More on “Obama wants to reengineer your neighborhood”

Commenting on HUD’s plans to introduce more poorer residents into wealthier communities, a conservative argues this is an assault on the ability to sort by social class:

This is not about blocking housing discrimination, which has been illegal since 1968. It is unlawful for someone to deny you a loan or prevent you from buying a home because of your race, creed or color. Socioeconomic status is — and ought to be — another matter. If you want to buy a nice house in the suburbs, you have to be able to afford it. Apparently, Obama thinks that’s unfair discrimination by the “holders of capital.”

Putting decisions about how local communities are run in the hands of federal bureaucrats is an assault on freedom. Local autonomy is essential to liberty. As Milton Friedman put it in “Capitalism and Freedom,” “If I don’t like what my local community does, be it in sewage disposal, zoning or schools, I can move to another local community. .?.?. If I don’t like what my state does, I can move to another. If I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations.” Washington has no business imposing decisions about zoning and housing policies on thousands of local communities…

Having Washington micromanage the housing and zoning policies of thousands of local communities is not going to change this. The answer is not to force local governments to build affordable housing in affluent communities. The answer is to restore upward mobility in the United States so that more people can afford housing in affluent communities.

Free markets can solve residential segregation, right? Except this simply hasn’t worked over time in the United States. The end of the argument in this article suggests the Obama administration has not been good for poorer Americans. This may be the case but there aren’t many (or any?) magic free trade eras in American history where people of different races and backgrounds could move wherever they wanted even when in the same social class. For example, research in recent years continues to suggests that blacks and Latinos who have the same or similar socioeconomic status as whites tend to live in poorer neighborhoods. Urban renewal – when the government forces residents out of poorer neighborhoods for newer development projects usually benefiting wealthier people – may not work but neither would a completely unfettered market.

Additionally, race and ethnicity are intimately tied to social class in the United States. To suggest that we can easily not discriminate by race but social class is something different ignores the realities of how these key life factors have worked together for hundreds of years.

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