To Help Families, Loosen Up the Housing Market

With American fertility rates in decline, ideas have emerged from both the right and the left about how governments can incentivize having children, or at the very least reduce some of the costs. Patrick T. Brown observes that the steady increase in the price of housing may be leading people to delay starting families, and argues that, as is so often the case, well-intended government interventions are the culprit:

In the wake of World War II, the United States adopted a type of industrial policy for housing—favorable tax treatment, federal assistance, a rejuvenated homebuilding industry, and easier financing led to exploding homeownership rates (of course, not every group benefited equally). . . . But by the 1970s, the great engine that had been powering the growth of the housing supply began to peter out. Two factors are of particular interest to our story: a regulatory climate that shifted from favoring development to protecting the environment, and the rise of what the Dartmouth economist William Fischel calls the “homevoters.”

First, the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act and state-level equivalents made it more cumbersome for developers to build. These laws were arguably well-intentioned, but the added years of environmental and legal review are inevitably capitalized into the price of a home. . . . Funnily enough, in the context of today’s concerns over the climate, the environmental laws championed by 1970s activists may be making it harder to fight carbon emissions. For example, in today’s legal climate, it’s easier for developers to build in Arizona or Nevada than the San Francisco Bay Area. As a result, more people move to hot, sunny areas that require intensive use of air conditioning rather than staying in more temperate areas like the Bay Area.

Second, the high-inflation environment of the 1970s, combined with the record-high rates of ownership, changed the mental framework around housing. For most people, a single-family home is the single largest purchase they will ever make. If a home continues to rise in value after its purchase, a homeowner can see the value of the house as both consumption (in the form of a place to live, make memories, etc.) and as investment. That means that homeowners have a rational, vested interest in seeing the value of the home maintain (if not improve).

A new road, apartment, or housing development changes the status quo, and even the most open-minded homeowner might be worried about taking a risk, even a small one, that his house could end up worth much less than what he paid for it.

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: American family, Economics, Family policy

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security