In a post blogger Eric Orozco called, ‘forerunner candidate for “most incisive blog post” of the year,’ Daniel Nairn of Discovering Urbanism discussed the seemingly conflicted camps of libertarianism when it comes to Urbanism. His observations are based upon the comments in the Volokh article on planning and walkability linked in the previous post.
Daniel (a non-libertarian) presents the opposing libertarian factions as The Wright Group, after Frank Lloyd Wright and his romanticism about individualistic prairie living and The Friedman Group, which “believes that the spatial distribution of development ought to be determined by a free market.”
The Wright group seems to favor optimizing individual autonomy through spatial living arrangements even if doing so requires centralizing economic and political authority to some extent. The Friedman group seems to favor optimizing individual autonomy through market decisions even if doing so results in more people living in situations where full control over private property is compromised in some way.
Daniel’s insightful choice of figureheads fascinates me from a philosophical point of view. Frank Lloyd Wright was hardly a libertarian, but had strong individualist tendencies, and is said to be the model for Howard Roark’s character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Milton Friedman, a Nobel Laurette Economist, is probably one of the most famous figures of modern libertarian thought. Despite Friedman’s steadfast defense of liberty, he had favored government roads on occasion.
I think most would agree that The Friedman Group, as Daniel describes it, is more closely aligned with the thesis of Market Urbanism and the ideas of emergent order of the land marketplace. Hayek or even Rothbard may also be considered appropriate, although less famous substitutes as figurehead.
(note: I’m not sure what Daniel means by, “even if doing so results in more people living in situations where full control over private property is compromised in some way.” If he means more people choosing to live in multifamily dwellings and rentals, then I agree, and I’m perfectly fine with that outcome.)
In my opinion, The Wright Group is hardly libertarian. I would describe The Wright Group as either autonomists (as opposed to libertarians), or Free-Market impostors like Randal O’Toole who wave the free-market flag while turning a blind eye to the coercive distortions of road socialism and ubiquitous suburban zoning that prevent any deviation from segregated, single-family homes.
Above all, I appreciate Daniel’s intellectual exploration of libertarianism in relation to urbanism. Even if he doesn’t keep free-markets as his ideological worldview, his open-minded search for truth should give him an edge over thinkers who reject free-market concepts without any fair inquiry. Daniel’s post is a fantastic thought provoking piece, and I encourage all of you to read and coment for yourselves at Discovering Urbanism.