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December 29, 2011
Professor Jane Larson RIP
One of Professor Larson's pathbreaking articles that should not go unmentioned is Free Markets Deep in the Heart of Texas, 84 Georgetown Law Journal 179 (1995). The article is a detailed empirical description of conditions and life within the unregulated land use markets of the Texas border with Mexico, focusing on housing subdivisions that have come to be known as colonias. Within Texas, more than a third of a million people -- the vast majority are Latinos -- live in these settlements. In Larson's words:
"In sharp contrast to unzoned but regulated Houston, the unregulated colonias lack the "basics" that residents of other jurisdictions take for granted: safe drinking water, sewers for carrying away human waste, and housing with minimally adequate wiring, plumbing, and construction. Elsewhere in the world, the health and safety risks and severe environmental degradation endemic to such shantytown settlements are well known. Main Street America, however, has not typically contemplated such Third World problems. Defenders of markets and regulation alike claim that their preferred policy approach best promotes decent and affordable housing for the poor. The colonias, products of a regime that allocates land uses according to a market rather than a regulatory logic, thus offer an opportunity to compare "liveability" outcomes under these competing approaches."
This important article has been much-cited. It is one of the very first -- and a classic -- look at Mexican colonias in the United States. We will miss you and your voice, Professor Larson.
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