We Know How You Should Be Living

TJIC has a nice post on the arrogant paternalism inherent in urban planning.

The Party is making decisions about how we should live, and then, eventually, telling us about them.

The aim is to have 80 percent of new housing and new jobs in cities
and larger municipal centers such as Framingham, Peabody, Norwood, and
Marlborough. That would enable more people to walk or use mass transit
and thereby reduce traffic and pollution, according to the plan.

So, of the million possible variables, the ones they've chosen to
optimize are the minimization of the average distance one has to drive
to get to work.

Things they have implicitly then de-prioritized:

  • open space per family
  • privacy per family
  • floor space per family
  • minimal overall commute time per individual
  • noise abatement
  • etc.

I liked this bit:

The problem is, the statists don't really care about green space per
se. They care about government owned (or at least government
controlled) green space. Which is better? 20 acres of land lumped into
a government owned wetland sanctuary that no one ever visits, or 20
houses, each on 1 acre lots, covered with gardens, yards, trees, and
tree-houses? The government employee doesn't get to meddle in the
individual lots, so he's always going to say that the government owned
patch is better.


  1. Dan:

    There's an article in this month's Wired all about the same thing. A huge development outside of Shanghai where the urban planners and architects are going to do it right this time.

    Yeah, right.

  2. M. Hodak:

    Great example of the hidden (and largely unconcious) trade-offs made by central planners.

  3. Dennis:

    Ah, reminds me of my 6 week stint at Arcosanti, back in 1980. Why, we asked, would people want to live in such a congested environment, with very little privacy? There is, after all, some logic to wanting one's home to be one's castle. Hurrah for suburbs!

  4. country mouse:

    when it comes to control of others, *nobody* ranks any higher than slightly evil.

    Paternalism is not party related. All elected and unelected government want to control their constituencies. Look at the way political protesters on all sides are held in interment day-camps and are denied their right to protest. Homeowner and condo dictatorships/associations rule with a much heaver, conservative hand than any local elected government. Corporations are even worse with employee surveillance, psychological tricks to ensure compliance of employees, buying legislation to support defunct business models and suing/discrediting those that oppose their plans.

    green space control is particularly a hot button right now. About a half-hour ago we were notified that in our town meeting tonight, there is a movement to change all conservation/greenspace land to recreation land, i.e. put in playing fields for soccer kids to use two hours per day, four months a year. Damn dictatorial jocks. Hated them in high school, fight them every step of the way now.

  5. KipEsquire:

    That sound you hear in the distance is Le Corbusier and Robert Moses chuckling from Hell.

  6. M1EK:

    This issue is a litmus test for distinguishing an educated libertarian from a Republican-who-wants-to-smoke-pot.

    The fact is that the suburban housing model is the farthest thing from the result of a free market. The regulations that apply to the vast majority of the practically developeable land in this country mandate suburban sprawl and nothing _but_. The planners of type referenced above spend about 99% of their time these days making baby steps to allowing _more_ _types_ of development, not fewer. IE, you still have the right to build low-density if you want; now we're going to allow you to build higher-density _too_.

    The painting of this kind of stuff as central-planning choice-destroying is nothing more than bullshit. New urbanism is about _restoring_ _choice_ which was eliminated by post-WWII zoning in most metropolitan areas.