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Re: [carfree_cities] Buckeye Institute Study: No Urban Sprawl Crisis in Ohio

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  • Tom Tromey
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 3, 2002
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      >>>>> "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
      ignorant.

      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)
      consumers' awareness.

      Tom
    • turpin
      ... 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
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 4, 2002
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        --- 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.
      • Jym Dyer
        ... =v= I was the one who recommended the book, and I understand the feeling of dismay, but many of the people we encounter in these matters adhere to that
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 5, 2002
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          > 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).

          =v= I was the one who recommended the book, and I understand the
          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
          > market forces is to be willfully ignorant.

          =v= Well, that's the other piece of it: dishonestly using an
          line of argument to bolster a ripoff. The Buckeye Institute
          does seem to be in that business.
          <_Jym_>
        • Chris Bradshaw
          ... I am glad the subject of property taxes have been raised. Property taxes once were based on frontage, an idea that this group would probably support, since
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 7, 2002
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            turpin wrote:

            > . . . . 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.

            I am glad the subject of property taxes have been raised.

            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
            bases.]

            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
            www.flora.org/chris/
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