Hard truths about why conservatives and libertarians hate urbanism

It’s no secret that conservatives and libertarians don’t have very warm feelings towards urbanism. But with their emphasis on upzoning and reducing parking minimums, shouldn’t new urbanism and smart growth have at least some libertarian constituency? And given that local roads are paid for almost entirely out of general funds – that is to say, local roads are a blatant example of socialist redistribution – you’d think that there would be people on the free market right advocating raising the gas tax and tolling highways.

But alas, no such luck. Michele Bachmann thinks roads shouldn’t count as earmarks, Carl Paladino’s never met a road he didn’t want to detoll, and Mother Jones managed to cobble together a whole article’s full of “We don’t need none of that smart growth communism”-style rhetoric coming from the Tea Party. Now, it could just be that there are just too many suburban Republican voters whose homes, lives, and culture are invested in sprawl for any politician to oppose it. But that doesn’t explain the lack of support from libertarian think-tanks and magazines, who, by virtue of their complete lack of political viability, don’t have to worry about politics and getting re-elected in the suburbs. Cato and the Reason Foundation still toe the “war on drivers” line, with Randal O’Toole denying that any developers even want to build less parking than current minimums require.

So why don’t conservatives and libertarians have more compunction about sprawl? I believe the problem is more the messengers than the message. Despite the free market aspects of modern-day urbanism, smart growth and new urbanism are not libertarian movements. Urban planning is dominated by liberals, and it shows – few even seem aware of the capitalist roots of their plans. The private corporations that built America’s great cities and mass transit systems are all but forgotten by modern-day progressives and planners, who view the private sector as a junior partner at best. Yonah Freemark views Chicago’s meek and tentative steps towards transit re-privatization as a “commodification of the formerly public realm” that’s “scarring” American cities – his version of history apparently starts in 1947.  The Infrastructurist must have been reading from the same textbook, because Melissa Lafsky calls libertarianism her “enemy” and apparently believes that America reached its free market transportation peak around the 1950s. And Matt Yglesias, a rare liberal who understands the economic arguments in favor of allowing density, is routinely rebuffed by his commenters, who I doubt would be so offended if he were arguing for urbanism for environmental and social engineering reasons, as so many progressives and planners do today.

Beyond their voiced hostility towards capitalism, planners too often pass by obvious free market solutions in favor of mandates that are opposite from, but just as restrictive as the status quo. The DC Office of Planning wants to replace parking minimums with parking maximums, without any intermediate stop at the market equilibrium. Philadelphia is seeking to force parking garages in some places to be hidden behind retail facades, while vast swathes of the city still have minimum parking requirements. Washington State forces its cities to designate urban growth boundaries, but meanwhile kicks down very little state gas tax money to its localities, who in turn promote sprawl by paying for their local roads almost entirely out of general revenues. And when density is allowed, it is often contingent on developers getting LEED certification, offering some below-market rate housing, and building particular kinds of public space – nevermind that an expanding dense housing supply is inherently good for the environment, housing affordability, and street life.

Republicans and libertarians have not traditionally been very receptive to urban concerns, but planners have gone too far in their anti-capitalist attitudes. These tendencies not only result in bizarre contortions of public policy, but they also blind planners to their own libertarian tendencies and history. Unable to communicate these commonalities to conservatives, it’s no wonder the Tea Party doesn’t see why eliminating parking minimums, allowing dense development, or raising tolls are good things. Urbanists have to overcome the urge to write more stories about yuppies riding bikes, and instead channel some of that energy towards issues of fiscal fairness and overregulation in land use. They have to recognize that arguments about social justice and the environment aren’t going to cut it if they want to unite both halves of America and reverse its sprawling ways.

  • Oskar Chomicki

    Excellent stuff. As a conservative, I often wonder why people on my side of the aisle are so closely wedded to the suburban paradigm. That paradigm was hardly a free-market creation. How could it exist without the massive government interventions of the interstate system, the FHA, and the mortgage tax deduction? I think the typical right-winger’s antipathy to urbanism is rooted in a form of identity politics. Cities are more progressive culturally, they’re run by liberal interest groups, and they’re just plain more European. It’s the equivalent of the reaction that urban liberals get when confronted with the rural Heartland. In a sense, you can’t fault people for absorbing these kind of biases. We all have them to some extent or another. What you can fault people for is making bad public policy out of prejudices.

    Let’s be clear, this applies to people on left and right. Urban growth boundaries do limit supply and raise housing prices. Some light-rail systems are a huge waste of money. But highway spending is also often absurdly wasteful and transit-oriented development is not a prelude to communism. Adhering to rigidly ideological views on city planning issues is not only polarizing but ultimately harmful to the common good.

    We should certainly apply market principles to urbanism, whether in congestion pricing, parking, or density regulations, but this is a tricky proposition because city planning is by its very nature a public endeavor. Even a supposedly free-market city like Houston cannot get by without some form of building regulation. Basically, it’s a balancing act. But both conservatives and liberals need to reexamine their biases; otherwise, we are stuck with the same tired cliches. One side claims liberals are trying to force us all into cramped apartments and nasty public transit, while the other thinks suburbia is just a result of a greedy “sprawl” industry and the intolerance of some Americans for people of other races and socio-economic classes. This debate shouldn’t be dominated by the narrow-minded and quick to judge. Let’s take it away from them!

  • Oskar Chomicki

    Excellent stuff. As a conservative, I often wonder why people on my side of the aisle are so closely wedded to the suburban paradigm. That paradigm was hardly a free-market creation. How could it exist without the massive government interventions of the interstate system, the FHA, and the mortgage tax deduction? I think the typical right-winger’s antipathy to urbanism is rooted in a form of identity politics. Cities are more progressive culturally, they’re run by liberal interest groups, and they’re just plain more European. It’s the equivalent of the reaction that urban liberals get when confronted with the rural Heartland. In a sense, you can’t fault people for absorbing these kind of biases. We all have them to some extent or another. What you can fault people for is making bad public policy out of prejudices.

    Let’s be clear, this applies to people on left and right. Urban growth boundaries do limit supply and raise housing prices. Some light-rail systems are a huge waste of money. But highway spending is also often absurdly wasteful and transit-oriented development is not a prelude to communism. Adhering to rigidly ideological views on city planning issues is not only polarizing but ultimately harmful to the common good.

    We should certainly apply market principles to urbanism, whether in congestion pricing, parking, or density regulations, but this is a tricky proposition because city planning is by its very nature a public endeavor. Even a supposedly free-market city like Houston cannot get by without some form of building regulation. Basically, it’s a balancing act. But both conservatives and liberals need to reexamine their biases; otherwise, we are stuck with the same tired cliches. One side claims liberals are trying to force us all into cramped apartments and nasty public transit, while the other thinks suburbia is just a result of a greedy “sprawl” industry and the intolerance of some Americans for people of other races and socio-economic classes. This debate shouldn’t be dominated by the narrow-minded and quick to judge. Let’s take it away from them!

  • http://twitter.com/axoplasm Paul Souders

    Stephen, I agree with the particulars of your argument, but it glosses poorly. It reads like “the problem with conservatives is that liberals aren’t good enough.” It gives too much credit to liberals/statists as sole owners of the “urbanism” conversation. And it lets conservatives/libertarians off the hook far too easily.

    I think Oskar has a more productive line of thought. At least when it comes to urbanism, libertarians appear to be more motivated by tribalism than by principled theory or actual reality.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Stephen

    Well, aren’t “liberals/statists” the sole owners of the conversation? I follow a lot of urbanist blogs, and about 95% of them have a liberal tilt. Sure, there’s Randal O’Toole and Wendell Cox, but they live off on the libertarian urbanist reservation and rarely interact with the rest of the planning blogosphere.

    You’re right that libertarians have to own up to their own urbanist failures, and there’s definitely a lot of blame to go around. If I were talking to a libertarian, I would put things differently. But calling out libertarians and conservatives for not seeing the wisdom of urbanism is a tired trope – something this blog has done many, many times. I figured it was time for something new.

  • Benjamin Hemric

    In some ways, the issue that you’re raising, “Why conservatives and libertarians ‘hate’ [maybe this is too strong a word?] urbanism,” is the central issue of this blog, so it seems to me.

    Thus I’d like to submit some tentative (albeit lengthy!) thoughts on this issue, with the proviso that I may not be as familiar as others here are with the conservatives / libertarians who “hate” urbanism. For instance, I’m only passingly familiar with Randal O’Toole, so my thoughts are more geared to the libertarian types I admire who, surprisingly to me, seem to support what seems to me to be the Randal O’Toole line. I’m thinking here of Virginia Postrel, John Stoessel and John Tierney.

    1) I agree — but only in part — with those who say that a reason for this phenomenon are the messengers, rather than the message. (This argument seems to be the same to me as the “tribalism” argument, i.e., urbanists are [supposedly] in the other tribe, not our [belief in markets] tribe.)

    2) However, it also seems to me that many (most?) self-proclaimed market urbanists are, in fact, not “really” market urbanists at all, but actually true believers in “planning.” So, the skeptical conservatives / libertarians are, in fact, often correct in their skepticism of “market urbanism” (as it is practiced).

    It seems to me that most of the time the “real” interest of self-proclaimed market urbanists is actually in some sort of rather SPECIFIC end result rather than in a true belief in market mechanisms for “better” (in a more general way) settlements, whatever those settlements would actually be like as a result of market urbanism.

    On the other hand, some theories of “market urbanism” seem to me to take a belief in markets too far. For instance, I disagree with those “pure” libertarians who believe that urban settlements would be better off with the private ownerships of local streets.

    3) Now, in defense of both those who don’t really believe in market urbanism and those who take it too far, there does in fact seem to be a lot of genuine disagreement and confusion about how one should be defining “planning,” “market urbanism,” etc.

    I think this is due, in part, to the fact that there is no such thing, of course, as a TOTALLY market based urbanism (or economics, for that matter). To use the field of economics as an example (since the language of economics is this instance, believe it or not, actually clearer), even anti-planning market-oriented economists believe in SOME degree of government intervention and “planning” (i.e., so that an economy will avoid hyper inflation, bubbles, destabilizing “busts,” debilitating economic stagnation and lack of economic mobility, etc.).

    4) So it seems to me that a large part of the problem here is actually one of definitions and language, e.g., defining what is or is not “planning,” “market urbanism,” etc.

    With all the words in the English language, it may be that we do not currently have enough words to designate the different degrees and permutations of about “ideal” types of government intervention in urbanism (or economics, for that matter).

    For instance, imagine how difficult it would be to talk about religious beliefs (if one were bold enough to talk about religious beliefs) if we didn’t have enough words to cover the various major religions that exist and their many, many variations. I think it would be very difficult to talk fruitfully about the various beliefs of Christians if we had only one name to use, “Christian,” rather than (to take examples from various local churches) Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness, etc., etc., etc.

    5) In lieu of coining names for most of the various belief systems that are out there, here’s a very rough attempt at making a useful distinction between “planning” and “market urbanism.” (Some earlier and more detailed attempts along these lines are contained in comments on the “Discovering Urbanism” blog and, maybe, also here on the Market Urbanism blog.)

    Basically I think people are engaging in “planning” when they try to “overly” manage urbanism (or an economy) by fostering one sort of activity (or type of business, in the case of economies) over another in order to further a rather specific goal. The real purpose of government in “market urbanism,” however, is rather to take care of what seems to me to be “genuine” government functions that relate to very general goals — including the goal of maintaining a functional and efficient market place (a kind of “guardian” function, to borrow a concept from Jane Jacobs).

    So in my scheme of things, overly intrusive government “planning” does NOT include, however, activities like planning for a settlement’s water supply, planning for roads, planning for schools, parks, etc. These are, so it seems to me, legitimate government functions. This, to my way of thinking, is what governments legitimately do — and they’ve been doing this before the field of “urban planning” came along.

    I think of this legitimate type of government activity as “problem solving” rather than planning. “Planning,” though, is trying to “prevent,” via government intervention, supposed problems from occurring in the first place; “problem solving,” on the other hand, is first determining whether there is, in fact, a rationale for addressing a particular problem through governmental intervention and then, if there is, addressing the problem with very limited government intervention.

    At the moment, I’m inclined to think of this “problem solving” approach as being what I call “True Urbanism.” What is “True Urbanism”? It’s essentially the traditional urbanism that existed before the field of urban planning came along — but with the added insights / refinements that have been provided by Jane Jacobs in her seven major books (or, at least, as I interpret her writings in these books).

    6) To bring this back to the original issue, it seems to me that the “real” (or most fruitful) question then is, “What are differences that exist between self-described conservatives / libertarians and “market urbanists”/”true urbanists” — and would a market urbanist / true urbanist address such differences?

    It seems to me that one of the biggest, and a virtually unaddressed difference, is with regard to the “usefulness” of zoning. One would think, of course, that conservatives / libertarians would be very anti-zoning (and it seems to me that most of the early opponents of zoning were, indeed conservative and libertarian types) and would be in favor of only very limited forms of zoning, if even that. But, surprisingly (at least at first blush), this is not the case.

    So I think it would be very useful to take a closer look at the underlying reasons that “lapsed” libertarians are so surprisingly in favor of heavy-handed government intervention in this area. From a brief look at the “anti-planner” website (which I believe is Randal O’Toole’s website), the explanation that seems to come across (and I think I’ve seen this explanation elsewhere, also) is that what is, in essence, highly restrictive zoning is something that is necessary to help keep up property values.

    As a market urbanist/ true urbanist, it seems to me that, while there is some merit to this idea, it is nevertheless an essentially incorrect one. How could pre-zoning cities have had areas with such high property values if this was the case? In the pre-zoning era, for example, I believe Wall Street had the highest land values. And, intuitively, this makes sense as builders of high density structures can afford to pay more for land and thus make it more valuable.

    So I think it would be useful to look at both the pluses and minuses of the” zoning is essential to maintain high property values” idea as a way of better understanding “why conservatives and libertarians ‘hate’ urbanism” — and also as a way of developing better, less restrictive zoning regulations that nevertheless address any of their legitmate concerns.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Sat., November 20, 2010, 2:57 p.m.

  • http://twitter.com/axoplasm Paul Souders

    I think we violently agree. I want to underline that I agree with the thrust of your argument. My issue is rhetorical: what is this line of conversation intended to achieve; who is your audience?

    If you’re trying to swing libertarians around to market urbanism, the line of persuasion on display here is: “your problem is the quality of the people who disagree with you.” Well, what does that offer to me to change my behavior?

    If you’re trying to convince liberals to alter their behavior, what they’ll read is “you should change your behavior because your opponents don’t like you.” So I should stop advocating for bikes because it makes me a “yuppie?”

    Which leaves only an anthropological discussion of tribal signals.

    I don’t offer any new perspective here, I suppose, but I want to point out that no matter which hat I wear — and in a lot of ways I genuinely wear both hats in this conversation — I can’t figure out how I’m supposed to feel after reading this.

    I began following your blog precisely because of your usual line of reasoning. It’s fresh and comes close to my view of the world. The usual reduction is “statists love cities and libertarians love exurbs,” which kind of leaves me out. I’m not worried that self-styled suburban libertarians shout at urbanist statists and vice versa, it bugs me that WHAT they are shouting is often demonstrably untrue. Suburbs aren’t just the spontaneous result of unregulated markets and individual preferences, dagnabbit. There’s a statist argument to be made for suburban development, but no one (I know of) makes it; there’s a libertarian argument to be made for densification which is uttered only occasionally (e.g. Yglesias).

    I wonder, typing this, who advances the (intellectually consistent) statist argument for suburbanization? This is, after all, the way America has actually developed. How did it pass that urbanists “own” the urbanism conversation when the actual facts on the ground outside a few urban cores are mostly the opposite?

    I sometimes wonder whether “free-market libertarianism” is just a smokescreen for a more subtle brand of statism. To which “urbanism” is a clumsy revolution, I suppose.

    Anyway, pardon the rambling. I’m new to your blog and absolutely love it. I appreciate the quality of comments as well. Keep up the good work.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Stephen

    Haha…”violently agree,” I like that. It describes a frightening large proportion of my interactions with fellow homo sapiens.

    I wrote this article mostly for urbanists (who, obviously, tend to be overwhelmingly liberal/statist). While I recognize that a lot of the disagreement between urbanists and libertarians is simply the result of differences in political preferences, there’s at least a part of new urbanism and smart growth that should be amenable to libertarians (namely, the upzonings, the loosening of parking regs, and the lowering of road subsidies), but for some reason isn’t. And like I said in the article, I think the reason liberals/urbanists aren’t making those arguments is that they don’t actually understand them. They know they want sprawl to be more expensive, but they don’t realize that that’s actually a move towards the market equilibrium. In other words, they’ve sort of stumbled upon vaguely libertarian policies by accident.

    Anyway, thanks for the praise and for the comments – I don’t get paid for any of this, so reading people’s comments and watching the hit count go up are really the only feedback I get (and despite my OCD, the former is still more gratifying than the latter). Obviously we’re broadly in agreement, and I’m glad that you finally found us. As you know, it’s a cold and lonely world out there for us “market urbanists.”

  • Adamcive

    Are there any other market urbanists broadly defined, besides you and me?

    I find talking about the minimum parking debate particularly suited for threshing out the pro-planners from the urbanists, and the pro-sprawl from the free-marketeers.

    And most of the battle actually appears to be between planners and planners about who gets the subsidies and pork, urban or suburban/rural. Not actually between planning/govt intervention and the freemarket.

  • Alon Levy

    I don’t think it’s really this. European social democratic urbanists argue in exactly the same manner as American liberal urbanists: transit is good because it’s used by the poor and working classes and is good for the environment, cities are important (and are the most reliable source of social democratic voters), the future should be clean energy. And yet, they still command support from liberal/FDP-style (=libertarian) parties, as well as many business-oriented conservatives. I would chalk this difference to 2.5 reasons:

    1. The multiparty systems of Continental Europe create a non-conservative alternative to social democracy, appealing to right-wing liberals. In the US, those people exist, too – Mitt Romney’s one of them, and they form the main bloc of swing voters in the Northeast – but to vote to the right they have to vote for a party dominated by cultural conservatives, who hate cities for social and demographic reasons. The European equivalent of the post-Tea Party right in the US would be various rural populist parties, which tend to be as pro-road as Michelle Bachmann.

    1.5. Part of the multiparty system is that governments have to have broad coalitions, which tend to produce consensus and status quo. This environment is friendly to long-term infrastructure planning. The US political environment encourages orienting all government spending on a two-year cycle, and promotes us vs. them politics more.

    2. The costs of building transit in Europe and the US differ by close to a full order of magnitude. A regional rail line, light rail line, and sometimes even subway could be built in most of Europe for around $5,000-10,000 per weekday boarding. In the US, increasingly $20,000 is the lower limit: the Sunbelt (including Portland) never gets much development along its rail lines so the ridership is pitiful, whereas older cities like New York and San Francisco take 3-10 times more money to build anything than peer non-US cities. This makes fiscal conservatives and good-government watchdogs groan. Those parts of the Anglo-Saxon world that have European rather than American transit costs have reasonably strong transit consensus; Calgary, whose LRT cost less than $3,000 per weekday boarding, manages to be both very conservative and very pro-rail, with aggressive TOD near stations, extensive downtown redevelopment without parking minimums, and imported German industry practices for keeping operating costs very low.

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  • http://www.strongtowns.org Marohn

    This is brilliant – thank you for writing this.

  • Thayer-D

    Conservatives are in general more anti-urban because they pull their political support from the country and far out suburbs, not cities. Not that they’d care where their support might come from, but because cities are by thier very nature going to be liberal. To live together in compact forms one needs to be both tolerant of others’ views and willing to live under some kind of shared rules (from a government) to grease the tolerance.

    That being said I think the main issue with the conservative/teaparty anti urban argument is mostly semantical. I don’t think you will necessarily win an argument over someone who preferes the mega-church or homogenious societal rules over an elected representative establishing society’s laws. I think when you hear a Michele Bachman claim that roads aren’t earmarks you immediatly attack the hypocracy (non-violently) and clearly show that a subsidy is a subsidy. Once you establish that fact, it’s a lot easier to win the greater good argument in terms of societies priorities and benefits.

    I appreciate the history lesson in this post though becasue liberals need to be less reflexivley anti-capitalist. Capitalism is human nature, but you can’t have a civil society without government, so as usual a balance is what is called for.

  • Rsgeller

    I consider myself conservative but do not agree entirely with the premise. Conservatives share the values of small town America–an America where kids can walk to school safely, where small businesses can thrive (difficult on commercial corridors with 50 mph highway traffic attracted to huge chain signs), and where our national security and economy are not threatened by reliance on Hugo Chavez and the Saudis for our transportation energy needs. Urbanism can provide part of the solution to these daunting challenges.

    Here’s a campaign ad of our new Republican Congressman-elect, Dan Webster, who taps into the imagery of the small town America:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN-5597W1zA&feature=BF&list=PL2C966D5EBF724654&index=8

  • http://twitter.com/FreePublicTrans .

    The tea party is a creation of oil money. This post is very clever disinformation. Congratulations. It takes a lot of education an writing skill to ignore the fact that the private auto was forced down our throats, has made life miserable, and is now destroying the biosphere. The fake solutions such as parking limits are easy straw men. Follow the money. Trillions are spent on energy wars, while people sit in traffic jams going nowhere.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Stephen

    Agh, you got me! Well, at least my disinformation was clever…

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  • Steve Johnson

    Here’s a hint:

    You say mass transit and suburbanites hear: “murder” and “rape”
    You say “mixed income neighborhoods” and suburbanites hear: “murder” and “rape”

    There are exactly two ways you can build a city that won’t be abandoned:

    1) Strictly segregate your city – put some strong filter on who gets to live there that excludes almost all black people.
    2) Enforce the law – vagrancy punished by 6 months in jail, criminals found and prosecuted after one mugging, not dozens, minor property crime harshly punished, any single violent crime being thought of as a huge problem and no expense spared to ensure that the perpetrator is extremely harshly punished (life in prison? severe beating at the hands of the police? – those work).

    The first is the current NYC model. The filter is that you have to be extremely rich to live in NYC. You miss the point when you say there is “pent up demand” for more space like NYC. NYC is only desirable if it is expensive. Only the extremely high price of living in NYC keeps it safe.

    The second is the pre-1960 United States model. If you go back to pre-1960s law enforcement (including extra harsh law enforcement on groups that are significantly more criminally inclined (i.e., black people)) you can have low cost “urbanism”. Without it people will look at your wonderful walkable neighborhoods and ask themselves: “what happens if a few black people move in?” The answer seems to be “you’ll be trapped and subject to a very high chance of being victimized by criminals”.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Stephen

    I’m not sure that it’s true that NYC is only desirable because it’s expensive and exclusive. This may be true of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, but what about immigrant communities in places like Jamaica, Flatbush, and Flushing, or mostly-black neighborhoods like the South Bronx?

    Also, I think there’s a third option to the question of minorities: end the war on drugs. I know this may seem like a non-sequitur, but I think the war on drugs explains a lot of why we associate minority innercity neighborhoods with violence and undesirability. Hopefully I’ll expand on that idea sometime soon with its own dedicated post, but in the meatime, thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!

  • Steve Johnson

    The rest of NYC isn’t desirable. Sort of by definition; if it were desirable it would be expensive.

    Of course, you can feel free to move to Jamaica where things like this happen:

    http://robert-lindsay.blogspot.com/2010/10/man-stabbed-to-death-in-new-york-as.html

    Yeah, so someone gets stabbed to death and people walk past the dying man and don’t even call 911. The joys of urbanist living!

    “…but I think the war on drugs explains a lot of why we associate minority innercity neighborhoods with violence and undesirability. ”

    The reason “we” associal NAM (non Asian minority) inner city neighborhoods with violence and undesirability isn’t because of some strange hypnosis – it’s because those neighborhoods are violent and undesirable. Google “the color of crime” for the actual statistics. Some bullet points from that:

    * Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.
    * When blacks commit crimes of violence, they are nearly three times more likely than non-blacks to use a gun, and more than twice as likely to use a knife.
    * Hispanics commit violent crimes at roughly three times the white rate, and Asians commit violent crimes at about one quarter the white rate.
    * The single best indicator of violent crime levels in an area is the percentage of the population that is black and Hispanic.

    Now, maybe ending the war on drugs will somehow end the threat of violence from NAMs but frankly, I doubt it. The only model that actually worked was pre-1960 law enforcement which was stopped by people who have quite a bit of blood on their hands. There are plenty of wives with murdered husbands, fathers of murdered daughters, women whose lives are never the same after having been raped, and people who reasonably didn’t want to end up like them all of whom then moved out of your urbanist neighborhoods.

    If you want them to move back or to accept urbanist design, end urban crime completely and prosecute the people who allowed and encouraged the first wave that emptied the cities. Otherwise, people will hear about “walkable neighborhoods” and think “murder” and mass transit and think “rape”.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Stephen

    On your blog you call yourself a “non-racist race realist,” but I just wanted to warn you that you’re coming off far more as the former than the latter.

  • Steve Johnson

    I don’t have a blog.

    Nor do I care if you call me a racist – it’s an absurd charge. Groups are different and have different physical features, different mental traits and different behaviors. Evolution didn’t stop 10,000 years ago nor did it stop at the neck.

    Try refuting what I wrote instead. All facts and that’s it. That you have to resort to name calling and pointing out that these are forbidden thoughts just shows how deep the controls are placed. A generation of people had their lives ruined intentionally by progressives who wanted to cleanse urban environments of their class enemies. They used the fact that one racial group is significantly more dangerous and criminally inclined to do so. How? They gutted law enforcement. No one will accept urbanism as long as progressives are not called to account for the carnage that went on in the cities starting in the 1960s.

  • J B

    Ah, yet another reminder that racism is alive and well. I particularly like the superficial assumption that black people are more likely to commit crime, therefore they are innately violent. Can’t possibly have anything to do with poverty, a long history of oppression, current racism, other social or economic factors…

  • Alon Levy

    It’s strange that you say “Evolution didn’t stop 10,000 years ago,” when most evolutionary psychologists base their theories on the (wrong) idea that it did. It’s perfectly fine if you reject evolutionary psychology, but then you need another basis for your racial theories…

    But what’s not strange is that you get the history of white flight completely wrong. White flight began in the late 1940s and early 1950s and in some cases even earlier, well before the crime wave began. The US crime rate only began to rise around 1965; the race riots of the 1960s were often in cities that had just become black-majority or close to it, since the police forces were invariably still dominated by whites. The depopulation that followed was in some cases of middle-class blacks more than of whites.

    But if you’re just trying to make the point that walkable cities suffer from a crime problem (which many non-racists agree with), it’s still wrong. If crime stopped people from moving to cities, you’d expect Houston and Dallas and Atlanta to be empty by now and the suburbs in New York and Massachusetts to be teeming with domestic migrants.

  • Steve Johnson

    So, that “long history of oppression” going to go away any time soon?

    What’s your measurement of “current racism”? Apparently you think observing that black people are more violent is racist, so current racism might be, you know, just accurate beliefs. Anyway, if you can propose a measure of current racism, maybe we can decide when it’s gone away.

    Poverty? You’re back to my original point. You can’t have mixed income walkable neighborhoods. Since you believe poverty causes crime, mixed income walkable neighborhoods will be abattoirs. Better to be safe in your car away from dangerous poor people. After all – poverty causes crime, right?

    So I point out the reasons people are hostile to urbanism – black crime and you rebut this by saying basically “black people can’t help but be criminals because of these reasons”. This is supposed to be a point in favor of urbanism?

  • http://marketurbanism.com Stephen

    I’ve never deleted any comments that weren’t spam, and I don’t want to start now, but I will if you keep talking about this.

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  • http://hertzlinger.blogspot.com Joseph Hertzlinger

    THEY OWE ME BACK WAGES!!!

    If I don’t get paid soon, I’m going over to the Freemasons!

  • http://hertzlinger.blogspot.com Joseph Hertzlinger

    I think of this debate as planner vs. planner: It’s between two groups of people controllers. One group wants to fight congestion by reducing population density in crowded areas and the other wants to fight sprawl by reducing population density in uncrowded areas. Sometimes the two sides cooperate and pass BANANA (Build Almost Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) regulations. The resulting housing shortage is blamed on greedy landlords and used as a pretext for more regulations.

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  • Anonymous

    Good comments overall – I agree that planners tend often to forget the role markets play in building great cities. Hence while I don’t agree with everything on market urabnism I have become a fan. With regard to one statement, I do believe it boils down often to where conservatives and liberals live:

    “Now, it could just be that there are just too many suburban Republican voters whose homes, lives, and culture are invested in sprawl for any politician to oppose it.”

    Here is the ‘burb lands, even Liberals seem to hate urbanism – just like their Republican neighbors. Without having expeirenced it, they buy many of the negative stereotypes of urbanism, and like their neighbors NUMBYism wins out. I think the same can be said for Libertarians – despite the Tea Party influence, I know there has been a tradition or urban libertarians – but then again they’re just yuppies on bicycles!

  • http://marketurbanism.com Stephen

    Libertarians are definitely, on the whole, very anti-urban. That, and the fact that most urbanists are decidedly anti-capitalist, is the reason this blog exists.

  • http://teapartynews.us David H Dennis

    Randal O’Toole put together a Tour of Elk Grove that I think explains a lot about why conservatives and libertarians) act as they do.  I live in a similar neighborhood in Florida which has a mix of small to large lot properties.  

    We have no HOA and are a pretty easy going friendly bunch.  But if someone were to buy one of our two acre properties and put in a New Urbanist zero lot line subdivision, it would ruin our neighborhood ambiance and we’d be hopping mad.

    Remember, the denser the population, the more rules are needed.  We can live with virtual anarchy on our 1/3-2 acre lots.  People can play music as loudly as they want, they can store their commercial vehicles in their driveways, etc, and it really doesn’t hurt anyone.  Once you get to New Urbanist densities, you really need rules.  If you want freedom, you need large lots.

    That’s why conservatives/libertarians hate high density.  It seems pretty rational to me.

    D

  • Mark

    Wow, I thought I was the only one who understood the many common goals between private development (on the right) and planners (on the left).  If only they could be realized…  It is a great point that the old neighborhoods beloved by planners were built by private developers, including privately owned streetcars.  I think a lot of these “market urbanist” points are made by Jane Jacobs, but unfortunately most planners who read her just hear what they want to hear.

  • answer1776

    I remember reading about a study that was done on lab rats years ago, in the 70s. It started with two equally large sized cages, interconnected with a wire tunnel. Onecage was elevated higher than the other. Both cages started out with two rats, 1 male, 1 female. Food was equally supplied per rat population.

    The rats were civilized and peaceful,visiting socially via the open tunnel. At first.

    The breeding of the upper cage rats was closely monitored & maintained by selective breeding and/or outright sterilization, while the lower cage rats
    were left to breed freely on their own with no interference.

    Soon the lower cage rats were crowded and started to exhibit anti-social behavior, including stealing of food, aggression, & rape. When the lower cage rats started to take over the upper cage by stealing food, attacking the upper cage rats, not returning to the lower cage, the tunnel was closed.

    In short, the upper case rats lived peacefully amongst each other even though they could see the lower cage rats at all times. The lower cage rats increased in aggressive/violent behavior until homosexual activity, violent rapes, incest, & murder became the norm. With even cannibalism to boot.

    My take on the study? Crowding people into the cages of over-populated cities & leftist fiscal policies, drives people to inhuman behavior.

  • HolidayInn566

    I think libertarians betray their rational side by unfairly dismissing urban ideas because of (and I’m agreeing with the article here) basically who the ideas are associated with. I’m a libertarian and I don’t care if I hear truth that comes out of a marxist, fascist, capitalist, primitivist, anarchist, or whateve because I’m a rational truth seeker before I am a libertarian. If libertarians really investigated, they’d realize that most of the suburban tract development in the last 20 years is definitely very government supported and a more libertarian approach would have allowed more mixed use.

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