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Letter: NIMBYism damages U.S. competitiveness

The letter in the May 18 Herald regarding Kings Walk property is a sour brew of Trumpian nostalgia, nativism and the politics of personal insult. It also neatly reveals how the NIMBYism (NIMBY stands for "not in my backyard") of rich seniors—conservative and liberal—is damaging the economic competitiveness of the United States.

Mixed zoning, and looser zoning laws more generally, are not "crazy thoughts," as Mr. Hanson crudely calls them. These policies are staples of many of the most economically vibrant areas of the country—including Texas, held up by conservatives as the model for American economic reform.

At the same time, restrictive zoning laws are the chief culprit behind the housing crisis afflicting California, arguably America's most liberal state. There, aging liberal homeowners (many of whom denounce Trump and the causes of climate change) inhabit dwellings that have appreciated exponentially over the past three decades, while staunchly refusing to allow the higher-density housing that would cut down on the pollution caused by those commuting toward the coast from hours into the desert, the part of the state where housing is actually affordable.

The cautionary tale of California zoning shows that many of America's economic ills can be traced not to the evils of "snowflake liberals," but to the habits of older Americans, who, having benefited richly from the nation's public investments in infrastructure, education, and other public goods, have decided to pull the ladder up behind them by supporting only those policies that help to consolidate their considerable economic gains.

It's worth pointing out, too, that Trumpian hostility to immigration, like the policing of local zoning boundaries, will, in the long run, make America less economically vibrant. By fixating on the dangers from illegal immigration, the Trumpian right prevents the country from having a sensible discussion about the proper level of skilled legal immigration, which provides a great boon to the economy by bringing in highly motivated and capable workers who can start new businesses, offer new ideas, and help to compensate for America's swiftly falling birthrate.

The latter is a consequence of the fact that many in my generation can't afford children, thanks in no small part to the disinvestment in public goods and the NIMBYism many boomers on the left and the right insist upon.

Andrew Harnish

Grand Forks

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