This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.

« LSU - Overrated? | Main | Democrats Dazed and Confused on Roberts »

September 21, 2005

Smart Growth: Let the Market Decide

I just finished reading a 2001 interview of New Urbanist Andres Duany for my urban design class.

Q: Where do you think the Bush administration will go with smart growth?

A: Smart growth, thanks to Al Gore's backing, has been positioned as a movement of he left, and so the right is reflexively attacking it. But smart growth could be repositioned: It shouldn't be imposed, but is should be legal everywhere.

Right now, when you want to build a compact, diverse, walkable, and transit-friendly community, it's illegal. You need variance after variance after variance. Let's suggest instead that every single jurisdiction should have a smart growth code so that the market can decide - because right now the market has only sprawl as a choice. This idea can be presented to the Republicans as choice.

He's so right...

Take a moment to view Peter Calthorpe's photo simulations and project portfolio. Like Duany's, Calthorpe's master planning and urban design business is booming as developers realize that there is a great deal of profit to be made from transforming extremely dull, inefficient, and often decaying suburban nowhereplaces into vibrant, walkable, and mixed-use communities.

Unfortunately, like a square peg in a round hole, most of their projects are forced to comply with sprawl perpetuating development standards. The product is too often a Disneyland version of the original vision.

The market wants to supply new urbanist communities - government regulation is holding the market back. And new urbanism is paradoxically championed by the left and frustrated by the right. Odd, don't you think?

Posted by Rick at September 21, 2005 10:04 PM

Trackback Pings


As an architect, I think this is pure genius! You are beginning to see seeds of it in Los Angeles where certain areas have allowances for mixed use buildings in urban areas near public transportation, and some smaller cities (like Pasadena) are being reborn through mixed-use development- so it works, we just need more of it.

Posted by: douglas at September 22, 2005 03:22 AM

True Douglas! The movement has made inroads. But it has a long way to go. The more quality pilot projects to point to, the easier it will be to loosen up regs elsewhere.

Posted by: Rick at September 22, 2005 09:18 AM

I certainly agree with the concept of Smart Growth and I further agree that it should be heartily embraced by fiscal conservatives.

Where I may part ways with you is that I don't have any great faith in The Market. It has always struck me as near-idolatrous the faith that some have in human greed to lead to ideal outcomes.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 22, 2005 09:21 AM

Dan, I don't think the market is perfect. However, in many cases, the market isn't even allowed to try. That's the point of my post. I agree though that many Christians tend to treat the market as an object of worship.

Posted by: Rick Brady at September 22, 2005 09:32 AM

Fine, then we may agree. But I would like to offer this question on the topic:

One definition of the free market is:

An economic market in which supply and demand are not regulated or are regulated with only minor restrictions.

Is the free market (from a Christian point of view) the notion that it is the nature of humanity to be imperfect and greedy, and we ought to take that in to account and not interfere with it?

And is it the further position that good results will come from a laissez faire approach, in letting human greed dictate our economy?

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 22, 2005 11:01 AM

Dan, the beauty of the free market isn't that the seller is free to charge whatever he wishes, it's that the buyer has to agree to the price. Good citizenship is good marketing. Those who try to abuse the system will eventually be corrected by market forces, so long as there is some regulation to prevent collusion and monopolies. It is indeed a rather imperfect system, but then what isn't?

Posted by: douglas at September 23, 2005 03:29 AM

In heaven, we will share and love freely. In heaven, there will be no poverty or wealth, but plenty for all.

Given that, why would I live my life now by one set of rules (the Market), and then think that I would enjoy another way of life in Heaven?

Further, where do we get any biblical justification for doing so? As Jesus said, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH, as it is in heaven."

Another thought, those who abuse the system are indeed NOT always "corrected" by the Market. The Market rewards greed and ruthlessness. Concern for the common good is useful only insofar as it helps increase profit. I see nothing Christian in it.

If it is helpful, I'll provide an example:

The market very successfully wooed folk to buy into the concept of the personal auto, which I think of as the ultimate Unholy Market Creation. The only things the personal auto has recommending it (for the most part) are convenience, comfort and speed. Not our highest ideals, those.

What it has created is a polluted city that is more dangerous and less healthy than it was before. There is nothing in the Market to reward people for weening themselves from this less than ideal technology. Indeed, the Market rewards folk for buying in to the personal auto concept ever more.

The personal auto does not pay its own way. It pollutes air, ground and water. It kills (and kills disproportionately the poor, elderly and young). It causes sprawl and decreases community. And so far as I can imagine, there is not a thing the Market can do to correct these without some outside guidance/regulation.

I don't know, I hope that was that a good example. Are you following what I'm saying?

Yes, it is a rather imperfect system and yes, I agree that nothing will be perfect. But were I designing a community/nation (and we all are, aren't we?), I would tend to try to build something closer to the New Testament church or the OT Jubilee models, where care is taken of the needy and to disallow accumulation of wealth in a few hands.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 23, 2005 09:01 AM

You are clearly a utopian. Try this first:
It's a great arguement for free market economics.
You also seem to want to punish the righteous- Inequality is necessary if you believe in justice. Why should some bum get things as well as someone who works their ass off?
I also dispute your notion that "your WILL be done, on earth as it is in heaven" means there should be a heaven on earth, as you imply.

Posted by: douglas at September 25, 2005 06:59 AM

I didn't say there will be heaven on earth, but clearly we are to start working towards that end, no?

And I am not a utopian (I've lived in community and no it's no utopia).

Why would you suggest I'm a utopian? I am only a Christian interested in following Jesus' and the early church's example and surely you don't criticize that?

And I'd love to see any one try to make some sort of biblical case for free market economics. Any takers?

I'll check out the article when I get a chance.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 25, 2005 04:49 PM