“Why Sprawl Is A Conservative Issue.” I’m not sure if the author convinces me 100% that suburban sprawl is a “conservative issue,” but rather that it’s definitely at least a bipartisan one that conservatives have a lot to contribute to, which is perhaps a more useful case to make. The facts as presented here with regard to the causes of sprawl and ways it can be addressed suggests that the “compassionate environmentalists versus yucky evil capitalists” spin the issue gets in the media is at best an oversimplification, and at worst an outright mischaracterization.
Basically the central thesis of the essay is that suburban sprawl and the increasing dependence of the American public on the automobile is the product of federal government policies in transportation, education, and housing from the late 1930s on. It is argued that it is the federal government, not the free market, that has in fact done the most to encourage and subsidize sprawl, and that sprawl can best be addressed through policy changes in the direction of making government less coercive rather than more so.
What strikes me as particularly prescient about this article right now is how it intersects in my head with the increasing talk of late, from both the political left and right, about the need for for energy independence. While the automobile is not the only way in which Americans are dependent on foreign oil supplies, it is the first one most people think of, and the one focused on most in the media via stories about the price of gasoline, and it definitely is significant. I think that some major part of the dependence of the American economy on oil maps directly to the dependence of Americans on cars, a situation that has resulted from more suburbanization.
I think many of us would choose to live without cars, if we could. A few people I have known who do have a very hard time of it. Personally, I find driving terribly boring and would prefer to get away with doing as little of it as I can. Perhaps that is caused by working for far too many years as a pizza delivery driver. At any rate, the demand for livable city environments that don’t force everyone into a car just to get on with their everyday lives, is definitely out there, illustrated by the high property values in what few such neighborhoods do exist. The essay I link to includes excellent details on just how auto-dependent the average person has become, and it’s pretty sad, and hurts the entry-level and unskilled working class, who could do better without the expense of automobile ownership, the most. (I’ll observe here that meanwhile, new automobile models get more expensive as they incorporate more and more gadgets like DVD players to try to make spending half of one’s waking hours in the car less unpleasant.)