Recently, I have seen a number of on line essays by left leaning writers bemoaning the "working poor" and others who cannot afford to live in cities such as San Francisco, Washington DC, New York and elsewhere, and must commute tremendous distances while earning a pittance. Don't get me wrong, it is a legitimate grievance. But there is another side, and that is what amuses me.
You see, in almost every case*, these cities have brought this grief upon themselves. With the exception of New York, which destroyed itself with rent control and other older bad schemes, every one of these cities -- and neighboring counties -- have enacted stringent "smart growth" laws. And in general those bemoaning the high cost of living are also supporters of these laws.
Which is why I am writing. Does it not occur to these people, if you enact laws limiting the number of new dwellings, that is might drive up the cost of renting? And, at least in the case of some DC suburbs, that opposing new highways in the name of "preventing congestion"** might also increase the commute time for those "smart growth" drives into the far distant suburbs? Yet they blame the problem they created on greedy landlords and the evils of capitalism and, quite amusingly, propose even more regulation and "smart growth" as the cure to the very problems smart growth is causing.
Sometimes I cannot understand how those on the left do not see the internal contradictions of their beliefs.
* A few high cost areas have other causes, or perhaps contributing causes. For example, Boulder at one time was suffering from incredibly high rents -- or even lack of rental units -- because of celebrities and other bidding up all available land. However, in that case, the issue is self-limiting, as the high rents make it impossible to staff local business, and the lack of amenities eventually drives away those who bid up the properties. In other cases, areas that are geographically limited, such as the island of Manhattan, might suffer from excessive demand driving prices, but, in almost every case, even the most geographically constrained region has some form of suburbs allowing for population overflow.
** It was one of the most bizarre arguments against the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery County, Maryland (aka The People's Republic of Montgomery County), that building highways would bring traffic, as if people just drove on highways because they were there. So, for years, massive traffic was forced across rather paltry surface roads and through neighborhoods because of a lack of any east-west highways north of the DC Beltway.