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4151Re: Buckeye Institute Study: No Urban Sprawl Crisis in Ohio

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  • turpin
    Jan 4, 2002
      --- In carfree_cities@y..., Tom Tromey <tromey@c...> wrote:
      > Last night I started reading The Elephant in the Bedroom ..
      > It makes the point that automobiles, roads, and sprawl are
      > actually heavily subsidized by government policy. In fact,
      > I'd say the first couple chapters .. of this book are
      > written from a libertarian perspective(which surprised and
      > at first dismayed me). ..

      Why should that dismay? If I prefer walking three miles
      to driving my car across town, while my neighbor drives
      his beloved SUV to cross the street, that so far is
      simply a difference in personal preference, on which it
      is hard to hang any discussion of public policy. I
      wouldn't have the audacity to push public decisions on
      such meager ground, and were I to do so, there would be
      no reason for my neighbor to listen.

      But if various levels of government are subsidizing my
      neighbor's preference, and the resulting system imposes
      undue costs and dangers on us all, that becomes a
      powerful argument for change in public policy, that even
      my neighber might give some heed.

      Continuing along these lines, it may be that zoning is
      an inappropriate way to achieve our ends. Its use to
      encourage sprawl doesn't mean that it can or should be
      bent to opposite purpose. I can imagine a variety of
      other tools that are more focused, and less easily
      siezed by tomorrow's developers. For example, perhaps
      cities should have the power to impose a direct tax on
      all cars within their boundaries, and even beyond for
      some distance, to help compensate the costs imposed on
      them by automobile commuting. Or maybe property taxes
      on residential property in cities should vary inversely
      to occupation density. Perhaps states should raise the
      mandatory minimums on automobile insurance to something
      reasonable, and adopt Andrew Tobias's pay-at-the-pump
      plan, to make sure that every driver is insured. There
      are a variety of public policies that can be argued
      directly on the grounds of the costs and risks imposed
      on others. Many of these would work silently yet
      inexorably to encourage compact and walkable cities,
      in the same way that automobile subsidy has encouraged
      sprawl.

      Too often, there is the tendency to push for the
      desired end state, rather than for improvements in the
      political infrastructure. The former requires constant
      attention, great political success, and risks large
      damage to other areas. The latter can be done through
      a series of discrete changes that create long-term
      improvement, requires only moderate political success,
      and can be focused in a way where the consequences
      are more fairly allocated.
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