difference between destructive and constructive reformist energy. It’ll be interesting to see what the 2020 and 2022 elections are like. So far, even in very left-wing California, “Police reforms face defeat as California Democrats block George Floyd-inspired bills.” Who do city and state legislators, where most policing policy happens, most worry about? Not protesters, it seems.

* “ How the US Start-Up Industry is Faltering.” One of these important, easily-missed pieces. The really important news is often not in the headlines.

* “Facebook to Curb Internal Debate Over Sensitive Issues Amid Staff Discord: Mark Zuckerberg says employees shouldn’t have to confront social issues in their day-to-day work unless they want to.” Companies appear to be re-learning the “leave politics and religion at home” rule that used to be reasonably common, and may become reasonably common again. Similarly, Coinbase’s CEO, Brian Armstrong, has announced that the company is focusing on its mission.

* “They Don’t Need No Education: Elementary schools deliberately fail to teach knowledge, hurting their most vulnerable students.” I have a theory: to get tenure, most professors need to publish “novel” research. In many fields—like education—there are not many truly novel and useful ideas available. So how does one get tenure? By inventing new paradigms, even if they are maybe not so accurate and not much of an improvement, and then publishing and attempting to propagate them. “New math” seems to be worse than teaching multiplication, division, algebra, and so on. But lots of professors still need tenure, so with a little self-delusion and p-hacking they can come up with something new. And people have to keep re-discovering the value of simply memorizing a lot of stuff.

* “The new intolerance: On the rise of an authoritarian ideology ‘hostile to the rule of reason.’”

* “The housing market is building snowflakes: How an industry of endless one-offs is holding our society back.” Are these characters the solution? I have no idea, but they do identify an important problem.

Links: Online culture, distinguishing fantasy and reality (we don’t want to), tolerating the out-group, and more!

* “How Can We Pay for Creativity in the Digital Age?” Not a great title, but the overall question about how artists pay the rent and for food is useful.

* “Matt Yglesias on Why the Population is Too Damn Low,” and many other topics.

* “What Is China’s Strategy in the Senkaku Islands?” Distressing but also important.

* The weirdness of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell; Clarke has a new book coming out and in honor of the new one I’m re-reading the previous one, which is still that good.

* “This Republican Party Is Not Worth Saving.” By a former Republican and current conservative.

* Going postal, an extremely clever rant about how bad social media is. Overall, though, social media mostly tells us about how bad we are: use the block and mute buttons adequately on Twitter, follow the more cerebral, and knowledge- and data-driven people, and it can be pretty good. But you also have to restrain your worst impulses—something I don’t always do successfully. It’s possible social media has negative amplification effects.

* Why millennials think they adore socialism. Strangely, he never mentions the U.S.’s surprisingly socialistic land-use policy regime, which drives up the cost of housing and inflicts severe shortages on the non-owner population. Actually, “socialistic” might be less true than something like “crony” or “insider” capitalism; whatever you want to call it, though, the high cost of housing is like a vice around the necks of the young.

* “Loyalty Oaths Compared: An Orwellian Exercise.”

* An online-only charter school in Oklahoma sees huge enrollment growth.

* Arts & Letters Daily feels like a throwback to an earlier time, but it’s still a delight and has an RSS feed (via which I read it). I’ve been asked where all these links come from: some from emails, some from friends, some from link aggregators, and some from AL Daily.

* “How Algorithms Are Changing What We Read Online: The AI of the internet determines what’s relevant. One day, it decided my work wasn’t.” I’ve never heard of this guy and yet his work sounds like just the sort of thing I’d like to read: I’m not interested in most of the standard political and pop culture stuff being endlessly re-written. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have a link list of his recent works anywhere, at least that I can find. His website appears to be pretty generic, and its RSS feed seems to have last been updated in 2015. How are we supposed to find his work and follow him? I’m the kind of person who’d link to his kind of work all the time, but he’s not easily surfaced.

* How Fantasy Triumphed Over Reality in American Politics: probably the best essay on this topic I’ve read in recent memory.

* “[Academic life] used to be more interesting.” The sense of relative freedom and autonomy—from bureaucrats, from bureaucracy, from political correctness, from snitch culture—seems notable here.

* The history of book burning.

* Lessons of the Pinker Affair: The Problem with the Academy is False Beliefs, Not Intolerance?

* Ocean acidification risks deep-sea reef collapse.

* “How Climate Migration Will Reshape America.”

Links: Bad China news, meta political news, books and more books, epistemology, and more!

* “China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims: China rounded up so many Muslims in Xinjiang that there wasn’t enough space to hold them. Then the government started building.” If you’ve wondered what you might have done in the 1930s, you may now have an implicit answer.

* How to win an election: on issue salience, among other things. It’s based on this David Shor interview; he’s the guy who was fired for tweeting that, from what we can tell, empirically,

* The books we don’t understand, by Tim Parks, and much better than the title suggests.

* “The tyranny of chairs.” One partial answer is the sit-stand desk.

* Bezos and the Bell system: regulating “big tech” intelligently.

* “The Case for Adding 672 Million More Americans.” Most notably, “think of how much healthier our politics would be if there were really a debate about how to accomplish great things rather than a food fight over semi-imagined offenses to “real Americans” that serves as a mask for an endless procession of tax cuts for the rich.”

* “How SUVs conquered the world – at the expense of its climate.” A bit obvious but here it is. Relatedly, “Climate change may wreck economy unless we act soon, federal report warns: Fires and floods are expensive and disruptive and we’re not ready, report finds.” It’s almost as if we’ve been ignoring four decades of warnings.

* “Maigret’s room,” an excellent essay.

* Fire in the Sky, on UFOs, epistemology, belief, experts, and other topics.

* “Extreme heat is here, and it’s deadly.”

* “Can Italy Defeat Its Most Powerful Crime Syndicate?” The degree to which the Italian state and society is still enthralled to organized crime is depressing.

* UFOs and epistemology. But the “Where are they?” question remains: nothing we’ve come up with so far has shown us any evidence of non-natural phenomena in the universe, and we don’t seem to have found any alien radio signals.

Links: Elena Ferrante, bookshops, coffee, content and its lack, and more!

* Elena Ferrante’s master class in deceit? Good essay with a weak title.

* The demise of the second-hand bookshop.

* How China’s fishing fleet is depleting the world’s oceans.

* “That time we almost built 8 gigawatt-class floating nuclear power plants.” In other words, we’ve had lots of opportunities to ameliorate climate change, but we’ve consistently turned our backs on the solutions. Also, “Nuclear Reactor Development History.” Detailed, impressive.

* How Nespresso’s coffee revolution got ground down.

* “How you attach to people may explain a lot about your inner life.”

* “Silicon Valley and Wall Street Elites Pour Money Into Psychedelic Research: Donors raise $30 million for psychedelic nonprofit to complete clinical trials around drug-assisted psychotherapy for trauma.”

* “The Party of No Content.” We live in weird political times.

* “The Broken Algorithm That Poisoned American Transportation.” The awful ways we plan and execute cities explains why we get anomie, boredom, strip malls, and subdivisions. As if that weren’t enough, “Why Every City Feels the Same Now:” I too feel the aesthetic oppressions wrought by zoning laws: one could say that cities have been zoned into being low content and parking-centric.

* “Swiss explore renewal of ‘secret deal’ with China.” Wow.

* “A meta-analysis of procedures to change implicit measures” finds that implicit-bias training doesn’t appear to do what it’s supposed to do. Having been through a few rounds of it, I wonder if its foregrounding racial issues is counterproductive, although the meta-analysis doesn’t seem to find evidence for that thesis.

* JB Straubel, One of the Brains Behind Tesla, May Have a New Way to Make Electric Cars Cheaper Through Battery Recycling. Could be behind a paywall but very interesting; I’ve done some grant-writing work adjacent to this field.

* The gist of Cynical Theories: Arnold Kling on the new book by Helen Pluckrose and James A. Lindsay. Of interest for those of you who are online too much or interested in universities, and especially for the group at the intersection of those two.

* “The Secrets of Elite College Admissions: In the final ‘shaping’ of an incoming class, academic standards give way to other, more ambiguous factors.”

Briefly noted: The Precipice, Lost and Wanted, Hidden Valley Road

* The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity: A very good book about what it claims to be about, namely, whether we’re going to escape the present moment’s extinction possibilities (nuclear weapons, pandemics, and climate change are all possible extinction vectors—the book was published before COVID) and move into a future where energy is ubiquitous and clean, consciousness is understood and readily emulated, and humans or post-human consciousnesses can live in space. We seem to be on the verge of technologies that will dramatically increase human robustness, if we can avoid screwing things up in the next couple decades. How often do you read books that really cover the long view?

Ord says, “safeguarding humanity’s future is the defining challenge of our time.” Yet I don’t recall ever hearing a politician say as much—can you? Halfway through, Ord reiterates: “We need a public conversation about the longterm future of humanity: the breathtaking scale of what we can achieve, and the risks that threaten all of this, all of us.” In some ways, one would think coronavirus might inspire this conversation, but it seemingly hasn’t.

The book is printed on strangely crappy paper, for a work about eternity.

* Lost and Wanted: A Novel, by Nell Freudenberger. Great premise but the opening pages had too much standard politically correct stuff, which makes it boring. Some good essays have been written about it, but they omit what I just foregrounded. Maybe I should have persevered. The boring standard politically correct stuff feels like reading a nineteenth century novel and getting slammed with a bunch of Catholics-vs-protestants, or why religion is essential for a healthy society: a bunch of irrelevant, extraneous, and distracting material. The 200 or so novels from the nineteenth that normal people might still read today mostly eschew this kind of thing.

* Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker: The story of the Galvin family; parents Don and Mimi had 12 kids between 1945 and 1965 on what was an essentially middle-class salary. If everything had gone perfectly, maybe they could have pulled that feat off, but many things did not: “Six of the Galvin boys took ill at a time when so little was understood about schizophrenia.” Not only was little understood, but Freudians still had some stature within psychiatry, and, insanely, people denying the biological aspects of mental illness held many positions of power. In some ways we get a story of the history of the bent mind: “In the beginning—before anyone turned the study of mental illness into a science and called it psychiatry—being insane was a sickness of the soul, a perversion worthy of prison or banishment or exorcism. Judaism and Christianity interpreted the soul as something distinct from the body—an essence of one’s self that could be spoken to by the Lord, or possessed by the devil.”

Things have improved in many ways, but we’re still closer to “a sickness of the soul” than many of us would like to be. A few years ago, a psychiatrist could legitimately ask, “Does Psychiatry Need Science?” Or, to take another review, “Can psychiatry be a science?” We’re still a bit wobbly on the answers. Kind of like we’re a bit wobbly on why, deeply, Don and Mimi have so many kids; Catholicism is one answer, but 12? Don and Mimi needed access to contraception: many of their boys would still have developed schizophrenia, obviously, but the amount of attention available had to have been stretched, particularly because Don and Mimi couldn’t readily draw on family or community resources due to distance and fear. Denial played a role, too: “Nothing may have been more important to Mimi than a flawless Thanksgiving.” A flawless Thanksgiving stems from real, positive family relationships. Take those away and Thanksgiving will always be the stuff of New Yorker short stories.

The book’s second half is more compelling than its first, and, like a lot of stories, part of it is about accepting what we can change and what we can’t: “From her family, Lindsay could see how we all have an amazing ability to shape our own reality, regardless of the facts. We can live our entire lives in a bubble and be quite comfortable.” Mimi’s drive for a flawless Thanksgiving is one such attempt to build the bubble. The reality of their situation, however, is much stronger than the bubble fantasy.

The big downside to Hidden Valley Road: it’s an incredible story, but you won’t learn much; I started by being against schizophrenia, as well as the various other very bad things that occur, and I came out against them too. I’m curious about the history of developing alternate drugs to treat schizophrenia, and the extent to which different mental disorders bleed into one another: we get some information about this, but that’s where my attention was drawn.

Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America — Conor Dougherty

Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America is up there with The Rent Is Too Damn High, where it foregrounds what should be if not the top, then one of the top policy issues in the country. “Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build: When California’s housing crisis slammed into a wealthy suburb, one public servant became a convert to a radically simple doctrine” is an excerpt that gives much of the book’s flavor. While I personally like books and papers that use abstract reasoning to make their points, most people don’t, and need stories to understand the world: “Build Build Build” uses Steve Falk’s story to explain why even liberty-shy Californians are sometimes coming around to letting the state change a bit. Most importantly, a baby boomer like him began to see that his own kids’s lives were being constricted by the odious zoning monster that almost all municipalities in California have fed:

Mr. Falk began his career on the local control side of that debate. But somewhere along the Deer Hill odyssey, he started to sympathize with his insurrectionist opponents. His son lived in San Francisco and paid a fortune to live with a pile of roommates. His daughter was a dancer in New York, where the housing crunch was just as bad. It was hard to watch his kids struggle with rent and not start to think that maybe Ms. Trauss had a point.

New York and San Francisco are strangling their young, and even their middle-aged, in ways that many local politicians aren’t adequately grappling with. Golden Gates expertly surfaces ideas about what is or should be “normal” and whether those things should be normal:

Patterned on the American mind, in ways we rarely stop to notice, are layers of zoning and land-use rules that say what can be built where. They are so central to how American cities look and operate that they have become a kind of geographic DNA that forms our opinion of what seems proper and right.

But what is perceived as normal—what is “patterned”—may not be “proper and right,” even if what’s regarded as “proper and right” gets unfairly mapped to normal. The “layers” of zoning and other rules occur at the neighborhood level, city level, sometimes the county level, and sometimes the state level: each veto point chokes off potential projects and creates a kind of suffocating conformity that has drained cities’s vitality, without many people noticing. Somehow, preventing anyone from doing much of anything almost anywhere is said to increase vitality: instead, we get suffocating rents, millennials who are now themselves reaching into middle age and yet often feel they can’t afford to have kids, because who’s going to pay the rent, let alone the health insurance and the student loans?

We need more freedom and greater liberalization—or at least that’s the framing that I’d choose, using the thinking behind George Lakoff’s work on the language of political ideas. Oddly, though, the most reactionary groups in local housing fights tend to frame themselves as preserving freedom—the freedom from having other people make any changes in their neighborhoods. The result, as Doherty writes, is that “In effect, we shattered urban regions into a constellation of smallish cities and reactionary single-family house neighborhoods whose influence over local land use decisions give them an astounding amount of control over how much shelter we build, where, and at what cost.” The problem goes back decades—”City planners started documenting the urban housing shortage in the 1970s, and in the decades since economists have shown that many of the country’s highest-income regions have become so expensive that they have all but gated out middle-class jobs and people”—but problems that compound enough over time become enormous and menacing.

Housing can’t be both a good investment and an affordable place to live. Preferring one goal intrinsically compromises the other. For the last five decades, we’ve tried to make housing an investment that yields above-market returns: consequently, it’s now incredibly expensive in many productive cities. Perhaps the biggest way we may see changes in this dynamic is through changes in the composition of renters versus owners. Invitation Homes is now one of the largest landlords in the country, and it specializes in buying single-family houses (or “oneplexes”) and renting them out. That’s it. The company has realized that the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) phenomenon is also a business opportunity. Airbnb exists in part because most cities forbid hoteliers from building sufficient hotel capacity—so renting private housing units is an arbitrage on those rules. Canvas Co-Living is a startup that is working to allow “facilitated shared homes.”

Golden Gates’s best story may be that of Sonja Truss, a woman who was tired of the Bay Area’s relentless housing cost increases—so she decided to do something about it:

But for a young adult with no obvious signs of intoxication to show up at a midday city meeting to say she was just generally in favor of housing because San Francisco didn’t have enough of it? That made no sense. Nobody attended eight-hour city meetings if they didn’t have to, and while the planning commission was a place of arguments and strange behavior, it was also a place where people at least knew where each other’s lanes were.

She decided to scramble the lanes, by arguing that the problem isn’t too much housing but too little. She finds herself in weird ideological waters, because many people who proclaim their progressive bonafides are more conservative, in many ways, than the current occupant of the White House. Labeling one’s opponents is a big deal in Bay Area politics: “Only in San Francisco would a gay man who opposed the death penalty and marched in the local BDSM festival in leather straps have to argue he was truly of the left.” There are lots of racial politics involved too: many of the kinds of people who want to proclaim themselves to be opposed to racism nonetheless support housing and development policies that are racist in practice and effect.

Another chapter discusses Factory_OS, a company that’s trying to do modular building. Housing is expensive for many reasons, with zoning at the top of the list—but the actual cost of construction is high, and, in many high-cost metros, the zoning drives up the cost of construction. Why? As zoning artificially restricts housing construction, the construction workers who build new housing have to pay more for existing housing, which means that they have to be paid more by anyone trying to build housing. One gets a kind of perverse ratchet that, again, ends with absurdities like San Francisco. Modular housing, like cross-laminated timber, promises to reduce the cost of building. Unfortunately, building a housing factory is expensive up front, and the returns are spread across many years—leaving a wide space for bankruptcy. Previous efforts at modular housing have tended to fail when the market turns and the maker goes out of business. Dougherty points out that a recession could doom Factory_OS and its competitors. As of this writing, we’re already likely in the worst recession since 2008, and that was the worst since the Great Depression. What happens with the COVID Recession remains to be seen (the recession is made worse by many laid-off people being stuck with expensive leases and mortgages, due to decades of failure to build enough housing). One of the best ways to be successful in business is to start while a rising economy naturally lifts your company. Many business geniuses are really people with lucky timing—which isn’t to knock them: I’d love to have lucky timing too. As of July 23 2020, it appears that Google has promised to invest more money in Factory_OS, so the company is still presumably alive. But it has an ominously small number of mentions in the media over the last year.

One major thing might break the zoning logjam: by now, intellectuals and investors know the single-family zoning racket and know that single-family zoning is designed to enrich property owners. It’s not hard to figure out how to profit from above-market returns, as Invitation Homes has: buy the asset. But as investment funds buy single-family properties, the composition of renters versus owners will change, and more renters will be part of the voting pool. If renters can figure out how supply and demand work—a big “if,” given anti-market bias—they’ll vote to expand the supply of housing. So far, we’ve not seen much of this dynamic, but, as the costs of housing continue to increase, we might see more of it as people go looking for answers. Voters can ineffectively blame landlords and “greedy” developers, or they can effectively look for solutions. Golden Gates is part of the solutions firmament, if enough people read it and change their behavior based on new knowledge. That’s a big “if,” however.

To me, it remains strange and interesting that many people who are superficially interested in lowering housing costs won’t believe that the obvious solution, known for centuries—since the time of Adam Smith—to high prices is greater supply. Any solution that is not “more supply” will entail shortages. We can’t legislate away supply and demand. Yet a common urban trope involves blaming the people attempting to respond to price signals with more product for being “greedy.” The ineffectiveness of this response is obvious, but until recently there’s been no organized political response to the problem. Dougherty is chronicling that response—and telling the stories of the people responding.


A review in an interesting venue. There should be bipartisan support for zoning reform.

Links: Ebikes, the mystery novel, literature should make us see complexity, and more!

* The Teenage Tinkerer Behind an E-Bike Revolution, regarding the ebike company RadPower. I have my eye on their $1,000 electric single-speed.

* PD James on mystery novels.

* “This is Not The American Cultural Revolution.” A useful corrective to this analogy. It’s also useful to think about how much of this occurs online and with deference to pre-existing structures: “They are doing the only thing Americans in this century know how to do: creating a ruckus in hope that they can get the management to take their side (and enlarge its own powers in the process).”

* “The China Hawks Got It Mostly Right.” “So far,” I’d add.

* “How literature can mirror our complicated desires: There’s inequality in real-life relationships. Art shouldn’t hide that.” I wish Merkin had finished the novel she’s referencing: I’d read it. It also seems that many people driving the social media discourse should think more deeply about the human condition, rather than serving up endless stories about wicked villains and innocent damsels: there are relatively few of each wandering around.

* “Adam Tooze on the World After COVID-19.”

* “What I Learned From the Worst Novelist in the English Language.” Entertaining but also poignant.

* “Sweatpants Forever: How the Fashion Industry Collapsed.” Losing the worst and most absurd parts of it doesn’t seem so bad.

* Another piece on the higher education “bubble.”

* “TSA considers new system for flyers without ID.” The number of people who actually care about freedom is small.

* “‘I didn’t think I’d survive’: women tell of hidden sexual abuse by Phoenix police.”

* Mercy and “cancel culture.” See also the link above about literature and our complicated desires.

* Feds say Yale discriminates against Asian, white applicants.

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