A Disturbing Number of Amazon Titles…

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… pop up when you search for "Grand Unified Theory". Of which our Product du Jour is perhaps the most provocative.

But Christian Britschgi is relatively modest. His GUT tells hem that The Zoning Theory of Everything explains the entirety of US politics.

The words zoning policy probably conjure thoughts of dull board meetings and interminable debates about setbacks, parking requirements, and seemingly small architectural details. Most Americans probably consider zoning about as dry as an unlicked envelope. Yet somehow, during a presidential election unfolding amid a deadly pandemic, divisive lockdowns, raucous protests and riots, mass unemployment, and spiking crime, zoning politics managed to show up center stage.

Looked at one way, it was another strange turn in an already bizarre election year. Looked at another way, it was yet another demonstration that zoning rules have become central to American life and politics, almost entirely to deleterious effect.

Zoning regulations control what kinds of buildings can be constructed where, and then what activity can happen inside them. They effectively socialize private property while controlling even the most mundane features of our physical environment and daily routines. Zoning rules flip property rights on their head, curtailing the owners' ability to do what they wish on their land. In exchange, they sometimes give people near–veto power over what happens on their neighbors' property.

It's a very good article, from the print edition, now out from behind the paywall.

Briefly noted:

  • So if you could press a button to make zoning regulations vanish, would you press it? I don't think it comes up in Don Boudreaux's article, but he lists Some Buttons That I’d Not Push, and Some That I Would Push.

    My confidence in free markets is so high, and my faith (for faith is required) in government is so low, that my presumption is that nearly all government interventions into the economy are, on net, unjustified and harmful. This presumption fuels my instinct that these interventions should be eliminated pronto. But I’m also sufficiently influenced by the works of Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Lord Acton, and F.A. Hayek to understand that large, sudden changes to an economy or society can be dangerously disruptive, even when such changes involve reversing policies that should never have existed in the first place.

    So even if I had the power to eliminate all government interventions that I believe are harmful, I would not press a button to eliminate all of them. For example, I’m convinced that the welfare state corrodes welfare-recipients’ willingness to assume full responsibility for themselves and their children. One result is a draining away of recipients’ dignity, and the creation of a caste system of citizens who work and pay, alongside citizens who are largely idle and on the dole. The welfare state corrodes society.

    Yet, even if there were no chance that sudden elimination of the welfare state would prompt recipients and their champions to cause havoc by rioting or by disrupting ‘ordinary’ politics until welfare payments are restored, I would not press a button to immediately eliminate the welfare state. The disruption for the recipients would be too great. Millions of people, sadly, rely on various forms of government-dispensed welfare payments. Suddenly severing this reliance would impose on welfare recipients too great and unjust a burden.

    Other buttons Don wouldn't push: one to "end the Fed"; one to transform our foreign/defense policies to emulate (say) Switzerland.

    But ones he would push: eliminate minimum wage laws; enhance school choice for lower- and middle-income parents; get rid of all non-national-defense-related trade restrictions and subsidies."

    Those are pretty big. I'd press smaller buttons to get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts, privatize Amtrak and the Postal Service, wind down the Selective Service, … Just off the top of my head, mind you.

  • Noah Rothman looks at the Woke Word Wars, and is optimistic: How We Know That ‘Woke’ Is Losing.

    We find ourselves in the middle of an exhaustingly familiar spectacle in which the American Left and its allies in media pretend that a word with an all but universally understood definition is all of a sudden incomprehensible. Today, that word is “woke.”

    A campaign consisting of straight reporting, survey data, and contrived “viral” moments all contribute to the desired impression that those who wield the term don’t know what it means, especially if they use it as a pejorative. But even polling purporting to show that more Americans believe the term describes only positive attributes also finds that the public sees it as an epithet more than a compliment.

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that what’s driving the campaign is that “woke” is now a political liability for those who once proudly embraced it. These periodic crusades against shorthand bubble up from the partisan depths when the Left is losing a political conflict. Rather than change their tactics, they change the language.

    Noah notes that this happened with the phrase "gun control"; that became a too-obvious euphemism for people control. So now it's all about "gun safety". Other examples abound.

    There are always people who want to speed up the euphemism treadmill.

  • But if you live in fear that some rogue interviewer should demand that you provide a definition, hoping to catch a brainfreeze on video, I'd suggest you print out a copy of James Lindsay's entry in his lexicon for Woke/Wokeness.

    In brief, “woke” means having awakened to having a particular type of “critical consciousness,” as these are understood within Critical Social Justice. To first approximation, being woke means viewing society through various critical lenses, as defined by various critical theories bent in service of an ideology most people currently call “Social Justice.” That is, being woke means having taken on the worldview of Critical Social Justice, which sees the world only in terms of unjust power dynamics and the need to dismantle problematic systems. That is, it means having adopted Theory and the worldview it conceptualizes.

    Alternate strategy: hand the interviewer a copy of Lindsay's and Helen Pluckrose's book Cynical Theories, say "Here. It's not my job to educate you."

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:29 AM EDT