Is it ironic, or just self-serving, that Richard Florida, the man who urged cities to attract the so-called creative class with policies that made housing unaffordable, now writes a Wall Street Journal article (link to full article for non-subscribers) arguing that “homeownership is overrated”? Pay no attention to the facts behind the curtain, which are that growth-management policies encouraged by Florida’s ideas created an affordability crisis, which led policymakers in Washington to pressure lenders to loosen mortgage criteria so people could buy overpriced homes, and that growth-management also made prices more volatile so that eventually a large share of American homeowners would be underwater.
Florida can get away with his brazen approach because most of his followers don’t understand economics well enough to follow the above train of logic. As George Mason University economist Dan Klein points out in the very next day’s WSJ, when asked if “restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable,” 60 to 70 percent of liberals and progressives incorrectly answer “no.” By comparison, only 16 percent of libertarians and less than 23 percent of conservatives said “no.”
This raises some interesting questions. Does economic ignorance lead people to lean left? Or do progressives cultivate economic ignorance? Klein doesn’t speculate about the answer. However, I suspect that some people find economics to be more intuitive than others, and those who don’t easily understand it are more likely to be attracted by flim-flam artists such as Richard Florida.