I just purchased Daniel Pinkwater’s Big Orange Splot for my daughter (or for me, because in a sense, it’s all for me), and it got me thinking about zoning laws (watch the video if you’re not familiar with it). They’re a funny thing, zoning laws, in a way, because there’s really no logically consistent classical liberal argument
against for zoning laws that doesn’t reduce to absurdity extremely quickly.
After the jump.
Which leaves me wondering why the “government regulating us to death” crowd doesn’t come out against zoning laws more often. Or ever, really. Even when that crowd claims to want to destroy the EPA, no one rages on against zoning laws. So I suppose if Pinkwater’s Mr Plumbean’s spot was a big orange splot of pollution they might defend things? I doubt it. Some how “My house is me, and I am it, my house is where I like to be. And it looks like all my dreams” sounds sort of utopian with the “dreams” bit thrown in.
I have begun to believe that the Americans, liberal, conservative or the mythical “independent”, hate utopias, especially those that don’t have loads of cars. And that’s really the only argument against density, isn’t it? If you have lived your whole transportation life in a car (or, perhaps, the odd airplane), a world without parking might seem like the apocalypse, even though there are perfectly happy people living in a society exactly like that. And if you think it’s the apocolypse, then you can’t really imagine that as a utopia, can you?
I do think it spills over to the other “side” as well, which is why you end up with situations like the Roosevelt upzone debate, perfectly chronicled by Roger Valdez. If density makes the city more affordable, it’s better for majority renter class, isn’t it? The inconsistency is why you get the Seattle Displacement Coalition, who is waging a confused war against affordability to help the disadvantaged.
I don’t have a complete solution to this, obviously, but I do think that stressing the real gains and not the utopian ones are the right way forward. When Roger writes about affordability and commerce, it’s really hard to have an argument against it, and, at least in my opinion, the Roosevelt anti-density crowd start showing their true selves rather quickly. And when Ben Schiendelman shows a map of the future, he let’s people decide their own utopia. You don’t have to explain that one to them.