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About twice a year, I decry how conservatives are conceding an important and powerful demographic and cultural change to liberals. It’s sometimes called the New Urbanism. To conservatives, though, its just the Evil City all over again. And anything good that may be happening is “yuppification,” “gentrification,” or — even worse — “hiptserfication.” I don’t see the problem: all three words mean revitalization, which means the creation of fine, safe, productive, and interesting places for people to live and work. In other words, it means bringing back downtown and main street which, once upon a time, were natural homes for conservatives. But, as I’m wont to say, conservatives are used to what they are used to and skeptical of all else. Many modern conservatives are simply not used to downtown and main street.
But that’s not totally true. My last foray into this arena was a four–part history of transportation in America. The responses to that thread made it clear that there is a solid core of potential, budding, and already-arrived conservative urbanists. Today, I’m here with some good news for conservative urbanists and to announce a fine discovery in the form of a blog: Market Urbanism, whose motto is “Urbanism for Capitalists / Capitalism for Urbanists.”
Hayek and Bastiat (and of course, Jane Jacobs, she of Spontaneous Order) are displayed prominently in their bookstore. A few quotes I’ve so far gleaned from a brief perusal of some of the site. About the website’s founder, Adam Hengels:
Growing up in suburban Chicago, Adam suspected there was something inefficient about the land patterns and transportation of the suburbs. When introduced to urbanist ideas in freshman architecture/planning coursework, the concepts made sense, despite the paternalistic bent of the professors who presented them. Thus, he became conflicted between the urbanist instinct and the free market instinct. Through study and practice of building design, infrastructure design, construction, economics, planning, development, and urban economics, Adam concluded that our problems with sprawl, congestion, and automobile dependency were largely the result of socialistic oversupply of transportation systems and top-down regimentation of land use, not due to market failures, as many urbanists proclaim.
From an article:
So why don’t conservatives and libertarians have more compunction about sprawl? I believe the problem is more the messengers than the message. Despite the free market aspects of modern-day urbanism, smart growth and new urbanism are not libertarian movements. Urban planning is dominated by liberals, and it shows – few even seem aware of the capitalist roots of their plans. The private corporations that built America’s great cities and mass transit systems are all but forgotten by modern-day progressives and planners, who view the private sector as a junior partner at best. Yonah Freemark views Chicago’s meek and tentative steps towards transit re-privatization as a “commodification of the formerly public realm” that’s “scarring” American cities – his version of history apparently starts in 1947. The Infrastructurist must have been reading from the same textbook, because Melissa Lafsky calls libertarianism her “enemy” and apparently believes that America reached its free market transportation peak around the 1950s. And Matt Yglesias, a rare liberal who understands the economic arguments in favor of allowing density, is routinely rebuffed by his commenters, who I doubt would be so offended if he were arguing for urbanism for environmental and social engineering reasons, as so many progressives and planners do today.
And while we’re on the topic, let’s not forget another wonderful discovery introduced to us by our own Chris Williamson: Charles Marohn, a “Republican Urban Planner,” whose lecture you can download here.Published in