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DeLong Smackdown Watch: Beauty, Accessibility, Crowding, Expense

The country today has 320 million people in it, compared to 150 million or so at mid-century. And the country has a much better transportation system. Therefore, increasingly, places will be one or more of:

  • ugly
  • inaccessible
  • expensive
  • crowded

Barbara Ehrenreich's basic problem, I think, is that she doesn't like beautiful places that are crowded, especially crowded with the wrong people--recall her dismissal of Maine's beautiful (and accessible! and affordable!) Old Orchard Beach as a "rinky-dink blue-collar resort."

But here is Robert Waldmann to perform the smackdown:

Robert Waldmann: I will now defend Ehrenreich...

OK I got it. The key phrase is "live there". Brad -- you can't afford to live in Yosemite or Banff. They are parks. You can't afford the bribes it would take to be allowed to build a house there. You can afford to visit. You can't afford to own or rent with a lease.

In fact your point and Trotsky's is that, while the market system would condemn the non-rich to never experiencing beauty, public ownership has saved the day.

Parks are one way in which market failures are solved. There are two reasons for public parks:

  1. people derive pleasure from knowing that unspoiled nature exists. We can't be forced to pay for this pleasure except with taxes.
  2. It would be very easy to evade large fees charged to enter large open areas. A private non theme park would have to use intrusive offensive security measures to force people to pay enough to be profitable.

They can't allow people to have solitude while backpacking if they have to check if you have a ticket.

She's argues that laissez faire doesn't work. I mean she isn't a Trotskyite.

Now she is also complaining that rich people now have similar tastes to hers. This is too bad for her, but better for someone else (imagine what gas would cost if they all decided to buy personal 747s to tour the world). However, the problem of rich people who want to own nature and keep others off has been rather important in the past oh 2000 years and it's worth remembering that--unless we make sure that policy remains "the way it was after Teddy Roosevelt, when the Socialists took over." http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/paulkrugman/index.html

UPDATE: Think Ehrenreich's article might have something to do with this? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/15/AR2008061502137.html?hpid=topnews