Thursday, November 28, 2013
Well, probably Minnesota, the Carolinas, Arkansas, Missouri, or Virginia. Here's a map of the counties that produce the most turkeys:
There is also a large and vibrant industry of small scale production, as the smattering of dots on the map indicate. In fact, it’s not unusual to have turkey farms with a relatively small number of hogs and small-scale beef production too. - See more at: http://storymaps.esri.com/stories/2012/thanksgiving/#sthash.rS6mhd6T.dpuf
Turkey farmers want to be where the corn and soybeans are. Geographically, then, big turkey producers are located near to processing plants and the cheap foods that will feed their livestock (Which explains the dots few and far between in regions like Utah and Texas). There is also a large and vibrant industry of small scale production, as the smattering of dots on the map indicate. In fact, it’s not unusual to have turkey farms with a relatively small number of hogs and small-scale beef production too.
In honor of the holiday, it's time to dust off the argument that private property saved the pilgrims. Benjamin Powell, an economist at Suffolk, tells the story here:
Many people believe that after suffering through a severe winter, the Pilgrims’ food shortages were resolved the following spring when the Native Americans taught them to plant corn and a Thanksgiving celebration resulted. In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages. Bad economic incentives did.
In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials. People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. . . . Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.
Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. This change, [the Pilgrims recorded], had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years.
Of course, non of this explains how the Indians managed to survive here for thousands and thousands of years.
Again, happy turkey day.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Paul Babie (Adelaide) has posted The Spatial: A Forgotten Dimension of Property (San Diego Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This article employs urban sociologist and planning theorist Edward W Soja’s spatial scaffolding found in the ontological "trialectic" to look at property anew, with its obvious, but oft-forgotten spatial dimension brought to the foreground. The article uses Soja’s ontological trialectic to reassemble what we already know about property, demonstrating that theorizing about property implicitly recognizes the importance of spatiality. Recognizing the interwoven complexity to and inseparability and interdependence of historicality, sociality and spatiality — Soja’s three ontological elements — of property allows space an explicit role in defining what property is, when it exists, and how it is central to and affected by human life. But more importantly, it reveals how property is the cause of spatial injustice, which opens the possibility of using property as a vehicle both to seek and to achieve spatial justice. The article concludes by reflecting upon the emerging definition of spatial injustice, how property is one source of such injustice, and how recognizing the spatial dimension may allow us to see and to remedy instances of it.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Many WalMart locations around the country allow motorhome campers to park overnight in their parking lots for free (Of course there's a map of the 3557 Walmart locations that allow overnight vistis). Brooklyn-based photographer Nolan Conway hung out with some of the folks that make WalMart their home during a 3 week photography tour of WalMart parking lots in Arizona.
He was not impressed: "Within a week of being surrounded by these people I became lonely and unhappy. It’s one thing to stay in the Walmart parking lot, but it’s an entirely different experience living there. You can also feel quite vulnerable sleeping in your vehicle."
See Conway's photos here.
Christopher Serkin (Vanderbilt) and Leslie Wellington (Brooklyn) have posted Putting Exclusionary Zoning in its Place: Affordable Housing and Geographical Scale (Fordham Urban Law Journal) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The term “exclusionary zoning” typically describes a particular phenomenon: suburban large-lot zoning that reduces the supply of developable land and drives up housing prices. But exclusionary zoning in its modern form also occurs both within the urban core and region-wide. Exclusionary zoning at the sub-local and regional scales results in property values that fully capitalize the benefits of living in higher-wage regions, and the value of local public goods (like high-quality schools). Lower-income households then cannot meaningfully access those advantages, even if every municipality accommodates its fair share of regional need. The long-standing focus of exclusionary zoning on the content of local ordinances, instead of on these broader exclusionary dynamics, has defined the problem of exclusionary zoning too narrowly. We remedy that deficiency in our contribution to the Fordham Urban Law Journal’s Fortieth Anniversary issue.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Matt Yglesias thinks so:
Consider luxury cars. Nobody in Germany thinks it’s bad that rich people like to buy fancy cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. On the contrary, the popularity of those luxury brands is one of the pillars of the German export economy. And if really rich people swoop in and start demanding more and more of the highest-end models, then so much the better. Those M’s, AMG’s, and S’s just create even more value for the car companies, their workers, and their suppliers. Nobody worries that ordinary Germans are going to be stuck taking the bus because all the nicest cars are being exported to Russia. If demand rises, you build more factories. And some factories can make Porsches for fancy people while others make Volkswagens for regular folks. The problem only arises if for some reason you can’t build more cars.
America’s greatest export product is America itself. Whether it’s apartments in Manhattan or beachfront condos in Miami and San Diego, the rich people of the world want to buy dwellings on our shores. If we allow for more building permits and denser construction, there’ll be a jobs boom exporting those homes just as Switzerland exports fancy watches or Gulfstream exports private jets. The houses will have to be filled with furniture and appliances and other manufactured goods, and when their owners come to visit, they’ll also visit our stores and restaurants. And, yes, as Bloomberg said, they’ll pay property taxes.
Slate explains how to humiliate your children in any Waldo-finding competition:
Handford generally shies away from putting Waldo near the bottom or top of a page, which leads me to theorize that Waldo placement is largely a function of two factors: aversion from extremes and aversion from the middle. While we would expect Waldo to be hidden within an inch-and-a-half of the spread’s top or bottom borders almost 25 percent of the time if Handford were placing him randomly, in practice he is there only in 12 percent of all pages. More surprising is the fact that Waldo is also unlikely to be in the middle of the page, as you can see from the map above. It’s possible that Handford avoided the edges and centers of the pages out of concern that they may not print clearly. However, Waldo is placed in these locations occasionally, which weakens this hypothesis. I think it’s more likely that Handford was trying to avoid locations that might be construed as too obvious—i.e. the centers or the corners, where children and adults alike might begin their search. But while this might make Waldo harder to find for the reader whose eyes immediately dart to the center or edge of the page, once you know your quarry is unlikely to be in those places, it actually makes him much easier to find.
Pablo Kurlat and Johannes Stroebel have posted Testing for Information Asymmetries in Real Estate Markets on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
We study equilibrium outcomes in markets with asymmetric information about asset values among both buyers and sellers. In residential real estate markets hard-to-observe neighborhood characteristics are a key source of information heterogeneity: sellers are usually better informed about neighborhood values than buyers, but there are some sellers and some buyers that are better informed than their peers. We propose a new theoretical framework for analyzing such markets with many heterogeneous assets and differentially informed agents. Consistent with the predictions from this framework, we find that changes in the seller composition towards (i) more informed sellers and (ii) sellers with a larger supply elasticity predict subsequent house-price declines and demographic changes in that neighborhood. This effect is larger for houses whose value depends more on neighborhood characteristics, and smaller for houses bought by more informed buyers. Our findings suggest that home owners have superior information about important neighborhood characteristics, and exploit this information to time local market movements.
Friday, November 22, 2013
In both Portland, Maine and San Francisco, Google has constructed a series of large structures on off-shore barges. A Google spokesman, says "Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology." Others believe that the barges will move to large coastal cities, where wealthy customers will have the opportunity to check out Google Glass, the Internet giant’s forthcoming computerized eyewear. One interesting twist is that Google's off-shore construction has helped it avoid both public scrutiny and local zoning rules. Is this the future for our over-zoned cities?:
Google has been building a four-story structure in the heart of the San Francisco Bay for several weeks, but managed to conceal its purpose by constructing it on docked barges instead of on land, where city building permits and public plans are mandatory.
Until now, San Francisco city officials responsible for land use and state officials responsible for the bay have said they didn't know what was being built there. Coast Guard inspectors who visited the construction sites could not discuss what they saw. Lt. Anna Dixon said non-disclosure agreements were signed, but that those were not necessary, and that the Coast Guard, as a practice, doesn't share proprietary information it sees during inspections.
(HT: Sarah Schindler)
Jim Simth (Georgia) has edited a new book, Property and Sovereignty: Legal and Cultural Perspectives. The book features chapters from Al Brophy, Larissa Katz, and Daniel Fitzpatrick, among others. Here's the publisher's blurb:
This book explores the relationships between property and the concept of sovereignty from a number of different perspectives. It distinguishes between the dual meaning of 'sovereignty' in property discourse - political sovereignty and owner sovereignty. The contributors discuss the nature of sovereignty in both senses, applying it to a wide range of topics such as the evolution of property rights in fragile and conflict-affected nation states, and notions of sovereign property in new worlds. A section on the Arts illuminates the relationships between property, sovereignty, and culture, and a further section investigates regulatory property and governmental control over resources. The book concludes with an exploration of sovereign shaping of private property entitlements to achieve instrumental ends.
This interesting collection will be valuable to those in the fields of legal philosophy, property theory, international and comparative law, and political sociology. This book explores the relationships between property and the concept of sovereignty from a number of different perspectives. It distinguishes between the dual meaning of ‘sovereignty’ in property discourse - political sovereignty and owner sovereignty. The contributors discuss the nature of sovereignty in both senses, applying it to a wide range of topics such as the evolution of property rights in fragile and conflict-affected nation states and notions of sovereign property in new worlds. A section on The Arts illuminates the relationships between property, sovereignty and culture and a further section investigates regulatory property and governmental control over resources. The book concludes with an exploration of sovereign shaping of private property entitlements to achieve instrumental ends.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Over the last 20 years the U.S. has acquired six tons of ivory through its efforts to stop trafficking. Questions arose about what the government should do with this cache. Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services reached a final decision--it crushed the ivory into smithereens. The point of this exercise: "Destroying this ivory tells criminals who engage in poaching and trafficking that the United States will take all available measures to disrupt and prosecute those who prey on, and profit from, the deaths of these magnificent animals," reads a statement on the FWS website.
Adam Levitin (Georgetown) has posted The Paper Chase: Securitization, Foreclosure, and the Uncertainty of Mortgage Title on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The mortgage foreclosure crisis raises legal questions as important as its economic impact. Questions that were straightforward and uncontroversial a generation ago today threaten the stability of a $13 trillion mortgage market: Who has standing to foreclose? If a foreclosure was done improperly, what is the effect? And what is the proper legal method for transferring mortgages? These questions implicate the clarity of title for property nationwide and pose a too- big-to-fail problem for the courts.
The legal confusion stems from the existence of competing systems for establishing title to mortgages and transferring those rights. Historically, mortgage title was established and transferred through the “public demonstration” regimes of UCC Article 3 and land recordation systems. This arrangement worked satisfactorily when mortgages were rarely transferred. Mortgage finance, however, shifted to securitization, which involves repeated bulk transfers of mortgages.
To facilitate securitization, deal architects developed alternative “contracting” regimes for mortgage title: UCC Article 9 and MERS, a private mortgage registry. These new regimes reduced the cost of securitization by dispensing with demonstrative formalities, but at the expense of reduced clarity of title, which raised the costs of mortgage enforcement. This trade-off benefitted the securitization industry at the expense of securitization investors because it became apparent only subsequently with the rise in mortgage foreclosures. The harm, however, has not been limited to securitization investors. Clouded mortgage title has significant negative externalities on the economy as
This Article proposes reconciling the competing title systems through an integrated system of note registration and mortgage recordation, with compliance as a prerequisite to foreclosure. Such a system would resolve questions about standing, remove the potential cloud to real-estate title, and facilitate mortgage financing by clarifying property rights.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The new building code in Vancouver has banned the traditional doorknob in favor of the easier-to-use lever handle.
The change has crept up on us silently and without fanfare. Look at any new condo building. Any new office door. Any door to a public washroom that doesn’t have pneumatic hinges and a push-pad. There they are, these silver, black or brass-coloured levers that can spring a door open with even a forearm when hands are filled.
And, as doorknobs go, so too will go those other ubiquitous knobs, the ones that turn on and off water faucets. For they too are being legislatively upgraded to levers more conducive to the arthritic, gnarled or weakened hands we earn with age.
The article offers a nice, concise history of the doorknob and explains the importance of small changes like this that increase accessibility.
Stephen Miller (Idaho) has posted Sustainable Cities of Tomorrow: A Land Use Response to Climate Change (Book Chapter) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This book chapter seeks to identify ways in which urban land use is a driver of climate change in both the developed and developing worlds. Urban land use factors identified as substantially affecting climate change include: rapid population growth; rapid urbanization; population migrations resulting from both economic and environmental causes; and declining urban density. The chapter then narrows its focus to evaluate the effectiveness of six U.S. land use law tools for both mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Tools evaluated include: compact cities as a mitigation strategy; compact cities as an adaptation strategy; efficient infrastructure and buildings; greening population migration; social resiliency; and engaging creative land use governance and financing structure.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Sarah Gensburger's editorial in the New York Times looks at the lesser known and more mundane acts of plunder committed by the Nazis against the Jews:
In Paris, the plunder of Jewish possessions began with the arrival of German troops in June 1940. At first, it applied only to art collections. But as soon as the Final Solution was devised in January 1942, the confiscations spread to the entire Jewish population, most of which comprised poor immigrants from Eastern Europe. Stripping Jews of their belongings was part and parcel of the effort to destroy them; pillage was an essential tool of extermination. [...]
This widespread plunder, known as Möbel Aktion, occurred in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. From 1942 to 1944, at least 70,000 dwellings were emptied; in Paris 38,000 apartments were stripped bare by French moving companies at the request of the German authorities. It took 674 trains to transport the loot to Germany. Some 2,700 train cars supplied Hamburg alone. [...]
The contents of each apartment were divided into two groups. Damaged objects or personal ones, like papers or family photos, were burned almost daily in a bonfire at the Quai de la Gare. The other items were sorted and classified by category, rather than source. A saucepan taken from one family would be added to a stack of other saucepans rather than kept in the original set. Stripped of their provenance, items lost their identity. Belongings became goods.
Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998. The action begins with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos and concludes with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998 (The project does omit North Korea’s two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade).
Things start out a little slow but really get cooking around 1962.
Michael Wolf (Florida) has posted The Brooding Omnipresence of Regulatory Takings: Urban Origins and Effects (Fordham Urban Law Journal) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Monday, November 18, 2013
Writing for the LA Times, Andrew Tangel looks at the rise of New Yorkers living in RVs throughout the city:
As the most expensive city in the country gets even pricier, Cintron and other New Yorkers are taking drastic steps to survive the most brutal real estate market in the United States. They are ditching sky-high rents and buying secondhand recreational vehicles.
By turning to mobile apartments, RV dwellers are something of real estate pioneers in New York. RVs give New Yorkers a way into hip or exclusive neighborhoods they otherwise might not be able to afford. They don't have to worry about nagging landlords, rent hikes or upstairs neighbors tap-dancing at midnight.
But there are obvious trade-offs. Getting electricity takes some effort. Heating during the winter can get costly. Mail may need to be delivered to relatives' places or post office boxes. There's also the issue of how to hook up sewage lines. And RVs may not offer much social cachet. "The ladies aren't really kicking down the door," said Rick Hall, who gave up on trying to find an apartment before he moved to New York to study at St. John's University.
Is this even legal? Even the city isn't sure:
The city's Law Department offered little clarity over whether RV life was legal in New York. A department spokeswoman said the agency knew of no city laws specifically addressing living in an RV or any prohibition against living in a parked vehicle. The state Department of Motor Vehicles counted 589 RVs registered to New York City residents in 2012. The agency, which classifies them as "houses on wheels," does not track how many wind up as primary residences or get parked outside the five boroughs.
Steven Eagle (George Mason) has posted Koontz in the Mansion and the Gatehouse (Urban Lawyer) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This Article focuses on problems in implementing the U.S. Supreme Court’s expansion of its doctrine of unconstitutional conditions pertaining to land development approvals in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. As earlier developed in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Dolan v. City of Tigard, the doctrine applied only to unrelated or disproportional exactions of interests in real property. The doctrine was expanded in Koontz to include denials of development approval after landowner refusal to accede to unreasonable exaction demands, and also to exactions of money as well as real property interests.
Drawing an analogy to Yale Kamisar’s disparate treatment of criminal defendants in the “mansion” of the judicial system and the “gatehouse” of the police station, the Article discusses difficulties in implementing Koontz. It examines the difficulty of enforcing prohibitions on unreasonable coercion in informal bargaining between land development approval applicants and local regulators. The Article concludes by discussing specific procedural and substantive problems, and proposes some partial solutions.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Valerie Schneider, an Assistant Professor at Howard, has allowed us to post the following Op-Ed she wrote on the Mt. Holly case, which the Supreme Court was scheduled to consider on December 4th. The case, however, settled last night.
The issue in the case was whether acts that are not intentionally discriminatory, but still have a disproportionate negative impact on minority communities, are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. Given that the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act last term, civil rights advocates were worried about the Supreme Court’s reaction to this case. The issue of whether “disparate impact” claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act will likely remain relevant, as there is another case winding its way towards the Supreme Court right now. Here's the Op-Ed:
Settlement in Fair Housing Case—A Sigh of Relief
By Valerie Schneider
Less than one year after the Supreme Court ended its term with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, it is clear that at least four of the members of the current Supreme Court (the number needed for a case to be heard by the highest court) are eager to limit the reach of another pillar of the Civil Rights legislation from the 1960s—the Fair Housing Act.
In the past two years, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari in two Fair Housing Act cases, both of which would have required the Supreme Court to determine whether acts that are not intentionally discriminatory, but still have a disproportionate negative impact on minority communities, may be prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Each of these cases –first Magner v. Gallagher and then, just this week, Township of Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens In Action, Inc. – settled just weeks before oral arguments were scheduled.
Those who would have liked the case to move forward argue that, unless plaintiffs can prove that a defendant harbored racial animus or intended to discriminate, the law should not recognize that discrimination has taken place. This proposition is countered by widely accepted social science, not to mention human experiences, that indicates that intent actually has very little to do with whether discrimination occurred. Regardless, to those displaced by discriminatory redevelopment decisions or lending policies, it is little comfort that the decision-makers may have had no conscious intent to cause harm based on race. What is in the mind of those engaged in discriminatory actions is of no comfort to the victims of discrimination and should be of limited import under the Fair Housing Act.
One thing that is important to keep in mind is that the question before the Supreme Court in both Gallagher and Mt. Holly was whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act—that is, the Supreme Court was to decide whether plaintiffs who have been harmed by practices with discriminatory effects can get through the courtroom door. In order to actually prevail in their cases, such plaintiffs have the heavy burden of proving, among other things, that there was a less discriminatory means by which the defendant could have accomplished its goals. Disparate impact analysis is no slam dunk for plaintiffs, but it is critical to ensuring that the Fair Housing Act lives up to its name—i.e. that it ensures fairness.
As noted in the amicus brief submitted in the Mt. Holly case by Howard University School of Law’s Fair Housing and Civil Rights Clinics, no one is suggesting that “disparate impact analysis should prohibit municipalities from achieving legitimate redevelopment goals; but it does arm communities of color with one small tool of protection when there is a clear means to achieve that legitimate goal in a way that would be less disastrous to the very communities that the Fair Housing Act was designed to protect.”
As the debate about disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act continues (and it is not unlikely that the Supreme Court will agree to hear yet another similar case), it is important to remember what is at stake. After hundreds of years of legal discrimination based on race, communities protected by the Fair Housing Act need a tool to combat the much more subtle forms of discrimination that persist today—disparate impact analysis is that tool.
Valerie Schneider is an Assistant Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law, and is director of Howard’s Fair Housing Clinic. A bio can be found at: http://www.law.howard.edu/1610. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.