A look back and a look ahead
Matt, a suggestion looking forward. In light of your points about blue states or blue cities getting things done, so that we can point to those and go "Hey, look, this stuff can be done well". I'd love to see you or guest writer(s) actually write about such successes. Partly I think in a world of doomscrolling, we (and I mean this in a non-partisan way) don't celebrate our successes enough. And partly it's just good to just shine a light on what interesting things are being done outside of our normal range of vision.
I've banged on this in the comments before, but I think what Fairfax County is trying to do with the Richmond Hwy corridor is both a very difficult problem to address, and also doing it in a way that shows real flexibility and prioritization of goals. It's an effort I worked on in the initial planning phase on a citizen advisory panel, and it's sort of amazing that we're going to try to take one of the worst stroads ever built and turn it into something much, much better. I'd kill to read some deeper dives into other areas of the country and how they've tried to tackle such issues.
This newsletter was a highlight of the year for me. I get a ton of them and pay for a few, but this is my “desert island” substack. It aces my test for incoming information: is it worth reading/listening to even if I don’t think I’m interested in the topic? I might even read/ see Dune!
This is a weird sentence to write but I also (especially?) love the comments. I have learned a lot and found quite a few new sources of information in this space.
Thanks everyone and hoping for a 2022 that somehow exceeds expectations!
Yes, please do more "weird" posts! They have the highest VART. And continue to highlight or dialog with other writers with weird takes; I don't have the time or patience to do a wide trawl on Twitter for overlooked gems, but I trust you as a curator.
A couple requests for articles in 2022, policy mysteries that you may be one of the best-positioned journalists to investigate:
* Who keeps killing funding for greater IRS enforcement and why? This is one of the most obvious and most-widely-known low-hanging fruits for policy improvement but it still can't get off the ground after a decade. Is it some kind of personal vendetta by some congressional group? Is it really rich tax cheats lobbying to keep getting away with tax cheating? I tend to be skeptical of those kind of conspiracy/corruption explanations, but this case is so baffling . . .
* What on earth is going on with the legal immigration system? The visa backlog and processing time for every category of application are exploding. I have friends that want to stay and are qualified to stay, but are having to leave the country because their employers can't wait that long for processing. Is there some political calculation here? Is it just poor execution - and how did it get *so* poor? This seems like a crucial topic for the One Billion Americans agenda!
I wish you would begin to write on regulation more broadly. For me, the pandemic has made absolutely clear that our regulatory agencies really are functioning abysmally, that Alex Tabarrok is at least 90% right, if not 100. This has become clear for the FDA and CDC, but I assume it must be true much more broadly. And of course, as your writing on housing demonstrates, this is not just confined to centralized federal regulation but permeates the polity. Nevertheless, regulation is necessary. What I would like to hear about is: i/what is plausibly a better regulatory order? ii/how can one plausibly move in that direction?
Thanks for the great reads this year! As a piece of unsolicited feedback - I wonder if the current pace will start to burn you out. I know you feel pressure to deliver content so people get their subscription fee's worth. But speaking for myself, and likely for many other subscribers: the value proposition here is not that we'll have a lot more to read. We have plenty of stuff to read, in 2022, on the internet - usually too much.
The value proposition is that the takes here can deliver higher quality reading material than the alternatives. A sort of Value Over Replacement Take (VORT?) where the replacement take is already something quite high quality. Delivering a high VORT a couple times a week easily justifies the subscription. And, equally, forcing yourself to crank out a replacement-level take just to have something up that day does very little for the value proposition. And too many below-replacement takes can destroy value by lowering the average quality of my reading material, even if you also have some great ones; I've unfollowed a number of people on twitter for exactly that reason.
Matt, thanks for a great first year (and for your evangelism on popularism, which seems necessary in our gerrymandered country). Yours is one of the few Substack newsletters I’ve stuck with. I look forward to whatever you have planned for the Slow Boring community (is that the right word?) in 2022.
I'd definitely love some political science-ey writing about how to sell incremental increases in immigration. I'd love to have a hemispheric Schengen Area, but I also know that that probably won't be politically feasible in my lifetime :'(
An honorable mention that I didn't see reflected here: your post on why ethnic studies - i.e., curricula that are responsive to the culture and ethnicity of students - are actually a good thing. I like the nuanced views you bring to Ed policy, that is fully aware of the excess of wokeness, but also committed to good policy. Thanks.
Favorite article this year from this blog was “Covid 1889.” Really gave new information that nobody was getting elsewhere and led to wonderful perspective.
Overall though despite paying more for this than I pay for my digital WSJ subscription (after I call and haggle with them every year) this stack is well worth it. Great tone. Great perspective.
Consider spending some subscription dollars on hiring another full time writer. Happy with the subscription for now, but at some point other interesting people will create interesting bundles. I’d rather you create a bundle at the same price that reaches more people (myself included) than maintain a niche product.
Eh. Not much to comment on that post. I probably wouldn’t be subscribing if I didn’t agree with him mostly. The only thing he really gets wrong is homelessness and downplaying the effect of substance abuse.
Other than that, I just want to wish my fellow subscribers and commenters a happy new year. I can almost guarantee that the majority of you will be hit by omicron in the next few weeks. Take care of yourself.
I’ve decided to opt out of the pandemic as my New Year’s resolution.
I finally stopped traveling at least for a couple of weeks. I need to get caught up with Homelife.
I look forward to spirited debate with you guys in 2022.
I'd really like to see more cross-pollination from other Substacks -- sort of the 2022 version of a blogroll or re-bloging. I miss having a chance to see a wider ecosystem.
More podcasts please! Also, did we ever receive the Slow Boring swag (mug, I think?) promised to us loyal commentators?
I feel like your argument on homelessness is a bit simplistic. Oregon is a great place to look I think, because in Portland you can absolutely find cheap places to live even if rent is going up. When you have huge camps set up there where people are taking super hard drugs making them half-psychotic, it's hard to say the issue is "not about drugs" because it's such a strong factor in the psychology of the drug abusing homeless. I think there's a point when you get on this stuff that where you live is less of a priority than the drugs, and it's up to the city to disincentivize doing them in public.
Happy Nude Year everybody