Friday, July 27, 2012

Cause and Effect

This morning I read Rachel Barnhart's report about the Onandaga County Executive's effort to rein in suburban sprawl, by encouraging new developments in places with existing infrastructure. In large measure this means cities and towns.

I've always been on-board with that idea. Give me a quality urban environment any day over a sterile subdivision, however grand the McMansions. In the city you use your car a lot less. And it depresses me to see another field or farm bulldozed into a housing tract.

But I know that many people, and judging from the way suburbs have spread since World War II, probably most, don't share my view or at least don't think it's practical.

It raises the issue of cause and effect.   Sprawl wasn't imposed by someone while the rest of us weren't looking.   It's happened because most people want it. To slow it down, there has to be a demand for housing in the cities. And there is, some. But not enough to do what the Onandaga Exec. wants to do.

This afternoon, I came across this observation by P.J. O'Rourke, courtesy of Instapundit, addressing directly cause-and-effect in connection with sprawl:

Cars didn’t shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We’re way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy’s lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren’t forced to surrender, we were able to retreat.
That, I think, expresses the core issue.

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