Thursday, 9 October 2008

Robert Nozick on the Housing Market

Via The Volokh Conspiracy, there's an excellent article by Richard Epstein in Forbes Magazine, in which he excoriates the philosophical ideas (discussed in this previous post) of politicians like Barney Frank who obsess about egalitarian outcomes.

"Disasters like this latest financial meltdown don't just happen. Mistakes this huge require an impoverished political philosophy to grease the skids. Fannie and Freddie didn't design their horrific lending policies by chance. No, behind this lending fiasco lay the strong collective preference for the "patterned principles" of justice that Robert Nozick attacked so powerfully in his 1974 masterpiece, Anarchy, State, and Utopia...

Congress, alas, is a pattern junkie. In his perceptive Wall Street Journal op-ed, How Government Stoked the Mania, Russell Roberts noted that the current congressional fixation called for a relentless increase in homeownership relative to renting, with certain minimum fractions allocated to low-income families. Pray tell, what patterned principle dictates that we should have 12% of all mortgages made to low-income borrowers in 1996, 20% in 2000, 22% in 2005 and 28% by 2008?

None. It is always easy to invent reasons, but they are all wrong."

Hopefully a sign of Nozick's resurgence, as Todd Zywicki notes, "this has to be the first time in recent memory that a popular op-ed has been organized around Nozickian themes."

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