Thomas Sowell

Whoever called politics "the art of the possible" must have had a strange idea of what is possible or a strange idea of politics, where the impossible is one of the biggest vote-getters.

People can get the possible on their own. Politicians have to be able to offer the voters something that they cannot get on their own. The impossible fills that bill perfectly.

As a noted economist has pointed out, nothing "could prevent the California electorate from simultaneously demanding low electricity prices and no new generating plants while using ever increasing amounts of electricity."

You want the impossible? You got it. Politicians don't get elected by saying "No" to voters.

Of course Californians also got electricity blackouts and, in order to deal with the blackouts, a multi-billion dollar surplus in the state's treasury was turned into a multi-billion dollar deficit, followed by cutbacks in various other government programs, followed by calls for higher taxes.

You want the government to create more jobs for people when there is widespread unemployment? It's been done. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the government employed more young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps than there were in the Army. The money to pay for all this had to come from somewhere-- and that meant that there was less money left to employ other people in the private sector. While jobs created by the government may not have reduced total unemployment, these jobs increased votes for the administration, which is the real bottom line in politics.

Are you for "open space" laws forbidding building and also for "affordable housing"? Don't be discouraged by the fact that severe building restrictions have sent housing prices sky-rocketing in community after community.

It may be impossible to have "open space" laws and "affordable housing" at the same time, but what are politicians there for, except to figure out ways to give us the impossible?

Palo Alto, California, where housing prices nearly quadrupled in one decade after severe building restrictions were imposed, also pioneered in laws mandating that each builder agree to sell a certain percentage of any new housing "below market."

In other words, they combined "open space" laws with "affordable housing." Who says the impossible cannot be achieved?


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate

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