Solving the anti-vaxer problem, Houston’s dynamic culture, TX #1 food state but needs VC, city govt vision vs. competence, and CA ineptness

Before this week’s items, my idea of the week: I’m probably treading on dangerous ground here with the growing coronavirus pandemic, but I’ve been thinking about the child vaccination problem (anti-vaxers) and new laws in some states requiring the vaccines to enroll kids in public schools, which is really causing a lot of turmoil with many families. Now I’m a science guy all in favor of vaccinations (annual flu shot every Sept-Oct), but I also believe in more freedom and less government coercion (there are also some valid arguments on specific required vaccines and their timing). My solution is this: ~95% of a population needs a vaccine to protect the whole population. Instead of requiring 100% of students to be vaccinated, auction off up to 5% exemptions at whatever price that clears the market. The parents that really care the most about not vaccinating (vs. the more unsure/on-the-fence/going-with-the-herd ones) will pay that price for an exemption slot. They may not be happy about it, but it’s a better option than not enrolling their kids in school.:

Moving on to just a few small items this week:

  • Great piece from Alain Bertaud in the MIT Press Reader: Do We Really Want Our Mayors to Have a Vision? Mayors and their municipal staff should not be considered visionaries, but a coordinated team of managers and janitors. Key excerpts:”An unfortunate trend has developed over the past quarter-century: Many municipalities have begun describing their development plans as a “vision,” a word once reserved for spiritual gurus and artists. Calling a simple municipal action and investment program — such as collecting tolls on bridges — a “vision” is symptomatic of the grandiose misunderstanding that municipalities have concerning their role. A city, after all, is entirely created by its citizens’ initiatives. These citizens are required to act within a set of “good neighbor” rules, and to be supported in their endeavors by a network of physical and social infrastructure managed by a mayor and a city council. Mayors and their municipal staff, including urban planners and economists, should be considered not visionaries or rulers, then, but a well-coordinated team (one hopes) of competent managers and janitors.Visionary leadership implies a top-down approach, in other words, but a city is mostly created from the bottom up.  A visionary mayor may feel compelled to impose her unique insights on the life of her Philistine citizens.To be sure, a top-down approach is required to design infrastructure and services, but only as they are needed to support citizens’ activities. The support role involved in this top-down design is not trivial and requires good data and outstanding technical and financial skills, but a personal vision is not a requirement. It might rather be a hindrance. They did not need vision, but something much less romantic: extreme competence.
  • Texas ranked as the #1 food state ahead of California
  • Eclectic Capital: The Case for Texas (venture capital). Very good analysis. Even with Austin, we’re really punching below our weight vs. other states.
  • Kotkin and Cox at New Geography: California’s Inept Central Planners
  • Great new report from Aaron Renn at AEI on Culture and Dynamism in Cities. I’ve always felt Houston has done pretty well on most of these, although education is certainly an ongoing weak spot.  “It’s a look at the role of the culture of cities in economic dynamism and resiliency. I examine a few case studies, and from these try to draw out some cultural traits that seem to be relevant to success, notably an open social structure, invested leadership and institution building by civic elites, and a high value placed on education”.

Interested to hear your thoughts in the comments on how Houston does on those indicators?…

Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and co-authored the original study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. He is also an editor of the Houston Strategies blog.