Regulation

I Agree With Coyote

My story of his most hated tax actually goes back to the seventies, and the first time I proudly filed a DBA with the town. I was bemused (well, OK, horrified) to receive in the mail an annual “form of list” tax form, where I was supposed to list every business asset so it could be taxed. Since I had nothing much (maybe $100 worth) and was rebellious to boot, I ignored it. Ever since, though, I have cringed at the idea of what some businesses much go through to do that reporting for what would be a modest tax.

Much later, I did run into paying local property tax on the contents of an office. We had filed a DBA in the town where we originated, but never did one in the town where we rented the office. Eventually they caught up with us and sent in someone to poke around and talk to mem then sent a bill based on what they imagined the value of the chattels in the office to be. Most of what was in there was actually client property and/or undiscarded junk, and even if it weren’t, the total was laughable. Yet the property tax bill was too low to be worth fighting.

William Levitt

Fascinating story of Levitt creating suburbia. It strikes me that while home construction stayed more efficient than it once was, the process later migrated away from his sheer assembly line, low skill version. Also, had it not been him, it would likely have been someone. The time was right. On the other hand, it might have been more organic and varied, filling that housing need affordably. I am no construction expert, but most of my life I have had the idea that there has to be a better way – a new better way – for housing to be made efficient and affordable. I mean, above and beyond rethinking the ridiculous burden of local zoning and other regulation that does more than anything to contribute to homelessness and excess cost.

Personal angle on this is my late friend Tom had been born in Levittown, NY, and had moved in his youth to Massachusetts, even though his father still worked as a flight engineer out of New York. That was how I first heard of Levittown and its origin.

Another personal angle: I would have absolutely hated the rules Levitt imposed. If such rules are attached after you own property, then it’s not really your property. I’d have been the first person to rebel and add a fence or a clothesline, if for no other reason than because it was forbidden. More likely, though, I’d have moved elsewhere.

It’s The Regulation, Stupid

I couldn’t resist the title, which would make a great theme/reminder for a Presidential candidate. At the risk of redundantly linking Warren Meyer, I wanted to note his latest post, describing through his own experiences how growth in regulation and compliance has led to a fundamental shift in the economy. I don’t need the firsthand experience to see that this is the case. This is a great way to stifle growth, making people hesitate even to go into business, or changing their approach to one that limits regulatory overhead. It becomes more than just a matter of tax avoidance or minimization. Don’t grow too large. Don’t hire. Don’t expand. Or, in the linked post, can’t expand any longer. A business that doesn’t start or expand reduces jobs or sales to that business that otherwise might have been.

Gone Galt

Be it unintentional or not, the economy isn’t the same after many workers have gone Galt, dropping out of the full-time workforce on an extended, if not permanent, basis. This hits close to home. I didn’t start out intending to participate negligibly in the economy until the economy rejected me. Now it’s about stability, bare adequacy or making do, and refraining from helping the economy any more than necessary until at least 2017.

I Didn’t Realize It Was THIS Bad

However, this corroborates my view that there is indeed a new/continued housing bubble and, naturally, the potentially for it to fuel another crash. I’m lucky to be in an apartment with rent that doesn’t routinely increase, but what was barely affordable market rent ten years ago is now slightly less affordable below market rent. In a world in which we need either an even larger apartment or, better still, a house rental. Neither of which will happen any time soon, though certainly they will happen sooner than home ownership. The only way I’ll ever own property is if I pursue my old dream of buyng a piece of insanely cheap land in the middle of nowhere so I can at least camp out on it now and then, perhaps build a cabin getaway, or if the housing market fully crashes next time and I am in a position to take advantage of it. It was a big surprise to me that houses didn’t deflate to what they were worth in the last crash, and tended still to be overpriced. The house next door last sold in a $100,000 short sale, at a price that was somewhere between 20 and 70 grand more than I’d have considered appropriate.