Very interesting.

I kept thinking about markets where artificial scarcity might actually be desired because of an indirect effect of abundance. An example that comes to mind is private hire cars. Advocating for “abundance agenda” in this market would – at face value – relieve similar pressures: increase the overall supply of private hire cars would make them more accessible, lowering the cost for everyone who needs one.

We have seen this experiment play out with the forced deregulation of the industry by the arrival of Uber/Gig-economy-ride-hailing in cities across the world. VC subsidies aside, the supply of cars has increased dramatically, and so has access and usage of the services. It has also put pressure on space: pulling people from using alternative modes of transport, such as public transport or bicycles or even walking, increases travel times for everyone using roads. We have also seen an increase in air and noise pollution.

Similar to the medical guild, scarcity in private hire car drivers have had the effect of protecting their income. In this case, however, this protection might be desired. Gig-economy wages have sometimes dropped before minimum wage.

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Please don't mistake the follow critique of one of your statements to imply that I don't believe in housing scarcity:

You said

"…This made artificial scarcity even more popular; not only could existing residents preserve their communities, but existing property owners could now generate extraordinary levels of passive income and wealth by gouging desperate future would-be residents. The median home price today in San Francisco is an astounding $1.5 million…"

I will acknowledge that the rising prices *might* subconsciously influence existing homeowners (like me) to support NIMBYism and the consequential artificial scarcity.

However, I see this kind of comment thrown into housing articles all the time, but I have never seen support offered for this, nor have I ever in my 25 years of homeowning met another homeowner who has expressed anything that suggests they remotely feel this way (in fact the opposite, typically). Instead I see a lot of sincere, the very misguided, ideas about character of the neighborhood, overcrowding, etc. Often citing the example of a poorly done nearby gargantuan house or poorly cited multiplex.

I only raise the issue, because to the degree we mischaracterize our opponents, we will have a bad strategy for combatting it.

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Great essay, but I’m not sure you convincingly refute the “foreigners and speculators” argument. A critic might say that sure, vacancy taxes haven’t worked, but new housing stock is still being inhabited by outsiders (from other countries, other regions, etc) drawn in by the construction of the new housing. How would you respond to that?

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Your argument that progressives want scarcity is simply wrong. Progressives want Medicare 4 All, which is the opposite of enforcing scarcity. Progressives see housing as a human right, which is the opposite of enforcing scarcity. To make your backwards argument you cite the some of the richest cities in America and say hey look- these "progressives" are enforcing scarcity. But those aren't progressives or progressive policies- those are rich people enforcing scarcity.

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The only way legal way to exclude high-crime populations from your neighborhoods in the US is through prohibitively high home prices. So of course people who want to live in desirable locations (near amenities, jobs, "good schools"), but don't want to get beaten, robbed, raped, or murdered, or have their children beaten up in school, oppose measures that would reduce home prices. There's a reason NIMBYism really showed up in force in the 1960s-1980s; this was when US cities were getting destroyed (eg murder rate tripled in NYC) by the Civil Rights Acts and the Great Society. This is why progressives, who tend to be urbanites, tend towards NIMBYism: because they can't politically support the measures that would be required to render post-Civil Rights American cities safe. Living near poor urban populations in the US is legitimately dangerous and highly unpleasant, in a way that wasn't true pre-Warren Court. Combine this with the effects of immigration (even when dealing with low-crime populations, like Asian immigrants, people are willing to pay a premium [or, in the case of poorer groups like Mexican immigrants, American blacks, and early 20th century Italian immigrants, form gangs to keep outsiders out by force] to avoid diversity and live in racially, ethnically, and socially homogenous neighborhoods) and you get strong, but unspeakable (in polite society) incentives to oppose the sort of housing poor people could afford. Cut down on immigration and bring back legal freedom of association, and you'd probably take most of the strength out of NIMBYism. Until then, YIMBYism is basically telling wealthy urbanites that you want them brutalized and surrounded by foreigners.

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