Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Map of the Day: Economic Mobility

This map shows the chance that a child raised in the bottom fifth rose to the top fith of the economic ladder:

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 9.47.45 AM
Here's some analysis from Slate:

Something a number of people have noticed is that the swath of bad opportunities for poor people seems to largely track the geography of where the African-American population is disproportionately located. That naturally lends itself to the hypothesis that it isn't so much that poor people have bad opportunities in these places as that black people lack upward mobility and happen to be concentrated in the southeast.

But the researchers actually looked at this, and that's not the case. Upward mobility for low-income people of all races is negatively correlated with the size of the local black population.

That could be just a coincidence. But I think it probably isn't. If you look at the more clear-cut case of political opportunity, you'll see that measures such as poll taxes that were meant to disenfranchise black people tended to have the secondary consequence of also disenfranchising poor white people. You could imagine a more generalized version of that. If your poor population contains a very large number of African-Americans, then perhaps the only viable means of keeping the black man down are going to involve denying opportunities for upward mobility to poor people of all races. Strong public schools, economically mixed neighborhoods, dense cities, and other pathways of economic mobility would undermine the racial hierarchy, so they meet with unusual levels of resistance.

Steve Clowney

July 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Claeys on the Use and Abuse of Overflight Column Doctrine

ClaeysEric Claeys (George Mason) has posted On the Use and Abuse of Overflight Column Doctrine (Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Journal) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Many scholars writing on property or intellectual property policy assume that, when commercial aviation became feasible, the ad coelum maxim applied so literally that any airplane automatically trespassed on the air columns above lots of land beneath its flight path. The ad coelum maxim alienated property doctrine from sensible policies, these assumptions continue, and this disjunction was not fixed until courts reinvigorated property doctrine with new policies in the 1930s and 1940s.

This Article has two goals. The first is to show that this portrait of overflight litigation is misleading. In the watershed overflight cases, jurists took for granted that legal “property” has a built-in normative commitment to one fundamental policy goal — that property rights be structured to facilitate all stakeholders being allowed to use those resources concurrently and beneficially, each for his own individual goals. So in overflight cases, jurists revised the scope of the ad coelum maxim to make sure that the maxim cohered with sound policies already fundamental to property law. The maxim confirmed landowners’ control over the low-altitude air space reasonably necessary to their beneficial uses of their lots. But the maxim was found not to apply to high-altitude airspace, because it seemed likely to impede all citizens’ concurrent interests in using airspace as a commons for air travel and transport.

The second goal is to shed light on why contemporary scholarship portrays the ad coelum maxim and the transition in aerial trespass law so inaccurately. The conventional portrait of the overflight transition provides a tempting narrative helping to make traditional rights of exclusive control seem overbroad. By process of elimination, the “ad coelum fable” helps make seem more attractive alternate property strategies, especially commons approaches and “liability rule” forced transfers of use rights. Although such approaches may be desirable in some situations, they should be judged on their normative merits — not by setting up and then ridiculing straw-man portraits of alternatives. This Article illustrates with contemporary scholarship on eminent domain and urban redevelopment, and on the Google Books dispute.


July 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Bad is Homeownership for America

Yglesias contineus to bang the drum against American housing policy:

A house is two things: a parcel of land and a complicated manufactured good that sits atop it. In other words, it's a commodity and a consumer durable good—similar to a car (consumer durable) that needs gasoline (commodity) to run. But even though both automobiles and tanks full of gasoline are widely owned in the United States, politicians don't run around trying to promote expensive cars and gasoline because we rightly recognize that this would reduce living standards, not raise them. But by encouraging mainstream middle-class families to make large leveraged investments in houses, you create politics around promoting housing scarcity. The problem here is that although any given person can certainly profit from the house he or she owns (or, more plausibly, the land it sits on) appreciating in value more rapidly than average, it's extremely difficult to see how a nation as a whole is going to become more prosperous by houses becoming more expensive.

Steve Clowney

July 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

McMansions Around the World

Al Safwa, Cairo, Egypt (2009)

After six years of traveling around the world, Swedish photogrpaher Martin Adolfsson has finished Suburbia Gone Wilda new  book that documents model homes in the wealthy enclaves of India, Russia, and Egypt. Accroding the the Atlantic Cities Blog, "His discoveries reveal a world that continues to homogenize around emerging clusters of wealth aspiring to a particularly American brand of suburban life."

Steve Clowney

July 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pidot on Fees, Expenditures, and the Takings Clause

PidotJustin Pidot (Denver) has posted Fees, Expenditures, and the Takings Clause on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The Supreme Court's recent decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District extended heightened constitutional scrutiny to monetary exactions. But the Court did not define that term, and, arguably, it could encompass two distinct forms of conditions placed on government issued-permits: First, those that require a permit applicant to pay money to the government (which this essay refers to as a fee), and second those that require a permit applicant to engage in activities that cost money, but do not transfer money to the government (which this essay refers to as an expenditure). Based on the theoretical underpinnings of takings doctrine, and the language of the Koontz decision itself, this essay argues that heightened scrutiny should extend only to fees, and not to expenditures.

Steve Clowney

July 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Return of Home Flipping

The LA Times details the return of home flipping to pre-recession levels:

After the crash, experts — in hindsight — pointed to get-rich-quick home flipping as a missed warning sign before the housing bubble burst. But whether the return of flipping constitutes cause for alarm remains a murkier question.

Many housing experts and economists say it may simply signal a healthy recovery — a quick bounce back from prices that had dropped sharply. Others see it as a sign that fast-rising markets may again be getting overheated. In Southern California, the median price has seen year-over-year increases of more than 20% in every month so far this year, according to DataQuick, hitting a record 28% in June.

Steve Clowney

July 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Curtis on State Foreclosure Laws and Mortgage Origination in the Subprime Market

CurtisQuinn Curtis (Virginia) has posted State Foreclosure Laws and Mortgage Origination in the Subprime Market (J. of Real Estate Fin. & Econ.) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Foreclosure procedures in some states are considerably swifter and less costly for lenders than in others. In light of the foreclosure crisis, an empirical understanding of the effect of foreclosure procedures on the mortgage market is critical. This study finds that lender-favorable foreclosure procedures are associated with more lending activity in the subprime market. The study uses hand-coded state foreclosure law variables to construct a numerical index measuring the favorability of state foreclosure laws to lenders. Mortgage origination data from state-border areas shows that lender-friendly foreclosure is associated with an increase in subprime originations, but has less effect on the prime market.

Steve Clowney

July 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Quasi-Property in NFL Jersey Numbers

The NFL has a very complicated system of assigning jersey numbers.  More or less, players in certain positions can only be issued numbers within certain ranges.  Punters, for example, must choose a number between 1 and 19.  Here's the full chart:

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From a property perspective, what's interesting about all this is that once a player chooses their number, NFL teams seem to recognize that the players have something like a property right over their selections. 

For example, if a player is drafted by a team and he wants a number that is already being worn by another, the newcomer would need to negotiate with the current "owner" for the right to wear his preferred digits.  Sometimes thousands of dollars change hands.  Here's one story:

When Donovan McNabb arrived in Minnesota before the 2011 season, his No. 5 was being occupied by veteran punter Chris Kluwe. Instead of wearing a different number for the first time in his NFL career, McNabb engaged Kluwe in negotiations for the No. 5. Kluwe responded with some interesting requests. According to Marc Sessler of, McNabb had to donate $5,000 to Kluwe's charity, Kick for a Cure, mention Kluwe's amateur band in a news conference and buy the punter an ice cream cone to get the No. 5. McNabb agreed on the terms and was given the No. 5. He eventually made good on the donation, and also name-dropped the band on a few occasions. The fulfillment of the ice cream portion of the payment is currently unknown. 

At least one dispute has ended up in court.  "Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis agreed to pay defensive back Ifeanyi Ohalete $40,000 for the No. 26. Ohalete agreed, and Portis donned his favorite number during his stint in Washington.  However, the deal turned sour once Ohalete was released from the Redskins the next August. According to Ohalete, Portis stopped payment of the deal at $20,000.  Ohalete eventually sued, and Portis was forced to pay $18,000 of the remaining $20,000 balance."

Steve Clowney

July 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Morris, Owley, & Capello on Siting Solar Energy Projects

Amy Morris (Aspen Envt'l Group), Jessica Owley (Buffalo), & Emily Capello (Aspen Envt'l Group) have posted Green Siting for Green Energy (J. Energy & Envtl L.) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Renewable energy development is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Solar energy projects can replace polluting fossil fuels, but because they are land-intensive, solar projects also have environmental costs. Large projects have the potential to provide hundreds of megawatts of electricity, but could also disrupt huge expanses of undeveloped land. Arrays of solar panels on commercial rooftops or capped landfills allow beneficial reuse of developed sites, but these projects are typically small-scale (less than 1 MW). This tension between renewable energy development and protection of precious landscapes (particularly desert landscapes) creates a conundrum for environmentalists.

This paper examines the tradeoffs involved in siting solar projects, with a particular focus on California. The unique ecosystems and biodiversity in the California desert have made the tradeoffs between environmental benefits and costs of solar projects especially apparent. We look at the current hurdles for “greener” siting of projects in disturbed and developed areas, including the obstacles to permitting distributed generation (DG) projects, smaller-scale projects that may be built on parking lots or rooftops. While both large and small scale renewables are necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there are many opportunities for greener renewable energy siting. Greener siting must proceed on two fronts. First, as large utility-scale solar facilities will be an important component of a sustainable energy future, we need to improve the environmental review and sustainability of those facilities while being wiser about where we locate such projects. Marginal agricultural land and abandoned mine lands can provide untapped opportunities. Second, distributed generation with solar photovoltaics located across the state will be vital. The key to greener siting of DG is fostering the expansion of renewable projects in disturbed areas, particularly contaminated sites and rooftops and parking lots. A challenge of DG is the number of actors, permits, and environmental review process required. Facilitation and coordination of these processes will speed the journey to a solar energy future.

Steve Clowney

July 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What Counts as a Partial Actual Eviction

Joe Singer points us toward a New York case that erodes one of the common law's strongest protections for tenants:

The New York Court of Appeals relaxed a traditional rule of property law by holding that a commercial landlord’s interference with possession of 12 square feet of space out of a total of 15,000 square feet does not constitute a partial actual eviction entitling the tenant to a full rent abatement. Eastside Exhibition Corp. v. 210 East 86th Street Corp., 965 N.E.2d 246 (N.Y. 2012). The court noted that withholding of the entire amount of rent is the proper remedy when there has been a partial eviction by a landlord but a partial eviction will not be found if the landlord’s intrusion is trivial and has no effect on the tenant’s use or enjoyment of the property. In this case, the landlord merely placed cross-bracing between two steel support columns on both of tenant’s floors in a manner that did not affect the tenant’s use or enjoyment of the leased premises. The only effects of the cross-bracing were minimal effect on the flow of foot traffic and the fact that the bracing was unattractive, insufficient to constitute partial eviction.

Steve Clowney

July 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

McNeil on Aboriginal Land Titles in Canada

McneilKent McNeil (Osgoode Hall) has posted Aboriginal Title in Canada: Site-Specific or Territorial? on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

This paper addresses the issue of Aboriginal title to land, and the relationship I see between Indigenous law and the common law in this context. In my understanding, there have been three judicial approaches to Aboriginal title: 1. A purely proprietary approach, based on occupation of land and the effect given to occupation by the common law (common law Aboriginal title). 2. An Indigenous law approach, whereby Aboriginal title arises from and is defined by pre-existing Indigenous law (Indigenous law title). 3. A territorial approach, whereby Aboriginal title is derived from both common law and Indigenous law and has governmental dimensions (territorial Aboriginal title). I am going to describe each of these, and then offer some critical comments on the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Marshall; R. v. Bernard and the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s more recent decision in William v. British Columbia (the Tsilhqot'in Nation case).

Steve Clowney

July 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A View That Yertle Would Love

Jacob Rubin ponders the view from atop the world's tallest building:

Many skyscrapers, while yearning quite obviously for style points, serve a clear utilitarian mission: to maximize office space in a crammed chunk of commercial real estate. This is true of the Empire State Building, the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and Shanghai’s World Financial Center. This is deeply untrue of the Burj . . . . Its clear lack of usefulness seems to indicate its status as an art object.

It is a 360-degree view from the Burj Khalifa’s observation deck, and I would say about forty-five degrees of that semicircle looked out at the plots of ordinary skyscrapers. The rest of the view—approximately 330 degrees—was of flat, low urban developments shading into the varied browns of the desert. To the west, a hazy view of the Persian Gulf. All of which would have been mostly unchanged at a much lower height. The irony—a simple one, perhaps, but one I could not get over—was that this building was the city’s most meaningful sight and we were now inside it, looking out at the very little that surrounds it.

This was not the intended view from the Burj. When construction began in 2004, Dubai was still in the grip of fiendish development. By 2009, with the Burj partially completed, Dubai had plummeted into apocalyptic debt, requiring a $10 billion loan from oil-rich Abu Dhabi to complete the project. (Originally titled the Burj Dubai, it is now named after the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, presumably part of the deal.) No doubt more architectural wonders would have enlivened its view, if not for this financial catastrophe, caused in no small part by the erection of the Burj itself. [...]

And yet this strange panorama makes a trip to the Burj inadvertently sublime. Every monument, at its inception, gives rise to its future ruin, and yet few face the prospect as directly as the Burj. From its state-of-the-art observation deck, one beholds the ageless, ungoverned desert. Futility is never more futilely refuted than with a monument. The Burj seems to have been erected to elucidate this fact.

Steve Clowney

(HT: Andrew Sullivan)

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Liscow on Property Rights and Deforestation

Zachary-liscowZachary Liscow (Berkeley - Ph.D.) has posted Do Property Rights Promote Investment But Cause Deforestation? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Nicaragua (Journal of Environmental Economics) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Many policymakers argue that property rights decrease deforestation. Some theoretical papers also make this prediction, arguing that property rights decrease discount rates applied to a long-term investment in forestry. However, the effect is theoretically ambiguous. The paper takes a novel instrumental variables approach based on Nicaragua's agrarian reform to test for the effect, using a new data-set — Nicaragua's 2001 agricultural census. It finds that property rights significantly increase deforestation. The model, supported by the data, suggests a likely mechanism for this relationship: property rights increase investment, increasing agricultural productivity and therefore the returns to deforestation.

Steve Clowney

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Free Market Plan To Save Detroit

Why not?

The good news is that unlike other areas of the world that are struggling to reverse a development decline, there are millions of people who would love a chance to move to Detroit: immigrants. Rather than focus on the sisyphean task of convincing people who currently don’t want to move to Detroit, we should focus on how to allow in those who do. This is a far easier task for the government, even if it too requires significant policy change. What’s more, letting people from around the world move to where they want also happens to be the closest thing to a free market plan that could actually make a big difference.

Many will think this is a radical experiment in “foreignizing” a city, but this is not the case. Detroit will not become Beijing or some radical experiment of a wholly foreign U.S. city. In fact it can help make Detroit more similar to successful U.S. cities. Right now,  the population of New York City is 36.8% foreign born. In comparison, Detroit is only 5.1%. foreign born. This means Detroit would have to let in around 360,000 immigrants just to reach the percent foreign born of New York City. However many immigrants they let in, it’s not likely to approach this. But even if it did, it would not be unprecedented by U.S. city standards. More modestly, increasing the foreign born population to 20% would fall far short of New York City standards, but would still mean 133,000 new immigrants. This would go a long way towards sopping up the 99,000 vacant homes that are plaguing the city.

Steve Clowney

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Panarella on Native Hawaiian Gathering Rights vs. Western Concepts of Property

Sam_panarellaSam Panarella (Montana) has posted Not in My Backyard Pash v HPC: The Clash between Native Hawaiian Gathering Rights and Western Concepts of Property in Hawaii (Envtl Law) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

This article examines the uneasy truce that exists between Western property law and the original Hawaiian native gathering practices that existed before the arrival of Europeans. The author traces the development of Hawaiian law from early cases that severely restricted gathering rights to more permissive results. The article demonstrates both the strengths and weaknesses of the present system of land tenure in Hawaii and argues for the continued expansion of native Hawaiian gather rights providing such expansion takes place within, not outside of, the dominant fee simple land tenure system now in place in Hawaii.

Steve Clowney

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bring Back the Flophouse

Over at Slate, Alan Durning argues that the poor need more housing choices, including "working-class rooming houses, with small private bedrooms and shared bathrooms down the hall."  In this short piece, Durning does a nice job detailing how middle-class housing standards have become the legal baseline in most communities, a turn that has made life drastically more difficult than it needs to be for minimum-wage workers:

The number of cheap rooms for rent is a fraction of what it once was in American cities. In downtown Portland, Ore., for example, the number of units available to rent for the amount that a minimum-wage worker can afford ($458 per month in 2012) fell from 4,500 in 1994 to 3,200 in 2012, according to the Northwest Pilot Project, a housing provider for seniors. These quarters are almost all subsidized and often have long waiting lists.

Publicly supported low-income housing has emerged but nowhere in the quantities needed to fill the gap. The private housing market could do much more to provide living spaces affordably if we discarded those requirements that merely protect others’ property values by outlawing rooming houses and other simple housing options.

Steve Clowney

July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Map of the Day: These Are the Drunkest Countries


From The Economist:

THE world drank the equivalent of 6.1 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2005, according to a report from the World Health Organisation published on February 11th. The biggest boozers are mostly found in Europe and in the former Soviet states. Moldovans are the most bibulous, getting through 18.2 litres each, nearly 2 litres more than the Czechs in second place. Over 10 litres of a Moldovan's annual intake is reckoned to be 'unrecorded' home-brewed liquor, making it particularly harmful to health. Such moonshine accounts for almost 30% of the world's drinking. The WHO estimates that alcohol results in 2.5m deaths a year, more than AIDS or tuberculosis. In Russia and its former satellite states one in five male deaths is caused by drink.


Steve Clowney

July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Scott on the Definition of Slavery

ScottRebecca Scott (Michigan) has posted Under Color of Law: Siliadin v France and the Dynamics of Enslavement in Historical Perspective (Book Chapter) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

When is it appropriate to apply the term "slavery" -- a concept that appears to rest on a property right -- to patterns of exploitation in contemporary society, when no state extends formal recognition to the possibility of the ownership of property in a human being? Historians, who generally position themselves as enemies of anachronism, may be particularly resistant to the use of an ancient term to describe a twenty-first century reality. And jurists have often been understandably reluctant to employ a word whose historical meaning was so closely tied to a specific property relationship that has long since been abolished in Europe and the Americas.

Steve Clowney

July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Changing Nature of Wealth in the US or ... Why the Civil War was Inevitable

Slave wealth


This chart, from a new paper by Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman (PDF), demonstrates how drastically  the nature of wealth has changed in this country over the last two centuries.  It also shows in plain terms that anyone who thinks slavery could have ended with compensated emancipation is a fool. The value of the slaves held in the south surpassed the value of all the industrial capital ("other domestic capital") of the entire country in 1850.  As Matt Yglesias notes, "When you consider that the institution of slavery was limited to specific subset of the country, you can see that in the region where it held sway slave wealth was wealth."

Here's another, more specific, quote from Roger Ransom's "The Economics Of The Civil War":

One "economic" solution to the slave problem would be for those who objected to slavery to "buy out" the economic interest of Southern slaveholders. Under such a scheme, the federal government would purchase slaves. A major problem here was that the costs of such a scheme would have been enormous. Claudia Goldin estimates that the cost of having the government buy all the slaves in the United States in 1860, would be about $2.7 billion (1973: 85, Table 1). Obviously, such a large sum could not be paid all at once. Yet even if the payments were spread over 25 years, the annual costs of such a scheme would involve a tripling of federal government outlays.

Steve Clowney

July 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Is This the Most Beautiful City Street in the World?


A pretty awesome slideshow:

In the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre lies the 500 meter stretch of Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho - an amazing tree-lined avenue that may well be the most beautiful street in the world. Towering Tipuana trees line both sides of the road, creating an incredible green archway that looks like a mythical forest. It's amazing that this verdant space is actually three blocks in the middle of a modern city! The Tipuana trees along Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho were planted in the 1930′s and they have grown into a shady neighborhood canopy for the past 70 years.

Steve Clowney

July 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)