Liberal blogger Matt Yglesias is right — How the Left and Right can agree on zoning 

Yesterday saw a pronounced focus on points of disagreement between me and liberal blogger Matt Yglesias, and so today I’ll focus on a point where we agree: rolling back restrictive zoning in the name of making the world more walkable.

Yglesias, together with environmental writer Dave Roberts, push past one of the missteps common in environmental policy — looking too narrowly at problems and solutions. Rather than trying to reduce pollution, greenhouse gasses, and fuel consumption by making cars cleaner, how about making cars less relevant.

As I put it, people don’t typically drive for the sake of driving; they drive to get from home to work, they drive to get groceries, they drive to get to school, they drive to see family and friends, etc…. So rather than making driving “cleaner” why not try to think up ways to make working, eating, learning, and hanging out “cleaner”?

I don’t buy into central planning for the most part, so my question here is: how does government policy cause us to drive more? There are plenty of ways (subsidized roads is one) government does this, but the leading way is through restrictive zoning.

Yglesias talks about Clarendon, where million-dollar lots are a price signal that the land is being under-utilized. I live in Silver Spring, where everyone has to drive almost everywhere because zoning keeps out businesses. More property rights and more of a market in land usage would mean more people living closer to Clarendon’s bars and stores, and more commerce within walking distance of my block — thus more walking and less driving.

When I talk to my neighbors, who tend to be liberal, about more zoning liberalization, they all agree with me. It’s an area where Left and Right can agree, even if politicians and carmakers might not like it.

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Timothy P. Carney

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