A while back I noted that the kind of libertarians who one would expect to go into conniptions if Fairfax County, Virginia were to propose a stringent rent control law seem surprisingly blasť
about the vast array of land use restrictions that infringe economic liberty in that county and most other American jurisdictions. Indeed, some libertarian economists at George Mason University go so far as to laud America’s large houses and plentiful parking specifically as evidence of the superiority of America’s free market economic policy, blissfully unaware that in the United States pervasive regulation requires the construction of bigger houses and more parking spaces than the market would provide.
To this, Bryan Caplan responded with a piece that I think basically proves my point
as he grapples with the cognitive dissonance involved by tossing off the (admittedly accurate) fact that some elements of federal policy—for example, large-scale federal ownership of desolate land in the Western United States—place some curbs on sprawl. To this I mostly say what Ryan Avent said
, but it’s worth emphasizing the extent to which Caplan is simply missing the point. The point is not about whether policy favors “suburbs” or “cities” but about the fact that the actually existing built environment in the United States—and especially those aspects of it constructed over the past thirty years—overwhelmingly reflect the influence of central planning.