bring back baby bonds
Nice piece, always appreciate your insightful commentary.
RE - Pool Party Progressivism; the more I read of your newsletters, the more the I believe in the idea of there being a disconnect between how we measure the success of our economy on a macro level (GDP! Low unemployment! Headline CPI/PCE numbers!) and how the individual feels about the economy and their own personal experiences in it.
As Charles Marohn points out in his book "Strong Towns", we long ago started focusing on developing cities to chase high level growth metrics without considering how it really impacted the lived experiences of the individuals in the cities. It feels like this is a recurring (and growing) theme in how America is planning it's not just its cities, but also its economy. There's so much coverage on the big, "easy" to measure stuff that we lose the details of our personal experiences within it. If 1 death is a tragedy while a million is a statistic, it feels like many personal experiences in the modern economy are tragedies that are being overlooked in favor of the statistic of our aggregate output.
Anyway, appreciate the broad insight you always seem able to provide in your newsletters. Happy Thursday!
great coverage as always, thank you!
I am really sympathetic to pool party progressivism and the need for fun. Having worked at a wave pool in high school, the number one thing I remember is how gross it could get and how much work it kept to keep things clean. When I think of other public resources I use today like trains and parks, it's hard not to notice the grime from both neglect from the administrators and how the public actually treats that space. It seems indicative of something bigger—a lack of will on the government's part to make the case it's worth preserving and a lack of shared, lived cultural values about how to treat public places. Without correcting those, it feels like they're making new places you wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in. On the flip side, if we can fix them, you might see a lot more public support for bigger infrastructure projects that truly only the government could attempt.
ok I grew up surrounded by elitist smart educated liberals, and I know exactly what they think is fun.....which is to discover a landscape totally untouched by human hands, no sign whatever of human endeavor or what you call "ownership" or "assets"....an empty beach or mountain valley.
I have spent most of my life mingling with and serving the poor. Because I can, yes, but also because they are usually more valid and honest than rich elites. Whenever a rich person uses the words "urban renewal" then what they hear is "negro removal", for example.
I buy houses so that I can make rentals available for a price the poor can still afford to pay. But also because when the government meddles with businesses, the businesses suffer. When they meddle with the poor, the value of money declines and the poor get even poorer. But whenever they meddle with housing, the prices of houses go up.
If you want me to behave differently then you need to change the basic philosophies behind our government. I am only responding to what they do.
There's a lot in here. Some I agree with, and some not. But the following stopped me in my tracks:
"One of the reasons that I think people are upset is because they saw what the government could do during the pandemic - freeze rents, send stimulus, help people out. And then all that stopped."
I'm sorry, but that statement is, well, whacky. As I have often said, the government can print money, but it can't print prosperity. When you freeze rents, do you know what happens? Developers stop building housing. Housing costs real money, both to build and to maintain. NYC found out years ago what happens when you freeze rents; construction of rental housing stops. Now, ever more people are trying to rent, but there isn't enough housing being built. And now, it's a national problem, for largely the same reasons.
Let's look at the other whacky idea; that printing more money (stimulus checks) means we can all buy more. No, it doesn't. Before you can buy more, you have to PRODUCE more. The government sent out all this printed money, but with no increase in production, and guess what happened? Inflation. The inflation was inevitable. Inflation is simply defined as too much money chasing too few goods.
So, now we have dollars that are worth less, trying to buy houses that can't be built because of regulations that disincentivize building. This is reality, folks. You cannot pass a law, make a regulation, or print money that can do an end-run around the fact that we have only what we produce. If you want more housing, it's going to cost money. Where is that money going to come from? If you print it, you only get inflation, not productivity. Take it from the rich? Perhaps. Contrary to myth, the rich already pay the vast majority of taxes. Perhaps we can tax them a bit more. But the rich don't just stuff their money under their mattress, they invest. They invest it, for instance, in housing development. Nearly everything we own is a result if rich people investing in productivity. I'm not saying there aren't productive changes that can be made, but do NOT kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.
I am one of the many folks who don’t see the IRA doing much to combat climate change. It’s more business as usual but with money thrown at certain favored sectors. Our car-dependent lifestyles won’t change one iota as a result of this legislation, yet the transportation sector creates the most emissions. Until the feds and state governments start throwing real money at public transit and safe bike/e-bike infrastructure, and local governments have the political will to invest that $$, we will continue to be climate laggards.
Wonder what you think about Matt Bruenigs take on baby bonds: that (a) they are set up to fail because they pay out in 18 years and in the meantime there’s costs and nothing to show for them, and (b) why not just pay 18 years old money now? if we’re going to be spending the money, why not just spend it now, in to people’s pockets, rather than leaving it in limbo for 18 years?
“One of the reasons that I think people are upset is because they saw what the government could do during the pandemic - freeze rents, send stimulus, help people out. And then all that stopped.
It’s like when you’re first dating someone and it’s perfect and you’re like “wow they care and are kind” and then they just kind of… stop trying? Like the potential is still within them, but they just started mailing it in. That’s what the government did to its citizens - showed them what they could do, and then just stopped doing it."
I was in my second year of studying PolSci during the peak of COVID and this resonates so hard. It's difficult not to see it cynically - that shutdowns were enacted to protect the boomers who would re-elect the Conservative Party in Britain. Republicans like to pretend that the state is this big scary entity that is inefficient because the 70s taught them that over-zealous micromanagement of scarce resources (see Panic at the Pump) was bad, so the baby had to be thrown out with the bathwater, instead of identifying the key issues with the Department of Energy. Yet, when the young generation is asking for policies that will help the environment (green new deal in the US/UK, taxing kerosene in the EU so you can't just take £20 flights willy-nilly), politicians shrug and say 'yeah but the market won't like that'. Ridiculous and disenchanting.
I did my thesis on Khaldun and he also said that societies without that social cohesion fall. This is usually, he thought, due to corruption and becoming “soft” (urbanism being a major culprit). And then he spent a thousand pages proving that cyclical history.
Vibes are everything for Khaldun. ‘Asabiyah is just vibes across social groups.