Democracy and Opportunity: Ridiculously Wasteful!

I’m just guessing, here, but I’d bet that a survey of people who lament “suburban sprawl” would find that most either prefer city life or have the money to carve out their own, untouchable little pieces of the country. Probably a mixture of both sentiments went into this Providence Journal editorial:

America’s ridiculously wasteful lifestyle — often referred to as suburban sprawl — proves that freedom has never been free.
In most societies, even in the wealthiest European states, many in the lower, middle and upper classes live in apartments. Far more workers than here take the bus or train to work. (Mass transit is a big deal in Europe. Actually, before the ’60s, it was a pretty big deal in large parts of urban America, too.) …
The president may underestimate the extent to which dreams die hard. The American Dream is a house surrounded by enough grass to choke a z-turn riding mower. That lifestyle has a lot of lobbyists working on its behalf in Washington. Nobody expects the dream to shrink to the size of an apartment, but why not promote more walkable communities of a bit higher density arrayed along bus or light-rail lines?

It’s really not difficult to see where this will go (assuming the Projo is talking about government coercion and not suggesting a lead for private industry): These socially engineered communities will turn out to be more expensive than expected, in one way or another, because they will have to be subsidized in order to attract inhabitants (whether by directly funding their housing or by keeping the cost of amenities, such as stores, artificially low), and in any case, they will not be residents’ visions of their ideal housing.
Those from the upper class, of course, will still manage to live as they like, but the rest of us will not be able to trade up toward our aspirations as we’re able; we’ll have to loiter in “a bit higher density” neighborhoods than we want until we manage to make the leap. (More likely, we’ll just have to imagine that we’ll one day be able to make the leap.)
I know it’s emotionally very difficult for those of a certain mindset to accept, but people will seek what they want, and attempting to force them into something else doesn’t generally work out well for anybody but the powerful.

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12 years ago

And why, exactly, do “lower, middle and upper classes live in apartments” in Europe?
Because it’s all they can afford. (Perhaps because of the social/welfare burden most European economies carry).
And because there is less land where they are. Imagine: supply and demand.
If they had more space to grow, cheaply, they would. Instead, they have taken their acute geographical and economic circumstances and have tried to turn cramped living and mass transit into a virtue (instead of a necessity).

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