Texas' policies attract people to move there but that doesn't mean the people who move there like Texas' policies

A puzzling post from Matt Yglesias.

Writing that Texas’ job growth is mainly due to population growth (it seems the picture is slightly more complex ), he writes:

A few people came up to me after the Cato event on Thursday night and said something like, you may be right but doesn’t the population boom show that people are voting with their feet for Texas-style public policy? … You can’t talk about revealed preferences without looking at prices. Notwithstanding the real estate crash, someone who bought a building in Williamsburg or Central Square or Logan Circle ten or fifteen years ago has done very well for himself. This would not be a million dollar house in Houston. In Brooklyn and Cambridge and DC we have “gentrification.” In Dallas they have population growth. There’s little net population increase in coastal states because THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH (book forthcoming).

Right, but why is the rent too damn high in coastal states? As Ed Glaeser convincingly argues, and as I’m sure Matt knows, the rent is too damn high in coastal states because of policies enacted by these states that make construction hard, and thus reduce the housing supply, and thus drive up prices. Conversely, the rent is not too damn high in Texas because construction is relatively unregulated and so supply and demand match up (in both directions: Texas had a soft landing from the housing bubble).

Imagine, to take another Yglesias hobbyhorse, and I hope the subject of a forthcoming book from him, that all states except Massachusetts enacted very strict occupational licensing regimes for clowns. Plenty of clowns would presumably move to Massachusetts.

One person might say: “See? Massachusetts’ policies have enticed plenty of clowns to move there, which is good for consumer choice and the broader economy (and clowns).”

A second person might say: “Clowns didn’t move there because of policies, they moved there because it’s easier/cheaper to be a clown in Massachusetts.”

And the first person would say: “Well, exactly.

Back before Deng’s reforms when plenty of communist Chinese tried to come to Hong Kong to make a better life, I’m pretty sure most of them weren’t readers of Hayek who had made an intellectual determination that central planning and collective ownership of the means of production was inferior to free markets and the rule of law. But it would still be fair to say that they were voting with their feet against communist policies.