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6372Re: [carfree_cities] Re: Car-free cities and jobs

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  • Richard Risemberg
    Oct 22, 2003
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: Mike Neuman <mtneuman@...>
      --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "Patrick McDonough"
      <patrick1@e...> wrote:
      > ...
      > In America it is the rare store outside of cities like Boston, New
      > York, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco that is supported
      > mostly by local on-foot or transit-driven patronage.
      > ...

      Yes, this is certainly true -- today anyway. But it was not the case
      prior to the 1950s. The increased popularity of driving since the
      end of WW II, together with government subsidies to the oil and
      highway building industries, created a much larger geographic area
      for every store that puts in a parking lot. Because fuel and highway
      costs are artificially low, and the costs of pollution associated
      with driving automobiles is externalized, shoppers are more likely to
      patronize stores having low retail prices, even if they have to drive
      20 - 30 miles to get there.

      Don't forget that these stores also suppress wages to increase return for their investors, owners, and executive staffs. Wal-Mart encourages employees to apply for food stamps and Medi-Cal type programs, thereby forcing taxpayers to subsidize their profits. Also, their low wages and the tax breaks they typically demand reduce the buying power of the local market, depressing the entire economy while forcing municipalities to cover higher costs associated with social welfare programs and excessive road use.

      Of course radical conservatives will say that poor Sprawl-Mart employees should just die, as they are readily replaceable and it's their own fault they're poor anyway--these were the actual standard arguments of the post-feudalists in the beginning of the Industrial Age, by the way, and one of the mindsets against which Charles Dickens and others--including radical feminists of the time--agitated.

      There is a New Feudalism movement that has been building itself up quietly--of course that's my name for it, not theirs--and a lot of opposition to Carfree Cities, or anything else that empowers individuals and communities and undercuts corporate power, will come from the bigbox owners, the Neoconservative types, etc. And we will find some true philosophical conservatives allying with liberals in favor of individual choice (retail, transport, and lifestyle) and intelligent distribution of subsidies--by consensus rather than bribery. (Check out http://www.progress.org)

      Without emphasizing the true extent of road and other subsidies to sprawl development, the degree of manipulation that has supported its growth, and the restrictive nature of both sprawl development and bigbox economics, we will have a hard time selling this idea.

      Richard
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