Re: [carfree_cities] Buckeye Institute Study: No Urban Sprawl Crisis in Ohio
>>>>> "Matt" == enjax <mattlyons@...> writes:Matt> Yes yet another depressing study from a Libertarian think tank
Matt> that has decided there is nothing wrong with sprawl and that the
Matt> free market(i.e. more/wider roads to subsidize more sprawl) is
Matt> the solution!
Last night I started reading The Elephant in the Bedroom, which was
recently recommended here. 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 (haven't read past
that yet :-) of this book are written from a libertarian perspective
(which surprised and at first dismayed me). To claim that the current
state of affairs came about due to market forces is to be willfully
That said, it isn't surprising to find a study saying "sprawl is
good". I read this sentence that you quoted:
"Smart" growth plans adopt a prescriptive view of cities and urban
developments that ignore consumers wishes and substitute it with the
will of politicians.
Whenever people talk about "wishes" and "choices" in a policy context,
you can be sure that they are about to ("coincidentally") justify
their own position. Talking reductively about consumer choice
neglects the ways that choices can be shaped outside of (typical)
- --- In carfree_cities@y..., Tom Tromey <tromey@c...> wrote:
> Last night I started reading The Elephant in the Bedroom ..Why should that dismay? If I prefer walking three miles
> 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). ..
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
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.
> Last night I started reading The Elephant in the Bedroom,=v= I was the one who recommended the book, and I understand the
> which was recently recommended here. 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 (haven't read past that yet :-) of this book
> are written from a libertarian perspective (which surprised
> and at first dismayed me).
feeling of dismay, but many of the people we encounter in these
matters adhere to that kind of ideology. This makes it possible
to communicate with them, and indeed to prove your point to them
in a way they'll have a hard time shrugging off.
=v= Sometimes there are motivations underlying the adoption of
an ideology, though, that are so entrenched as to resist any
appeal to reason. In my experience, so-called libertarians and
other propertarians rarely wish to consider unfair advantages
that have already occurred, and practically never do anything
to redress them, even if the situation is the result of actions
on the part of the reviled public sector.
> To claim that the current state of affairs came about due to=v= Well, that's the other piece of it: dishonestly using an
> market forces is to be willfully ignorant.
line of argument to bolster a ripoff. The Buckeye Institute
does seem to be in that business.
- turpin wrote:
> . . . . For example, perhapsI am glad the subject of property taxes have been raised.
> 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.
Property taxes once were based on frontage, an idea that this group
would probably support, since it penalized those with wide lots (and,
interestingly, especially those with corner lots, since they paid for
their frontage on _both_ streets).
But that was penalizing suburban homebuyers over their former neighbours
who stayed in the city, so the system was slowly changed to reflect more
of the ability to pay, on which income and sales taxes are based. [Of
course, in the U.S., since the center city did not have jurisdiction in
the 'burbs, the suburban taxes did not have to support the older city
costs, nor benefit from their (declining) commercial-industrial tax
In 1993, I developed a scheme which was intended to face this issue in a
slightly more sophisticated way. I suggested measuring the
"walkability" of each neighbourhood and to use the score to _adjust_ the
property taxes, up or down by a factor up to x2, otherwise based on
real-estate values. This would be used for all properties, including
non-residential ones, in the particular neighbourhood. Besides being
fairer, it provided an incentive to the neighbourhood (I favour
neighbourhood government functioning under metro municipalities) to make
the changes that would reduce its residents' and business owners' tax
load, specifically by reducing the "load" on the various city
infrastructures, physical and social/health.
BTW, I understand that in Virginia, property taxes are based on the
total value of home and motor vehicles registered to that address. Nice
twist on a theme.
Chris Bradshaw, Ottawa