Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman, a self-described liberal, took an unexpectedly free-market oriented stance on zoning laws and land use restrictions in a Nov. 30 op-ed for The New York Times.
In his article on urban gentrification and affordable housing, Krugman asked rhetorically, “But what about all the people, surely a large majority, who are being priced out of America’s urban revival? Does it have to be that way?”
[pull_quote_center]The answer, surely, is no, at least not to the extent we’re seeing now. Rising demand for urban living by the elite could be met largely by increasing supply. There’s still room to build, even in New York, especially upward. Yet while there is something of a building boom in the city, it’s far smaller than the soaring prices warrant, mainly because land use restrictions are in the way.[/pull_quote_center]
“Yes, this is an issue on which you don’t have to be a conservative to believe that we have too much regulation,” added Krugman.
The Washington Post’s Ilya Somin pointed out the fact that a growing number of left-leaning public policy wonks are beginning to oppose overzealous zoning laws. “Libertarians and other free market advocates have criticized zoning on such grounds for decades, at least as far back as the late Bernard Siegan’s classic 1972 book Land Use Without Zoning. Present-day pro-market scholars such as Steve Horwitz and Harvard economist Edward Glaeser have continued in a similar vein. More recently, however, the critique of zoning has been taken up by prominent left of center commentators,” he wrote, listing Paul Krugman, Council of Economic Advisers chairman Jason Furman, Stony Brook University assistant professor of finance Noah Smith, and Matthew Yglesias as examples.
Somin said that he finds left-leaning opposition to zoning laws “particularly significant” because “the most liberal cities also tend to be ones with the most restrictive zoning laws” and “it would be good if more politically influential liberals become aware of the problem, and began [to] advocate measures to curb zoning.“