Yglesias is one of the real bright lights of the progressive blogosphere. As a conservative who has been reading politics his whole life, I can attest that he is "Exhibit A" in my overall case that liberals have dramatically upped their policy advocacy game, while conservatives have stagnated, largely intellectually stuck in the assumptions and narratives of the Reagan era. Back then most liberals were for rent controls, opposed development because they hated developers or on spurious environmental grounds, and thought the solution to inner city problems like crime and declining quality of life were more HUD grants. Liberals were fish in a barrel for conservatives armed with facts and only a rudimentary knowledge of how markets worked. And the evidence of failed liberal policies in inner cities was obvious to anyone with two eyes. People with jobs and money fled to the suburbs while urban liberals kept telling the same shaggy dog stories.
But Yglesias is different. For one thing, he's a mostly free market liberal who argues based on facts and data rather than on liberal tales of vicitimization and woe. As an exponent of the urban renaissance that came about through better policing, longer prison sentences for street criminals, and the gradual demolition of public housing (aka govt. created slums), he has alot of interesting observations not only in the ways liberals have gone wrong when it comes to housing policy but how conservatives have as well. Although lacking in any formal economics training, he shows all the various ways in which markets could address and would address the affordable housing shortage in many of the best big cities, but can't because of regulations. Yes...environmental and historic preservation regs, but mostly because of zoning. This more than anything else suppresses the level of urban building creating artificial shortages in the most desirable areas to live. In short, people who would want to buy housing, developers who would want to design the buildings, and workers who would want the job building them--all are left empty because markets are not permitted to function. Consequently the pent up demand can only be satisfied with either 1) urban sprawl, in which people often have to spend more time and money every day commuting or 2) migration to cheaper often lower wage cities, implicitly trading cheaper housing for less income and productivity.
And as Yglesias points out, conservatives, despite their free market rhetoric, are as much a part of the problem as liberals---more in some cases. Conservatives often champion "free" roads, minimum parking requirements, lot sizes and building height restrictions--implicitly supporting both sprawl and neighborhoods that are out of financial reach for many average earners. Ironically, if more people could afford to live closer into the cities in housing that was more moderately priced, many of these same suburbanites would find life more pleasant and less congested in the suburbs as well. And liberals concerned about global warming have no excuse to not champion lots of tall apartment buildings right around public transportation hubs.
In short, Yglesias, whether he realizes it or not, maps out a future potential liberal/conservative pro-growth pro-development alliance, that, if ever realized, would make many of America's best cities even better.
As one conservative who wishes his party would begin to offer real solutions to actual solvable problems of 2012 (as opposed to 1982), it would be great if more of my ideological brethren would take to heart some of Yglesias' ideas here!
PS..rest assured many of the people who gave this little e-book a 1 surely didn't read it.