James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Value" Voters and Location

This is an interesting theory, with very strong statistical evidence:

Inland areas have lower land values. This includes metropolises not bounded by water, which means you can build suburbs on all sides of the central city (as opposed to, say, Chicago); the greater supply of land lowers its price. This means housing costs are lower, which makes it easier to own a house and raise a family and have more children at younger ages, which means one is more receptive to (traditional, nuclear) "family values" rhetoric that can irritate the hell out of single adults, single-parents, and those with alternative household arrangements. The #1 determining factor to predict whether a state is Republican or Democrat is the average number of years a woman between 18 and 44 has been married. The theory also suggests that the Bush/Greenspan years, unfriendly to homeowners, will backfire on the Republicans. This theory comes from Steve Sailer at the American Conservative.

If you make six figures in San Fran and can't afford a house, but can raise a family in a house in Dallas-Ft. Worth at 50 grand, that's bound to affect one's political and social views. Aside from the moral/religious/ racial ramifications, I can see how the Republicans are the party of property owners (even if low-income) and the Democrats the party of angry renters (whether high- or low-income), and there is a "class conflict" here by the very reason that owning property affects one's outlook on life. I know there are exceptions: I know some prospering, suburban, in-tact traditional nuclear families who are very liberal. And I'm sure there are differences between those who own their own trailer and modest plot in a godforsaken area, and home "owners" whose finances burst when the housing bubble did. The former may make one-fifth as much money, but may still vote Republican while the latter will blame the Republicans for their problems.

But even in the most liberal state, Massachusetts, 40% of whites are Republican. It's not surprising that states with a higher percentage of whites, particularly more property-owning whites, will be Republican. It is also not surprising why homeowners may call Estate taxes "death taxes" whereas others may wonder what's the big deal.

In any case, whites seem to feel, more so than minorities, that they have to have a house before they can raise a kid. Minorities don't inherit this cultural proclivity, and apparently feel no shame to their status, or sense any harm to their children, if they rent.

I can also see how libertarianism - the original left-wing philosophy - has a hard time gaining adherents from members of the Left. Its focus on "property rights" easily can easily turn off people with no property. Libertarians must emphasize that their philosophy is about individual freedom, not private property. The question of property, particularly, property in land, is much more complicated. Are the property values in Manhattan and San Francisco fair? Does tax policy artificially inflate land values in some locations, and de-value it in others?

I would prefer a regime that didn't tax straight-up exchanges - i.e. good and services for cash, or labor for wages - and taxed instead some percentage of those who profit from rent - from income derived not from improving a piece of property, but merely from owning it.

Of course, figuring out how that would work isn't easy. But it's worth investigating.

1 comment:

  1. You might appreciate Mason Gaffney's piece entitled "The Red and the Blue." It is available at http://www.wealthandwant.com/docs/Gaffney_Red_Blue.html

    Written shortly after the 2004 election, it begins,

    "Pundits since November have noted an apparent anomaly: lower-income states voted red, and higher-income states voted blue. Within each state, lower-income counties voted red, and higher-income counties voted blue. In California, the inland counties went red, while coastal counties, plump with wealth and income, went blue. Depressed upstate New York went red, while rich New York City went blue.

    On purely economic grounds, 'it’s a puzzlement.' Why do poor people support the party of big corporations and the rich?"

    another excerpt:
    "To understand the politics of New York City or San Francisco we need to begin by noting that they have about the highest residential rents and home prices in the U.S.A., along with the highest tenancy rates. It takes a high monetary income even to be poor in such places, unless you own land. Federal statisticians who publish the Consumer Price Index (CPI) delicately refrain from comparing different cities - they just compare different times, city by city. This helps them finesse tough questions about rents, and housing prices. Common observation, however, and various semi-popular publications, fill the gap. The C.O.L., especially its rent and home value elements, is a lot higher in the big glamorous cities, so real incomes there are a lot lower than they look - unless you own land."

    Check it out!