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GMU economist defends housing deregulation in zany new graphic novel: ‘Build, Baby, Build’

It’s not easy to make the topic of defending housing deregulation interesting and exciting, but George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan managed to do so by mixing humor and vibrant colors to effectively argue his simple point: building more housing benefits everybody.

The libertarian professor recently published his latest graphic novel “Build, Baby, Build: The Science and Ethics of Housing Regulation,” which boasts some 248 pages of bright visuals and easy-to-digest dialogue.

The topic is important, Caplan said in an interview with The College Fix, because it’s a policy both Republicans and Democrats can agree on and get behind to improve the lives of Americans, if only both sides would dig a little deeper into the studies.

“There’s a pile of research on how harmful the regulation is, but nobody reads it because it’s so boring,” he said.

Enter Caplan’s comic book, which includes everything from an overzealous and muscular Uncle Sam as a super villain to the creepy twin girls from the movie “The Shining” to convey lessons in unique ways.

The book is for “specialized researchers in housing,” to “precocious kids,” to “undergrads who want to actually learn something,” to “anyone who wants to make the world better,” he said.

“People only think about the complaints” when it comes to more housing, the professor told The Fix. “They don’t think about all the benefits.”

Caplan argues in his book that building more housing — including dense housing zones and taller skyscrapers in metropolitan cities — “unlocks massive economic growth, slashes inequality, speeds social mobility, enriches and uplifts working-class males, counters ‘deaths of despair,’ helps the homeless, makes babies and fights crime.” All this in turns allows more people to have hope and enjoy and pursue the “American Dream.”

The economist also works to debunk the “supply and demand” concept that most people blame on a lack of affordable housing — instead pointing out it’s the red tape and overzealous local, state and federal regulations that stymie solutions.

“Deregulation could plausibly cut housing prices by 50 percent,” Caplan said.

The book is published by the CATO Institute, which states on its website the graphic novel “makes the economic and philosophical case for radical deregulation.”

“Combining stunning homage to classic animation with careful interdisciplinary research, Build, Baby, Build takes readers on a grand tour of a bona fide ‘panacea policy.'”

Caplan told The Fix he has not fielded negative feedback on his arguments thus far.

“I don’t know anyone against it,” he said. “There’s almost no one that sits around going, ‘I want housing regulation.'”

Caplan’s first graphic novel, the 2019 book “Open Borders,” was a New York Times best-seller.

MORE: GMU economist reported to DEI office for criticizing plan to mandate DEI courses

IMAGES: CATO Institute; illustrator Ady Branzei

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.