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Jeremy VanGelder
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I like to play in the woods.
I like to play in the woods.

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Zoning makes people homeless.
It isn't central planning that makes Houston so affordable, when compared with its modern rivals. It is the free(ish) market and the spontaneous order it produces:

"Almost like an Econ 101 practice problem, booming demand for labor at all skill levels has translated into wage growth in Houston comparable to affluent cities like San Jose, Boston, and New York. Adjusting average annual wages for the cost of living, including consumer prices and services, utilities, transportation costs, and—most importantly—housing, Houston tops the list of all major US metropolitan areas. This shouldn’t be written off as torturing the numbers, either. This means middle- and lower-class Houstonians enjoy a higher standard of living than even their higher paid counterparts in high-cost cities on the West Cost and in the Northeast.

Houston’s remarkable affordability might seem strange to policymakers in high-cost cities along the East and West coasts. After all, the city has no rent control, whether of the now-discredited twentieth century kind or the new, shiny, equally counterproductive “inclusionary zoning” kind. Houston has less public and subsidized housing than the other top five major US metros. The fact is that Houston’s affordability doesn’t flow from top-down plans or strict land-use regulations. Rather, its affordability flows precisely from its lack of top-down plans or strict land-use regulations.

A growing consensus of economists and policymakers have argued for permitting more development in order to meet rising demand for urban living. The challenge facing high-cost cities is not their remarkable economic success and the subsequent rise in demand for housing—this is precisely the kind of success cities should yearn for—but their ongoing commitment to an out-of-date planning regime designed to keep cities frozen in amber. In its most extreme form, cities like San Francisco continue to enforce startlingly low densities in and around downtown despite burgeoning demand. Yet even in comparable Sun Belt cities friendly to new development, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix, much of the city is zoned and regulated in a way that effectively mandates low densities and prohibits urban, mixed-use development.
Where nearly every other city attempts to tightly control emergent urban growth and restrict the mixing of urban uses, Houston has adopted what Justin Fox of Bloomberg View recently described as “zoning lite.” As researchers at the Wharton School have pointed out, Houston has some of the least restrictive land-use regulations in the country. Houston never adopted the bundle of orthodox urban planning policies that made spontaneous urban development impossible, and insomuch as Houston implemented land-use regulation, many of these rules have been liberalized in recent years. The city famously never implemented use-based zoning, a policy that mandates the separation of residential, commercial, and industrial activity, and effectively bans traditional urban development and forces automobile dependence on residents. This means that urban land in Houston can naturally shift alongside changing market demands, enhancing the flexibility of housing markets and empowering residents and business owners to collectively determine the right mix of uses in a decentralized process.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, many US cities have a lot to learn from Houston. With tight development restrictions, out-of-date urban planning regimes, and burdensome regulations forcing middle- and lower-class Americans out of West Cost and Northeastern cities, Houston’s mix of affordable housing and economic opportunity is more valuable than ever. As other cities have attempted to maintain tight, centralized control on urban and economic development—exemplified by a recent push by Dallas to shutter local businesses in order to attract chains—Houston has opted to take a back seat to residents, entrepreneurs, and civil society groups in cultivating economic development and crafting urban communities.

Some continue to blame Houston’s unique approach for everything from flood damage—as if imposing side setbacks and keeping delis out of neighborhoods would avoid statewide flooding—to remaining pockets of poverty within the city. Certainly some form of citywide coordination on data collection and service allocation in pursuit of efficiency and equity makes sense. Yet past attempts to impose greater centralized urban planning on Houston have been defeated by overwhelming working-class opposition every time. Those residents know something many in the urban planning world don’t. It is well past time that we start taking Houston’s success seriously."

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"And despite people calling “counterfeit!” on the pro-life movement, the most actively pro-life people I know are the same people taking in foster kids, working at crisis pregnancy centers, adopting, and caring for the underprivileged of every age. Take, for instance, the nurse at our church who volunteers providing free ultrasounds for women considering abortion. She has also fostered 10+ foster children, and adopted 4 of them."

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This is truly shameful. The DRM world has truly gone wild when a farmer is unable to fix his own equipment. This is where "Do It Yourself" is about as core to the American ethos as you get. As the Make: magazine slogan say, "If you can't open it, you don't own it."



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The public robbers stole more than the private robbers:

"An economic consulting firm reported on data last week showing that the approximately $4.5 billion in annual forfeitures now exceeds the $3.9 billion Americans lose in robberies each year. The clear point: Your local police or sheriff's department is more likely to take your stuff than a robber. The Institute for Justice report found the problem getting worse. "It's exploding, despite the fact that the issue is getting a lot of attention," said Dick Carpenter, one of the study's authors. According to the report, forfeiture revenues have more than doubled between 2002 to 2013. California agencies collected approximately $280 million over the 11-year study period—and an additional $696 million by partnering with federal agencies.

These are big dollars to local police departments, which explains the arm-twisting and lobbying as that reform bill made it to the Assembly floor. Critics of asset forfeiture agree that agencies will lose money, but argue that the government is supposed to promote justice. Their agencies should be funded through general tax proceeds, not by grabbing the homes and cars of people who may not have done anything wrong.

The problem is the incentive. The agencies that do the taking get to keep lots of the money. How can we expect just results when agencies have such a strong financial incentive to take more and more property? In New Mexico, a video of a city attorney bragging that "this is a gold mine" helped build public support for wider-ranging reforms there. As a result, the Land of Enchantment received the highest grade on the Institute for Justice study.
Last year in California, SB 443 would have, among other things, prohibited "state or local law enforcement agencies from transferring seized property to a federal agency seeking adoption by the federal agency of the seized property." Expect something like it to return next year. As abuses mount, maybe legislators will be more likely to think about justice and not just money."

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"I am constantly impressed by the homeschool families that I meet. Whether it is at speech and debate competitions where they blow the socks off of my own experience doing the same in high school or it is reviewing applications for Praxis of people who were homeschooled, they go above and beyond. By and large, homeschooled youth are impressive, high-caliber young people who have a better idea of what they want out of their educations than their peers and have an intrinsic motivation to learn more and do more.

Which raises the question, why do so many homeschoolers focus so much on getting into college?

One of the biggest reasons that families choose to homeschool is because they believe the education received at home is higher quality than the education received at their local schools. Often, they are right. But they define “better” in terms of how likely it will be that they get into a top college instead of how useful that education is in helping the student figure out what they want to do and become a mature and knowledgable young person.

Most of the arguments given for sending your average student to college lay flat with the homeschoolers I’ve met and with whom I continue to work.
“College is a great place to spend time while maturing!”

This is probably one of the better arguments I’ve heard for sending most average-to-above-average young people to college for four years. Upon graduating high school, a lot of young people are not mentally or personally prepared for going into the real world. Isolating them from the rest of the world for four years gives some time (in theory, at least) for them to mature and, upon turning 22 or 23, they can be released back into the wild, now less likely to make silly decisions and harm other people in the process.
But most 18-year old homeschoolers are leaps and bounds more mature than their peers. They’ve spent years around people older and younger than them (instead of just people their age) and can actually speak to adults.

Many more have held jobs and know how to show up to work on time and get work done. They’ve often pursued passions and academic interests (another argument for school-as-isolation-from-work) and can speak intelligently about them without having to take time off from the real world.
So, I am caught off-guard when I meet high-caliber homeschoolers who are just as focused on getting into college as their peers. All of the potential arguments given for sending young people off nowadays with the resources unleashed by transportation and information are less strong in the case of young people coming out of homeschool.

In other words, homeschoolers have succeeded for years escaping the race that other young people and their families find themselves captured by, so why would they want to undo that process. Instead, homeschoolers are better served by jumping head-first into the real world.

Young people coming out of 16 years of academia have to make an adjustment, even the high-caliber, impressive ones who are otherwise great hires and great colleagues. They have to get used to the ways in which the real world is different from school. There are no finals, there is no homework, exams are professionally-relevant, not just for a grade, and, most importantly, they need to figure out how to interact with other people and how to figure out what they want for themselves. I call this process deschooling.

Deschooling is a long process that takes focus every single day. Some people put off doing it after graduating from school and are forced to do it upon retirement when they no longer have anybody telling them what to do. And they struggle. The time and energy this process takes can be reduced by doing things like immersing oneself in the world outside of school, but it’s a process that requires time that may be spent on other things.
For homeschoolers going to college, they have to be schooled and then deschooled. The practical skills they have the opportunity to pick up while teenagers may stagnate while they could be spending that time jumping into the real world.

“Okay, it’s nice to say this, but how do we do it?”

The advantage an 18-year old homeschooler has over a student stuck in school is that she can jump into this immediately. She can take up a job at 17 or 18 while her peers are sitting in classrooms waiting for the opportunity to start their lives. We’ve seen this already with Praxis participants like Diana Zitting, who applied to Praxis at 17 and is already running a sales team at her business partner, MailLift, and Charles Porges, who applied at 17 and received a full-time job offer quickly after starting at his business partner, GuildQuality.

If Diana and Charles were focused on college instead of getting started in the real world, they would have gone at least another year before taking an opportunity like leading up real initiatives creating real value.
They would have taken detours by focusing on getting into college. Instead, they focused on creating real value and jumping headfirst into the real world. If they wanted to go to college eventually, they still could, but they’ve created more value at 18 than most people have by 23 or 24. That’s pretty impressive.

I can understand the appeal of wanting to be around more people your age if you are coming out of years of working around other people who are older or younger than you, but that doesn’t need to default to going to college. In today’s age, we have new and exciting ways to build community, meet people of similar caliber and interests, and accomplish things with them. We’ve done this with Praxis — how will you do it?"
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