Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Institutions, Choices and Structure: An Interview with Richard Florida

There is a very interesting interview at BigThink featuring Richard Florida.

Florida is Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and is a widely-respected author. And while I have not yet had time to watch the entire interview, his section on The End of Home Ownership was interesting and raised a few questions for me.

To what extent is the structure of the U.S. economy the result of institutional choices to promote home ownership? I think one could make a strong case that the urban/suburban structure that dominates many parts of the U.S. is a result of our belief in the value of property (not just monetary value) and the formalization of that belief in ways that we tax real estate (what's deductible, exempt, etc.).

I even find Florida's view of urban centers and why people choose to live in them reminiscent of the work of Jane Jacobs, who I've blogged on before.  I'd be interested the thoughts of others. To what extent do you think the institutions shape our choices and, by implication, shape our perceived opportunity cost? I'm especially interested in the question posed by one of Florida's students - "what is the American Dream? Economic opportunity or home ownership? Are they exclusive? Or do they overlap?

I'm not sure how I would use this in class, but it is a stimulating idea for discussion.

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