Don Brash and Massey revisited

I wanted to touch on three largely-unrelated points, two on the controversy, and one of what Don Brash was apparently going to say in his speech:

First, very briefly, much of the story has been written in terms of Massey’s Vice-Chancellor denying Don Brash the right to speak on campus.   As far as I can see, Don Brash doesn’t have any particular “right” to speak on campus, any more than you (assuming “you” aren’t a Massey student) or I do.  In that sense, the issue shouldn’t be about Don Brash –  although that is what Professor Thomas tried to make it about –  but about a Massey student society’s own freedom; the freedom to invite anyone they wish (operating within the law) to speak on campus.  That should probably be where the focus is, including  adding the question of whether Professor Thomas thinks she should also have the right to ban altogether student groups that might happen to hold views she strongly disagrees with. After all, such groups might be fora for such dangerous ideas to be uttered, not just once (probabilistically –  see the VC’s “fear” that Don Brash would utter such views) but day after day, week after week.   Both would be chilling, and especially so in a public (state-established, largely state-funded,  and with several members of the council appointed by the government) university.   Has she stopped, even momentarily, to reflect on the implications of her stance?  She’d have had no problem with anti-Vietnam War speakers –  even eminent sceptics – being banned in the 1960s?  Or perhaps speakers favouring legalisation of homosexuality in the 1970s?  And so on.  It always pays to try to look at these things the other way round, unless of course Professor Thomas’s view is “who care’s about inconsistency, I hold the commanding heights now”.    A fine standard for a university that would be.    As it is, neither Professor Thomas –  nor her Council –  will explain themselves.

Second, someone asked me last night why I made so much in my post of the fact that Professor Thomas had only been in New Zealand for 18 months or so.   Her general stance –  banning the Brash speech at the merest whisper of the threat of a few protestors, and banning it because she regarded Dr Brash’s view on some live public issues as unacceptable –  would be reprehensible from any Vice-Chancellor.

And, sadly, this stuff happens elsewhere.  La Trobe University in Melbourne last week initially tried to ban a speaker –  social commentator Bettina Arndt –  they didn’t like, then partially backed away trying to charge the organisers hefty security costs, only now to finally back down completely and adopt the only stance consistent with the values of a free and open society

But university administrators yesterday told The Australian they had decided the university would cover the cost of security, out of a desire to preserve free speech and discussion on campus. “We welcome free speech and the event will go ahead,” a spokesman said.

But if Professor Thomas banning the student society from having Dr Brash to speak would have been reprehensible at the best of times, whatever the issue, I found it more than usually unacceptable when the views Professor Thomas disapproves of so strongly are those relating to the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori wards, etc etc.    These are very specific New Zealand issues, and despite her repeated attempts to wrap herself in the Treaty of Waitangi (all that talk of being a Treaty-led organisation, whatever that means) and it ill behoves newly arrived foreigners to attempt to decree what aspects of these issues should be able to be freely discussed (hint: in a free society, any of them).  It all has the feel of a social justice warrior, rather out of her depth in a new country, having allowed herself to be captured by a particular minority.  It would be unacceptable in any public university Vice-Chancellor, but should be doubly so in one with little familiarity with the underlying issues –  and, frankly, no obvious personal interest or commitment to the future of New Zealand democracy or society.

My third point was really totally unrelated to yesterday controversy itself.  But the Herald has on its website the speaking notes Dr Brash was planning to use for his talk to Massey students about his life in politics etc.  I was struck by his final comments, particularly those on a couple of economic issues and how they have been treated under the previous government, and how things might unfold under this government.

Of the previous National government

A hugely disappointing Government:

I. They pledged to reduce the gap between NZ incomes and those in Australia, and utterly failed;

II. They pledged to make housing more affordable, and utterly failed

Hard to disagree with him on either of those.  Productivity gaps between New Zealand and Australia widened over the last 9 years, and as for housing, it became ever more unaffordable in large chunks of the country.

And here is what Dr Brash –  former leader of both National and ACT – has to say about prospects under the current Labour-led government

In my own view, the present Government is likely to do a better job in making housing more affordable, but probably a worse job in closing the income gap with Australia

I’m pretty sure he will prove right about the income and productivity gaps with Australia –  it is the sort of story I’ve been telling myself –  although bear in mind the likelihood of a change of government in Australia next year.

But what of housing?  It would be great if Dr Brash’s positive story were true, and would be quite an indictment on the previous National government.  But is he right?

I’ve been sceptical for some time, for two main reasons:

  • first, any Labour-led government was going to be dependent on the Greens, who had never shown any signs of fixing the urban land market in ways that would open competition and lower land prices. “Sprawl” is, after all, one of the things they seem to detest, and
  • second, whether in the year or two before the election or subsequently, there has been no mention of freeing up the land market from party leaders (Little or Ardern in Opposition, Ardern as Prime Minister –  although it was there if you went looking in the details of the housing policy), and lots of talk of policy responses since which, at best, only tackle symptoms.  There is lots of talk of Kiwibuild –  which, at its best, would do nothing about the land market.  There was –  and is –  no sign that the Labour leadership really believed what most serious analysts will be telling them is the only long-term fix.  If you don’t really believe it strongly, are never heard to openly make the case for it, it seems unlikely that you will be willing to push such reform through your own caucus, let alone get in through the Greens caucus.

In the last week or so I’ve seen a couple of bits of data which still leave me unclear about whether Labour will, finally, make much of difference in fixing the decades of dysfunction.

Whatever doubts many have about the Housing minister, Phil Twyford, it has always seemed as though he genuinely got the sort of reforms that might be needed.  The free-market people at the New Zealand Initiative certainly thought so a year or two back when they teamed up for a joint op-ed.

Consistent with that interpretation were some reported comments Phil Twyford had made recently in a vigorous debate with Environmental Defence Society CEO Gary Taylor.  I saw a copy of these yesterday, I gather taken from a longer article at politik.co.nz (for those with access)

Twyford replied that it was a question of values. 

“This is for us, for Labour, for our coalition government, this is fundamentally a social justice issue. 

“Our objective is not to build a Copenhagen of the South Pacific. 

“We could build a beautiful city with a whole lot of the policies we have talked about. 

“We could build a Vancouver of the South Pacific; beautiful but utterly unaffordable. 

“I’m interested in us fixing this totally dysfunctional urban land economy.

 “If we don’t deal with affordability we will have completely wasted the opportunity that has been given to our generation.”  

Twyford said the only way to deal with the affordability issue was to deal with the land price issue and that meant dealing with the artificial scarcity of land caused by the planning system and the availability of finance for infrastructure.

My spirits lifted when I read that. I imagine it was the sort of thing Dr Brash has in mind when he talks about a degree of optimism that Labour might change things for the better.

But then there was the Cabinet paper pro-actively released last week on the government’s “Urban Growth Agenda”.   It was really only a progress report, with full papers to come back to Cabinet next year.  And there was some good –  if highly politically contentious –  stuff around congestion charging.  Near the top of the list of recommendations (all only noting ones) were these positives

note that the high cost and shortage of housing is partly due to deep seated problems with the operation of our urban land markets and how infrastructure is planned, funded, and financed.

note the Urban Growth Agenda will deliver medium to long-term changes to create the conditions for the market to respond to growth, bring down the high cost of urban land to improve housing affordability and support thriving communities.

But then, towards the end of the paper there were paragraphs 32 to 35, which some experts (in email chains I’ve been on) have seen as undermining any hope of a seriously different and better vision of how land markets might work.

How we could see growth occurring in practice
32. Growth enabled through the UGA would likely take a phased and sequenced approach targeting growth within existing urban centres before greenfield development.

33. For example, in Auckland we will firstly emphasise urban intensification and regeneration projects in existing areas, particularly along transport corridors and urban centres. Development in already planned greenfield areas would take place alongside this.

34. Our attention will then focus on new transit-oriented development occurring within existing nodes [a few words redacted at this point] . Development opportunities will be identified collaboratively with local government and other stakeholders.

35. Finally, new leap-frog greenfield development would be enabled beyond the current Future Urban Zone with a priority towards the South of Auckland. This step would be subject to new spatial planning and cost allocation tools to mitigate risks and ensure an efficient urban growth pattern occurs. The majority of this growth would be within Auckland’s existing administrative boundary.

All of which sounds a great deal like central and local government planners trying to keep control, determine where growth does and doesn’t happen, with little real sense of the possibilities that genuine competition (among potential developers and landowners) would open up.  In the entire Cabinet paper, there is no suggestion that we might move to a model in which landowners had a presumptive right to build.

I’m left still fondly hoping that Don Brash’s favourable judgement on the new government, in this particular area, will prove well-warranted, but also still more than a little sceptical.  Nothing like a crunch decision seems to have been faced yet, nothing that would really tell us whether the government will radically transform the market  –  and it really is a social justice issue, as Phil Twyford described it.   But there is one other test: the market test.  If landowners, actual and prospective, really believed that the government was serious, that it was going to implement the sort of vision Phil Twyford talked about so eloquently, land prices on the peripheries of our cities would be falling, and falling rather substantially (just as taxi badge prices in regulated cities abroad as competition finally opened up that previously-overregulated market). I’m not aware of any evidence of such falls, but if readers are please get in touch and I’d be happy to report such an encouraging development.

 

28 thoughts on “Don Brash and Massey revisited

  1. If the objective was to get publicity for his cause I guess Brash has won this round with the social justice crowd. But I would have thought it is a strange legacy for a former Reserve Bank Governor, who was once at the vanguard of the new theoretically driven monetary policy experiments, to be banned from a second rate university in a rural area (I’m also a graduate of Massey). Why does he bother with Hobsons Pledge, and all the references to race, he would have been remembered for his mid career, not his odd interventions in politics at the right wing fringes?

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  2. In this case, I’m sure Don had no particular agenda. He – and Chris Bishop and SImon Bridges – had been invited to a student politics club to talk about the National Party etc. He probably had no reason to think he was about to be banned – he does talks all over the country, including at universities (here and abroad) on all manner of topics, some more narrowly central banking, or tax, others not. From his perspective it is probably a totally unexpected “win” – generated wholly and soley by Prof Thomas – at the cost of disappointing his (no doubt small) intended student audience

    He is a “true believer” (on whatever he gets involved in), and if I had to use one word to describe him it would probably be “earnest”. You are right that had he retired as Governor at the end of his term in 2003, he’d probably have collected a knighthood, directorships etc – and would have had reasonably widespread regard. But he’d also have been bored and frustrated. He notes in his speaking notes that he made the Knowledge Wave speech in 2001 which many people (including me at the time) told him wasn’t really the sort of speech a politician should have been giving. He realised that, and transferred his energies to politics.

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    • I regard Don Brash as one of the most unfairly misjudged people out there. Your description of him as “earnest” is spot on. He cares deeply about “getting things right”. He could have had a career in areas outside of finance and economics and banking, this was almost accidental. I was impressed when reaching out to him for the first time, at his immediate engagement with what I was saying, and he has stayed in touch ever since and even met with me twice, at his instigation. So many others at his level simply never even reply in the first place. He must have incredible stamina to be involved in so much.

      I fully believe that in 2005, he honestly meant to deal with the housing issue in a way that could not be said for the extremely disappointing Key team (and Twyford et al now). One of the saddest words of tongue or pen is “what might have been” – and NZ could have been on an absolute roll had a PM Don Brash got to deal with the urban growth issue, with input from the late great Owen McShane and other enlightened people.

      Why wouldn’t he get involved in Hobson’s pledge? What has been done to NZ colonial-era history is a disgrace, and the tactics against critics of the revisionist program are an outrage. The Hobson’s Pledge people are right; they are not saying anything that Sir Apirana Ngata would have disagreed with, and possibly even someone as recent as David Lange. Lange’s own utterances about The Treaty, coming from anyone in Hobson’s Pledge now, incurs charges of “racist right-winger”. In fact what we are up against is a monster that has been created with far too much power, power to just make things up as it goes and then steamroller any opposition, no matter how honest and principled. And even honest historianship on nasty pre-colonial realities such as cannibalism, gets authors (like Prof. Paul Moon) de-platformed and de-personed.

      Classic “book burning” tactics include tossing down the memory hole, Ngata’s own book on The Treaty, and any study of the 1860 Kohimarama Conference where the Chiefs or their descendants overwhelmingly indicated their satisfaction with The Treaty. The whole public misapprehension on which the revisionist con trick relies, of a “Maori nation” brutally dispossessed of its “national property” is nonsensical. Sir Bob Jones used the language of a provocateur recently on this issue, but basically he was right. Maori benefited, and the Chiefs signed the Treaty because they understood this, because they were enlightened, not because they were swindled by a misunderstanding of the terms. Ngata’s book is quite clear, leaving no room for activist manufactured grievance; hence its disappearance down the memory hole.

      This is just another feature of modern-day creeping leftwing subterfuge of everything worthwhile about western-civ heritage and it is part and parcel with the de-platforming and de-personing of western civ’s defenders. If it wasn’t the Treaty of Waitangi, it would be something else, and indeed it is virtually everything else anyway. The Treaty is something that should have been celebrated, I know of no other example in the world where an indigenous people’s representatives got enlightened and made their own deal with an Imperial power accordingly. The British Crown was never really interested in “conquest” of NZ. The world was a rapidly-changing place, and Aotearoa was going to be affected by the way things were heading in the world, regardless. People were going to come here from somewhere, and Maori were going to want at least some aspects of what the modern world could offer, even if it was only its weapons. I can think of many potential counterfactuals that would have been far worse for Maori, than making the Treaty they did, with the British Crown. And by 1860 they obviously thought so too. Ignorance of historical realities and the condition of humanity, lead to far too many people projecting modern-day conditions back into the past and coming to completely stupid judgements about what actually happened.

      I see similarities between Don Brash and Tommy Robinson: something morally wrong is going down all around them, and even if no-one else can be bothered fighting the establishment, they are going to.

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  3. You make some excellent points Michael. In my youth I participated in many forums at Victoria University (sorry, Wellington University!) about Vietnam and Apartheid. Discussions were often passionate, as student orators can be, and demonstrations were a regular social event, with arrests fairly frequent. We were sure in our own minds “the whole world’s watching” as traffic ground to a halt on Lambton Quay, while desk workers threw eggs and emptied rubbish bins on us from windows on high in the office blocks along the route. Never once did the University Administration try to shut down discussion or demos emanating from the university for “health and safety”, “security” or any other purported reasons – it would have been unthinkable. We have lost a lot it seems to me in the intervening half century or so. I believe the Massey case deserves the widest possible international exposure. This Vice Chancellor deserves all the derision she receives and I hope it hurts. Let the other petty potentates in our oh-so politically correct tertiary institutions learn that if they interfere with fundamental freedoms they will be laughed out of academia.

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    • That is a good point about the demise of student protest. I suspect is has something to do with better gender balance, student loans, continual assessment and communication via social media rather than actualy face to face. Long gone are the days I was a student with large grant at beginning of each term; exams at end of a year and too few girls to keep the majority of us males occupied. I did walk up Union St in Aberdeen to protest US in Vietnam but missed the female occupation of the last of the men only pubs in the city and the Trotskyite take over of the Aberdeen Co-op AGM. This week Auckland Uni with its international students pre-cowed by the governments of their countries of origin is letting Don Brash give a possibly inflammatory lecture about the recent history of the National party. I suppose there is a chance that Palmerston North is a last bastion of truly radical revolutionary students.

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  4. Here in Wanaka a few land owners dominate the market for sections. They maximize returns to themselves quite logically by each individually restricting the supply of sections on the land parcels they control. One developer who got special approval for affordable housing has announced in the media that he is going to release his sections over twenty or more years. This will ensure a regular income and top prices for extremely scarce sections. I do not know how we can ever get land prices down in New Zealand.

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    • This type of ‘staged’ development is commonplace – done that way (in the main) to maximise profit on the land (i.e., artificially inflate land prices by constraining supply). Not dis-similar to the placement of covenants on sections released.

      I have, on more than one occasion, suggested that as planners grant consents for subdivision – and they apply any number of conditions on those consents – it should be legally explored as to whether conditions of consent can be used to prevent (prohibit) the use of covenants and to require specific time frames to release the sections to market.

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  5. I’m not that familiar with the geography around Wanaka, but sometimes those sorts of approaches are reinforced by zoning – entrenching incumbents, by preventing new land being zoned residential.

    One prescription, if governments were serious, is to consider land value rating, which would materially adversely affect the economics of holding onto land, unutilised for its more valuable purposes, for long periods.

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    • One of the things that is remarkable about the normal institutional arrangements in the USA, where they are still being allowed to work, is the extreme affordability of land and hence housing; whether in the many median-multiple-3 urban areas identified in the Demographia Reports, or in rural towns – even within commuting distance of Manhattan. Plainfield, New Jersey, for example, is far cheaper than Levin, Huntly or Masterton.

      What allows this is the ability for developers or even one-off landowners, to build houses pretty much anywhere they own or can buy, farmland. Even in NZ’s rural towns, we have Council-enabled land-banking rackets. Even in rural towns in France and Germany, one finds housing cheaper than in our equivalents, so even there, they must be doing something “more permissively” than we habitually do.

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  6. Massey’s Vice-Chancellor is an idiot – but she has plenty of company in North America and Britain, where universities have long abandoned their open search for truth through dialogue and the free debate. The difference now is that the ideology in power is ‘left-liberal’ and it is conservative or ‘alt-right’ views that it is seeking to proscribe, and usually on the craven grounds of ‘public safety’, which is extended to shielding ‘vulnerable persons’ from possible offence. As the humanities and social sciences have become ever more feminised, they are ever more ready to take offence (look at the absurdities of ‘trigger warnings’ in literature classes for the emotionally fragile.) But to invoke ‘security’ in what is meant to be a free society is a despicable thing. What this means is that hooligans and thugs are wandering the campus and seeking to break up peaceful meetings behind closed doors of students who have themselves contributed to the upkeep of those buildings by their fees. Does one need to point out this is exactly how the Brownshirts operated?
    But technology gives us a simple answer to blockhead VCs – a computer link up with a large screen. This would help make the VC look even more foolish.
    Here is the UK the Conservative (!) government – obsessed with ‘security’ and political correctness – has kept certain Americans from visiting because of their views on abortion or Islam. The Dutch MP Geert Wilders was even banned at one point from entering the country but this backfired and he has since been in London (most recently to address a rally over the imprisonment of anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson).

    Regarding land: t really is absurd that a country the size of New Zealand with only 4.5 million people should claim to have a shortage of land. I grew up in New Zealand when it had scarcely half that population and a standard of living among the highest in the world and home ownership was a realistic expectation for ordinary working people. But that was a long time ago. Here is the UK, with c. 65 m living in a smaller area than NZ, we know the population is projected to increase at least 10 m over the next 15 years, and there is house building going on everywhere – particularly in the heavily populated southeast where I live. All the usual concerns about loss of agricultural land etc are made, but the basic point is understood that more homes are needed, brownfield sites are being opened up and higher density housing is being built.

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    • There is a shortage of land in NZ when you count in the 10 million cows, 30 million sheep and 1 million deer/goats. 10 million cows need land resources equivalent to feed 200 million people, the water resources and to be able to handle the equivalent waste production.

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      • Yes, one of the most absurd arguments against urban growth, is “preserving farmland”. Most environmental indicators would change positively for land converted from farming, to urban development. NZ’s leaders in the late 1800’s expected NZ to eventually have 30 million population and to be largely self-sufficient; not grossly underpopulated and using its land like it was the whole world’s cattle yards, and economically dependent on non-value-added primary exports for which it is helpless price-takers on world markets most of the time.

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  7. That looks like a very inoffensive speech!

    A right-to-build law would be fantastic, both for left types looking at homelessness and wealth inequality, and right types looking to spur investment. I hope people are talking to Twyford about it.

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    • Twyford has been one of the most intellectually curious people in history over this. People have indeed been talking to him, and he has been a willing listener and even an out-reacher to anyone who might have expertise to offer. I have been staggered at some of the comments from experts I know around the world, who have told me that “a member of your Parliament, Mr Twyford, has been in contact with me”.

      So I absolutely share Michael’s once-hopeful opinion and his disappointment now. Something happened to John Key and his colleagues once they got into office after making the right noises while in opposition; does someone or something “get to” everyone who gets into office? I certainly see a direct connection between Thomas Piketty’s findings about the amassing of wealth by the global 0.1% in recent times, and the powerful forces behind urban planning fads. Piketty himself is tone-deaf on this aspect but it is what his own data shows. Piketty dismisses targeted taxes on non-productive capital and speculation; he would have the “returns” on earthmoving equipment and plastic molding machines taxed just the same as the returns on central London Property owned by the four “Dukes”, and the returns on mortgage finance lending against zero-sum price-inflated housing.

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  8. Good article Michael although to do full justice to the Don Brash/free speech issue and the affordable housing issue separate articles would have been better -in my opinion.

    I believe the right to build is the key freedom.

    That seems to be the key to Tokyo’s impressive degree of housing affordability.

    In the past Michael you wrote about Tokyo’s housing market which in response led me to writing my most popular article (by viewership numbers) -titled ‘What is the Secret to Tokyo’s Affordable Housing?’. In my article I did not specify the exact mechanism that turned around Japan’s housing market.

    View story at Medium.com

    A recent article by Scott Beyer who writes the Market Urbanism Report attributes Tokyo’s secret to building affordable housing to being Japan’s 2002 Urban Renaissance Law.

    His article is titled.

    “Tokyo’s Affordable Housing Strategy: Build, Build, Build”
    https://marketurbanismreport.com/tokyos-affordable-housing-strategy-build/

    The key paragraph in his report reads;

    “In the 1980s, Japanese cities were experiencing the same inflated housing bubbles that U.S. cities are today. Their planning methods, moreover, were rooted in Western notions about separating uses and limiting density. The federal government recognized that these regulations were the problem, so in 2002, it passed the Urban Renaissance Law. The law stripped municipalities of the ability to control private property. As a result, owners can build a variety of uses on their land, regardless of resistance from local bureaucrats or neighbors.”

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    • Thanks Brendon

      My appetite for writing at length about the free speech (or “free right to invite”) issue waned and – without more data – there wasn’t much more to say on the specific question of whether the govt will really push ahead with changes that might make a real difference.

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      • I have posted a comment with a link to my own take on Tokyo’s unique institutional arrangements, and it has gone to moderation.

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  9. View story at Medium.com

    Tokyo’s unique path to density and affordability

    Tokyo: Building “Up” in the Right Places, and keeping it affordable

    One of my essays deals with the false assumption that urban “intensification” under Plans and rezonings will enable housing affordability as a substitute for the way that suburban sprawl enables it. Tokyo and Japan generally are exceptions but it is essential to understand how they achieve this. It is brilliant, yet no-one is advocating it as the solution for the wicked problems that beset housing markets and transit-oriented planning everywhere else. Problem is, even the Japanese don’t understand how good their system is, they just take it for granted.

    Japanese cities grew since Victorian times, with railway enterprises in competition to each other, buying sites on what was greenfields, and connecting them with subways or surface transit. And they retained ownership of these sites right to the present day, developing and redeveloping them in such a way as to attract tenants, and trip-attractor tenants, hence maximising their own “ridership”. You could look at each enterprise’s system as a “master planned community” in a web form connected by the transit system; all of these competing with each other to offer value-for-money floor space and local amenity. And they succeed in gaining enough of the combination of “tenants and ridership” that they make a profit overall, on property rents plus transit fares, without public subsidies.

    In some cases, the routes intersect and this is where the most intense focused development in the entire city is to be found.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinjuku_Station

    This competition between the “integrated enterprises” in “Transit and landlording”, provides the competitive tension in the entire urban land market that suppresses prices, as a substitute for the way ex-fringe sprawl suppresses prices in the US cities that are the only ones in the world still with median multiples of around 3. Nevertheless, Japan did have one famous big, long bubble and bust in the second half of the 20th century (but if they ran their urban property markets like we do, they would have had much more volatility than that). It also “helps” that their population is collapsing and their culture does not bother to consume larger house-lot space even when the land is cheap enough. They are abandoning exurban locations as their population shrinks, the population “contracting” into the cities.

    The status quo in most of the rest of the world, is that the transit system is a publicly owned (or publicly guaranteed) monopoly, heavily subsidised — and the sites served by it are in “private investor” ownership. Something else I have written a lot about, is the way that these owners incentives do not align with the intentions of urban planners and transport planners. The more that the local economy’s land supply is rationed, and the more “public investments” are poured into Transit and other “compact city” amenities, the greater the capital gains to site owners, and the less they care about actual redevelopment. They maximize profits by “holding” — and accumulating — sites in which capital gains are guaranteed.

    I recommend my essay on Medium, “Rocket Scientists Haven’t Forgotten About Gravity, so Why Have Urban Planners Forgotten About Land Rent”?

    Besides the impact on housing affordability, the Japanese system also guarantees density “in the right places” — where people can use transit. A good technical term for this is “articulated density”. Our status quo has the opposite effect when “compact city” plans ration the supply of land by preventing ex-fringe development; redevelopment tends to be in random, inefficient patterns because developers have to pay so much for the sites at efficient locations (the site vendors want the entire potential capital gain stream compensated upfront), that it is too risky.

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    • Thanks for the well thought out reply Phil.

      Wrt to your comment “their (Japan’s) culture does not bother to consume larger house-lot space even when the land is cheap enough”

      This sentence is not very clear -let me tease it out for you.

      What the evidence shows is that in Tokyo there is not much demand for garden space. Tokyo residents could move out from the city and purchase house/land options where the land component is larger i.e residents could trade closeness to the city centre for larger gardens. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

      But that is not say that the Japanese lack the normal demand for more residential space. In 1963 the per capita consumption of residential floor space was 15 sqm in 2013 it was 32 sqm (on average). So the housing demand ‘culture’ in Tokyo is for larger inner city dwellings on smaller plots of land.

      This has led to a hugely impressive inner city building dynamic. The maths of the above numbers multiplied with the residential population increase in Tokyo municipality (the central district) from 10m to 13.3m means this large residential built environment has trebled in size in one lifetime (1963 to 2013).

      I can think of no existing residential suburb in NZ that has trebled or even doubled in floor space in my lifetime. I was born in 1970 in Tauranga and have lived in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin -I have also been a frequent visitor to Wellington, so I am familiar with most urban environments in NZ.

      But it may not ‘culture’ that is influencing this dynamic. It may be that Tokyo’s competitive rapid transit providers and the fact that space hogging car-use is not being subsidised that Tokyo residents are making rational spatial/location choices.

      That is the broad thrust of my argument here.
      View story at Medium.com

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  10. This is on the de-platforming of Alex Jone’s Info Wars

    Laurence Tribe, a constitutional-law expert at Harvard, points out a small but fascinating caveat to this bright line between governmental and private censorship. “A very limited set of nominally private actors have been recognised as essentially governmental,” he says, in a few narrow contexts. For example, in Marsh v Alabama (1946), a company-owned town was told the First Amendment prevented it from arresting a Jehovah’s Witness for distributing religious pamphlets near a post office. The Supreme Court ruled that the town, though privately owned, functioned like a traditional municipality and needed to respect the proselytiser’s constitutional rights.

    Do Facebook and YouTube constitute quasi-governmental actors that should be held to constitutional standards when regulating their vast marketplaces of ideas? Mr Tribe says that under current law, they aren’t. But he worries that if these “hugely influential and far-reaching entities” are “capricious” or even “partisan” in their rule-enforcement, the ideal of an open society may be compromised. “After all,” he says, “some of these ‘private’ entities are every bit as powerful as any single state or as most entire nations.” What that means for the contours of free speech in the social-media age is not immediately clear. It is, he says, a “profound puzzle” how to envision a legal framework in which these companies might be held to account for their editorial decisions without undermining their autonomy to “filter out vicious, dangerous and demonstrably false and misleading pseudo-information”.

    https://www.economist.com/democracy-in-america/2018/08/07/are-facebook-and-youtube-quasi-governmental-actors

    Could the same apply to our private venues?

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