Magazine | March 25, 2019, Issue


Marines train at Camp Pendleton, Calif., January 9, 2019. (Corporal Emmanuel Necoechea/USMC)

Army Bootstraps

David French is preaching to the choir, in my case, in “Those Bootstraps Still Work” (February 25). I remember as a teenager having a “career guidance” chat with my World War II–veteran, blue-collar dad, who simply said: “The world doesn’t owe you a living: You don’t work — you don’t eat!”

In 1972, toward the end of my freshman year at the community college, I received my draft notice. My dad laughed and said, “Your turn!” My mom, having seen the daily U.S. casualty counts in Vietnam on the evening news, cried and said, “Maybe you should go to Canada!” After spending my two years on active duty in the Army, mostly at Fort Sill, Okla., I returned to college and “Uncle Sugar” paid for the greater part of a B.S. in civil engineering and an M.B.A. under the GI Bill. Those degrees helped me succeed professionally.

My wife’s nephew was flipping burgers when he graduated from high school three years ago. He enlisted in the Army and now is succeeding in one of the elite airborne divisions, even being paid extra to jump out of perfectly good aircraft. When his enlistment ends, he will have multiple career options. While the military is certainly not for everyone — especially those who cannot get up when the alarm goes off — it is a viable option for many young people. You get paid for on-the-job training, gain valuable experience, and get to serve this great nation of ours.

Daniel T. Anderson
Via email

California Construction Obstruction

Regarding the Week paragraph on Governor Newsom and housing (February 18): I have served in the California legislature and on a California city council and think that state, not local, government is primarily to blame for housing problems in California.  High land costs are a factor, but regulations and fees are the backbreaker. Environmental requirements on building standards and materials (through the California Environmental Quality Act) and the Coastal Commission make building in California much harder than in the rest of the U.S.

A recent state law mandating that new homes have solar panels will add another $15,000 to $20,000 cost per household. While there is some local-government responsibility, the main cost drivers are state-imposed delays, fees, and regulations.

Dick Ackerman
Via email

The Editors respond: We don’t doubt that the State of California has imposed onerous regulations on its citizens, but local actors deserve plenty of blame in restricting the housing supply. There are countless examples of zoning and environmental boards’ suffocating development in California’s major cities. Take Robert Tillman, a man in San Francisco who owns a one-story laundromat. He has been trying to develop his property into a 75-unit apartment building for four years and has fought the spurious objections of his neighbors, spent $1 million on various environmental-impact studies, and been stymied by the San Francisco Planning Department at every step. Recently, local officials suggested that his laundromat might be a “historic resource,” which of course would thwart his plans. State and local regulations interact to produce a climate that is extremely hostile to new development, both in California and throughout the country (a 2018 study by Andrii Parkhomenko of the University of Southern California found that federal law relaxing city housing-supply regulations could raise productivity by a significant margin). Newsom’s predecessors bear some responsibility for the situation, but if he declines now to direct the efforts of the state government toward relaxing regulations rather than implementing more, Californians will find life harder to afford than it needs to be.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue



Special Financial Section

Books, Arts & Manners




Readers write in about the career options a military background builds, as well as the trouble with building anything in California.
The Week

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