Professor Clayton Nall (@ClaytonNall) on liberal self-interest in housing politics

UCSB’s Dr. Clayton Nall came to USC’s Price School to give a talk for the Bedrosian Center, and in it he presents some of his really good experimental work, partnered with William Marble, on home ownership and political ideology, helping us understand why people in ostensibly progressive enclaves like Berkeley can be so unwiling to allow inclusion via new housing.

I have THOTS, but let’s get you to Clayton’s excellent material first. Here is the highlight reel/trailer:

And here’s the full talk if you want to hop right on in:

Here’s my blather:

I meant to post about this really nice presentation from USCB’s Clayton Nall ages ago, but I forgot, and then Clayton piped up on Twitter over the weekend and I remembered. I was kvetching about Ezra Klein’s piece over the NYT last week about supposedly liberal California not delivering on progressive housing goals.

The most you can say about the Ezra Klein piece is that is he is not wrong about California failing to on progressive social promises, particularly housing. Lefties who exist to scold each other eat that stuff up, and thus I had this column all over my various timelines. The problem is the premise: California is not a particularly progressive place, it never has been–except as an imaginary construction for those who want it to stand for whatever abstract point they want to make about politics. CA’s early colonial politics were vicious (including indigenous enslavement); CA’s spatial politics regarding early Chinese immigrants were also vicious; CA has a long and disgraceful affection for sterilizing women from marginalized group that extended into the 2010s. That’s to name just a few obvious human rights abuses of many here. California in part brought us modern US conservatism–through John Birch, Howard, Jarvis, and Ronald Reagen. Californians routinely pass bone-headedly reactionary referenda from Prop 13 to Prop 8 to Prop 209 to last year’s damn mess, but particularly Prop 22. There are more registered Republicans in California than residents of many other states. The proper headline of any piece on CA should really be “place not particuarly liberal, except in the culture war imaginations of conservatives who hate gays and Hollywood, not really delivering on liberal ideals.”

There are some issues where Calfornia really does fall into that category; we (probably) won’t be the state drafting “If a woman has an abortion, she should be flogged to death on television on a new reality tv show” laws. And gun control. And I am grateful for those things.

California is better understood, like most of the US outside of New England, as a place where the governing ethics center primarily on exploiting land for wealth for white people. Yes, the US is a constitutional republic, and you can analyze its institutions that way, but development politics make a lot more sense if you set aside Federalist papers propaganda and just think about things from the perspective of settler colonialism, replicated again and again and again using various policies, practices, and regimes.

When you look at things that way, you have a ready explanation for why Democrats and Republicans don’t really differ all that much on their behavior regarding class politics and land development. You can scold and shame and harangue progressives about their lack of virtue if you want to, but as long as individual and family welfare is as tied to individual property ownership as it is in the US, you are going to have a struggle on your hands with home owners being way too risk averse to allow change. (This even includes things likely to put money in their wallets, including amenities like a rail station. )