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State, national columnists

Liberalism comes with a high cost

By From page A9 | April 27, 2014

Liberals advocate many wonderful things. In fact, I suspect that most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world envisioned by liberals, rather than in the kind of world envisioned by conservatives.

Unfortunately, the only kind of world that any of us can live in is the world that actually exists. Trying to live in the kind of world that liberals envision has costs that will not go away just because these costs are often ignored by liberals.

One of those costs appeared in an announcement of a house for sale in Palo Alto, the community adjacent to Stanford University, an institution that is as politically correct as they come.

The house is for sale at $1.498 million. It is a 1,010 square foot bungalow with two bedrooms, one bath and a garage. Although the announcement does not mention it, this bungalow is located near a commuter railroad line, with trains passing regularly throughout the day.

Lest you think this house must be some kind of designer’s dream, loaded with high-tech stuff, it was built in 1942 and, even if it was larger, no one would mistake it for the Taj Mahal or San Simeon.

This house is not an aberration, and its price is not out of line with other housing prices in Palo Alto. One couple who had lived in their 1,200-square-foot home in Palo Alto for 20 years decided to sell it, and posted an asking price just less than $1.3 million.

Competition for that house forced the selling price up to $1.7 million.

Another Palo Alto house, this one with 1,292 square feet of space, is on the market for $2.285 million. It was built in 1895.

Even a vacant lot in Palo Alto costs more than a spacious middle-class home costs in most of the rest of the country.

How does this tie in with liberalism?

In this part of California, liberalism reigns supreme and “open space” is virtually a religion. What that lovely phrase means is that there are vast amounts of empty land where the law forbids anybody from building anything.

Anyone who has taken Economics 1 knows that preventing the supply from rising to meet the demand means that prices are going to rise. Housing is no exception.

Yet when my wife wrote in a local Palo Alto newspaper, many years ago, that preventing the building of housing would cause existing housing to become far too expensive for most people to afford it, she was deluged with more outraged letters than I get from readers of a nationally syndicated column.

What she said was treated as blasphemy against the religion of “open space” – and open space is just one of the wonderful things about the world envisioned by liberals that is ruinously expensive in the mundane world where the rest of us live.

Much as many liberals like to put guilt trips on other people, they seldom seek out, much less acknowledge and take responsibility for, the bad consequences of their own actions.

There are people who claim that astronomical housing prices in places like Palo Alto and San Francisco are due to a scarcity of land. But there is enough vacant land (“open space”) on the other side of the 280 Freeway that goes past Palo Alto to build another Palo Alto or two – except for laws and policies that make that impossible.

As in San Francisco and other parts of the country where housing prices skyrocketed after building homes was prohibited or severely restricted, this began in Palo Alto in the 1970s.

Housing prices in Palo Alto nearly quadrupled during that decade. This was not due to expensive new houses being built, because not a single new house was built in Palo Alto in the 1970s. The same old houses simply shot up in price.

It was very much the same story in San Francisco, which was a bastion of liberalism then as now. There too, incredibly high prices are charged for small houses, often jammed close together. A local newspaper described a graduate student looking for a place to rent who was “visiting one exorbitantly priced hovel after another.”

That is part of the unacknowledged cost of “open space,” and just part of the high cost of liberalism.

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Thomas Sowell


Discussion | 36 comments

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  • archieApril 27, 2014 - 3:57 am

    Much as many liberals like to put guilt trips on other people, they seldom seek out, much less acknowledge and take responsibility for, the bad consequences of their own actions. Mr. Sowell,,,,,, you couldn't be more correct than this spot on statement,,, thank you sir.

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  • The MisterApril 27, 2014 - 7:12 am

    Neo-Cons also come at a high costs... over a decade at war, thousands of soldiers dead at their own hands, millions of innocents dead and wounded in the most horrific ways, billions turned over to the "military-industrial complex", and high taxes and incessant borrowing from commercial bankers increasing our national debt. Obama is a neo-con every bit as much as Bush.

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 8:38 am

    Yeah some areas in California are high-priced and that's the way it is here. The good news is we liberals have freedoms that the GOP want to take away. Thanks goodness we don't live in states where that is taking place.

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  • JagApril 27, 2014 - 9:45 am

    Cd honestly sir I am confused at your statement, What freedoms do we want to take away?

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 10:00 am

    Jag, I won't waste either of our time on that question. the evidence is quite easy to find, go see for yourself.

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  • Dr RussApril 27, 2014 - 10:11 am

    Keep arguing amongst yourselves. While you're busy, I'll just be robbing your houses. Keep dazzling them with BS issues to argue over and the elite can rob us blind all day. Just like this last presidential election. Left kept pelting the masses with "The Right wants to take away your abortions ladies, don't let it happen!". Rest assured "Ladies", no one is going to take your abortions away. In fact, I encourage them. Less morons running around, the better. FREE ABORTIONS FOR ALL!! Vote for me.

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 10:21 am

    Dr. Russ you're either a pornac impersonator or terribly misinformed. You might want to check out the GOP intentions across the country.

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  • Dr RussApril 27, 2014 - 4:08 pm

    It's apparent to me that CD hails from that segment of our population that could never achieve much of anything without the assistance of Uncle Sugar. You've all met him before, that guy/gal who demands that the bar be lowered so that we can all hurdle over it. The Constitution does not guarantee everyone an equal life, simply equality under the law. Strange how so many can confuse the two. If we had true equality, I'd get a check each month to pay my rent, my groceries, my childrens education, my health care, and maybe a stipend for personal expenses. As it is, I'm left to pay for all those things for my family, and chip in to pay for yours as well.

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 8:32 pm

    Dr Russ, clearly you have not been a part of this board for long. I have done quite well, on my own and you should be so lucky. I pay my own way always have. If you think it's okay to make whatever gains to allow equal status should be negotiated then you are part of the problem.

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  • Dr RussApril 27, 2014 - 9:17 pm

    I want to reply but I can't understand what you're attempting to say. Could you possibly rephrase your last thought? Also, I may be new to this board, but I've lived in Solano since 2001, not that my length of residence adds to my credibility, as you seem to believe. Did I mention I'm a very rich and successful man? See, anything I state "on the line" must be true.

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  • CD BrooksApril 28, 2014 - 12:36 pm

    I’ve attempted to send this three times. Apologies in advance for duplicate posts. Dr Russ, you incorrectly suggested I might be a recipient of assistance. Those of us that have been here awhile know each other a little better so that’s why I asked if you were new to the site. No big deal and I did not say I was rich but I worked hard all my life and earned my way. I am fortunate to be retired enjoying time with my wife and family. My comment is about the GOP wanting to negotiate legal freedoms replacing them with their religious beliefs. If we truly had equality in America, those folks under the gun would not have to be threatened by such activity.

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  • Salty DogApril 27, 2014 - 10:30 am

    CD. Come on now why won't you back up your statement all you do is spread your false truths with no facts. But that is expected from a liberal like your self

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 10:34 am

    Salty Dog, you've been here long enough to see the evidence I produced. Stop being such a GOP apologist, you are making a fool of yourself.

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  • Salty DogApril 27, 2014 - 10:57 am

    CD I may have been here long enough to know where you stand but not every one has and they are the ones that need you to clarify your comments and what you are trying to say.

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 11:11 am

    Salty Dog, I think you're an honest person. Totally off the charts in your political beliefs but an okay guy. So here goes: It makes me angry so many disappeared when this came out. Here is a brief portion of my letter: May I ask where everybody was when we were discussing the GOP plans to pass legislation on legal discrimination in AZ. Has anyone spoken out against their war on voting and minority rights. Has anyone spoken out against the GOP war on women? How about their attempts to strip citizens of their rights in AZ, AK, TN, LA, OH, NY, KS, GA, IA, VA, FL, IL, IN, SD, and of course TX? Enjoy gotta run, have a nice day! :)

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  • Teach5thApril 27, 2014 - 11:17 am

    Salty Dog - CD frequently throws out the ," I won't state "them" again" phrase when he's been caught and asked for examples. If you notice, he ignores repeated requests for such examples and instead writes something nasty about the challenger. Watch - here comes his tired, old "Teach5th", you don't belong in the classroom the way you write...

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  • Teach5thApril 27, 2014 - 11:19 am

    OMG- he responded, Salty Dog!

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 11:35 am

    Teach5th, if you folks paid attention and caught this stuff the first time I wouldn't have to constantly rewrite it. You should be learning from me, I'm the one that has presented the truth here for years. Enjoy!

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  • archieApril 27, 2014 - 12:16 pm

    egocentric much Brooksy????? geez spare us the holier than thou bs. all that said you usually make good points, but comments like this will do you no good if you are looking for respect or admiration from a very small internet community that replies to a small town newspaper............ In other words check yourself liberal superman

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 8:38 pm

    archie, right. I'll be sure to consider your advice.

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  • JagApril 27, 2014 - 7:40 pm

    I did not mean to set off a fire storm with a simple question and I did see your answer to SD and if making people have an ID to vote is your idea of taking people rights away then I can now understand your statement,, Totally disagree with it but understand the statement

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  • CD BrooksApril 27, 2014 - 8:27 pm

    Jag, wow that's all you took from that? Dig deeper, you really won't like what you find.

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  • Dr RussApril 27, 2014 - 10:03 am

    Yes CD and Jag. Let's continue to fall into that Left/Right trap once more. This country is divided. But, the line that divides us is not one which runs vertical, with half of us on the right and the other on the left. Rather, we're divided by a horizontal line. One in which 1% of the population resides above the line and the remainder falls below. Now I have no problem with rich folks who legitimately earned their money. The truth is, our elected reps have sold us out to the highest bidder. Reference the recent study conducted by Princeton/Northwestern. The study concluded that the US is now an oligarchy as opposed to a republic. Lets continue to allow ourselves to be blinded by the minuscule issues while our country is raped from above. The elites love when the unwashed masses tear themselves apart, instead of tearing them apart.

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  • Rich GiddensApril 27, 2014 - 3:35 pm

    "that's the way it is here"---- what a tortoise like passive and accommodating acceptance you have of what is wrong CD---typical liberal nonsensical excuse making. Yeah---sell the overpriced bungalow and get the heck out of your fouled up disgusting thug state of lowlifes!

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  • mike kirchubelApril 27, 2014 - 9:13 am

    I wonder if that house being next door to that liberal establishment, Stanford has anything to do with its price. As is quoted so often: "Location, location, location." Also, all those liberals in Palo Alto want to be close to where they work. I guess the fact that Apple, Google, and a thousand other liberal corporations sprang up in the heart of liberal Silicon Valley probably helped raise with housing pricestoo. Yes, tommy, liberalism does have a lot to do with housing price

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  • mike kirchubelApril 27, 2014 - 9:28 am

    I'll bet the next tea party president will make a pretty penny selling off that liberal Yosemite Park. If only there was no Central Park, property values and rent would be dirt cheap in liberal New York. Yes, maybe tommy boy is right, not about parks and property values, but the influence of liberals and vales. wherever liberals congrgate, property goes up. And the opposite is true with conservatives. Just look at property values in the totally red south.

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  • Rich GiddensApril 27, 2014 - 3:38 pm

    Too bad Komrade Kirchebel----TEA Party States like Texas and South Carolina are where the job creation and economic expansion is at. And your liberal rat party paradise California is where all the bums, welfare and illegal aliens are at!---with business, industry and 2 parent families LEAVING too! do you wish to deny that fact?

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  • rlw895April 27, 2014 - 12:36 pm

    Not much open space in SF, except Golden Gate Park. Prices would be high in SF even if Santa Clara County became 100% San Jose. Does anyone remember San Jose when it was surrounded by ag land? What a waste! Let's San Jose-ize San Mateo County while we're at it. THAT ought to bring down housing prices. But maybe it's actually the demand side of the equation that is haywire. Fortunes have been made in Silicon Valley and the SF region, and who wouldn't want to stay here? If you want lower prices, find somewhere with less demand, like Solano County.

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  • rlw895April 27, 2014 - 12:38 pm

    Two-bedroom, one-bath homes don't go for millions. Land sometimes does. In Palo Alto, a vacant lot probably costs more than a lot with a little bungalow on it, because the house is just a hindrance to building new, and I suspect that's what's going to happen to the homes Sowell cites in this column.

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  • Eric RahnApril 27, 2014 - 4:05 pm

    So I guess Mr. Sowell would be happy if we just paved over the whole state. Ooh, I know! We could build a Wal-Mart big enough to cover three counties! Mr. Kirchubel made a very good point in his first post. You could cover every square inch of Palo Alto with housing, and it won't change the fact that we're talking about the heart of Silicon Valley. That couldn't possibly have anything to do with the cost of real estate there, right? Naah! Let's not be ignorant of the many parts of this country (even right here in our own state) where small neighborhoods are surrounded by acres and acres of open land, and there's no demand for additional housing in any of those places. Most of all, I can't believe nobody caught the sheer absurdity of using San Francisco as an example. According to this article, the reason housing is so scarce in the city is because those pinko liberals aren't taking care of those vast swaths of open land. In San Francisco. On the tip of a peninsula. If you can't understand why that's ridiculous you have no business accusing anyone else of being unacquainted with reality. Either that or there have been some great advances in the field of underwater construction I'm not aware of.

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  • PornacApril 27, 2014 - 5:29 pm

    Conservatives want to live in a liberal world? Only because us conservatives would have the guns!

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  • JagApril 27, 2014 - 10:41 pm

    Dig deeper in what direction? Libertarians are all about freedom even more then the GOP but again I did not understand taking away freedoms, thanks for your time and non-answer

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  • CD BrooksApril 28, 2014 - 6:54 am

    Jag, you ran away while suggesting I provided a "non answer." How else would I respond to your cherry picking a voting issue out of a letter addressing the GOP attempts to take away freedoms from American citizens in all those states? I don't make this stuff up it is documented recent history, I simply asked you to check t out. But instead like most others here, you don't want to do the work lest you might learn the truth. I don't care what party you support, if you're okay with the efforts I spoke to, then you're not a very good American.

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  • JagApril 28, 2014 - 11:43 am

    Very Good sir, I don’t run from my point of view and on some issues in your eyes I would defiantly not be a good American because I don’t believe in handouts but I bet we agree on a woman’s right to choose and no more war and taking care of our country before we take care of others country. So maybe that makes me only a half bad American

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  • CD BrooksApril 28, 2014 - 11:57 am

    Jag, you're zig-zagging all over the place. Yes we agree on those things you mentioned but you have not addressed the core issue and that is the GOP trying to force "religious freedom" and circumventing the Constitution.

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  • JagApril 28, 2014 - 2:34 pm

    I was not sure what you were talking about so I goggled (GOP trying to force “religious freedom” and circumventing the Constitution) I found an article that in Pennsylvania that want to replace science with the bible and if that is what you are talking about then NO if people want that they can go to a private school and pay for it themselves

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