Equal Opportunity Versus Equal Outcomes


by James A. Bacon

The greatest ideological division in the United States today separates those who support policies geared to creating equal opportunities for all and those who support policies geared to creating equal outcomes. Each orientation reflects contending views of human nature and prescriptions for making the world a better place.

I believe — and I think most Americans believe — in equal opportunity. I believe that public policy and civic endeavor should be directed to giving all Americans access to the tools that allow them to improve their stations in life. An equal opportunity agenda would articulate pragmatic, achievable goals that lead to incremental but steady gains over time. I do not believe in harnessing the power of the state to achieve equal outcomes. A world of equal outcomes is an unachievable utopia. The path to utopia is strewn with violations to individual liberties. Equality is never achieved. The only thing that changes is the people in power.  

An opportunity agenda seeks win/win solutions to society’s ills. While it sees a role for collective action through civic groups and government, the opportunity worldview recognizes that there is no substitute for individuals acting to optimize their own good and that of their loved ones. The engine of the opportunity agenda is individual initiative and personal responsibility. It is forward-looking and optimistic. It is win-win. One person’s gain does not come at the expense of any one else.

The equal outcomes movement, by contrast, is driven by envy, resentment, grievance and victimhood. It is win-lose, an inherently divisive approach. It is predicated on the belief that the only way to make Person A whole is to take something from Person B.

An opportunity agenda could be a winning political formula. Most Americans don’t want to become Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. They don’t expect unattainable wealth. They don’t even want unattainable wealth. As that great philosopher, Notorious B.I.G. once rapped, “Mo money mo problems.” Most people just want a better life for themselves and their children, and most people are willing to work to achieve those goals. An opportunity agenda would give them the tools to do so.

Neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party in Virginia defines itself as the party creating opportunity for all. Politicians of both parties nurse particular sets of resentments and grievances. But of the two parties, I see the GOP as the more natural standard bearer for equal opportunity. The GOP is less wedded to the proposition that every social ill has a government solution, while the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is totally committed to equal outcomes.

As the party in power in Virginia, the Dems have little incentive to change. As the party out of power, the Republicans have every reason to change. To build a broader coalition, they need to redefine who they are. They need to identify kitchen-table issues that affect everyone, devise pragmatic, politically achievable solutions, and rebrand themselves as the party of opportunity for all.

That will take a lot of work. One place to start is to begin thinking about how the abstract idea of creating opportunity translates into real world policies. The real world is a very messy place, and abstract ideals often seem disconnected from reality.

Permit me to provide a few examples of what an opportunity agenda might look like in Virginia.

Healthcare. Republicans fought a losing battle against the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion and the subsidized Obamacare marketplaces. Historically speaking, once you give the American people an entitlement, you can’t take it back. As a political matter, repealing Obamacare and rolling back Medicaid expansion is a non-starter. Instead, an opportunity agenda would reframe the healthcare debate from its current emphasis on expanding government programs and transferring wealth to an emphasis on reinventing the system to squeeze out costs and improve outcomes. How can we reform the delivery of healthcare to make it more efficient and more productive? How can we make healthcare pricing more transparent and empower consumers? How can we curtail the monopoly power of Virginia’s health systems and encourage more competition and innovation? What reforms can we identify that help everyone?

Housing. The cost of housing is squeezing more and more Virginians out of the housing marketplace. The problem at its heart is an imbalance of supply and demand. The number of households is growing faster than the supply of housing. We can address housing affordability by managing scarcity (curtailing evictions of poor people, which creates problems for landlords and discourages investment in housing for the poor) or by increasing the housing stock for all (enacting policies that encourage developers and homebuilders to build more housing units).

The goal of increasing the housing supply is fine in the abstract, but this is a classic case of how the real world gets messy. The supply of housing is restricted by zoning, which creates winners and losers. As a voting bloc, homeowners are extremely resistant to change. They want to preserve the character of their neighborhoods and protect their property values. A pragmatic approach would be to channel new housing development in the form of apartments and townhouses in areas zoned for commercial and industrial uses — thus creating more compact, mixed-used development in areas where the development will not impinge upon neighborhoods of single-family homes. 

Education. A good education is a fundamental tool for self improvement. Unfortunately, the Virginia Department of Education and many major school districts in Virginia have been captured by progressives committed to equal outcomes. Critical Race Theory is a win-lose proposition and intrinsically divisive. The animating propositions are that whites are racist and that the system is racist, that merit should be sacrificed as a criteria for admitting children to elite schools, and that poor minorities are deserving of greater funding than middle-class students who pay the taxes.

An opportunity agenda says that we can improve educational outcomes for everyone without the divisive necessity of tarring 60% of the population as racist. Fortunately, there is an obvious model for Virginians to draw upon — the Comprehensive Instructional Program originating in Southwest Virginia and now encompassing many rural counties across the state. The strategy is to focus on core skills, set high standards for all students, measure what works, identify the best teachers, and share their materials and techniques. Advocates of an opportunity agenda says the mission of schools is teaching, not transforming society. If efforts to reform public schools fail, an opportunity agenda supports charter schools and vouchers as alternatives to empower poor families.

Those are just three examples. An opportunity agenda needs to grapple with other issues, perhaps the most pressing of which in the post-George Floyd era is criminal justice reform. Transportation, energy, and the environment are other state-level topics that could benefit from imaginative thinking about win-win solutions.

One distinguishing characteristic of an opportunity agenda is pragmatism — to do what works. Doing what works requires measuring results. It also requires an incrementalist mindset — moving deliberately towards a goal step by step, measuring results, tweaking programs, eliminating what doesn’t work and reallocating resources into things that do. Aim for steady, achievable progress on all fronts. Make Virginia a little better year after year.

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69 responses to “Equal Opportunity Versus Equal Outcomes

  1. Might need to define what equal outcomes means?

  2. Good column. I especially like your idea of an opportunity agenda as the basis for a Republican reemergence in Virginia. That philosophy is already making a lot of headway with Asian-Americans in Northern Virginia. In the 2020 election Trump’s message drew more than expected support from the Latino community. Republicans in Virginia have misplayed the immigrant issue for two decades. As with their own immigrant ancestors Republicans need to remember that today’s recent immigrants overwhelmingly come the the US for opportunity. Trump got that. But will Virginia Republicans get that?

    In south Texas Trump did especially well with Latinos. The former mayor Roma Texas, Freddy Guerra, said it best … “There’s a lot of parallels between a community that’s 96 percent Hispanic and a community that’s 96 percent white.”

    In Virginia’s largest jurisdiction (by far) – Fairfax County – 17.3% of the population is of Asian ancestry while 15.58% are described as Hispanics or Latinos of any race. A third of state’s most populous county is potentially up for grabs in the upcoming statewide elections.

    The problem with the opportunity hypothesis is that income and wealth inequality are growing wider every day in America. While America’s poor are generally not so poor as some would imagine the really wealthy are vastly better off than most can understand. Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $182 billion. To put that in perspective, the world’s most expensive private jet – G700 – costs $75 million. At the rate of increase in his wealth Bezos could buy a new G700 every day for a year, throw it away at the end of the day and still be richer this time next year.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I agree with you Mr. DJ. I am not sure state Republicans or state level party leaders are ready to go this way. They seem to be replaying old strategies that always lose. Even if an honest effort is made it will be so easy to play dirty tricks like this one used against Ed Gillespie.

  3. Sounds like Jim is channeling Walter Williams.

  4. Zoning contributes to increases in housing costs, but it isn’t the only issue.

    A lot of contractors and subcontractors went belly-up in the 2008 recession. 4-year college education has been emphasized rather than trades education, so fewer people are entering the construction trades. Many construction workers are at or nearing retirement age. As a result there is a shortage of workers to build houses.

    Continued tightening of environmental regulations, especially stormwater, also contribute to rising land and construction costs. Energy codes are at the point of diminishing returns where the cost to meet the next step are greater than the energy savings.

    People want bigger and fancier houses, which cost more than the smaller, simpler homes many of us grew up in.

    • Paul Sweet here above has made an extraordinarily insightful and important comment. For example this:

      “A lot of contractors and subcontractors went belly-up in the 2008 recession. 4-year college education has been emphasized rather than trades education, so fewer people are entering the construction trades. Many construction workers are at or nearing retirement age. As a result there is a shortage of workers to build houses.”

      This important reality has thousand of negative ramifications nationwide. For example it compounds the rapid acceleration of incompetent workers (indeed people) in America. It hobbles whole industries. It needlessly escalates home prices. It destroys young adults ability to afford marriage, and children, driving down the mental, emotional, and physical health of a whole new generation of Americans.

      ALL OF THIS, IN TURN, is compounded by the growing reality in America that 4-year college education in many institutions for many kid has little or no practical value at all in the marketplace, while at the same that worthless degree has imposed crippling debt on graduates and dropouts alike, and their parents.

      AND ALL THIS HARM DONE, is before we even consider Paul Sweets new regulatory impositions and obstacles that government places on home building, and all sorts of critically needed infrastructure.

      Nor does it include the ongoing shutdown of public schools, and middle class businesses and jobs, while Congress hands our massive favors and debates pronouns.

      Simply put, America’s leaders have gone mad.

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        I just finished up my UPS holiday delivery job. Full time UPS is pretty good. If you have some time in you are making 37 bucks an hour and pulling down 88 grand a year. Requirements? Good driving record, GED, and pee in a cup. If you start after high school you can retire at age 50 with 80 percent of your salary for life. The only hard part about the job? Can you show up everyday on time? Can you keep your life and your truck between the lines for 30 years? That is it. Nothing to it. No rocket science needed.

  5. The greatest ideological division in the United States today separates those who require evidence and those who ignore it.

    • The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.

      • If section 1 of the 14th were faithfully enforced, the rest would be superfluous rubbish.

        • If only the Constitution carried any weight these days:(

          • and therein lies the rub. Well, it’s not often you get to watch it get shredded in realtime.

          • It has been desecrated almost since before the ink was dry. While not perfect, this document did a pretty good job of setting forth checks and balances to protect liberty. Unfortunately, the three branches that were designed to provide tensions to check each other have been in bed together for a long time. We the People got screwed through the process. Big government is OK when your team is in charge, but it sucks when the other team is. If you read the Constitution, it was designed to limit that.

          • I dunno Matt.. it’s been amended numerous times and we need a SCOTUS and Legislative functions to deal with things it did not anticipate…

            Jefferson himself, saw it as a living document not a static one.

            What Founding Father knew we’d have drones or DNA or the thousands of other things that you won’t find answers to in that document?


    • That is simply not true. The other day you posted about your privilege. Are you going to give back four inches of your height to be closer to norm? Or is that unfair to women and you need to give up 10 inches? Or should all men and women be required to be 5’7”? How about your education and schooling? So, equal justice will fix everything? I’m all for equal justice. How are you going to achieve that? All judges alike? All law enforcement alike? What if differences in locales requires different enforcement priorities? One area is a drug corridor and another is a human smuggling corridor and another is money laundering? Given human nature and free will and natural differences between each and every person, equal opportunity is the only sane path. You can never achieve equal outcomes on Earth (won’t someone be required with authority to enforce that “equality” Mr. Robespierre?).

  6. Some thoughts on the following statement: “A world of equal outcomes is an unachievable utopia.”

    First, equal outcomes are achievable if a society is willing to impose certain types of mechanisms, for example: strict quotas; mandatory equal shares; rotating office holders; directed promotions; abolition of titles and ranks; requiring inheritances to grant equal shares to each heir, etc. But the collateral consequences of imposing such draconian measures would be far from utopian.

    Second, equal outcomes would entail everyone getting the equal shares — including freeloaders, incompetents who are unwilling or unable to learn from their mistakes, criminals, people who take reckless risks, and people who insist on pursuing unproductive careers. Also, equal outcomes would have the perverse incentive of discouraging initiative, creative problem solving, and pursuit of a better life for oneself and one’s family. None of these strike me as being particularly utopian.

    In short, equal outcomes are achievable — but the means to reach that result would be draconian, and the consequences would be very negative. I am not willing to concede that equal outcomes would be utopian. Rather, I believe equal outcomes is a beguiling mirage that would result in a dystopian society.

  7. Equal outcomes do not often occur in nature or society. Some trees are taller; some last for hundreds of years. Others are shorter; some never make it beyond a small stick in the ground. Some individuals are better at sports, music, acting, dance, writing, math than others. If we want equal results for individuals, then we need to stop anyone from winning. We cannot have sports, for example. Why would we have elections? In a world with equal results, Trump should have been given a second since Obama had two terms.

    What would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic is the reality that most of the work individuals would need to give up things as they have more than many. To bring someone up, one must bring others down.

    What is even more dangerous than mandating equal outcomes is some with the power to make exceptions.

  8. “Transportation, energy, and the environment are other state-level topics that could benefit from imaginative thinking about win-win solutions.”

    Those three topics are really one topic.

    To the degree that we have let innovation move markets rather than dogma, with private investment in promising innovations rather than bans on existing solutions, we have seen that as soon as innovation made the transportation and energy sectors more efficient, the environment was helped.

    Fracking, fully privately funded in both development and operation, worked not only for the energy sector and in eliminating America’s dependence on foreign suppliers, but also for the environment by enabling the retirement or conversion of coal-fired energy plants to make way for gas-fired plants.

    The government subsidies that provided space for the development of electric vehicles has worked. Those subsidies are being retired, but the left does not want to wait for the market to switch. It wants to mandate electric vehicles before customers would willingly pay for them. Taxpayers have been chosen to be forced to pay for something they would not buy for themselves, at least on the accelerated schedule the left demands.

    Perhaps the world’s biggest failure in improving the environment has been anti-nuclear dogma. It is impossible to overstate how much money that has cost nations around the world or the negative impacts on the environment by forcing the retirement of nuclear plants in Germany, for example, and replacing them with coal and gas rather than new, safer modern nuclear technology.

    The left will never trust the market. Period. It thus turns to wishful thinking enforced by government mandate and funded with taxpayer money.

    And government subsidies to new enterprises with sketchy business plans that have hired government influence, usually from politicians of the left who are between elected jobs and are paid off as soon as the subsidy arrives.

    See McAuliffe, Terry and Gore, Al.

    • Add Eric Cantor to the list of former politicians seeking government subsidies, i.e. lobbying.

      • Eric? Not Eddie? I thought his name was Eddie. Oh well.

      • > The left will never trust the market

        That’s because they are control freaks.

        Once you acknowledge the “the market” is billions of people making individual choices, one wonders how anyone would believe the hypocrisy of progressives claiming support of democracy. Competitive markets are the ultimate expression of Freedom. When the socialist state withers away, reality to date is that it ends up in authoritarian cronyism (China, Russia) not the stateless pseudo-utopia propagandized by commies.

        Yes, Larry – there are megaCorps that have cornered the market and limited choices, and almost always due to influencing government to their benefit.

        • I think most people forget that the last time anti-trust laws were enforced was against Microsoft. In an ironic fashion, much like the busting of Standard Oil increased the Rockefeller’s wealth beyond when it was a single entity it did the same with Gates.

        • dumb question. What does “cornered the market” mean? That some innovative and hard working folks beat out the competition and we have to rely on elected government to do socialist things to make it more “equal”?


          are we admitting that we DO rely on the govt to enforce equal outcomes for business or corporations?

          • Or, they just buy it.

            “Aarrrgh! They’re picking winners and losers! Arrrrgh!” (running in circles with hair on fire)

  9. “If the laws were enforced equally, the outcomes would be equal. ”

    Some people will waste twice the money they are given and still end up broke.

    The only way to achieve equal outcomes is to limit what people can have and achieve, and to take away from the ambitious to give to the lazy and careless, so we will all end up equally broke and stupid.

  10. Jim, I think you are setting up straw men in your arguments. I think anyone would agree that the goal is equal opportunity. The problem is that the same group or groups of people seem to come out on the bottom in terms of results. That makes the idea of an equal opportunity society suspect and drives folks toward focusing on results. The motivation behind that is the more equal the results, the more equal the opportunity.

    I can’t find any fault with your opportunity agenda. When the Republican party gets behind it, then I can start supporting Republicans.

    By the way, I am not convinced about your solution to the housing crisis. All those new apartments and townhomes in Shockoe Bottom, the East Broad/E. Grace St., area downtown, and in Short Pump certainly do not fall into the “affordable” class.

    • Dick, Increased housing supply — of whatever type — reduces upward pressure on prices. You are correct that most housing is geared to the more affluent market. However, as I have explained in previous posts, there is a “trickle down” effect in housing. People moving into the expensive new houses vacate other less-expensive houses. The people moving into them vacate even less expensive houses. And so on. The least desirable housing that no one else wants becomes housing for the poor. If you don’t build new luxury housing, the whole process is interrupted, everyone stays put, and there is nothing for the poor.

      • I am aware of your “trickle down” argument. I am not convinced that it has a major effect on prices. From what I can tell, the new housing is geared to millennials just coming into the housing market, not folks moving up.

      • “Trickle down” does not work in housing or the economy IMHO.

        But I think the discussion of housing and other in the context of opportunity and outcomes really moves away from the core issue.

        Almost one wants mandated equal outcomes.

        And yes, on an individual basis regardless of race or sex or anything else, some people will work hard to achieve success and others not.
        Someone born in abject poverty CAN become a tycoon. It happens.

        But the question is if we look at demographics – race, sex, etc, as a GROUP – if opportunity is EQUAL then would we expect similar demographic outcomes?

        If 1% of blacks end up qualifying on academic merit to get into a charter school – how do we explain that if everyone started out “equal”?

        If women represent only 10% of corporate leadership – and opportunity was equal -how do we explain that?

        Are white guys just naturally smarter and worker harder than blacks or women?

        We cannot and should not try to make outcomes “equal” but when outcomes are demonstrably not equal – do we just convince ourselves that opportunity was and just move on?

      • Works with taxes too. If the very wealthy don’t pay taxes, they give money to the poor.

        Uh yep, there are houses left behind for the poor until the City mows them down and builds a revenue generating offices or shopping, or until they get snatched up for pennies on the dollar and rehabbed to luxury townhouses.

        • Why wouldn’t have “trickle down” worked all along? It’s not like people never traded up to bigger houses before now?


          • There aren’t enough cardboard boxes for Bacon’s poor.

            Movin’ on up to the Eastside… trickling down, Boss. Trickling down.

            Note houses in the background for the “middle class”

          • SUCCESS!!

          • “Nancy_Naive | January 4, 2021 at 6:34 am |
            There aren’t enough cardboard boxes for Bacon’s poor.

            Movin’ on up to the Eastside… trickling down, Boss. Trickling down.”

            I wasn’t aware that that the US was Mexico City.

          • Soon, Matt. Soon.

            “It can’t happen here.” Famous last words.

        • “Nancy_Naive | January 4, 2021 at 8:05 am |
          Soon, Matt. Soon.

          “It can’t happen here.” Famous last words.”

          So our Government will become completely corrupt and run by drug cartels who conduct murder for higher without checks?

          Can you provide the maker of the crystal ball your using, I’d prefer not to make a bad investment.

          • Become?

            I dunno. Let me turn it over. Uh yep, here it is. It says, “Trump. Made in PRK”

          • “Nancy_Naive | January 4, 2021 at 8:24 am |

            I dunno. Let me turn it over. Uh yep, here it is. It says, “Trump. Made in PRK””

            I thought Trump made his name clad goods in China with the rest of the County. The only thing I know that comes out of PRK is poorly designed and built cruise missiles and people infected with tapeworms.

          • Made in China – IPHONES?

            Half of the world’s iPhones are made at a sprawling Foxconn factory complex in Zhengzhou, China.

          • “LarrytheG | January 4, 2021 at 8:57 am |
            Made in China – IPHONES?

            Half of the world’s iPhones are made at a sprawling Foxconn factory complex in Zhengzhou, China.”

            That has to do with what I said how?

  11. Equality of outcomes has been the refuge of shallow thinkers, predators or desperate people since the Communist Manifesto. Let’s just take one example – suppose everyone should have the same number of shoes. Does that mean everyone should have six pairs of shoes? 10 pairs of shoes? What if someone only wants one pair of shoes? Does this mean they have to be forced to take 5 more? What if you want equality of income? Is this just within one business? Is it across businesses? Would it apply within government? Who would want to take a position of huge responsibility or complexity if they could be paid the same amount for simpler job? Look at Cuba, which is basically a ration state, or Venezuela, which wrecked its economy, or North Korea, which has starved its people. It’s basically a predatory ideology propagated by scoundrels who prey on the have nots of society to empower them to take what they want.

    Equality of opportunity on the other hand is about truly building up a society from the bottom-up. One of the commentators mentioned Walter Williams. Thomas Sowell, Jack Kemp and others have talked about how do you help kids get access to more opportunity? How do you help poor people get access to more opportunity? How do you help rural areas and low income neighborhoods get access to more opportunity?

    You do it through infrastructure like rural broadband, good roads, and other means to reduce shipping costs so that small businesses and manufacturers can develop and flourish in the South Side and Shenandoah just as much as in urban settings.

    You do it through education choice and access to education technology; skills training, and the expansion of after school and summer enrichment programs.

    You do it, not by coddling people, but by setting high expectations and a culture of discipline, hard work, and personal responsibility.

    You do it by enabling diversification, innovation, and specialization so that people can carve out their own niches.

    One last thing, wealth inequality has been increasing by leaps and bounds throughout the history of the world. Imagine what a quantum leap of inequality happened when the Agricultural Revolution occurred. How much more unequal was a society that boasted a pharaoh compared to any hunter-gatherer tribe? At the time of the Revolutionary War, there may have been one cash millionaire in the 13 colonies. Two hundred some odd years later, the richest man in America in 1980 was worth $8 billion. In just 40 years, the richest man is worth $180 billion after a good day on Wall Street. But do you think the Amish would rather be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos? Equality of opportunity enables more freedom to be who you want to be as the end result. Value is not necessarily determined by money. The fact that individuals value different things differently means that equality of outcome almost inevitably leads to taking, discouragement, the stifling of innovation, and the imposition of tyranny.

    Great posting!

  12. “The goal of increasing the housing supply is fine in the abstract, but this is a classic case of how the real world gets messy. The supply of housing is restricted by zoning, which creates winners and losers. As a voting bloc, homeowners are extremely resistant to change. They want to preserve the character of their neighborhoods and protect their property values. A pragmatic approach would be to channel new housing development in the form of apartments and townhouses in areas zoned for commercial and industrial uses — thus creating more compact, mixed-used development in areas where the development will not impinge upon neighborhoods of single-family homes.”

    I fail to see how this approach to housing affordability brings anything new to the table. From Toronto to Merrifield to Charlottesville, this is the status quo reframed as squaring the circle.

    There’s a lot of BR talk about the desirability of Charlotte and Raleigh vs. NOVA in regard to attracting top tech talent to VA, with much of the discussion framed around housing affordability. In these conversations, theoretical new housing supply is as a matter of course oriented toward upwardly mobile young professionals and not low-income families.

    This speaks to the fact that prices in desirable urban centers are as much a function of housing prices in *other* desirable locales as they are of the region as a whole. When Boise/Charlottesville/Richmond City zone for upscale condos, that doesn’t relieve pricing pressure on downscale homebuyers in the Treasure Valley/CVA/RVA — it instead attracts upscale buyers fleeing high rents in more developed cities. And as these new urban centers attract tech workers, an ecosystem befitting their income tier develops, and even downscale home prices rise as a result. That’s great for downscale home owners, but if you don’t have equity to begin with and you’re hoping to buy locally…well, good luck.

    There’s not much profit motive to be found in low income housing, and market gymnastics which seek to create that motive are, as you say, disempowering to local majorities and equityholders. Barring a state or federal approach that privileges broadly middle-class families at the expense of wealthy professionals and established equityholders, the housing affordability crisis will continue.

    That said, I think we often overestimate household incomes of tech sector workers. Not everybody is a senior engineer or product manager, and housing arrangements that speak to entry-level professionals and young families would probably be broadly remunerative for both sector growth and the overall housing price burden. It just might not look like Merrifield or Cville’s outdoor mall.

    • I agree in general with Novalad. Low income housing for folks who have lifetime low income, i.e. work at lower paid service jobs – is NOT the same as housing for college-educated young people with entry level jobs in urban areas.

      This is also where educatioinal disparities occur when schools are neighborhood based and school is richer neighborhoods tend to produce higher academic results than schools in poorer neighborhoods.

      When we segregate housing by income levels – in the past, we have ended up with “project” housing and slums – that then become incubators for other societal problems.

      The current Section 8 housing approach is to provide vouchers to low income and let them go find housing – as opposed to building huge “projects” to house all of them in one location.

  13. They’re not slums. They just lack paint and duct tape.

  14. re: “subsidies” for ObamaCare.

    I would just remind that there are significant subsidies for employer-provided health insurance also.

    Wages/income used to buy employer-provided is not taxed. Not Fed. Not State and not even FICA. That amounts to a 40% (or higher) subsidy with the subsidy increasing as the taxable income does.

    Also, people who buy ObamaCare have their premiums adjusted by age whereas most employers do not do that with employer-provided.

    In the real world, people who are 50 and older or have health conditions would not be insureable by insurance companies if they had a choice or they would insure them but at rates far higher than young/healthy.

    That’s a subsidy plain and simple.

    So is Medicare. Who would sell you health insurance at age 65 for $145.00 a month? What “entitles” anyone to Medicare (Part B)?

  15. The vast majority of people are NOT looking for “equal outcomes”.

    But they ARE asking when there are large and signifcant disparities in outcomes by demographics – white, black, german, gender, etc..


    Anyone can argue that for any given two individuals – one might be smarter or works harder, etc… but how do we attribute things like that to an entire race or ethinicity if opportunity was actually “equal”.

    All this talk about trickle down, and housing costs, etc… is separate and apart from the core issue.

  16. Baconator with extra cheese

    I’ll believe politicians truly believe in equity when they grant every citizen a retirement package and health care plan the same as Congress receives.

  17. Meanwhile, as the Tyranny of the Bureaucracy continues its insatiable need to expand, it roots itself ever deeper into our daily lives so we can all wait in line to get a permit

    As I was once told by a zoning tyrant, if its not in the zoning ordnance you can’t do it. Otherwise, get a permit

  18. Jim’s Housing Theory works only in the abstract. If a person making $75,000 per year get a raise to $150,000 and moves “up in the world” the old residence is added to inventory for sale at a lower price than the new, more expensive home. Therefore, building more expensive homes that attract buyers creates a greater supply of less expensive homes as people move “up in the world”. You can’t really argue with that unless the less expensive homes are being torn down to build the more expensive homes.

    The problem (roughly stated) is that for every one person “moving up in the world” there are four people trying to buy entry level / mid level real estate. Meanwhile, a builder can construct one $1m home at 20% margin or 5 $200k homes at 10% margin each. As long as there is demand for $1m homes a builder will be motivated to build such homes. There is some logic to the idea that zoning drives up prices which drives up builders’ margins too.

    Ending zoning MIGHT work in a well run state. In other words, it won’t work in Virginia. The Dillon’s Rule construct which holds that local transportation should be managed by Richmond effectively requires local zoning. It’s bad enough already when the local BoS is compromised by local developers. However, communities are very aware of zoning changes so it’s hard to pull a fast one. Meanwhile, Richmond has proven itself completely incapable of managing a transportation system in fast growing areas. End the zoning and in come the bulldozers. They aren’t coming to build affordable housing either. At best, mid-tier housing will be built. For a while, Jim’s Housing Theory would hold. Then the transportation system would collapse even further. More taxes would naturally be the progressive response. We’d enter the California / NYC death spiral. A declining quality of living coupled with forever escalating taxes. Bye bye.

    • So, what’s the answer, Don? More public housing projects for the poor? That’s been a rip-roaring success over the years, hasn’t it? I know you don’t believe that.

      • Country boys can survive – seem like that was a song.

        But cities can’t survive without service workers but service workers are not paid enough to afford a place to live in the city.

        So the solution? Trickle down?

        Is it the “markets” responsibility to provide or the governments?

        In Spotsylvania, when a developer proposes apartments, the county requires them to provide a certain percentage at the “affordable” rate. Yep, a version of rent control.

      • De-evolving transportation funding and spending and construction from Richmond to every Virginia locality with only roads of statewide significance excepted. No transfer of transportation taxes (of any kind) from any locality to any other locality. Then, you can end zoning.

        • Counties in Virginia (many, not all) , tax vehicles at a rate 5, 10 times the amount paid for gas tax.

          Fairfax County is $4.57 per hundred. You buy a car for 25k and you annual tax starts at over $1000. The gas tax is a tick on a hounds butt.

          1/3 of Virginia’s transportation revenues come from the general sales tax. 1/3 comes from the sales tax on new cars.

          and 1/3 comes from fuel taxes.

          How many folks know this?

        • What DJ is advocating is the way that more than forty other states do it.

          Their gas taxes go only to Federal and State level roads.

          All county roads are the responsibility of county taxpayers.

          But the rub is – they have to have their own taxes, they don’t get any of the state tax on gasoline.

          Be careful what you wish for!


    • If Jim’s theory really worked, why hasn’t it worked all along?

      We’ve always had “trickle down” , no?

      • I hate to repost the picture but it tells the story…

        There once was a modest neighborhood where all of the houses were small and the people who lived there enjoyed their modest tax bills. One day, because of the location, someone bought the lot to the right, scraped it clean and built a large mini-McMansion. Property values doubled — at the assessor’s office, not on the market — and the people on the left fell in arrears. Next month, the City will auction the house for back taxes and the lot will be scraped clean…

        BTW, a friend who lives in Dallas had his house assesed at 3/4 million in 1995. It’s a modest 3500 sqft with pool. His neighbors are all 10,000 sqft minimum built in 1995 on scraped lots. So, you don’t have to be poor…

        • I’m calling shenanigans on your story. It just doesn’t happen that way. There are plenty of neighborhoods where small houses are being demolished in order to build bigger houses. It happens all over Northern Virginia. However, the value of the smaller homes go up … a lot. The idea that property values went up at the assessor’s office but not on the market is dubious at best.

          Your friend in Dallas should thank his lucky stars that he was smart enough or lucky enough to buy at that location. He should hold that property as long as he can, even if it means taking a loan out on his now very valuable home.

          Gentrification has many problems. Failing to enrich the existing property owners who bought pre-gentrification is not one of them.

          • His photo is a stock photo that Pew used, it’s in Naples Florida and just used for shock value by people who don’t know how tax assessments work.

          • As Larry (different Larry) puts it, the value of his house is all in the lot now. It will not go up. His neighbors within 3 blocks, by the way, are/were Cowboy’s GM Jerry Jones, Ray Nasher, and GW and Laura after they left the WH among others. At the end of his street is the only FL Wright house in Dallas. It’s safe from the demo crew, for now.

            As for it not happening that way, Block Island, the islands of SC and Ga that used to be inhabited by the Gullah, and just about every key in Florida where fishing communities were driven out, were done that way. I can list more if you’d like.

            Matt is so literal. Yes, people like those at Pew.

          • Different types of properties are assessed differently.

            I’d rather be literal than resort to duplicity in my replies.

            Your problem was, Pew wasn’t the only entity to use it in the manner in which they did. It’s called Google image search.

          • The phrase we BOTH should be using is “It doesn’t ALWAYS work that way.”

  19. As the real estate folks say: location location location.

    A trailer park surrounded by high dollar properties is doomed for low cost housing.

    The cost of the property minus the “improvments” will drive the value.

    This is how the actual market works.

    This is why and how existing neighborhoods are torn down and replaced by McMansions or Condos… not low cost rentals.

    The “market” does not provide low-cost housing.

    It’s not what it does. It drives value.

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