Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gentrification: It's the Capitalists' Fault!

Here I thought that gentrification was a liberal thing: liberals with a little less money that corporate strivers buying low and selling high in marginal urban neighborhoods.

But class warrior Gavin Mueller paints a different scene. Forget about Richard Florida and his "creatives". The gentrifiers are "bureaucrats and IT workers with a few more years of beards and bong hits in them". And gentrification is a big-money game.
Gentrification has always been a top-down affair, not a spontaneous hipster influx, orchestrated by the real estate developers and investors who pull the strings of city policy, with individual home-buyers deployed in mopping up operations.
So the whole thing reduces to the usual left-wing narrative of class warfare with the "broken windows" policing of Rudy Guiliani doing a right hook on the poor and the Jane Jacobs worship of the urban environment doing a left hook while the corporate interests advance up the middle and mop up with the profits.

Well, yes.  You combine the profit motive with access to government influence and you can turn the city upside down, and the poor will get the shaft. Factor in government programs encouraging minorities to buy houses they can't afford and you compound the problem.

So what do we do? Apart from left-wing organizing and right-wing laissez-faire?

Maybe the short-term option is to do nothing and let liberal gentrifiers and lefty community organizers and the crony capitalist real-estate developers stew together a little.  They are, after all, Democrats, every one.

Meanwhile let's try to think things out a little.

First, the poor are always going to be living in the worst part of town, and that means they will always be vulnerable to redevelopment, because that's how capitalism works. You buy low, you add value, and you sell high. So the poor are always going to find themselves chased around town. Because reality.

Second, cities are always changing, and if you don't like change driven by real-estate developers than you are choosing change driven by politicians and activists. Which means incompetence and no change until the bottom drops out. See Detroit.

You can have public housing; you can have subsidies; you can have programs. But the poor will still be living in the  worst part of town. And if you don't redevelop the worst part of town it will get even worse

Of course, everything that liberals do, from lefty community organizers to creative-class urban pioneers to crony capitalists, make the poor's situation more difficult. That's because welfare, subsidies, public transportation make the poor vulnerable and dependent on government.  People that have jobs are people that can move around and adapt.  People that live on welfare and housing subsidies and rely on public transportation are stuck.

So the real solution is to reform the welfare system so that poor people mostly have jobs. Then they have the economic power to make choices rather than slither, by default, into the worst part of town, because dependency.

But that sort of thing doesn't interest lefty class warriors. The solution must be political. It must be a crackdown on business interests and capitalism. It must be bigger government.

It's all such a bloody shame.

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