Zoning and Miracles

Lots of discussion about the so-called Texas Miracle, in which Texas has evidently avoided the worst of the ongoing unemployment crisis.  This is the heart of Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign message.  I might go into some of the core arguments later, but right now, let’s talk about zoning!

Tyler Cowen writes:

Texas, it seems, doesn’t give nearly as much political power to its equivalent of the Mantua moms, for whatever reason (can anyone tell us why?).  That leads to cheaper land, cheaper housing, and inferior public school systems, not to mention better and cheaper food.  And poor people are voting with their feet to choose it.

Based on context, the “Mantua moms” appear to be a powerful local political group that pushes for tight zoning.  I have heard friends complain that the lack of zoning regulations in Houston makes for a very ugly and confusing city.

Do you want to live in ugly Houston with its low standard of living but inferior schools or beautiful Fairfax with its top-tier schools but high standard of living?  To each his own, I say.  This is a great example of competition in local government (recall the neighborhood association comparison).  There are different options for different kinds of people, and the states hold each other accountable in some sense.

So Texas is a state that appeals to people with certain preferences.  Does Rick Perry deserve credit for helping create that environment?  And even if he does, is that relevant to the President election?  The neighborhood association view does not really apply at the federal level.  For another day.


About brianbergfeld
I am an economics PhD student at Washington University in St. Louis.

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