Capitalists*, Seattle Needs You

To the non-socialist Seattleite,

I’m challenging you to care more about city politics. I wrote this post for LinkedIn, where it’s a safe bet my some 2,900 followers are better off than the average Seattle resident. If you scan my LinkedIn connections, you’ll see a slew of Amazonians, Microsofties, non-union Boeing employees, and startup folks all with titles like Director of Business Development, Senior Engineer, Co-Founder and CTO, and heck even a few CEOs.

Oh look, from my LinkedIn feed

Oh look, from my LinkedIn feed

If you could see my LinkedIn feed, you’d also notice there are countless posts about the need to improve gender, racial, LGBTQ, or disabled equity in the workplace. Many are tied to full-throated and much-needed IRL efforts. But how successful can these efforts be if the city of Seattle itself is built on and actively enshrining privilege through policy? My hypothesis—not solely my own—is that if Seattle were broadly more equitable and affordable, we’d see better results in workplace diversity efforts. See, this post does belong on LinkedIn.

For my Seattle following, we as a group need to become stewards of our city. Not only must we solve Seattle’s affordability, homeless, traffic, and equity crises; a failure to act is what creates the vacuum for the current socialist infiltration of city politics. Capitalism is good to us.  We need to fight to make it better for everyone who lives here or we’ll surrender our city to people who say things like:

Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Councilmember Kshama Sawant

“The biggest 500 corporations that dominate the rigged economy and political system should be taken into public ownership, and run democratically.” — socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant, District 3. Do we really think regular people will benefit from publicly-owned large companies? Heck no.

District 4 candidate Shaun Scott

District 4 candidate Shaun Scott

Or Democratic Socialist Council District 4 candidate Shaun Scott referring to Seattle as “the wannabe suburb that tied its neighborhoods to racially-restrictive zoning codes and criminalized the kinds of dense, multifamily housing we need to end capitalism’s perpetual crisis of housing unaffordability?” While Mr. Scott is right to refer to our zoning codes as racially-restrictive, they are not market capitalism. They are enforced socially.  

Now you might think: “Isn’t Mayor Jenny Durkan a liberal capitalist?” Sure, but we can’t simply vote for someone like her and then bury our heads in Google Sheets, AMZN RSUs (Stock), generous 401(k)s, or Alaska Airlines MVP strategies and pretend all is well. So far, her mayorship is marked by pretending to solve our biggest problem: homelessness. That’s “shining up shit and calling it gold.”—a phrase I stole from The Wire.

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A primary cause of the great problem is that Seattle is too expensive for working-class people. And the knife edge “life” they build doesn’t belong in the same sentence with the phrase “quality of life.” Oops. This isn’t to say there is no joy for Seattle’s working class, but that for decades, bad city policy stripped away the chances to let go and live well for far too many residents...let alone survive at all.

How many more socialists do you want sitting here?

How many more socialists do you want sitting here?

So in come the socialists. And how can we be surprised? They offer “free” everything paid for by Jeff Bezos while our “side” doesn’t do anything. How could this not appeal to the economically struggling voter? Or even the guilty liberal? This year, the City Council turns over 7 of 9 seats. We already have socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant representing my district, and she will probably win again. Do we want 2 more? Do we want more absurd ideas like that head tax or rent control? (It doesn’t work well.)

Us capitalists are at fault if we get more of this. After all, we’re either the complacent well-to-do person at best, or the aggressive NIMBY at worst. Let’s change that. I’m going to ask you two things, you liberal capitalists of Seattle:

69% of Seattle’s residential area is zoned single-family. Not dense enough.

69% of Seattle’s residential area is zoned single-family. Not dense enough.

1. You need to live up to that label, starting with reforming single-family zoning. This is not a market failure, it is a policy failure: homelessness and unaffordability are the results. I know, your idyllic single-family home is on a picturesque street; that might need to go. If you’re opposed, you stand with homelessness. The data supports that conclusion according to those Zillow studies linked to above.

How many of you have “data-driven” on your LinkedIn profile or resume?

If we want to make Seattle affordable, we have to make it legal to build the amount of housing the market will bear. On 3/18/19, 6% of the city got upzoned. That’s a start, but it’s not enough and it took years.

2. Follow me and share my blog around. We’re not going to create a constituency of liberal capitalists as individuals. So, like and share my blog to give me the platform to push for the following:

  • Traffic congestion pricing

  • Revenue-neutral carbon taxes

  • Upzoning

  • Stricter ROI criteria for transit (upzoning will help with that)

  • Social support for: shelter beds, mental health care, drug treatment and needle exchanges, renter assistance. (Social support is what we need, not socialism.)

  • Police use-of-force reform

No, Seattle won’t be the same, but it’s already changed. The housing stock needs to reflect that. A more equitable Seattle, hopefully, means a more equitable workplace too.


*The labels “socialist” or “capitalist” are not helpful or even properly understood by many. The US spent 37.5% of GDP socially in 2015, more than Australia, Ireland, South Korea, and Switzerland. That year, we spent more socially on healthcare as a percentage of GDP than any other country in the OECD (mostly the big developed economies). We’re just crappy “socialists” and “capitalists” right now. I used the labels to get you to click and see who really reads this to the end.

Nathan ChaffetzComment