My Imaginings are So Beautiful!

by Don Boudreaux on April 29, 2009

in Complexity & Emergence

Reason’s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch explain with eloquence and spirit why what Adam Smith called “the man of system” is not visionary but, rather — and at best — self-absorbed and out-of-touch.

Here’s a slice from Gillespie’s and Welch’s fine essay:

Consider the president’s recent “major” speech about transportation, yet another Castro-like exhortation in which Obama boldly rejected the failed policies of the past in favor of the failed policies of the future.

“Our highways are clogged with traffic,” he noted, before unveiling his big fix: Shiny new trains that go almost twice as fast as cars. Forget that, as urban historian Joel Garreau has long documented, our country has been decentralizing its living and working patterns for decades now, migrating from virtually all urban centers (except maybe for booming Washington, D.C.) to relatively low-density suburbs. In a big, spread-out country where individualized service at the coffee stand, on cable TV, and in your computer is the new normal, our chief visionary officer is talking about a one-size-fits-all solution that will surely bomb even bigger than NBC’s Supertrain.

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{ 42 comments }

K Ackermann April 29, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Yeah, next thing Obama will want is for us to meet airplanes at airports instead of taking off and landing in our driveways.

I thought Libertarians liked trains.

As complaints go, accusing the president of building a high-speed train doesn't exactly put him on the level with, say, Pol Pot or Stalin.

Maybe it's me; these damn anti-depressants make it tough to work up a good head of steam. They should clearly warn on the bottle, "Dangers include not being able to wipe smile of face."

K Ackermann April 29, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I have a question:

Donald Rumsfeld killed language that called for local Iraqis to be hired for reconstruction projects in the early part of the war. That made sense from a free market perspective, but the unemployment rate in Iraq at the time was 68%, so the Iraqis had to sit back and watch very inexpensive foreign workers stream in to the country for work.

Under these conditions, was adherence to free market principles the correct choice?

Greg Totten April 29, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Just want to point out that the reason America has been decentralizing and moving out to the suburbs is in large part cost based due to Federal highway and road subsidies. If we had never subsidized the move to the suburbs, would we be there in the first place? As I see it maybe we should stop fixing all those roads and then see if people still want to live there. This commentary makes it seem like people made a conscious economic decision to move to the suburbs, but I believe a lot of it was cost based. Maybe it is time to change things up, but I say we fund trains and not roads. Make people pay tolls if they really want to use them.

MnM April 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

A government bureaucrat makes a top-down decision as a third party prohibiting a certain trade, and you're calling that a "free market principle"?

I don't think that phrase means what you think it means.

I_am_a_lead_pencil April 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Reminds me of a great line:

"98% of Americans support the use of mass transit by others."

–The Onion (satire newspaper)

Methinks April 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

You're right, Ackerman. As long as Obama isn't slaughtering millions, we're golden. Of course, people living under Brezhnev (after the slaughters stopped) thought they were living in hell too because of top-down economic policies and concentration of power in the hands of the few, but they were obviously right wing nut jobs.

Chris O'Leary April 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

If high speed rail makes so much sense, why haven't the private sector or state governments been able to make it happen?

I know they've been talking about it in MO, IL, and TX for the years I've been here (and there).

All I see is Amtrak on a bigger, more disastrous scale.

It may work in the North East (even that's debatable), but not here in the spread-out heartland.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Greg Totten: "Just want to point out that the reason America has been decentralizing and moving out to the suburbs is in large part cost based due to Federal highway and road subsidies."

Uh, no. America has been decentralizing because that's what Americans have always wanted. The only reason they did not decentralize earlier is that horses could not travel fast enough. As soon as streetcars and passenger rail lines became available, streetcar and railline suburbs began developing in every major city. As soon as personal motorized vehicles became available, suburbs began ringing our major cities – long before freeways were added.

Decentralization is the desire of Americans. Streetcars, trains, automobiles, and then highways became the means by which Americans satisfied that desire.

Chris O'Leary April 29, 2009 at 2:31 pm

"Just want to point out that the reason America has been decentralizing and moving out to the suburbs is in large part cost based due to Federal highway and road subsidies. If we had never subsidized the move to the suburbs, would we be there in the first place?"

Utter hogwash.

In the vast majority of cases, if you go to a new suburban development you'll find the houses tend to lead the roads by multiple years.

US-41 through North Naples Florida is just one example. I also know of multiple examples in Austin, Texas.

The people who live in these regions tend to have to endure years of miserable traffic before the supply of roads catches up with the demand.

Obviously something is making the long commute and the traffic more attractive than the alternative.

Ben April 29, 2009 at 2:31 pm

"Just want to point out that the reason America has been decentralizing and moving out to the suburbs is in large part cost based due to Federal highway and road subsidies."

No one likes their neighbors. Not in America and not in Europe. The difference is that the US is a big country and people can spread out more. The idea that people would have stayed cramped together if only it weren't for the demon automobile is just nonsense. In fact, the reverse is true: the desire to have their own plot, to have the freedom of mobility is what engendered continuing support for the highway system.

The other thing you're ignoring is that the highway system was a massive boost to commerce, and that would have been true even if people had wanted to stay in cities.

Ben April 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm

One principle that's not often mentioned in politics is that of dartboards, and how it determines public policy.

Say you're a Democratic politician. Your party has power over both houses, and a pliant media.

Now let's say you run focus groups and polls and whatnot. You identify, say, 100 issues that voters care about.

You and your staff might have real expertise in a few of these issues. For the rest, lobbyists are beating down your door and they have presentations that certainly sound very factual and scientific.

Do you…

A. Craft a limited solution to the issues you're familiar with, and actually get government less involved in many you're not familiar with?

or B. Churn out dozens of big, iconic bills with trains and buildings and new offices?

If things get better under A, the best you can hope for is some unconvincing air time with local businessmen saying how great business is. But even though they might get better, some things will get worse and you'll look like you weren't doing anything. And when the dust settles, there won't be any buildings named after you or cool trains and stuff.

Under B, sure, most of your stupid ideas will fail. But the press generally won't trace it back to you because there will be lots of lackeys to take the fall. After all you'll have set up whole new administrative structures and offices. And a few ideas will, at least for a time, look really good. You could have photo ops in front of rockets and trains, ribbon cutting ceremonies, and all kinds of crap named after you.

Crusader April 29, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Chris O'Leary – the reasons why exurban residents are willing to put up with often nightmarish commutes are:

* better schools
* lower crime

Exurbia is no paradise, but the inner-ring suburban/urban alternative is no alternative.

Hammer April 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I think the another big thing that proponants of mass transit always seem to forget while pondering why people don't like trains, busses and airplanes is that their speed is only partially relevant to the total travel time.

Say I want to drive to my parent's place. I hop in the car, and arrive in about 2 hours.
Now, assume there is a train station anywhere near where I and they live. The train goes twice as fast as my car, and possibly more directly, so it would be a 1 hour ride. Yay! It leaves at 2pm, just about when I wanted to head out, too. But, the train doesn't swing by my house, so I have to get there first. So maybe 10-15 minutes to walk or drive to the station. The train also leaves at specific times, not whenever I want it to, so I have to factor in some padding to my schedule. I can't arrive at 2pm for a 2pm train departure, since I might get stuck in traffic or have to take a leak or something. So I aim to arrive at 1:45 or so, meaning I need to leave my house at around 13:0.
Of course, the train will probably not be on time. There will probably be a 0-10 minute delay, maybe more, but probably not assuming it is a good line.
Now, upon arrival at my stop, I need to get to my parent's place. Hopefully they meet me, or I can walk or something. So maybe 10-15 minutes travel time there.
So, yay! I arrived at my parents' place at around 330 or so. The trouble is, that is just about the time I could have gotten there just hopping into my car at 130 and driving myself. Plus side, I could take a nap or read or something. Downside, I don't have a car incase my parent's forget to pick me up, or are late, or I need to go somewhere else, or take something with me, or any of the other thousand things having a car is handy for.

In other words, I am worse off, even if I am breaking even in terms of time (unlikely) cost (possible, but again not likely.) The irritation of having to do anything on someone else's schedule is always overlooked, as well as the convenience of having control over your trip. Of course, all of those are non-issues when one is a politician theorizing that public transportation is perfect for the litte people, but not himself of course.

Crusader April 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Hammer – the only way mass transit works is in high density cities like New York, Tokyo, Seoul, etc… It will never work in Topeka, Kansas for that simple reason.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Crusader,

I agree that quality of schools and crime have been huge factors in decentralization. Other factors have been:

- land costs;
- government forced busing of schoolchildren;
- industry pollution and noise.

I disagree with this statement:

"Exurbia is no paradise"

Over my 58 years, I've lived urban, inner-ring suburban, and rural. Exurbia as I've experienced it – upper middle class income towns with numerous parks and nearby shopping – is as close to paradise as I'll find.

Crusader April 29, 2009 at 3:26 pm

John Dewey – depends on which one. Some exurbian developments struck me as soulless, with every house looking the same as the other one. Basically modern Levittowns with bigger lots. Also there's the car-centric nature of it which is a big off putting. There's something to say for the new urbanist idea.

Brandon April 29, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Part of the reason for the exodus out of cities has also been the supply of relatively cheap gasoline. If you can afford to drive into the city to work, why live in a cramped apartment when you can have a nice house with a yard and a garage?

Currently, gasoline prices are rising, so there may be pressure to move back into the city, but at the same time, technology is making it easier for many people to work and collaborate in a decentralized manner. I suspect the latter tendency will dominate, but I'm just speculating about that.

Greg Totten April 29, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I understand where people are coming from, but the idea of space is a lie. Living rural there is space, living in the suburbs is just cheaper. You still 4' between your house and your neighbor, sorry but that isn't space. 1/4 acre yard is not space either. The reason people do it is because land is cheaper than it is cities where demand is higher. That would be offset by higher transportation costs in a truly "liberal" world because private entrepreneurs would charge tolls for roads which would be calculated into the living expenses of people. Its fine to criticize railroads, but also realize that everyone is freeriding on the roads. I say cut all funding for them, privatize them all, and see what sort of system crops up. They are more expensive to maintain than people realize.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 3:55 pm

crusader: "Some exurbian developments struck me as soulless, with every house looking the same as the other one."

How does that make them soulless? Where I lived in Philadelphia, the exterior of each row house looked the same as every other one on the block. No way would I call inner-city Philadelphia soulless.

What I've experienced in the far suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth:

- miles of trails through parks and greenbelts;
- charming small music and art festivals;
- thousands of Texans meeting for softball games;
- stadiums packed with cheering fans of high school football teams;
- volunteer fire departments in the smaller towns;
- churches that attract hundreds and thousands to not just services but to all sort of cultural activities;
- active Rotary and Lion's Clubs;
- citizens walking door-to-door to elect local leaders they know and believe in.

Exurbia as I've lived it was everything but soulless.

Crusader April 29, 2009 at 3:59 pm

"stadiums packed with cheering fans of high school football teams"

Ah mindless sports fanatic behavior. Count me out.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 4:01 pm

crusader: "Also there's the car-centric nature of it which is a big off putting."

Americans have been in love with their automobiles for almost a century. For most of us exurbans, not having to navigate around thousands of pedestrians is a plus. I've "driven" Manhattan. It was no fun at all.

Crusader April 29, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I'm just saying that there is something to the new urbanism that talks about rewriting the zoning laws for mixed-used development.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 4:29 pm

brandon: "gasoline prices are rising, so there may be pressure to move back into the city"

Yeah, that's true. But it's not as much motivation as some would have you believe, for several reasons.

I read somewhere recently that suburb to suburb commuting has surpassed suburb to urban commuting for most large cities. Large corporations have relocated to exurban campuses, as Joel Garreau and others have noted. So most workers would not go to cities in order to reduce commutes.

Fuel costs are still a very small part of commuters' budgets. Double gasoline prices? They're not giving up the exurban lifestyle they prefer just to save $200 a month. Or even $400 a month if gasoline prices triple.

Lower land costs in exurbia far offset commuting fuel costs.

Despite all the new urban housing that the media celebrates, exurbia is still the future of America.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 4:31 pm

brandon: "gasoline prices are rising, so there may be pressure to move back into the city"

Yeah, that's true. But it's not as much motivation as some would have you believe, for several reasons.

I read somewhere recently that suburb to suburb commuting has surpassed suburb to urban commuting for most large cities. Large corporations have relocated to exurban campuses, as Joel Garreau and others have noted. So most workers would not go to cities in order to reduce commutes.

Fuel costs are still a very small part of commuters' budgets. Double gasoline prices? They're not giving up the exurban lifestyle they prefer just to save $200 a month. Or even $400 a month if gasoline prices triple.

Lower land costs in exurbia far offset commuting fuel costs.

Despite all the new urban housing that the media celebrates, exurbia is still the future of America.

Lee Kelly April 29, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Back in England, I had an hour long commute to work each day on a train. The service was expensive, inefficient, and, well, smelly.

My train was regularly late, overcrowded, and uncomfortable. About half of the time I would be standing for most of the journey. Restrooms on the platform and train were often out of order, because of some vandal the night before. Employees were at worst rude, and at best unhelpful. Not a good way to start the working day. For now I am living in Alabama, and drive anywhere I need to be. Even on a bad road, it's a luxury.

Crusader April 29, 2009 at 4:48 pm

John Dewey – increasing urban gentrification would indicate that exurbia is not the future. People want more city life.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Greg Totten: "I say cut all funding for them, privatize them all, and see what sort of system crops up."

Wouldn't be a railroad left in America, would there?

Unfortunately, you cannot just wave a magic wand and change the funding system for the transportation systems used by 300 million Americans.

Greg Totten: "but also realize that everyone is freeriding on the roads."

Right, Greg. Those gasoline taxes and tolls we pay are just tribute, I suppose.

Every toll road I've seen built in big cities attracts tens and hundreds of thousands of drivers who willingly pay tolls in addition to the gasoline taxes they pay. Every light rail system I've read about struggles to break even, despite 40% to 70% subsidies of construction and operating expenses.

John Dewey April 29, 2009 at 6:15 pm

crusader: "People want more city life."

Of course they do. To support your assertion, I'm sure you can provide statistics showing the mass exodus from exurbia and suburbia to the cities.

Mr. Econotarian April 29, 2009 at 6:28 pm

It occurs to me that New York City has a tremendous number of rail commuters, yet rush hour traffic there is still clogeed.

For that matter, Paris also has a tremendous amount of rail commuters, but the rush hour traffic is also still clogged. Except the cars are a bit smaller, and they have fewer lanes.

Methinks April 29, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Lee, your post reminded me of commuting by subway in NYC – much worse than London. I finally stopped riding the train altogether the day I looked up from my book and found an…um…male appendage revealed to me about two inches from my face. I bought a car and battled traffic until I moved out of the city. It was totally worth it. I tried taking the commuter train into NYC a couple of times, but there's only so much urine stench and unidentified fluids one can tolerate before it becomes worth it to sit in traffic jams on I-95. I can't imagine light rail won't suffer from the same maladies.

Young people may want more city life because they're young and stupid. They'll move out when they start making enough money to get into the higher tax brackets and grow sick of having their noses shoved into people's unwashed hair at rush hour on the subway.

dano April 30, 2009 at 12:11 am

"Just want to point out that the reason America has been decentralizing and moving out to the suburbs is in large part cost based due to Federal highway and road subsidies."

That reminds me about a business ethics conference I attended a few years back. One of the philosophers finished reading his paper about someone's attitude on something dealing with transportation and a comment from a philosopher in the audience was why shouldn't Amtrak be subsidized since highways and airlines are subsidized.

All I could think of was you are a philosopher and you don't remember basic logic.

Boots April 30, 2009 at 1:26 am

"Young people may want more city life because they're young and stupid. They'll move out when they start making enough money to get into the higher tax brackets and grow sick of having their noses shoved into people's unwashed hair at rush hour on the subway."

Exactly! When I was a younger, city-dwelling version of myself, I rode the bus or subway to work because I didn't have a car. Stiflingly hot year-round, stinky,late, and never a seat to be had……I would gaze longingly at the cars stuck in traffic next to the bus (where everybody in the car had someplace to sit!) and eventually decided that I would know I was successful when I didn't HAVE to ride public transportation anymore.

Gil April 30, 2009 at 7:33 am

Heck! Isn't the path to wealth means people of humble circumstances want what the rich have? In the olden days people lived on the farms or the cities because they had to. Only the rich could afford to live away from the rat race. These precursors to suburbia were called 'estates'. Just as the trickle-down effect of owning cars started with the rich so too did the lifestyle of a home and backyard on the outskirts of the city.

John Strong April 30, 2009 at 9:29 am

The libertarian path to mass transit

Professor Boudreaux, I want to call to your attention a consideration that noone ever notices or mentions with respect to commuter trains and other mass transit.

In Mexico, where I live, you can grab a bus almost anywhere, at almost any time, to go almost anywhere. From the perspective of the mass transit advocate, it ought to be a dream come true. I agree. It is really nice.

But you know why we have such a well-developed mass transit system in Mexican cities? The answer is a very unexpected one. Mass transit makes an immense amount of sense in Mexico, because there is an near total absence of ZONING LAWs. If you allow small businesses to locate in residential neighborhoods, a very large number of people will decide to buy cars later in life than they would otherwise, and some will even dispense with personal transportation altogether. Why? Because the need for long distance trips is the exception, rather than the rule.

From where I live in Orizaba, Veracruz, I am 4 blocks from my barber, 2 blocks from my church, 3 blocks from my wife’s gynecologist, 2 blocks from our pediatrician, 1 block from our family dentist, 4 blocks from the clinic where my youngest child was delivered via C-section, 2 blocks from a pretty good cinema, 2 blocks from 2 large super markets, 10 blocks from the nearest Post Office, 1 to 5 blocks from 15 different restaurants, and 4 to 10 blocks from 10 different varieties of car mechanic (each specializing in different aspects of auto repair).

You see, the completely counterintuitive truth is that mass transit becomes feasible when things are CLOSE, not far. The way to make things close (and to revive our dead and boring American cities, by the way) is to reform our zoning laws so that things will be closer. The problem is not that people are dispersed; the problem in America is that business is too dispersed, and so it is simply not economical to run a transit system. If our policy makers would set aside their Platonic idea of “Mass Transit” long enough to ask why mass transit works in some places and not in others, we might make the sort of changes that will make mass transit a natural response to a real need, rather than a religious commitment to an unworkable idea that is indifferent to the facts on the ground.

In summary, it is not the “American love affair with the automobile” that makes mass transit impractical in the United States, nor is it population density. It is zoning laws.

Please, we urgently need for somebody with a public voice such as yours to point out this fact in some public forums.

BTW, people use the same “population density” argument to explain why Europe has fewer big box retail stores, but I recently learned from William Lewis’ book “The Power of Productivity” that the real reason is a combination of zoning laws and a tax regime that makes it difficult to finance road and utility infrastructure. As usual, there’s more than meets the eye.

John Strong

John Dewey April 30, 2009 at 10:12 am

John Strong,

I understand that zoniung laws have made it difficult for some workers to have short commutes. But those zoning laws did not arise from nothing. Americans have long desired to have residences away from commerce and industry.

I do not see why the goal should be zoning laws to promote mixed use development where it is not desired. There are plenty of opportunities for workers to live close to most places of employment. That they choose not to do so should give pause to elected officials who would attempt to implement social engineering.

John Strong April 30, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Why don't zoning laws qualify as social engineering? When it comes to zoning, the citizens of socialist Mexico actually have a richer bundle of property rights than U.S. citizens do. In Mexico, if you want to start a business at your home, you can, and you don't have to worry about conforming to government rules. Look, if groups of my fellow citizens want to form vast communities where all the lawns look like golf courses, more power to them! They should be free to do that, but when they use the power of government to force me to belong to that kind of community, then they are depriving me of my free choice in order to create a favorable economic climate for the kind of urban development they just happen to like. My take is that from a Public Choice point of view, the real impetus behind zoning laws comes from rent-seeking special interests.

John Dewey April 30, 2009 at 12:05 pm

gil: "Just as the trickle-down effect of owning cars started with the rich so too did the lifestyle of a home and backyard on the outskirts of the city."

I don't know the history of every city, Gil. But I have been readiong a lot about the development of Dallas. From it's earliest days in the mid-19th century, residential plots of land were separated from commerce centers. A few shopkeepers and commercial employees lived at their businesses, but most had plots of land on the outskirts of the small town. As the commercial center expanded, residences of wealthy and non-wealthy alike spread farther out. In fact, since the most valuable residential land was closer in, it was non-wealthy who commuted the greatest distances.

John Dewey April 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm

john strong: "They should be free to do that, but when they use the power of government to force me to belong to that kind of community,"

Not sure how anyone forces you to belong to any community, John. If voters of Big City decided 100 years ago that all smelly factories will be located on the south side of town, are you forced to live in the north side of Big City – the section that is free from smelly factories?

Suppose that a developer – an owner of exurban land – wishes to maximize the value of his land. He implements deed restrictions which prevent the land he develops from being used for anything other than single-family residences. Home buyers willingly pay a premium for the homesites, knowing they will never see a sausage factory or a truck repair shop or a high rise apartment complex next door. Does that developer or those homebuyers in any way force you to live in the restricted community they created?

JT Barnhart April 30, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Joel Garreau didn't say exactly that. According to both USGS surveys and US Census Bureau reports we are in fact and have been urbanizing. Decentralizing doesn't mean urban exodus. It equates to urban sprawl and urban expansion.

Don't get too smug before you actually read Joel's work, check the USGS and Census Bureau material and maybe read some more books like The Geography of Nowhere and Death and Life of Great American Cities.

You might also watch the excellent documentery The End of Suburbia.

Some of the case put forth in the "fine essay" is sound but it verges on failing it's prima facia case and making bad logical arguments. Appeal to tradition, genetic fallacy and simple ad hominem foppery.

Further while Americans arguably don't want to live amidst vast parking lots and industrial zones they most certainly do want mixed zoning in their residential areas. Small commerce is essential to healthy communities in residential areas.

If they didn't we would only need industrial zoning. If people didn't want commerce near their residences the commerce wouldn't be able to make enough money to stay in business. I'm sorry if you don't want a market near your house and have to push zoning to stop it but maybe your neighbors are out voting you with their spending habits.

This could go on and one but it doesn't need to.

I'll suggest that a car centric civic plan and our de facto car centered culture have been marketed manipulated and designed to be so. Car companies have gone as far as buying mass transit companies and shutting them down to promote auto-centered communities. (ex. GM in Ft Wayne Indiana)

If cars equal freedom and self-suffiency(a commonly held belief) then maybe we should consider as suggested by Russ,

"Self suffiency is the road to poverty."

How much more expendable income would you have if you didn't spend $600 to $1000 a month on your car?

Yeah, you guessed it. There's more to owning a car than putting gas in it.

The paltri $45 dollar a month cost of a muni-pass in San Francisco doesn't come close to even the gas budget.

Mixed zoning allows for markets within walking distance alleviating the need for bulk grocery runs. You might meet your neighbors and maybe just you being there discourages vandals.

It also gets you out of your car so maybe your rear end will fit better next time you go for a drive.

John Dewey April 30, 2009 at 4:20 pm

JT Barnhart: "most certainly do want mixed zoning in their residential areas."

Please provide evidence for this assertion. "Most certainly" is strong language to use, so I assume you have some data to back up your words.

JT Barnhart: "Small commerce is essential to healthy communities in residential areas. "

What do you mean by "healthy communities"? What do you mean by "small commerce"?

My exurban town has supermarkets, hair salons, drug stores, restaurants, dentists, physicians, etc, within a mile or two of almost every home. We also have clear separation of residential and commercial zones. That's because we want it that way, and continue to reject politicians who would approve anything else.

JT Barnhart: "There's more to owning a car than putting gas in it."

Oh, my! I've been owning cars for 43 years and I never realized that!

Look, Barnhart, very, very few families in America are going to give up personal trasnport any time soon. If that's what you collectivists are suggesting, your ideas will not be listened to.

JT Barnhart: "Mixed zoning allows for markets within walking distance alleviating the need for bulk grocery runs."

Right. Families certainly desire taking multiple trips for the enjoyment of carting bags of groceries from supermarket to home. If we just all lived in mixed-use paradise, we'd all be joyously celebrating our new role as pack mules. Makes you wonder why big cities were full of horses and buggies before automobiles were mass-produced.

Name September 1, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Pretty weak personal attack. Collectivists? Whatever Mr. McCarthy. I’ll be sure to be on guard for the commies that want to take away my truck and make me walk everywhere.

Your age is showing. …and there is plenty of material to support Barnhart’s thesis. Actually quite a bit in the books he sited. Not to mention the high profile example of NYC before Juliani acted on the broken windows theory.

Mixed zoning creates more a more active populace, a safer urban environment with less opportunity for unseen criminal activity and stronger communities where people actually know each other.

I’m sure you have data to support your claim that very few families are going to give up personal transportations any time soon?

Pack mules? Nice try. If you have a market around the corner you don’t need to cart home bags of groceries in some inane supply train as you prepare to hole up in your domicile for a week or more until you run out. If your grocery shopping didn’t require loading up a vehicle, driving, parking, shoping for an hour, loading your cargo, unloading and spending another chunk of time putting everything away, maybe grabbing a few essentila things wouldn’t seem like such a hassle to you.

Now pardon me while I “git offa ur lawn” lest you gun me down like John Wayne in an equally outdated western.

Make an actual case or shove off.

John Dewey May 1, 2009 at 9:13 am

JT Bartlett: "You might also watch the excellent documentery The End of Suburbia. "

Before anyone wastes time viewing "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream", I recommend doing a little research about the peak oil myth. All one needs to do is Google "peak oil myth" and check out a couple of links.

The documentary Bartlett is recommending relies on the "scientific knowledge" of James Howard Kunstler and Matthew Simmons.

Here's a sample of Kunstler's "wisdom":

"we'll have to figure out how to make things in this country again. We will not be manufacturing things at the scale, or in the manner, we were used to"

"We'll have to grow our food closer to home, in a manner that will require more human attention. In fact, agriculture needs to return to the center of economic life."

"We'll have to restore local economic networks — the very networks that the big-box stores systematically destroyed"

It amazes me that clowns such as Kunstler are taken seriously.

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