Land Use

Suburbs Exonerated On Accusations of Community-Killing

|

The suburbs, in both arts and pop-social science, are frequently portrayed as veritable graveyards for meaningful, authentic life and valuable social interactions. Now some new social science research comes to praise their effects on sociability, finding, according to this account on the Canada.com site, that

people who live in sprawling suburban areas have more friends, better community involvement and more frequent contact with their neighbours than urbanites who are wedged in side-by-side. The results challenge the accepted idea that suburban life is socially alienating a notion that's inspired everything from the Academy Award-winning American Beauty to Harvard professor Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone.

The study, released by the University of California at Irvine, found that for every 10 per cent decrease in population density, the chances of people talking to their neighbours weekly increases by 10 per cent, and the likelihood they belong to hobby-based clubs jumps by 15 per cent.

"We found that interaction goes down as population density goes up. So, turning it around, it says that interaction is higher where densities are lower," says Jan Brueckner, an economics professor at UC Irvine who led the study. "What that means is suburban living promotes more interaction than living in the central city."

Here's the full paper by Brueckner and Ann G. Largey the article is about.

Here's Nick Gillespie on how the burbs don't make you fat, either.

[Link via Marginal Revolution.]

NEXT: Crack and Coke, Revisited

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So the desire for socializing is inversely proportional to the number and proximity of one’s neighbors? I can see that, actually.

    If you spend your days living in an apartment or rowhouse, walking crowded streets or riding crowd mass transit, your desire for a little “me time” will probably be much higher than someone who can choose when and if they interact with other people outside their home.

  2. The only thing I still think Brian needs to explain is how this study is an example of legitmate social science while the ones that do not produce suburb-friendly results are simply “pop” social science.

  3. If you spend your days living in an apartment or rowhouse, walking crowded streets or riding crowd mass transit, your desire for a little “me time” will probably be much higher than someone who can choose when and if they interact with other people outside their home.

    As someone who’s lived in both the suburbs and crowded cities, I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head.

  4. I’ve also lived in both environments. In the city you don’t talk to, or get involved with your neighbors as a matter of self preservation. But that may just be a Detroit thing.

  5. Whoa, what happened there? Anyway…

    The premise of the study presumes a smooth continuum from “urbanites who are wedged in side-by-side” to rural densities, which fails to capture how environments work. At 100 units/acre, we’re talking about high-rise Manahattan, which is going to produce the defensive reaction SPD describes. But at 8-10 units per acre (a mix of single- and two-family houses on 4000-6000 square foot lots, for example), the experience is quite different.

    Also, the joining of clubs can be just as accurately read as an effort to inject sociability into an unsocial lifestyle. They guys playing chess with strangers in an urban park haven’t joined a chess club. Nor, come to think of it, are the necessarily talking with their neighbors.

    Which brings me to a third confounding variable; in a truly urban setting, people can aggregate themselves by common interests, rather than by immediate proximity. The people you talk to who live in the highrise building a block away are not considered your neighbors, even if they are closer than people who the owners of a house in a sprawling subdivision consider to be their neighbors. And then there are the truly rural areas, where each of the ten families in the 20 square mile area considers the other families to be their friends and neighbors.

    Like the “Bowling Alone” theory it criticizes, this study suffers from a simplistic dichotomy, and from aggregating too many unlike things.

    Still, its an interesting contribution to the discussion.

  6. Of course, the un-controlled variables of safety and economics, which differ greatly between higher- and lower-density census tracts, can skew the results, too.

    Comparing sociability between residents of new urbanist suburbs like Celebration, Florida vs sprawling suburbs with roughly equivalent SES would yield more meaningful results.

  7. Yeah, this sounds about right to me, too, anecdotally speaking. Cars (well, trucks) pausing in the middle of the road for a little chat in the country, block parties and community playgrounds in the suburbs – anonymous sniping notes left at the mailbox in my urban apartment tower.

    All these ways of living have pros and cons. And the government should not be encouraging or discouraging the development of any of them.

  8. I try to avoid my neighbors regardless of my living situation. They suck.

  9. All these ways of living have pros and cons. And the government should not be encouraging or discouraging the development of any of them.

    I disagree – the government absolutely should encourage the development of systems that are sustainable (ie not sprawl).

  10. I can’t wait to shove this down my sister’s throat. She, and her urban planner husband, has scorned me for years for preferring to live in the suburbs. They are sure that only downtowners associate with neighbors and generally have a life. Gay Paree elitist assholes the both of them. The bottom line is children create most adult association, and the kids are in the suburbs.

  11. I’m with Bee–my experience living in urban, suburban, and rural locales supports increasing sociability with decreasing population density. But I don’t claim that that is a scientific conclusion–just my personal anecdote tossed into the mix.

    Besides, everyone knows that the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.

  12. They guys playing chess with strangers in an urban park

    Hmm, I have not lived or worked near any urban parks which were not infested with scary people.

    Not that this observation necessarily adds much to the point – but I’m curious – are there urban parks out there which are not full of litter, rats and homeless people? The poor things still manage to crimp themselves up to sleep on the homeless-person-deterring benches. Maybe it gets them up out of the sprinklers. The relief of not having to see mentally ill people abandoned to their fate is probably reason enough for some people to get the hell out of the city.

  13. I can sort of see this, but am mostly in line with joe here. If you live in an 55-floor apartment with a doorman on a street full of 55-floor apartments, you’re much less likely to be chummy with your neighbors than you would if you lived in a three-flat in a mixed-use neighborhood.

    Chicago has more bars per capita than any other major US city. Most of those are little neighborhood watering holes; the people there aren’t all drinking alone.

  14. Hmm, I have not lived or worked near any urban parks which were not infested with scary people.

    Not that this observation necessarily adds much to the point – but I’m curious – are there urban parks out there which are not full of litter, rats and homeless people? The poor things still manage to crimp themselves up to sleep on the homeless-person-deterring benches. Maybe it gets them up out of the sprinklers. The relief of not having to see mentally ill people abandoned to their fate is probably reason enough for some people to get the hell out of the city.

    Jane Jacobs’ The Death And Life of Great American Cities, even though published over 40 years ago, is pretty insightful about why certain parks flourish and others flounder.

  15. Dan T.,

    Zoning in particular has virtually ensured the segregation and ghettoisation, the bland atopias, and the suburban sprawl you seem to object to.

    I can’t do better than quote Andrew Galambos’s observation that “A traffic jam is a collision between free enterprise and socialism.
    Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity.”
    I’d point you to Bernard Siegan’s excellent book ‘Land Use Without Zoning’ which points out many cogent reasons why cities without zoning develop the way they do, which for the most part is logical, ordered, with a great variety of densities, ‘mixed-use’ developments, and living choices on offer. Freedom trumps central planning any day of the week.

  16. joe:

    The premise of the study presumes a smooth continuum from “urbanites who are wedged in side-by-side” to rural densities

    The leader of the study:

    We found that interaction goes down as population density goes up.

    In other words joe, if this leader guy is representing the findings of the study accurately, they didn’t presume a smooth continuum, they found a smooth continuum. If they had found something resembling a bell curve in which something between highest and lowest density maximized sociability, as you say should be the case, then interatcion would not go up as population goes down, as was found.

    That said, I agree that “social interaction” may be hard to define and harder to measure.

  17. Although it’s nice to see the suburbs not get slammed for a change, and for rural living to get a more congenial handling than “your unsustainable lifestyle is destroying the world!” (see Dan T.) it still boils down to another BS study with plenty of BS holes in it.

    None of these studies, regardless of what they conclude, should amount to the influence of a burp in a hurricane. People will choose to live in the place they consider the nicest that they can afford whether that’s in a construction contractor’s automobile-friendly gated suburban community or in a city planner’s automobile-hostile urban utopia community.

    Bottom line: Freedom is grand, so… Live in the city if that’s your preference. Live in the suburbs if that’s your preference. But don’t cite contrived studies about levels of social interaction to prove a point about how you think people should live – you might as well be citing a contrived study to “measure” happiness to prove no one should ever leave the womb.

  18. Dan T,

    What is your definition of sprawl? Is Manhattan an example of sprawl? Is Long Island?

    What do you mean by “sustainable”? Are you suggesting that Manhattan is sustainable, but Long Island isn’t?

  19. There is a great example in downtown Silver Spring, MD of the order that can spring from chaos and the dynamism of social interaction that planners can’t be bothered to notice most of the time. Note that Silver Spring is one of those nasty suburbs of DC.

    As a place holder for a future development in a new shopping/dining district (the first success after many failures by the county playing developer), the county put down some astroturf, which cost about $10K. No one expected it to be there for long, but the wealthy elites were shocked that something so pedestrian as astroturf was done. Many noses out of joints.

    Lo and behold, the “green area,” as my son calls it, is a huge hit with the hoi polloi. People bring picnics or grab some chow from the local estabs., high-school kids hang out without bothering anyone, improptu soccer games are common, lots of parents with babies, etc. It’s a good place to hang out while waiting for your movie at the theater across the street to start.

    It’s the only spot in this new district you could do this. The planners didn’t think for a second that they needed anything like this. It was supposed to be wall-to-wall stores.

    Not being content with creating such a success by accident, the county announced a few weeks ago that is going away to be replaced by an ice skating rink and a “park.” :::sigh:::

    Bye-bye spontaneity. Hello uncreative destruction. Not Invented Here rules the day.

  20. As someone who lived in both Irvine and Seattle, count me in as an unapologetic city dweller. In my admittedly idiosyncratic experience, I made more friends and acquaintances in Seattle than Irvine.

    Having said all that, since I know Ann Largey personally as a former classmate, I have no doubt that this was a well-researched paper.

    Trivia: the only time I heard Ann raise her voice was when I mistakenly called Ireland “British” in a passing remark, and even then it was a gentle rebuke 🙂

  21. For all those who asked, sprawl or suburbia or whatever you want to call it is unsubstainable because it depends on cheap oil. And oil is not always going to be cheap.

  22. I can’t do better than quote Andrew Galambos’s observation that “A traffic jam is a collision between free enterprise and socialism.
    Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity.”

    But of course the “free enterprise” that produces automobiles is wholly dependent on the society to build roads – otherwise the cars are pretty much useless.

    Not that “socialism” couldn’t build roads at a faster pace than it does, but people wouldn’t be willing to pay the price. So traffic jams exist because people would rather sit in traffic than pay for more roads.

    That and the fact that the more roads are built, the quicker and more efficent automobile transportation becomes, and the more people are encouraged to drive, which leads to traffic jams, etc.

    I’m rambling but there’s obviously a lot of chickens and eggs in this equasion.

  23. “I’m rambling but there’s obviously a lot of chickens and eggs in this equasion.”

    Yes, Dan. As usual, you’ve got them scrambled.

  24. Dan T.,

    Assuming you are correct about the unsustainability, what do you think happens to the people who live in the unsustainable developments? Do they all become poor and starve to death?

  25. suburbia or whatever you want to call it is unsubstainable because it depends on cheap oil

    I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or blow milk through my nose at that one.

  26. Careful Dan, you’ll get your own flavor of Soylant named after you.

    I’d just like to note how much I hate the term “sprawl,” used in this context.

    The envro-lefties knew they wouldn’t get much traction talking about people’s homes, streets or neighborhoods in real terms, people tend to be a bit sentimental and protective of these, so they concoct a term that you could even crinkle up your nose in distaste as you say it.

    So, let me ask the joes and Dans of the world, try to have this conversation with a suburbanite (you know, not the echo chamber) without using that term. Or better yet, try using it and see how far you can get without a punch in the nose.

    I’d settle for a good, hard shunning, but that nose punching thought does drift to the front occasionally.

  27. For all those who asked, sprawl or suburbia or whatever you want to call it is unsubstainable because it depends on cheap oil. And oil is not always going to be cheap.

    Oh, please. The suburbs wouldn’t disappear if oil got more expensive. The services of the cities would just move to them, if only because suburbs tend to have a more favorable regulatory climate than big cities.

    The big beef that lefties have with suburbs is that they allow the bourgoisie to live in comfort while simultaneously allowing them to escape the high taxes and regulatory control of the Big Cities and still enjoy the benefits of jobs, commerce, education and social services provided by them.

    This elicits a puritainical reaction among most liberal elites, who feel that it’s “unfair” that these people can enjoy the Big City without being forced to live in it. But it’s just the realities of the market at work: I could buy a beat-up two bedroom brick rambler in Salt Lake, or I could buy a nice new 5 bedroom house in the suburbs for the same money. Even if gas prices doubled, it still would be no contest.

  28. “Not that this observation necessarily adds much to the point – but I’m curious – are there urban parks out there which are not full of litter, rats and homeless people?”

    Plenty in Minneapolis.

  29. For all those who asked, sprawl or suburbia or whatever you want to call it is unsubstainable because it depends on cheap oil.

    No, Dan, it depends on cheap energy, and petroleum is at present the cheapest and most convenient source of energy. There are several energy sources that are sustainable and cheap, nuclear power being the most practical of them. If need be, we could take carbon dioxide out of the air, make it into gasoline, and run our cars off of it, given a plentiful supply of cheap energy.

    For that matter, telecommuting and other information technology developments in the next century will, I think, make discussions of sprawl irrelevant. I personally think that American communities in 2100 will be much more spread out than even the most “sprawling” of cities today; people like their personal space. Of course, that’s assuming that people are intelligent and will find solutions to the problems we face today. But that’s never happened before in all of human history, so why should it start now? 😉

  30. I think one point that might be missed is that a person’s age will make a big difference in how social they will be. I find living in the Atlanta suburbs to be bad for me socially as a 20 something. Most of the activities that people my age do to meet people seem to be located in the city, and the friends I have that live in the city have far more active social lives because of it. (They also pay 2-3 times as much as I do in rent for equivilent living conditions, which is why I live where I do). The social situation of a high school student or a married couple would most likely be very different. I certainly agree with the notion that there are a number of wholes in this study. I’m in more clubs now than I was in my hometown, but I have fewer friends. This is mainly because you’re more likely to join a club if you’re actively trying to meet people…if you’re relatively content socially, the appeal of a club is greatly reduced.

    And yes, there are parks where people play chess. I work in downtown Atlanta, and the park a block from where I work has both homeless people and chess players in it.

  31. Well, shoot, I suppose there are no problems coming our way if you simply assume that somebody will solve them, or assume that anybody who points out the problem really has a secret agenda of making as many people as unhappy as possible.

    Anyway, sign me up for that nuclear-powered car.

  32. Oh, and also, cities are just as dependent on cheap energy as suburbs are. (if not more so). If all of the automobiles stopped working tomorrow, I could survive a lot longer in the suburbs than I could in the city. This is largely due to the fact that I have a means of producing food (land) that those in the city do not have. Urban centers are probably more dependent on cheap fuel than any other living arrangement.

  33. People like JW really CAN turn anything into a culture war.

    Nope, not playing.

  34. Oh, and also, cities are just as dependent on cheap energy as suburbs are. (if not more so). If all of the automobiles stopped working tomorrow, I could survive a lot longer in the suburbs than I could in the city. This is largely due to the fact that I have a means of producing food (land) that those in the city do not have. Urban centers are probably more dependent on cheap fuel than any other living arrangement.

    If it got to that point, we’re all screwed.

    But I’m not talking about oil disappearing tomorrow. I’m just saying it will get much more expensive and it’s sort of a no-brainer that the closer together people live the less energy is needed to move them around and ship stuff to and from them.

  35. City people smell funny.

  36. People like JW really CAN turn anything into a culture war.

    Nope, not playing.

    When did *I* do that? Heck, we suburbanites are content to live in our world, shopping in the ‘burbs, coming into the city for museums and good bars or a night out, but the urbanites can’t leave well enough alone. The culture war you speak of has long been going on.

  37. But I’m not talking about oil disappearing tomorrow. I’m just saying it will get much more expensive and it’s sort of a no-brainer that the closer together people live the less energy is needed to move them around and ship stuff to and from them.

    In theory, that’s correct. In practice, it doesn’t work that way, because energy costs are just one of the many costs that businesses must absorb.

    Big cities tend to be more expensive because (in large part) big city mayors tend to be tax-and-spend-and-regulate liberals. This significantly increases the costs of doing business in their cities to the point that most businesses are willing to absorb higher energy costs by locating in the suburbs/exurbs/rural areas because it’s still cheaper than moving to the city.

    And, not surprisingly, most suburbanites are willing to do the same thing, because living in a clean, safe, quiet neighborhood is worth more to them than saving a few extra dollars on gas each month.

  38. Anyway, sign me up for that nuclear-powered car.

    We already have them. If you have an electric car and live in a city that gets its power from a nuclear power plant, then your car essentially is “nuclear powered”.

  39. Clicked submit too soon….

    My point was that the “sprawl” argument is a false argument, one of language dancing around the de-personalized core values that I suspect most people would strenuously object to if the lanqauge were honest.

    It’s a house on a street in a neighborhood. It’s a home where I raise my family. Not “sprawl.”

    If this collectivist-urban ideal didn’t have an ugly word to hang it on (and something for the talking heads and chattering classes to cluck their tongues and furrow their brows over), it would fall apart in a New York minute.

  40. It’s a house on a street in a neighborhood. It’s a home where I raise my family. Not “sprawl.”

    Sprawl doesn’t refer to just your house, but rather the larger effect of metro areas expanding geographically outward.

  41. “I’m rambling but there’s obviously a lot of chickens and eggs in this equasion.” – DT

    (Begin snark sequence.)
    Why would you expect to be treated as an intellectual with a good grasp on the economic and cultural trends associated with rural and suburban development – much less the general trend of human history in Western civilization and energy consumption in industrial nations – when you not only mis-spell the word “equation” but you mix a mathematical concept with a mixed metaphor that makes it look like you’re calculating an SAT word problem about chickens and eggs?
    (End snark sequence)

    “But of course the ‘free enterprise’ that produces automobiles is wholly dependent on the society to build roads – otherwise the cars are pretty much useless.” – DT

    Only in a scenario where the gov’t maintains a monopoly on road-building. Like, say, the reality we live in today as opposed to “libertopia.” Still…

    “Not that ‘socialism’ couldn’t build roads at a faster pace than it does, but people wouldn’t be willing to pay the price.” – DT

    Actually, socialism SUBTRACTS value while capitalism is intended to ADD value. Gov’t bureaucracy is a drain on a nation’s value that doesn’t itself generate value, and it must sustain itself from the value it is re-distributing. (In business this is referred to as skimming, or embezzling.)

    Think of it this way, all governments incorporate so much value-subtracting bureaucracy that it is nearly an inverse-square ratio. (You like weird, mixed metaphor mathematical comparisons, right?)

    Since the two quantities are inversely proportional, an increase in one quantity (gov’t bureaucracy/control) results in a decrease in the value of the other quantity (gov’t road construction).

    Essentially, as the gov’t attempts to do more, it requires almost twice the bureaucracy to go half as far. So the more it attempts to control or construct, the less it actually accomplishes per tax dollar.

    “So traffic jams exist because people would rather sit in traffic than pay for more roads.” – DT

    Actually, I think that if it were up to consumers, roads would be built to handle the traffic flow following supply and demand, rather than based on the whims of politicians looking for pork in their district. (Bridge to nowhere in Alaska, for example…)

    “That and the fact that the more roads are built, the quicker and more efficent automobile transportation becomes, and the more people are encouraged to drive, which leads to traffic jams, etc.” -DT

    Wow, now there’s a self-fulfilling logical circle if you stop where you do. How about taking it to its next logical step, though, which is that once sufficient roads are built to handle the traffic – even the increased “encouraged” traffic – you can stop building and expanding roads?

    But that’s just that crackpot supply and demand theory, right?

  42. JW – joe’s just mad that someone finally figured out that the “Newspeak” term sprawl refers to in “OldSpeak”: “people’s homes, businesses, farms, businesses and communities that exist in non-metropolitan areas.”

    That he accuses you of turning the discussion into a “culture war” is equally Orwellian.

  43. Dan, I’m not really sure I see your point.

    “But I’m not talking about oil disappearing tomorrow”
    you claimed that suburban living is unsustainable because it is dependent on cheap oil. My point is that urban living is unsustainable for the same reason. If you want to argue that we will use up oil at a slower rate in an urban center, that’s fine, but it doesn’t make that urban center any more sustainable. The dependence on transportation exists in both cases. (less so in suburbia, because suburbia could more easily transistion to subsistance farming than an urban area could.)

  44. Actually, now that I think of it, the anti-sprawl crowd kind of reminds me of people who advocate “Pleistocene re-wilding” – they think we should introduce lions, cheetahs, elephants and camels into the American Southwest.

    Where do you stop “pro-actively” conserving the world? Why is stopping at the Pleistocene the right answer? Why not farther back? Why not the end of the the early Proterozoic Age when everything was covered in ice?

    The same question applies to the concept of “sprawl”: where do you decide to stop the clock on the expansion of cities? The early 1900s before the advent of the automobile?

    Why not go even further back – forcing everyone out of the cities and into rural farming and fishing villages? Even better, why not raze the villages and “re-introduce” the hunter-gatherer life style – since it is clearly as superior to city-dwelling as city-dwelling is to suburb-dwelling?

    Admittedly, this is an extrapolation to absurdity, but I think that it is somewhat fair.

  45. rob,

    We like your way of thinking. Join us in hard exoskeleton bliss.

  46. (Begin snark sequence.)
    Why would you expect to be treated as an intellectual with a good grasp on the economic and cultural trends associated with rural and suburban development – much less the general trend of human history in Western civilization and energy consumption in industrial nations – when you not only mis-spell the word “equation” but you mix a mathematical concept with a mixed metaphor that makes it look like you’re calculating an SAT word problem about chickens and eggs?
    (End snark sequence)

    You got me – I sometimes “mis-spell” words on blog comments. And yes, my metaphor was lousy but the point was simply that when talking about road use supply and demand are not so easily differentiated from each other?the more people drive, the more roads you must build, and the more roads you build, the more people will drive.

    Only in a scenario where the gov’t maintains a monopoly on road-building. Like, say, the reality we live in today as opposed to “libertopia.” Still…

    For a city to work, roads pretty much have to be public. In libertopia, you may find that you’re trapped in your house because the road owner has decided to triple your charge for using his property to get to your job.


    Actually, socialism SUBTRACTS value while capitalism is intended to ADD value. Gov’t bureaucracy is a drain on a nation’s value that doesn’t itself generate value, and it must sustain itself from the value it is re-distributing. (In business this is referred to as skimming, or embezzling.)

    Socialism doesn’t necessarily subtract value. It depends on how and when it’s applied. (For example, Central Park is a socialist project that has added tremendous value to privately owned property in NYC). Capitalism works well with things like consumer goods, not so well with infrastructure.

    Wow, now there’s a self-fulfilling logical circle if you stop where you do. How about taking it to its next logical step, though, which is that once sufficient roads are built to handle the traffic – even the increased “encouraged” traffic – you can stop building and expanding roads?

    I suppose in theory a city could build a system of roads so massive that no amount of cars that would ever drive on it would cause a traffic jam. But I can’t help but think that it would be so expensive people might begin to think that they’d rather sit through at least some traffic rather than have their entire paychecks taxed to build something like that.

    It’s all about allocation of resources. Sometimes, planning actually works better than letting everybody do what they want and praying that it somehow all comes together well.

  47. I grew up in Livonia Michigan. It is what then was an outer ring suberb. Dan T. My mother raised six children without a drivers license. We walked to the grocery store, the bank, two shopping centers within 3 miles, the ice rink, the bowling alley, the swimming pool at the closest high school, A monstrous park (Hines Park), movie theaters etc. She walked to work. Please explain to me again the unsustainability because petroleum won’t be cheap forever.

    Of course, if the family stayed in Detroit we wouldn’t have missed out on the urban decay, corrupt government, disfunctional schools and the ’67 riots. But you have to make trade offs you know.

  48. Sprawl doesn’t refer to just your house, but rather the larger effect of metro areas expanding geographically outward.

    You’re missing the trees for the forest.

    Sprawl refers to my house, my neighbor’s house, my friend’s townhouse in another town, and the people living where developer bought a non-working farm and turned the land productive again, into a place for a growing population to live.

    That’s a whole bunch of people to be dissing with such a derogatory term. These are good people, who go to work every day and work hard to pay for these homes. You owe these people a minimum of respect and at least discuss this honestly and not hide behind a sneering and dismissive term.

    Don’t even get me started on “smart” growth. Dear GOD that’s dripping hubris.

  49. I’m a suburban dweller, too. It’s purely a matter of money – the condos downtown are smaller but cost twice as much as mine in the suburbs. Plus, I love to bike. Out in the burbs, I only have to ride my bike eight miles before I am on a lovely blacktop county road in the middle of nowhere with no traffic.

    Oddly enough, if I lived downtown, I’d have to drive farther to get to the grocery store than I do now. There are nearly as many companies with their offices located in suburbia as there are downtown, so a lot of people who live where I do can bike to work in the summer.

  50. J sub D, do you really think people in the suburbs could suddenly start walking everywhere? I don’t know anything about the Detriot area circa 1960’s but that doesn’t seem reasonable in today’s suburbs.

    Heck, I live close to my job in car terms but it would still probably take me two hours walking each way. I’d lose some weight but other than that it doesn’t sound too realistic.

    The suburbs are build with cars in mind as the primary mode of transportation.

  51. “The big beef that lefties have with suburbs is that they allow the bourgoisie to live in comfort while simultaneously allowing them to escape the high taxes and regulatory control of the Big Cities and still enjoy the benefits of jobs, commerce, education and social services provided by them.”

    Amen, Captain Holly.

  52. Dan T.,

    I was at a luncheon yesterday with some people who are working on fixing one of our many interchange problems in Tampa. They are private contractors working on a public toll road. I asked them why the Veterans’ Expressway (a toll road running north-south in western Hillsborough County) was foolishly built as a four-lane highway when the need and demand for a larger highway was obvious when the danged thing was built (as was the massive growth in the area that, in fact, occurred). The answer was money, of course.

    To me, that highlights an obvious flaw with government control over the roads. The decision to build a dramatically inadequate road came down solely to funding, and, possibly (and to a much, much smaller degree), to some planners subtly sabotaging an easy route from the suburbs to the city, because they don’t like sprawl.

    Over the medium term, this is a crazy decision, even financially speaking. The cost of land has been skyrocketing, and it would’ve been incredibly cheaper to have built a bigger road in the first place. Not to mention that to have built it correctly from the outset would’ve avoided the massive inconvenience to drivers (wasn’t an existing thoroughfare to begin with, so no displaced drivers), and the land involved was relatively undeveloped back then. Not so today.

    I think a private company responsible for the building and ongoing functionality of the road would’ve been more concerned about future costs and increased revenues (more lanes, more traffic, more tolls, more money) than a government entity worried about this year’s budget (and the political costs of spending too much money) while, simultaneously, not worrying so much about the money since there’s more where that came from!

    I should disclose that this evil Toll Parking Lot that they humorously call a “road” is one that I’m forced to contend with every day. So, yes, I’m bitter, and I spend at least some time daily trying to figure out why the bastards that built this thing did it in such a stupid way 🙂

    Oh, by the way, for those of you like Dan T. with spelling issues, Firefox 2.0 has a built-in spell checker for forms. Very nice, though it doesn’t check your grammar or your reasoning. Unfortunately.


  53. That’s a whole bunch of people to be dissing with such a derogatory term. These are good people, who go to work every day and work hard to pay for these homes. You owe these people a minimum of respect and at least discuss this honestly and not hide behind a sneering and dismissive term.

    I’m not sure why you’re so defensive – the point is not that suburban dwellers are bad people, but rather that collectively building more and more suburbs is a poor allocation of resources that is going to be more and more difficult to sustain as oil prices climb. Not to mention the strain on public resources such as utilities and police, pollution caused by excess driving, traffic jams, etc.

    Fine with me if you want to use another term besides “sprawl”. But euphimisms won’t solve the problem.

  54. But I’m not talking about oil disappearing tomorrow. I’m just saying it will get much more expensive and it’s sort of a no-brainer that the closer together people live the less energy is needed to move them around and ship stuff to and from them.

    Actually it takes much more energy to move people and ship stuff to a tenth floor condo than a typical suburban house when you include water, sewage, air conditioning, elevators, etc. And the energy is much more critical. A power outage in the suburbs means you open the windows. In the city even if you can open windows you get no cross-ventilation. When the pumps shut down so does water and sewer. And if you can’t walk up ten flights of stairs you’re trapped.

    OTOH I have a problem with these studies because they use an obsolete value for “social interaction.” Fifty years ago most people did most of their socializing with other people who lived close to them simply because that’s the only people who were accessible.

    Today, why should I discuss politics with strangers in the immaculately clean, well used park down at the end of my suburban block when I can get on H&R and find people who occasionally agree with me? Why should I try to find a dozen members of my neighborhood who write fiction and want to participate in a writer’s critique group when I can drive ten minutes and meet with a dozen truly committed writers from all corners of my small town? Why should I attend the small church within walking distance of my house when I can drive for ten minutes and get to a larger church that supports my particular religious philosophy?

    Don’t get me wrong, I get along with my neighbors. But my friends live all over the world.

  55. Dan T. So you choose to live six-eight miles from where you work (I don’t know your walking speed). Sounds pretty unsustainable to me. You ought to move closer. Or maybe, hold onto your hat, buy a bike!

    Single family homes, parks/playgrounds every mile (not counting schoolyards), everything accessable by foot, more so by bike, low crime quality schools, it’s still there. So is Detroit. It has its charms, really, but it’s no place to raise a family.

  56. “The big beef that lefties have with suburbs is that they allow the bourgoisie to live in comfort while simultaneously allowing them to escape the high taxes and regulatory control of the Big Cities and still enjoy the benefits of jobs, commerce, education and social services provided by them.”

    So it’s unreasonable for people to complain when others enjoy the benefits of a city without having to pay their share of the costs?

  57. Environmental issues aside, if cheap oil were to go away forever, we have a large number of substitutes that, singly or together, would either equal or not much exceed the costs of oil today.

    I think all the sprawl talk is largely nonsense, but there’s more credibility in discussing larger detrimental environmental effects associated with people being more spread out than in talking about the suburbs going away when energy stops being cheap. That’s never going to happen as long as we remain a technological society. I don’t buy entirely the environmental argument, either, but at least it’s debatable. For the most part, I think most anti-suburban talk is a matter of aesthetics and politics, and the debate should probably stay there.

  58. I think a private company responsible for the building and ongoing functionality of the road would’ve been more concerned about future costs and increased revenues (more lanes, more traffic, more tolls, more money) than a government entity worried about this year’s budget (and the political costs of spending too much money)

    You think you’re annoyed now, wait until that private company realizes that they can charge drivers a ton of money to use their road since you appear to have no alternative. Maybe in the true spirit of the free market several private groups can build competing roads parallel with one another all over the city?

  59. I’m not sure why you’re so defensive – the point is not that suburban dwellers are bad people, but rather that collectively building more and more suburbs is a poor allocation of resources that is going to be more and more difficult to sustain as oil prices climb. Not to mention the strain on public resources such as utilities and police, pollution caused by excess driving, traffic jams, etc.

    Fine with me if you want to use another term besides “sprawl”. But euphimisms won’t solve the problem.

    No defensiveness at all. I’m just trying to make the debate honest. To that end, euphimisms *are* the problem.

    So Dan, what’s the solution for those of us with the temerity to not live in a city, who might want a bit of yard and personal space? And frankly, all those problems sounds like they’ll be a problem for the suburbanites too. Do you think they’ll just go blindly through life or look for solutions that don’t involve corralling everyone into one big housing project?

    Washington, DC couldn’t support its suburban population within it’s borders if it tried. It would be an even bigger distopia that what’s there now. What’s the solution is cases like this? Population controls?

    Really, let’s get down to the brass tacks of the issue; what’s the urban planner’s solution to choice and free will? Just how coercive are you guys willing to get?

  60. So it’s unreasonable for people to complain when others enjoy the benefits of a city without having to pay their share of the costs?

    I tell you what, the suburbs will take all of their business to the suburbs and let’s see how things go.

    Just how long do you think a city could survive without the money suburbanites spend every day in their fair city?

  61. “You got me…” – DT

    Just jerkin’ your chain man…

    “For a city to work, roads pretty much have to be public. In libertopia, you may find that you’re trapped in your house because the road owner has decided to triple your charge for using his property to get to your job.” – DT

    But if you’re a guy with a job then the odds are pretty good that you won’t be priced out of road usage for 2 reasons: 1) because it will undoubtedly be cheaper for the road’s owner to make a profit at less than what you would have paid in taxes for the same road, and 2) if he’s pricing the working stiff out of being able to use the road he’s losing the overwhelming majority of his customer base.

    And if you’re a guy without a job, then you’ve got bigger problems than road fees – you’re worrying about where your next meal will come from in “libertopia”!

    “Socialism doesn’t necessarily subtract value. It depends on how and when it’s applied.” – DT

    How can a bureaucracy that takes value from those who earned it, who then take a cut of that value for themselves before re-distributing among those who had nothing to do with creating that value, not be subtracting value?

    “(For example, Central Park is a socialist project that has added tremendous value to privately owned property in NYC).” – DT

    But Central Park isn’t really a socialist project per se, because though it is city-owned and city-regulated, the idea of a “commons” pre-dates Karl Marx.

    “Capitalism works well with things like consumer goods, not so well with infrastructure.” – DT

    I don’t think it’s really possible to prove or disprove something that’s never been attempted – like whether capitalism would work well for infrastructure. I find it hard to believe that it would do a worse job of allocating resources, frankly.

    “I suppose in theory a city could build a system of roads so massive that no amount of cars that would ever drive on it would cause a traffic jam.” – DT

    I think it’s certainly within the realm of the possible – at least it seems more likely than the idea that the gov’t will fail to mismanage tax dollars.

    “But I can’t help but think that it would be so expensive people might begin to think that they’d rather sit through at least some traffic rather than have their entire paychecks taxed to build something like that.” – DT

    I would guess that it could be accomplished for less than the gov’t bureaucracy’s process for maintaining the current system based on the profit incentive that would be available, but like I said, it’s tough to prove or disprove something that’s never been tried. For example, Tokyo has built some amazing structures that seem far more complicated than the “mega-highway” we’re talking about.

    “It’s all about allocation of resources. Sometimes, planning actually works better than letting everybody do what they want and praying that it somehow all comes together well.” – DT

    Anecdotally, I have yet to see an example of central planning that was capable of overcoming individual initiative. As for allocation of resources, well, I’d love to show you my plans for allocating your resources to the projects that I really want to see accomplished, but somehow I doubt you’re very open to my plan to empty your bank account for the greater good…

  62. I tell you what, the suburbs will take all of their business to the suburbs and let’s see how things go.

    Just how long do you think a city could survive without the money suburbanites spend every day in their fair city?

    I concur wholeheartedly. Here in Detroit, we are trying desperately to lure suburbanites back into the city for entertainment and shopping. We are finally having some success.
    That doesn’t stop Detroiters from bashing the suburbanites, but the Detroiters gets bashed by the suburbs as well. Is this healthy? Hell if I know.

  63. “So it’s unreasonable for people to complain when others enjoy the benefits of a city without having to pay their share of the costs?”

    You mean if I live in the suburbs I get to eat, drink, and go to musicals and pro games for free. WOW!

    Sarcasm of course, but it sure does demonstrate the pathology of someone who thinks that one pays “their share of the costs” only by paying taxes.

  64. Psst, he rob.

    ‘JW – joe’s just mad that someone finally figured out that the “Newspeak” term sprawl refers to in “OldSpeak”: “people’s homes, businesses, farms, businesses and communities that exist in non-metropolitan areas.”‘

    I’ve got a secret. Don’t tell anyone.

    People who live in older neighborhoods have homes, businesses, farms, businesses, and communities, too.

    The term “sprawl” doesn’t refer to these things. It refers to a particular manner of building them.

  65. Sarcasm of course, but it sure does demonstrate the pathology of someone who thinks that one pays “their share of the costs” only by paying taxes.

    The problem with the social engineering types like Dan T is not that you pay for what you use. It’s that they can’t make that decision for you.

  66. J sub D,

    The old-fashioned, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use town you grew up in is not an example of sprawl, but of traditional development. The distinction between sprawl and smart growth (neener neener nee-ner, JW) is not whether there is development outside of central cities, but how that development occurs. Building places like the one you described is the alternative to sprawl that people aware of its costs are advocating.

    In other words, you sprawlers, all your pre-1950s suburbs are belong to us.

    Pirate Jo,

    If your suburban town had been built a little differently, you would be even closer to both the countryside and to the grocery store.

    JW,

    “what’s the solution for those of us with the temerity to not live in a city, who might want a bit of yard and personal space?”

    Allow the developers to build more densely, and with a greater mix of housing types and land uses in close proximity, than is currently allowed under the social-engineering zoning regimes that created suburban sprawl in the first place.

    Link neighborhoods built on this concept, and the industrial centers that service them, with more energy efficient means of transportation.

  67. joe–A golden opporunity to humanize your ideas missed.

    Why can’t urban planners expess themselves without resorting to slurs or elitist labels?

    Ah well, this is why generals refer to civilian deaths as “collateral damage.” Easier to sleep at night I guess.

  68. “People who live in older neighborhoods have homes, businesses, farms, businesses, and communities, too.” – joe

    Right. But you’re not arguing against the way those folks choose to live. If you were, I’d be hammering you for trying to limit – or eliminate – THEIR freedom to live as they choose.

    “The term ‘sprawl’ doesn’t refer to these things. It refers to a particular manner of building them.” – joe

    And you happen to be firmly opposed to the particular manner certain folks have chosen to build their lives.

    Well, now that we’ve got it out in the open – the fact that you are opposed to the entire manner in which a large number of people choose to live – what do you have to say in defense of your ideologically-driven desire to have people to live in a manner they would not choose if it were left up to them instead of you?

  69. Allow the developers to build more densely, and with a greater mix of housing types and land uses in close proximity, than is currently allowed under the social-engineering zoning regimes that created suburban sprawl in the first place

    Every town should have a Cabrini Green, Thats what I say!

  70. Allow the developers to build more densely, and with a greater mix of housing types and land uses in close proximity, than is currently allowed under the social-engineering zoning regimes that created suburban sprawl in the first place.

    Sorry, not interested. We have a huge tract of garden apartments nearby that is largely a ghetto in the middle of a series of middle-class, placid neighborhoods.

    And we should just trust you that you won’t screw up this time?

    The next house I have is going to be nowhere near “mixed-use” housing. I like my violent crime rate a bit lower, thank you.

  71. “Pirate Jo,

    If your suburban town had been built a little differently, you would be even closer to both the countryside and to the grocery store.”

    Well there are already people in my suburban town who are even closer to both the countryside and the grocery store – those lucky bastards live ten whole blocks away.

  72. JW,

    The right not hear unsettling truths is not one I have a great deal of respect for.

    And as far as “slurs or elitist labels,” why don’t you scroll your mouse wheel upthread, and take a look at who turned a civil thread about this study, and the implications of different development patterns on social interaction, into a series of slurs and ad homenim attacks on the other side’s character and motives? Hint: it happened around 1:30 PM, right around the time we were graced with the presence of you and rob.

    rob, I am not going to cease making factual statments just because you don’t want to hear them, or dislike their implications. Truth is truth; deal with it.

    PS – asserting that I hold a belief – in this case, that I object “to the particular manner certain folks have chosen to build their lives” – isn’t getting anything out into the open other than your need to make up positions to argue against when you can’t argue against the ones presented.

    “You are a dishonest piece of crap. Now that we’ve gotten that out into the open, allow me to congratulate myself on being your superior.” How infantile. If you would like to ask me anything about what I have actually written, I may respond.

    PS, any time you would care to aim this accusation where it belongs – at people like JW, who openly says that he is “not interested” in allowing anyone to build anything different than his preferred housing style, you should feel free. But you won’t because you are a dishonest hypocrite who would rather use such an argument dishonestly than honestly, so that you can pick a fight with me.

    suburban planner,

    Your inability to imagine options besides Cabrini Green and Long Island-style sprawl in an indictment of your own beliefs, not mine.

  73. Your inability to imagine options besides Cabrini Green and Long Island-style sprawl in an indictment of your own beliefs, not mine.

    Real urban planners, college educated, experts in their field, gave us Cabrini Green. A poor dumb high school grad like me could never screw up that spectacularly.

    You don’t like how “other” communities zone to create the lifestyle that they want, too damn bad. Anti-sprawl advocates remind me of cry babies. WAAAHH! It’s not fair they have money and are spending it the way they want not the way I know they should. Also a lot of arrogance.

  74. Brilliant reasoning, suburban planner.

    First, adopt a zoning regime to keep out the undesireables.

    Then poll those who can afford to live there, and report that “the public” is strongly supportive of the snob zoning.

    Not so very different than the support for segregation among those who were allowed to vote in Alabama in the 1930s.

  75. Not so very different than the support for segregation among those who were allowed to vote in Alabama in the 1930s.

    When all else fails, play the racist card. Brilliant. It has never been tried before so it won’t be recognized for what it is. BULLSHIT!
    Rich people don’t want to live next to poor people, since they can afford it, they don’t. Equal rights does not mean equal outcomes.

    Also, I noticed no response about the professionalism of Cabrini Green designers. As you are most probably aware, Cabrini Green is just thee most famous example of dozens of similar projects. All designed by real urban planners. Now, 40 years later, were blowing them up all over the country. How many “sprawl” houses built 40 years ago are uninhabitable and can’t even be restored? Take your genius planners and go visit SIM CITY.

  76. Oh, in the intersts of full disclosure I normally post under J sub D. I created (sub)urban planner as a joke and Joe, you got me going.

  77. All else didn’t fail. I gave a perfectly reasonable rejoinder to your naked assertion about the popularity of snob zoning among those who benefit from it, and your (non)response was to pretend to be offended, because I noted its similarity to another, similar case of popular support meaning less than meets the eye.

    And since you clearly don’t know very much about the subject, let me enlighten you about something: sprawl was created by planners – or rather, by governments acting to incorporate certain theories about planning into the development process – just as assuredly as urban renewal. You think those minimum lot sizes and bans on rental housing and corner stores appeared by themselves?

    Both were social engineering schemes from a previous generation of planners and politicians, which have proven to be outmoded and destructive to the broader community. But, in typical conservatarian style, since you like the outcome of one of the social engineering projects, you convince yourself that it represents the state of nature.

    Read a book. And not one written by a political op-ed writer you already agree with.

  78. The right not hear unsettling truths is not one I have a great deal of respect for.

    I’m not sure exactly what that is supposed to mean. You and you only speak the truth and no one else?

    And as far as “slurs or elitist labels,” why don’t you scroll your mouse wheel upthread, and take a look at who turned a civil thread about this study, and the implications of different development patterns on social interaction, into a series of slurs and ad homenim attacks on the other side’s character and motives? Hint: it happened around 1:30 PM, right around the time we were graced with the presence of you and rob.

    Thinking I may have forgotten something I wrote, I went back and looked at my posts and can find nothing of the sort. You must have me confused with another JW.

    If you were offended by something I wrote today, your skin is far thinner than I could have imagined.

  79. joe,

    Even if you can score a point or two on the positions of your adversaries, you still lose in the final analysis, because, in the core of your argument, you still carry water for the viewpoint that you, and people like you, know better than the rest of us what constitutes a ‘proper’ neighborhood.

    This is a patently unsupportable position, by the way. It can be safely said that of the best places to live in the world, none of them were centrally planned.

    The proper neighborhood is the one you choose to live in and feel comfortable in, regardless of what some central planner might prefer. Even the ‘efficiency’ argument doesn’t alter (or have any meaningful bearing on) the fact of living preference. Attempts to mold people to fit your notion of a society are doomed to fail, and should be surrendered immediately.

    And I say this as a perfectly happy urban dweller, who has no desire at all to live in the burbs.

    Also, no matter how you attempt to justify it, ‘sprawl’ IS a euphemism for ‘we don’t like the way you do things, because it isn’t the way we want you to do it’. There’s a small place in the scheme of things for limited central planning of some characteristics of an area, but it isn’t even close to being the end all solution. It is, at most, a single tool (on the order of a screwdriver) in the toolbox of configuring a space for humans.

  80. Homer,

    You are quite mistaken about that. How many of my adversaries can boast have spent dozens upon dozens of evenings holding meetings to talk to people about what they wanted for their neighborhoods? I have – it’s what planners do for a living.

    How many of them would even admit that the general public even has the right to have a say in that question? The answer is zero, because depriving the public of their right to define their community’s character is anathema to libertarians, ‘property rights’ philosophy.

    “It can be safely said that of the best places to live in the world, none of them were centrally planned.”

    Paris, Rome, Northwest Washington, Seattle…nope, no planning there.

    “The proper neighborhood is the one you choose to live in and feel comfortable in, regardless of what some central planner might prefer…”

    Developers, on the other hand, are to be given all of the authority to determine how places would be built, with the public having no say whatsoever.

    I’ll say it again: planning is about incorporating the public’s values into development. Planners support that, because we have faith in the public’s ability to exercise that responsibility thoughtfully. Libertarians do not, because they are hostile to the hoi polloi telling their betters in the development community what they want their communities to be.

    “Also, no matter how you attempt to justify it, ‘sprawl’ IS a euphemism for ‘we don’t like the way you do things, because it isn’t the way we want you to do it’.” No, it’s not. Sprawl is a term for a particular development pattern which does measureable harm to the environment and the function of a metropolitan area. Saying I object to is because it’s not how I like to do things is like saying I object to dumping mercury in streams because that’s not how I like to do things. You’re right, it’s not how I like to do things, and there are legitimate reasons why.


  81. I’ll say it again: planning is about incorporating the public’s values into development. Planners support that, because we have faith in the public’s ability to exercise that responsibility thoughtfully. Libertarians do not, because they are hostile to the hoi polloi telling their betters in the development community what they want their communities to be.

    Aren’t we part of the hoi polloi? We’re hostile to ourselves?

    You just keep coming on as an elitist snob joe. Betters? Wow. I feel all Victorian now.

    I want to give you credit for more than that, but you keep coming back to the point that you know better than we do and that signals the market sends you that clashes with your belief system are to be ignored.

    You think that by going through the motions and holding hearings that it has any significant effect on your decision. People make the decision to move the exurbs to find an affordable house or a better quality of life and you tell them they are wrong for wanting to do so. They tell you they don’t wnat high-density development and you just look at them as if they are nuts.

    Assuming the public at these meetings disagreed with every propoosal and design methodology you made, would you go back to the drawing board or plow ahead anyway and tell them to get used to it?

    Considering your comments so far, the latter is the most likely.

  82. Sprawl is a term for a particular development pattern which does measureable harm to the environment and the function of a metropolitan area.

    No, it’s a euphemism to draw attention away from the real issue, which that you are playing god with people’s homes and covering it up with an unpleasant word to rebut criticism before it begins. You could use a non-emotionally charged word, but that wouldn’t have the same punch on the evening news.

    Like an aggrieved minority who uses charges of racism to deflect attention from the real issue and stop any debate, you and other true believers use this language to blunt opposing viewpoints and color standing market preference with a stain from the start.

    It’s not enough to persuade people. You have to shame and stigmatize them too.

  83. And yes, I’m an ass for calling you an elitist snob while criticising you for using slurs. My snarky side get the best of me too often.

  84. “rob, I am not going to cease making factual statments just because you don’t want to hear them, or dislike their implications. Truth is truth; deal with it.” – joe

    Then you should start making factual statements. I’ve re-read this thread and all I see are your opinions, not facts.

    “asserting that I hold a belief – in this case, that I object ‘to the particular manner certain folks have chosen to build their lives’ – isn’t getting anything out into the open other than your need to make up positions to argue against when you can’t argue against the ones presented.” – joe

    Really? So you aren’t against what you refer to as “sprawl” even if it is how people choose to live?

    “‘You are a dishonest piece of crap. Now that we’ve gotten that out into the open, allow me to congratulate myself on being your superior.’ How infantile.”

    Kettle, pot. I think that my characterization of your position is accurate, but you are offended by it. That can only be either because you DON’T hold to that argument or you’re offended that people have realized the moral bankruptcy of your argument. So prove it’s the former by explaining how your position actually differs from what I said, instead of whining about it and calling me names.

    “If you would like to ask me anything about what I have actually written, I may respond.” – joe

    See the last sentence of my previous paragraph.

    “But you won’t because you are a dishonest hypocrite who would rather use such an argument dishonestly than honestly, so that you can pick a fight with me.” – joe

    Show how my argument is dishonest, much less wrong, and then either I’ll be in agreement with you or we can argue over your “new, improved” position.

    As for my desire to pick a fight with you – don’t be surprised by that. We rarely agree on things as it is, but if your arguments can’t withstand vigorous opposition, maybe you should consider modifying them.

  85. Sprawl is a term for a particular development pattern which does measureable harm to the environment and the function of a metropolitan area.

    If you claim ‘measurable harm’, what is your objective and empirical evidence for that harm?

    I’d probably agree that there is some reasonable case that can be made for environmental effects, although calling it damage in every case is probably excessive, but your argument about the function of a metropolitan area seems a bit foggy in scope.

    The ‘function’ of a metropolitan area is entirely based upon the value that area provides to the people who live in and around that area, and that value has to be, by it’s very nature, a subjective value. What it means is going to be clearly different to different people, and to argue that there is one (or some single particular subset of) criteria that encapsulates the function of a metropolitan area is both disingenous and dishonest. To make that claim clearly demonstrates my argument that you believe you know better than the rest of us what it should be.

    So, what is your objective criteria for ‘sprawl’ that clearly demonstrates harm to all, even those who choose to live in those areas?

    How many of them would even admit that the general public even has the right to have a say in that question?

    You’ve got to be kidding. You are the one that is arguing against the right of a portion of the public to define the character of their community (and you hide behind your euphemism of ‘sprawl’). As a libertarian, I’m perfectly fine with the idea of allowing like minded people to choose the character of their community. Relatedly, I am completely opposed to the idea that people should be forced to accept some particular ‘vision’ of a community.

  86. JW, it’s clear that no amount of explanation about what I believe is going to alter your inaccurate perceptions, because you are so beholden to them. So I’m no longer going to try. I know that I take seriously the public’s right to define their community’s character. All of your “nuh-uh, you don’t really”s don’t change that.

    rob,

    All you ever do is manufacture outrage over my supposedly elitist or racist statements, and yet you are never to be found when actual racist (“Muslims are uncivilized”) or elitist (“I don’t want poor people in my town”) comments are posted by other people. You’re a dishonest whiner, still smarting from the fact that I whip your ass whenver you stick your head up. Your dishonest bitching is meaningless.

    Homer,

    If you want to learn about the effects of sprawl, there are numerous studies you can find at http://www.planning.org.

    “You are the one that is arguing against the right of a portion of the public to define the character of their community (and you hide behind your euphemism of ‘sprawl’).” No, not at all. I am arguing that the public’s right to define the character of their community needs to occur at both the individual level, and also at the community level. Like most libertarians, you don’t seem to have a solid grasp of that second part.

    The individual decisions people make about where they want to live can be perfectly rational, and still produce irrational outcomes in the aggregate. For example, people who move the exurbs to escape heavy traffic may well reduce their own struggles with traffic, while actually making the overall traffic problem worse. As with those shepherds bringing their sheep to the common, the individual effort to maximize well-being simply isn’t a sufficient mechanism to achieve the overall good that each idividual would like to see.

    That isn’t a denial of each individual’s capacity for reason; it’s a recognition that phenomena happen at different scales, and need to be considered at the appropriate scale.

  87. JW, it’s clear that no amount of explanation about what I believe is going to alter your inaccurate perceptions, because you are so beholden to them. So I’m no longer going to try. I know that I take seriously the public’s right to define their community’s character. All of your “nuh-uh, you don’t really”s don’t change that.

    What’s the “community?”

    I live in a county with *very* wealthy families to the west to straight-off-the-boat Latino immigrants in the east. Top it off with rural residents in the north and you get the picture.

    Which one is the community? I would imagine that each of these simple groupings would have diametrically opposing ideas as to the “character” of their community. (Another interesting euphemism.)

  88. “All you ever do is manufacture outrage over my supposedly elitist or racist statements, and yet you are never to be found when actual racist (‘Muslims are uncivilized’) or elitist (‘I don’t want poor people in my town’) comments are posted by other people.” – joe

    Gee, joe, why do you think that is? Do you think it might be because I don’t even have enough respect for them to argue with them? Just because I don’t bother to post how idiotic I think other racist/elitist comments are, you think I don’t dismiss them and hold a low opinion of them?

    Do you think it might have something to do with the fact that despite your tendency to often backslide into childish name-calling and hypocritical, whiny, self-delusional defense of the indefensible, your posts are often the closest thing this board has to principled, intelligent representation of your contrary viewpoint?

    The thing is that your arguments here are often the best arguments for your positions I’ve seen – when they don’t devolve into whiny “you’re mean to me” nonsense. That’s why I argue with you, instead of the dumb guy who argues for your positions. It’s why I don’t often bother to call out and denounce the dumb guy for his nonsense – I don’t even acknowledge them.

    “You’re a dishonest whiner, still smarting from the fact that I whip your ass whenver you stick your head up. Your dishonest bitching is meaningless.” – joe

    Wow. What a demonstration of arrogance and ad hom attack in place of reasoned argument. You know all the back-handed compliments I gave you previously in this comment? They still apply, because when you are “on point” you do a good job of presenting your side. When you’re not, well, you deserve “a good thumpin'” as the Republicans recently received.

    And a good thumpin’ is what you get from me on a regular basis, joe, and deservedly so. Don’t bitch because I don’t cut you any slack. Be proud that you usually withstand it without crying.

    (Warning: gratuituous “ad hom in kind” below)

    As for whipping me? Dude, if our rhetorical go-rounds were held in prison, you’d be the bitch cleaning the toilet in our cell…

  89. That isn’t a denial of each individual’s capacity for reason; it’s a recognition that phenomena happen at different scales, and need to be considered at the appropriate scale

    The problem is that your viewpoint (and that of others like you) is that those decisions of scale are ‘best’ made by ‘planners’, rather than by the people on the ground. In actuality, the ‘on the ground’ decisions almost ALWAYS produce better results than the decisions made ex machina. You claim that the people on the ground are included in your decision process, but if that were truly the case, you’d have to accept that the people on the ground tend to favor what you call ‘sprawl’ (and it’s not enough for you to say that their choice should be omitted since you believe that they’re wrong).

    And looking at a site called ‘planning.org’ for a definition of sprawl is like looking at nambla for a definition of pederasty. You’ve predefined the domain of the argument, so you don’t feel you need to defend it on objective grounds (it’s what you say it is, regardless of any facts on the ground).

    I don’t want your subjective, distasteful ‘opinion’ of what sprawl is, I want an objective, empirical definition that CLEARLY defines sprawl in a dispassionate manner, and that definitively describes, in specific, objective terms, how it is harmful to people AS A WHOLE (you have to describe how it is also harmful to those who choose to live in it).

    Saying that it offends your particular sensibilities is not an answer, I’m far more likely to consider that as a positive attribute of ‘sprawl’.

    I’m not dismissing the value of planning, as a concept, I’m dismissing it as the be all/end all method of organizing society.

  90. rob, joe… go to your rooms!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.