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5264It's not just about cars (was: "America's Epidemic of Youth Obesity")

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  • turpin
    Dec 5, 2002
      Richard Risemberg <rickrise@e...> wrote:
      > Of ocurse many things should be subsidized--
      > that's what the phrase "provide for the
      > common welfare" implies in the Constitution,
      > that's what is the basis of civilization--
      > but something as destructive to both earth
      > and society as total dependence on private
      > cars at public expense is not among them.

      Cars are just one element of how sprawl, generally, is subsidized.
      Most people who live in the exurbs require not just an automobile to
      get to the city, and the roads to travel on, but reasonably
      inexpensive phone lines, electricity, and similar services. The US
      has public policy going back to the early part of the 20th century to
      electrify rural areas, and to regulate utility rates in a way that
      subsidizes those in rural areas (where it was expensive to run line)
      at the expense of the urbanite. The TVA frequently is heralded as the
      shining star of early liberalism, of how an expansive view of
      providing for the common welfare is good for the nation. Even today,
      few people connect such policies with sprawl, the encroachment of low
      density development on formerly cultivated or wild land, and
      automobile dependence.

      But that indeed was the eventual unintended consequence of those
      early policies. Once a public service becomes part of the normal
      environment, it gets locked in, and other subsidies are built on top
      of it. What sense does it make to provide roads, if the evil
      utilities are won't supply economic electricity and phone service?
      And once the government is supplying the roads, well, of course, it
      has to expand them to meet the "demand." Before you know it, half the
      population in many metropolitan areas is living in suburbs that once
      were small farming communities, where the houses are cheap (and the
      electricity, phone, and roads no more expensive), and so what if they
      commute half an hour each way?

      It's ironic, of course, that the suburbanites whose cherished
      environment is the result of a century of liberal subsidies spout
      semi-libertarian criticisms against public subsidies, blind to their
      own dependence on them. But it's equally ironic that the liberals who
      hate exurban sprawl fail to see that it is the accidental but
      inevitable result of a century of programs that liberals still
      herald. There's enough hypocrisy on both sides to start a dozen
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