How the Greenwashed Liberal Gentry Keep Out the Rabble

How the Greenwashed Liberal Gentry Keep Out the Rabble, by James Pinkerton.

Should progressivism serve the masses or the elites? Today, the elites are enjoying the lion’s share of progressive gains …

[Scott] Wiener’s bill was aimed at addressing a crisis in his city: the lack of affordable housing. Today, the median home price in San Francisco is $1.6 million, about eight times the national median. The principle cause … is the mismatch between the demand for housing and the supply of housing. That is, the surging digital economy has supercharged demand, while tightening limits on construction have enervated supply. …

In fact, most potential buyers are pushed out of the market. In the Bay Area, workers are frequently pushed out beyond the suburbs, beyond the exurbs — all the way to other cities. And so commutes of two hours or more are common. …

Wiener’s bill would have addressed this problem by partially overriding local zoning restrictions on housing density, specifically on height limits, in areas served by mass transit. It’s hard to think of a bill more friendly to the masses than that. Yet Wiener ran into a wall of liberal Democratic opposition …

Why the fierce opposition? Perhaps it’s because the dominant progressive voices in California are, in fact, regressive. That is, they prefer to protect the privileges of the landed — who benefit, of course, from high land prices — as opposed to the aspirations of the landless. …

Modern political niceties prevent the lords and ladies of today from pronouncing that they wish the rabble to be gone. And so the exclusionist argument is laundered through the green vernacular of “sustainability.” It’s by this linguistic transmutation that the selfish NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) activist is elevated into a high-minded eco-hero. …

The impact of gentry liberalism is visible in a national “heat map” of real estate prices. Indeed, the pricing of coastal California — from the Bay Area to the Mexican border, and fairly far inland, too — is so hot that it’s out of reach for the proles. In Los Angeles, for instance, the typical home costs $553,000; only one in four Angelenos can afford to buy there.

In other words, the bulk of California’s 39.5 million people are finding themselves squeezed out of normal home ownership. Thus the plutocrats get their oceanfront views, while their maids and gardeners are forced to live far inland, 40 or 50 miles away. Moreover, an increasing number of California’s gainfully employed are forced to live in their cars. In fact, thanks to gentry liberalism, when adjusted for the cost of living, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. …

Then along came Scott Wiener to threaten this gentried-up arrangement. His argument could be stated simply: my constituents need affordable housing, so let’s change the law to allow the building of it. Wiener was making, in its essence, a class-based argument — the teeming masses, too, deserve a piece of the pie. …

History tells us that the masses, when mobilized, have a fair shot at prevailing in their class struggles—including, these days, the fight over housing. …

In the early 19th century, the poet Shelley did the math for rising British proletarians: “Ye are many—  they are few.” And in the century to follow, Britain was reformed — and transformed.

San Francisco is an extreme, but there are many similar cases in the West today.