A left-leaning New York Times columnist, Eduardo Porter, writes this sentence in an article about how to increase economic growth:
Eliminating onerous regulations — things like occupational licenses that restrict eligibility for a variety of jobs and overly tight zoning laws that prevent the building of new homes — would improve economic efficiency and equity.
The article otherwise probably isn't much worth your time, but that sentence is something I can get behind. Even Paul Krugman has recently been making this point about zoning and building restrictions. So has Lawrence Summers. If I were running a free-market-oriented think tank or staffing a congressional committee, one of my first moves right now would be to convene a conference on deregulation of construction as a path to economic growth and housing affordability. If Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy could deregulate airlines and trucking, maybe Messrs. Krugman, Porter, and Summers can deregulate housing construction.
As for the Times, it's great to see acknowledgement of this point in a sentence or a paragraph in opinion columns, but one wonders where is the urgency that the Times brings to other issues. Where are the front-page news articles with heart-tugging anecdotes and mind-boggling multimedia graphics? Where are the campaigning editorials? Maybe the word "zoning" or "occupational licenses" makes people's eyes glaze over, but how many other areas are there where there is a broad bipartisan consensus that fixing something could bring economic growth. Corporate tax reform, maybe? Any others?
The zoning issue is complicated by the fact that it is a local rather than a federal issue, but on the other hand, that may simplify things, because one doesn't need to push a law through Washington gridlock to fix it, one just needs to find a few mayors or county executives, or maybe governors if the issues are statewide environmental regulations or occupational licenses, who can bring their jurisdictions along.