Showing posts with label policies and incentives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label policies and incentives. Show all posts

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Density Growth

"Because we don't fully appreciate how important cities are in stoking economic development, we dismiss the economic costs of regulations that make them prohibitively expensive to live in...What they are arguing against are anti-density policies.."

Ezra Klein, "The city as growth engine," The Washington Post, March 13, 2012.

Forty years ago cities were labeled "growth machines" that generated real estate development for a cabal of land-based interests -- from big banks to big labor. These efforts rebuilt downtowns, displaced small business and manufacturing, and added to the suburban spread. It's good to see the argument evolve to cities as "growth engines," but the role of creativity, innovation, density, city form, and urban/suburban administrative boundaries is more complicated than this review suggests. The density of faceless office buildings and plazas is quite different from the density of lower-rise buildings chock full of small businesses. And maybe it's a good idea for capital and people to move to places that are less expensive and in need of more density and innovation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Too Smart?

"But in Washington stimulus has become the policy that dare not speak its name."

James Surowiecki, "Second Helpings," The New Yorker, September 20, 2010.

Modest success, political failure, in part do to its conflation with private-sector bail-outs and the usual outcry about government waste, real or not. And hence even the new, anemic, non-stimulus stimulus of business incentives is having a rough time.

"Bizarre as it may seem, a less well designed stimulus might have been more popular, and would have made it easier for Obama to sell the electorate on his new stimulus proposals."

In other words, people didn't see and feel the benefit. Clever behavioral economics, astute accounting of multiplier effects, the prevention of the the fiscal collapse of states -- all good, all beneficial, not so visible. Smart isn't always populist.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Green Anxiety

"When the president speaks of 'new green energy economies' creating 'countless well-paying jobs,' perhaps they really are countless, meaning incapable of being counted."

George F. Will, "Tilting at Green Windmills," The Washington Post, June 25, 2009.

The greening discussion deserves a good bit of here-and-now skepticism but not dismissal. Green jobs at the scale President Obama speechifies will be possible only if a robust set of federal, state, and local policies about climate change and energy independence are put in place. A more modest estimate of policy change and green jobs by the U.S.Conference of Mayors is the creation of 4.2 million jobs over thirty years. Until then, we have the opportunity to develop solid pilot projects in sub-sectors of the green economy where jobs exist or will soon be created by federal stimulus/recovery dollars. And, these jobs are countable, not countless.

Some may not agree with energy independence and reducing our carbon footprint as worthy public goals. And these goals are certainly not costless to achieve in dollars and sense. But investing in new industries has always involved chasing windmills and defying cost/benefit analyses -- the Hamiltonian way. Unfortunately, we are trying to straddle short-run economic woes with long-run economic potential and environmental necessity. The words get away from us.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Failure Policies

"But from a longer point of view, the country's [Germany's] ambitious green project is failing."

Michael Scott Moore, "Germany's Fine Failure," Miller-McCune, July-August, 2009.

Policies spur green markets -- but policies can be turned around -- that's the potential (likely) failure in Germany. A combination of mandatory nuclear phase out and "feed in tariffs" for renewable energy creation has driven green innovation, jobs, etc. Now there's a failure of nerve (and maybe analysis) that renewables can do the job alone.

"[U.S.] policies look anemic -- as if the idea of harnessing market forces to drive innovation has yet to dawn on Washington lawmakers."

At another level, individual households won't adopt solar because of prohibitively long payback periods and high short-run costs of installation.

"At its root, there is a financing market failure for renewables and energy efficiency in people's homes. Everybody's talking about all the technology, but we have to solve the financing problem."

Francisco DeVries, quoted in Matt Jenkins, "Solar System," Miller-McCune, July-August, 2009.

It's so simple. Treat solar, energy efficiency improvements like the sidewalk out front, putting utilities underground, or special assessments for extra services. Set up a special district if needed, figure out the pay back mechanism through utilities or taxes, subtract incentives, sell bonds, provide upfront cash to homeowners. Pilot and scale. Yes, I know it's not that simple. But it's virtue is that it uses tried and true municipal financing techniques and puts energy efficiency in the realm of the normal.

Again, policies and incentives spur markets -- and then comes job and business creation.