Sept. 28, 2022

594: Saving Our Cities - How Market Urbanism Brings Free-Market Policies to Urban Issues

594: Saving Our Cities - How Market Urbanism Brings Free-Market Policies to Urban Issues
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On today's episode, we're going back a few years to a conversation with Scott Beyer from the Market Urbanism Report.

Scott is an expert in urban policy and has been writing about the issues facing our cities for years. In this episode, Scott talks about how market urbanism can help solve some of the biggest challenges facing cities today.

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Unknown Speaker  0:01  
Just note that we got Brian on here who's getting Congressman Massey on in our typical lineup includes like homeless people that believe in Bigfoot.

Unknown Speaker  0:09  
Welcome to The Brian Nichols Show your source for common sense politics on the we are libertarians network. The Brian Nichols Show is the fastest growing Liberty podcast that brings together people from all means of political thought, as we seek to have meaningful conversations about the issues you care about, at The Brian Nichols Show, our goal is to leave the audience educated, enlightened and informed. And now your host, Brian Nichols,

Brian Nichols  0:36  
show Scott buyer here on The Brian Nichols Show. Thanks for having me, Brian. Absolutely. Scott. Well, thank you for reaching out. And actually, I think it was Ethan, specifically who reached out from from your organization. And I candidly, never had heard of you guys. And as I started doing more and more research into what you specifically focus upon your your niche, if you will, in the liberty movement, it specifically actually discusses and focuses on what's kind of happening in America right now. And you look across the United States right now that the main cries are for new defunding the police in response to the the Black Lives Matter protests over the past week or so. And with that being said, your organization really discusses a way that we can, I guess, really approach the urban the urban cities and bring a free market approach with with policies to address the issues, and it can actually lead to a better solution than the the top down bureaucratic, you know, in place solutions that we currently have. So that being said, Scott, first and foremost, welcome to The Brian Nichols Show, let's kind of start off with your introduction to kind of yourself your your liberty story, if you will. And what led you to, I guess, founding this this great organization, the market urbanism report?

Scott Beyer  1:44  
Yes, so I'm a journalist who, first and foremost, who writes columns for several different magazines, I was writing for Forbes for a while, I write for the independent Institute and governing magazine. And so that's my, my living there. And that's what I do for a living. But I also own the market urbanism report, which at this point is an organization, we're about to turn it into a nonprofit organization and really try to build it out into a think tank. And it is, it is, really, it's expanding the idea of market urbanism, which market urbanism is a wider movement. I'm not the only person who writes about it. But there are several different market urbanism institutions. And it is a group of people who are generally libertarian, and they believe in in applying classical liberal, free market policy and do cities and have a very specific set of issues that we usually focus on.

Brian Nichols  2:48  
So no specific issue that you focus on, let's dig into them. Specifically, shall we? So with that being said, let's kind of focus on some of the main areas that the market and urbanism report has really, I guess, maybe address in in recent times, and maybe some some wins, you've had with with, you know, actually getting some some success stories for your organization?

Scott Beyer  3:09  
Yeah, well, so if I, if I were to define market urbanism, and this is usually two different ways I like to define it. I think on one hand, it's a theory in the sense that people who fit under the market urbanism label, are asking the the philosophical question of how would cities function if they were fully private entities. So if all the public services and obviously all the growth mechanisms, were all private, and based on just the relationship between consumer and producer, and so in a lot of ways, it's talking about things like free private cities and charter cities and special economic zones? And I call it theoretical because most cities around the world do not, you know, focus on or not are not privately run their government run? And so, where market urbanism pivots, then from that philosophical question, is a presents a more pragmatic and politically likely set of reforms that today's cities can actually use? So even if they are government run, which most are? What are some market oriented reforms that they can use? And so the three categories that market urbanism usually focuses on are housing, transportation, and service and public service provision. And we're really asking how can how can we bring more market focus into those three things?

Brian Nichols  4:38  
So how that pertain right now to obviously what's going on with Black Lives Matter? Right and in the protest focus specifically on the police unions because I mean, police unions and in the in the policing, just by and large, from a government standpoint has been grossly expanded over the past, at least the past, you know, 20 3040 years, and we've seen constantly in the past five years or so an increase in these these cases. And I guess it raises the question is, how would a quote unquote market or business approach to this, maybe help rectify the very real problem that exists in a lot of our especially, you know, minority communities where it seems that there's a lot of disproportionate interaction with law enforcement?

Scott Beyer  5:20  
Yeah, so I think there's a number of marketer, but I think it market urbanism in this case would gel somewhat with what Blart the larger libertarian movement has been saying, which is, we need to break up the unions. We need to, you know, in qualified immunity, we need to at least experiment with some privatization options. I think that what Minneapolis just just decided on where they're going to, quote unquote, disband, or police, I think an interesting experiment from that could come from that is the idea of further segmenting the police. So you might have a number of police who actually are designed to fight hard crime, but then you don't necessarily send the police to put to, you know, address the mentally ill or, or do traffic enforcement or enforced transit fares, you know, things that you don't necessarily need an armed cop to go and do. Right. I think you could outsource that to people who are not are not armed, and might be more specialized in doing those things, and are probably like, you know, probably cheaper as well.

Brian Nichols  6:30  
The reason my question, and I don't mean to cut you off, but like, that just seems to make like the most logical sense, because I mean, a lot. A lot of people right now are asking the very just, I mean, it is truly like the the most honest question, what do we do? Like, what is the solution to this problem, because they've gone through, you know, pretty much a half century of going between Republican presidents, Democrat presidents, Republican Congresses, Democrat congresses, Republicans, Supreme Court justices, or Democrats, Supreme Court justices, and nothing seems to really stick and nothing seems to really progress. And then I just, I mean, I see people interacting on a daily basis with, you know, what, what they do with their grocery stores, or when they're interacting with their neighbors, it's like, look at this, this ability to have this voluntary conversation, this voluntary conversation is voluntary interaction. And isn't that so much better than having this this force that's, you know, pushed from the from the government and like the thing about right, if you're gonna go ahead and hire an exterminator for your house, you're not going to hire an exterminator who's gonna blow your house out and catch your entire house on fire, you're gonna hire the guy who's gonna be the most precise, and he's gonna do the job that he used to do. And he does it most efficiently, the most effectively, but also the most cost cost efficient. And with that in mind, so think about what we would be able to do, and to your point, when we started to Section away the responsibilities of police, because, I mean, if we're gonna be real, right, there's a Twitter profile. It's actually funny, I just talked about this with negativity on my show, here this past week, we were talking about a crime a day on Twitter. And you think about that every single one of those crimes, technically, a police officer is supposed to be able and know to enforce, but they they've been given so much now that they have to focus on that it really it's become more of like this. It's almost like this, this faceless NPC kind of world. And if we were to kind of bring it more back to a police are performing a service for us and treat it as a service. So like you said, you have welfare checks, you have a specific organization you can call that performs welfare checks, and they have entirely non lethal means of if somebody were to to come at come at them, because it's simply a welfare check. Like that's something that I think we would see a very real free market solution start to to answer the call. But right now, I mean, there is no real market solution. And it is really because we have that monopoly on the police force. And I mean, fingers crossed a market, Urbanus approach would be kind of distort there. So I didn't mean to interject with your answer there. But I think maybe that might be a very quick, very clear cut way to explain exactly how this could help with a very real problem that nobody's seeing right before their eyes. Well, yeah,

Scott Beyer  9:11  
and I think a way to think about this problem also is to use economic theory. So the idea of public choice theory is that, you know, public actors and public agencies have a number of competing interests that prevent them from from really like the the main incentive and outcome is not necessarily to serve the public is to serve their own interests and their own bureaucratic interests. And so that actually is a competing goal of providing good services. And so I think you're seeing that with a lot of police departments and police unions, which is, you know, for example, they don't necessarily want to get better get rid of bad cops. Why not? Because bad cops pay union dues, and they in relinquishing them makes the agency look bad. And so there's all kinds of like, self Interested self protecting style behaviors that take place, quite frankly in every government agency. And there's no reason that police departments would not also be subject to those public choice problems.

Brian Nichols  10:13  
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Scott Beyer  14:33  
Well, so So my experience is a little bit different. And I think this is where this is what's unique about market urbanism. And so a lot of you know, you started by asking me about policing, although I would say the market urbanism doesn't focus a whole lot on policing. That's not our main issues. Our main issue is housing and transportation. And so the thing the interesting thing about market urbanism is that I've run demographics studies and surveys of my audience. And it's actually more it's people who are likely or to identify, believe it or not as liberal and progressive or DSA, or, you know,

Brian Nichols  15:13  
socialist is where's the disconnect? I don't get it. Well, so

Scott Beyer  15:17  
what's going on there, because there's also quite a sizable libertarian and conservative audience as well with market urbanism. But what's happening there is the the, the kind of the right wing side of it likes the market aspects. And the left wing side of it tends to like the urbanism aspect, because they live in cities, and they do see some of the failures of government policy in their cities. And so they are looking for solutions. And so for example, the the main market urbanism issue has always been probably always will be the housing issue. And the reason that a lot of a lot of the reason a lot of cities have become so unaffordable as far as their housing is because of restrictive zoning.

Brian Nichols  16:00  
So let's dig into that. Because obviously, that's a main crux of what you guys focus on. So zoning. And I think we before we get into this, I think it's it's good to preface that everything that we're talking about, from the policing, to the transportation, to the zoning, everything is connected. And it's important to make sure we're always keeping that in mind how everything does have this kind of domino effect. So with that being said, I'll go ahead there, Scott, and now elaborate with the the housing. Well, yeah,

Scott Beyer  16:29  
so I think the common denominator with all of it is government mismanagement, and the you know, the the negative consequences of having the government control something. But I mean, I think with with restrictive zoning, people do not realize how much the housing market is controlled by the government. So you can look at any zoning map in the US, you can look at any city in the United States. And there will be a master plan written for it, and a zoning code written for it. And that zoning is almost always extremely restrictive. So for example, if you were to look at the Philadelphia zoning map, which by the way, is Philadelphia's is not as bad as other cities. But there's like a small minority of the city that can be zoned for high rises. But the rest of it is zoned for buildings that are effectively just like the common row homes that you find throughout Philly. So if a developer wants and so there are actual neighborhoods that are gentrifying, and they, they need to build more housing, because there's a lot of demand, I'm thinking of places like Fishtown, you know, it actually would be helpful if developers could go in and build six or seven storey buildings or more to build to create more housing supply, and cool some of the prices, but the zoning prevents that. And so a lot of a lot of the market urbanism advocacy is centered on things like that, you know, the sort of the entrenched regulations that prevent the housing market from being actually market oriented and elastic and free flowing. And liberals kind of kind of rally around that, because they see the economic logic of it. You know, it's like, there's a whole young generation of people who are having to rent and can't afford housing, and we are educating them on the government regulations that are that is causing that problem. And so it's sort of like, they'll look past their, their, their political biases, per se, to accept the message that we are advancing.

Brian Nichols  18:29  
So then the question always is raised up? Well, it's like, Well, hey, the government needs to have some type of regulation, right? Like, that's how we keep things in order. And that's how we avoid chaos. And one need look, no, you know, no further than the past week or so of riots that were taking place. And see, that's just a bunch of crap. But I mean, where, where are we losing them, then I guess, in getting them to actually go and support this this? You know, it really ends up being a libertarian solution to that the problem is, how are we missing the disconnect when we're trying to advance this? Because it seems like, you know, if you were to present this in, you know, a very eloquent PowerPoint presentation at a city council meeting, and it was going to be voted on that night, and you're based on your presentation, I think people will be like, hey, this makes sense. What All in favor, aye. And you get like 90% of the vote, why are we not seeing this take place in cities at a faster rate?

Scott Beyer  19:26  
Well, I can't really speak to other two other issues. You know, the housing one is the one that I'm most familiar with. I can't really say why why libertarians are losing the younger generation on other issues. But I know with housing, that, that we're actually not losing them. I think that I think it's more generational than it is ideological. So if you do go to some of those meetings that you're describing, like, say a public hearing for a zoning change. The younger people to the extent they show up at all, are usually actually four With the zoning change, like they, they recognize that it will create more housing. And so they are looking for the mark the free market outcome, even though they will come out and use that language necessarily, they are looking for the more market oriented outcome. It's the older generation that already owns their home, it does not want the natural competition coming into their neighborhood of more housing. They are usually the ones who are coming out opposed to those rezonings. So if I were to, if I were to go into those cities, and I have to some degree actually, in like, give a PowerPoint on why we need to change the zoning, and why this will like, cool the housing prices and allow more neighbors to come in and, and you know, make the city denser and everything. That's actually something that that a lot of older generation in cities will be opposed to, and not all of them are even, you know, some of them are sometimes they're liberal, and sometimes they're conservative. So it's like I said, it's not necessarily ideological, I think it's more that they're seeing their own financial interests, and they they interpret some financial interests from being able to block additional housing supply.

Brian Nichols  21:09  
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Scott Beyer  24:35  
Okay. And yeah, I think I think winning is a bit of a strong word.

Brian Nichols  24:40  
I mean, nobody likes to win. I had to throw out one of those strong words. Right.

Scott Beyer  24:43  
Yeah. I mean, I would love it if it were the case. But I think we're seeing incremental reforms. So Minneapolis, which by the way, also happen to be the city that is that has taken on this police reform a couple of months ago, or it seems to me it was I guess last summer or they passed a broad zoning reform where you would not be able to have just single family zoning throughout the city, you would be able to have duplexes by right. So on any given lot that was that was previously zoned for only one home to go on that lot a developer can build to, or if you're the homeowner, you can build like an additional dwelling unit in your backyard or something like that. So I mean, that's the type of thing that could pretty dramatically increase the housing supply throughout the city. And then Oregon, the state of Oregon passed that sort of zoning law for the entire state. And they are there's a, there's one senator in California who was trying to to pass an even more significant upzoning bill, that would imply that would apply to all California. So I mean, you're seeing that, like, you're kind of seeing the city and state housing bills that would allow more development by right across the entire city. And I think that would be, that would be the closest thing to a market urbanism when. And so the, again, the kind of the interesting thing about it, is that the people who are passing those bills are not libertarians, they're actually Democrats, and they are liberal and progressive in every way imaginable. And they are, they're passing the bill, kind of from a perspective of like, this is a good social justice, like this is a good step toward social justice, because it enables low income, low income minorities to be able to live in traditionally rich white neighborhoods. Like that's what happens when you allow up 70. And as you allow more people of lower means to be housed in wealthier areas. And so yeah, it's kind of like the social justice language is being applied to it. But you can just as well call it a free market reform. Yeah, well,

Brian Nichols  26:52  
we'll always hate whenever sales guys use sales language and like, the reality is, is that we have to know who we're marketing to, right. So in this case, you hit the nail on the head, we're talking to progressive Democrats. So you know, if we're leading the charge as libertarians trying to make this this reform, then we have to speak that language. And in this case, yes, you have to speak of it. Well, look at look at this, this is going to create so much opportunity for low income individuals who traditionally tend to be minorities, look at this opportunity that you are now incentivizing for them to have a nice new home in downtown downtown. How about that? And that is now you now you're you're taking the argument, from an emotional standpoint, to their playing field. Because I mean, this is just the reality of the situation with whenever you have debates with folks on the left, and I'm I'm stereotyping, just by and large, because in general, the left tends to use more emotional language. And if you bring that kind of position to them, on their, their turf at the onset of the conversation, then you're already kind of starting a conversation from a stance of agreement right now. No, it's not a matter of your facts versus feelings. Ben Shapiro, ism, it's a matter of, hey, I'm on your side, we both have the same goal. And here's how it's going to be successful. And I think that's where libertarians kind of, we get afraid of making friends with people because we come across as being quote unquote, not pure enough. It's like I'm sorry, if you want to actually get things done, like what Justin Amash is doing if Justin Amash can get qualified immunity through the Congress right now, but by working with Democrats as the only libertarian in Congress, I will take that as a win for libertarians, that is a huge win.

Scott Beyer  28:28  
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you can't, I guess you can't enter the conversations with like, the Don't tread on me mentality of right. I'm anti social and like you, you do have to, you have to communicate that you share the same values as the people you're trying to work with. And in this case, it's it's sincere like I do, I do think upzoning helps low income minorities. And so I have no problem working with people like that, or people who espouse those values to try to get cities upset, because I think it will actually help people. But then, of course, like, if you're, if you're working with Republicans, then you have to use a different language. So if I were to work with, say, a real estate developer interest, or some sort of business coalition, that might be Republican, but we're trying to get a certain area resumed, then you're then you're trying to use the language of like markets and finance and in property rights and things like that, because and so it's a it's a different type of language. But you know, ultimately your trot you're working towards the same goal. In either case, right?

Brian Nichols  29:37  
Well, it comes down I mean, really, it does come down to just knowing knowing who your audience is and being able to convey and and really to sell your idea and unfortunately, we have a lot of folks in the liberty movement who think they're the sales folks but they're more of like the engineers and that's okay. Like to be the engineer is okay. And we need engineers. I mean, my day job is in telecom sales, and I mean, you need to have the system engineer in the solution engineer who can come with you and kind of demo how things work and explain how the how the pieces all come together. And I mean, just keeping it very blatant, or a very, you know, high level, right? So, in in, in the sales world, though, if you're presenting that to a CEO, their eyes are gonna glaze over, you need to show how it's going to benefit them and how it's gonna benefit their company, you have to add value. And that's one thing that the Libertarian Party and I'd say libertarians, by and large, have not been focused on doing is adding value to people where they are currently is. And we've been way too focused on trying to just completely, you know, get people to do a 180 from their ideology, you know, from zero to 100, boom, like you go from Republican or libertarian overnight, it doesn't happen that way. And we have to help them make those incremental steps. And then once they like, they're on board with it, say, Oh, by the way, this is a libertarian position. Like, I think that's the best kind of little bait and switch, and even a bait and switches look at bait in reality, it's like, Hey, I we work together. And by the way, this is a thing that like, actually isn't like a really big tenant of my ideology, by the way, and here's how it pertains to everything else. And then you can certainly go down the rabbit hole. And that's your kind of what you're you're talking about housing and how you deal with that transportation, public services. I mean, it all is connected. So let's kind of as we get to wrap up here, Scott, talk about some some of the other things that right now, specifically you guys are maybe working on or looking at, as we move forward not only here in 2020, as we go towards an election year, but you know, as as cities are starting to grow, and people set seem to be going more and more towards cities. Well, well, is that going to continue with COVID-19? I don't know. I'll defer to you. So the floor is yours, Scott. In the world of wine, there are so many choices. And that's why blood of tyrants, wine has tyrants losing their heads, whether you're looking for a new go to that home, or watching the press your friends at a party, a lot of times wine has you covered. And if you're trying to get rid of some pesky parents in your life, well, we've got that covered, too. And the Brian Nichols forward slash wine and get $5 off your order. One more time, Brian Nichols, forward slash wine freemen don't ask permission. So take a sip, you'll be glad you did.

Scott Beyer  32:03  
Yeah, well, I'd say the second big thing that we're working on. And again, this is this is the type of thing that's very bipartisan, people who are not libertarian can still very much accept the message. And that's transportation. And so we're making, we're making a number of arguments there. One of them is that we want to end the subsidies for roads, you know, and make it and not make it so that people are effectively like forced into driving, because that's what that's the only thing that's been like, really propped up and subsidized by the government. Another transportation initiative is breaking up the public transport unions. So just like with the police, there's a lot of public choice problems and a lot of inefficiencies from having, say, like a New York MTA or a SEPTA that is basically like these top down kind of union controlled bureaucracies that run the transport and run them very poorly. And then a third, I say, a third big transportation initiative is then deregulating the private transit market. So allowing things like ride share, and scooters and bike share, which are often really strictly regulated. But we don't think they should be, we think they should be allowed to compete with the other options and be able to scale. So it's like that's that third thing, particularly, you don't really have to be libertarian to believe that because a lot of people on the left who are pro environment, do see the value of having like scalable bike share services. And so they're very much on board with the market urbanism message of like, yeah, let these companies like, like, deregulate them, allow them to actually function and don't just kick them out of the city.

Brian Nichols  33:45  
Well, well, we have an opportunity for I mean, fingers crossed an opportunity for us to advance a a real solution. And that is focusing that of Yes, market urbanism. So yes, you can head over to market urbanism., Scott buyer from the market urbanism podcast, is a great time to have you on the show number one, but number two, where can folks go ahead and follow you? If they want go ahead and find you on social media?

Scott Beyer  34:09  
Well, obviously market urbanism Is the blog. I'd say we have a number we have Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds. But if you really, if you want to get really to the heart of the movement, you got to be a member of the market urbanism report, Facebook group, you got to be in it so as to join and we'll watch it and

Unknown Speaker  34:29  
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