Yglesias notes the status quo bias on display in New Jersey
Nancy and Eric Olsen could not pinpoint exactly when it happened or how.All they knew was one moment they had a pastoral view of a soccer field and the woods from their 1920s colonial-style house; the next all they could see were three solar panels
Now to borrow The New York Times’ photo:
This is not a pastoral view disrupted by solar panels. It’s a view of utility polls, street lights, and overhead electrical wires—now with solar panels! It would be interesting to see if people actually preferred a pastoral view free of the accoutrements of electrification but I doubt anyone actually prefers that. Instead, the customary interjections of technology into the suburban landscape are normalized while any deviation from the postwar pattern is anathematized. Had people 100 years ago had this attitude, I suppose nobody would have telephone service or electricity at all.
So we can point out how people are irrationally attached to what they have. And the blogosphere generally has had a lot of fun pointing this out and noting that the world would be a right and just place is everyone came around on this.
However, it is time for new fun. In particular, I want to point out that rather than bias we could be seeing a diversity of preferences, suddenly exposed to the material means to sort on the basis of those preferences.
So before you had to live with the people you were born with or the people who you worked with and they might not have been much like you preference-wise. Yet with expansion in transportation technologies people could more effectively sort into new neighborhoods with people who came from difference places and work in different places.
Through the magic of peer effects this is going to intensify your preexisting preferences until it becomes a burning desire not to change anything. You’re here because you like it here, and so is everyone else, and you have no interest in upending this pleasant equilibrium.
Call it sorting to stagnation. Once you find a group of likeminded people who all choose the same mode of living they will naturally resist changes in their mode of living. Of course, changes in the mode of living are what economists like to call economic growth.