Thomas Sowell

Let's face it. Supply and demand will never replace "need" and "greed" in political discussions of economic issues.

Talking about the "need" for more affordable housing or more affordable medical care is what will get politicians more votes this election year.

Voters don't want to hear about impersonal things like supply and demand. They want to hear about how their political heroes will stop the villains from "gouging" them or "exploiting" them with high prices.

Moral melodrama is where it's at, politically.

Least of all do voters want to hear about the most fundamental reality of economics-- that what everybody wants has always added up to more than there is.

That is called scarcity-- and if there were no scarcity, there would be no economics. What would be the point, if we could all have everything we want, in whatever amount we want?

There were no economists in the Garden of Eden because everything was available in unlimited abundance.

A politician with good rhetorical skills can create a new Garden of Eden in people's minds, though only in their minds. However, that is sufficient, if that vision or illusion can be kept alive until election day, and its failure to materialize afterwards can be explained away by the obstruction of villains.

One of the many ironies of politics is that those politicians who do the most to reduce supply often express the greatest outrage about high prices.

So long as the voters buy it, the politicians will keep selling it.

Make a list of those politicians who do the most to prevent our drilling for our own oil. Then make a list of those politicians who express the most outrage about the high price of gasoline. Don't be surprised if you see the same names on both lists.

Make a list of those politicians who most loudly lament the lack of "affordable housing." Then make a list of those politicians who have most consistently promoted restrictions on the building of housing, under the banner of "open space" laws, "farmland protection" policies, preventing "urban sprawl," and other politically soothing phrases.

Again, do not be surprised at seeing the same folks on both lists.

Is it really too "complex" to figure out that taking vast amounts of land off the market will make the price of the remaining land far more expensive? Or that houses built on very expensive land will be very expensive housing?

Despite the current decline in housing prices, a recent advertisement in a Palo Alto, California, newspaper listed a vacant lot for sale at $879,000. If you build anything more elaborate than a tent on that property, you are talking about a million-dollar home, be it ever so humble.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate