In an increasingly polarized society, issues tend to be defined in partisan terms. In fact, many of our most important issues do not break on party lines. For instance, anti-Chinese attitudes are widely held in both political parties.

The NIMBY vs. YIMBY debate is also bipartisan. And this is not a minor political issue; it’s far more important for the future of America than are most of the culture war issues that people obsess over on Twitter.  Here’s Ezra Klein:

The Biden administration is pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into decarbonization. And it wants to make sure it gets a return on that money. So it’s making states compete for federal grants, and one way it’s judging them is on whether the state has made it easy to build. That has become an issue for California.

Governor Newsom is pushing for an extremely modest set of measures to speed the permitting process, and is running into intense opposition from environmentalists:

Adding to Newsom’s problems is that California’s recent surpluses have turned to deficits. He needs federal money, and lots of it, to make good on his climate promises. If California falls shorts on those grants, it falls short of its goals. “We’re going to lose billions and billions of dollars in the status quo,” he told me. “The state can’t backfill that. And we’re losing some of it to red states! I’m indignant about that. The beneficiaries of a lot of these dollars are red states that don’t give a damn about these issues, and they’re getting the projects. We’re not getting the money because our rules are getting in the way.”

As a result, most of the federal dollars are going to states with less restrictive building rules, such as Texas.  

Many people are locked into epistemic bubbles because they consume only one sort of media. Within these bubbles, the other side is demonized as loony environmentalists or rapacious corporate polluters. The reality is much more complex and much more interesting.

The right is split between free market proponents of deregulation and conservatives who wish to preserve the status quo (including zoning). The left is split between environmentalists who wish to construct clean infrastructure and environmentalists who favor regulations that make it almost impossible to build any new infrastructure.  

Twitter is full of debates about questions like what sort of books should be provided in school libraries. I’m not suggesting that those debates are completely unimportant, but don’t let the shiny object distract you from the issues that will actually determine what sort of country we have in the year 2050.