The Economic Security of High Rents and Ridiculous Job Licensing

A confluence of two articles really got me thinking about exclusionary policy and economic security.

The first from the Wall Street Journal discussed the challenges of small town residents in moving to bigger cities. Migration is way down among this group (almost half of what it was several decades ago). The author cites an Obama White House report that puts heavy blame on the increasing use of occupational licensing:

Another obstacle to mobility is the growth of state-level job-licensing requirements, which now cover a range of professions from bartenders and florists to turtle farmers and scrap-metal recyclers. A 2015 White House report found that more than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with the share licensed at the

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Safety is the Watchword of Cost Disease

I tweeted this story out yesterday about stairs in Toronto:

Basically, a citizen built stairs in a garden really cheaply (at 0.3% of the cost!), and Toronto took them down.

The story is absurd, but all of it is unfortunately “rational.” You can imagine a bureaucrat at city hall realizing that the stairs don’t meet a number of requirements for safety, reliability, inspectability, and more, so the obvious answer is to tear down the whole thing. Bad stairs are only likely to invite lawsuits, and so the city would prefer stairs

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The Problem With Subscription Software/Media Is High Prices

I am a big believer in subscription models — both for software and for media. As such, I often bring up the topic with friends to get their take, since more publications are moving from ads to subscription, and more apps are doing so as well (for instance, through in-app purchases in the App Store for iPhone).

The consistent view I have gotten is that people absolutely hate subscriptions. That hate is particularly vituperative when it comes to content, but software is given no mercy either. And listening to some of my friends and their stories, it seems people will go to the ends of the universe to avoid paying some of these fees.

That said, nearly every person I talk to does pay for something,

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Startups, Income Inequality, and the Basic Economy

One of the challenges I feel founders face, yet don’t discuss often enough, is how income inequality is changing product development.

One doesn’t have to read through Thomas Piketty’s behemoth Capital in the Twenty-First Century to understand that our society has become far less equal — just take a good, long look around startup hubs like San Francisco and New York. What used to be a continuum of incomes is now turning into a handful of groupings, and products are increasingly targeting a single bucket rather than the broader consumer market.

The best analogy I have to this is the current configuration of domestic airlines. Today, there are roughly four classes of service on Delta and other legacy carriers: Basic Economy, (Standard) Economy,

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Will Autonomous Cars Destroy Cities As We Know Them?

Recently, I had a debate with a group of friends about the future health of suburbs when autonomous cars arrive (let’s set aside when exactly that might be). The general consensus has been that the suburbs are going to grow rapidly, since commutes into the city (or just going out for a night on the town) will be far safer, efficient, and convenient than today’s status quo of driving a car and having to find a place to park.

I disagree with this view quite strongly.

The decision on where to live isn’t made in a vacuum. In fact, quite the opposite - people spend enormous time choosing where to live and the mix of amenities, convenience, and price they are willing

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