Friday, April 14, 2006

The mediocre aspirations of London

Publius' weekly magazine of news stories and commentary in Gods of the Copybook Headings are an essential intellectual resource. In his Good Friday edition, he notes an article by John A. Charles, Jr. in Capitalism Magazine that one could imagine was chosen for the benefit of the London Fog. From Anaheim, a Free-Market Laboratory:

As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, Anaheim, California is showing what happens when local governments respect property rights and allow the free market to work. Beginning in 2002, the Anaheim city council began deregulating land use, promoting competition, loosening business regulation, and lowering taxes. The city completely eliminated development fees for homeowners undertaking renovations, and repealed all business license fees for home-based businesses.

Unlike Portland, where developers are told in mind-numbing detail how to build their projects, Anaheim deregulated the city center to allow almost any use on any parcel of land. The result has been billions of dollars of private investment in the downtown.

Anaheim has demonstrated that we don't need urban renewal and we don't need to subsidize politically-connected developers. We just need to start showing some respect for property rights and the market process.
Faced with a similarly moribund downtown as Anaheim had before deregulating the development process, London would benefit as well from a program of loosening zoning restrictions and eliminating subsidies, red tape, politically-driven obstructions and disincentives, bureaucratic interventions in market processes, and centrally-driven, taxpayer-funded politician-feel-good capital projects, all designed to manipulate the market into circumscribing development along centrally-planned objectives and nostalgia for conventional models of what a downtown should be like. London's downtown will work as long as city hall doesn't try to dictate how it will work according to its preconceived textbook planning notions.

Two predominant obstacles exist for the rejuvination of London, however. Economic development has largely been claimed as the ambit of a bloated administrative bureaucracy protective of its own self-serving rationalization for existence. Worse still, because this could be overcome, London's politicians in general, and its mayor in particular, have bent their ear entirely to administration as default intelligence except and only except when the political objectives of particular special interest groups supercede a more methodological approach to expanding economic control of the city. Judging from the list of candidates that have so far registered, according to the London Free Press, Londoners can continue to expect no better than more of the same, with the political tug-of-war centered only on the direction of economic intervention instead of its merits.


Publius said...

Hold on. I was a national resource last night and now I'm "an essential intellectual resource." What's up doc?



MapMaster said...

On second consideration (when I had realized I hadn't included links) I thought that "national" would be an unbecomingly audacious and presumptuous adjective. You are, of course, an essential national intellectual treasure. Either way, you should be grateful that I edited the draft which originally read "simply spiffy."