Around the Blogs: The Benefits of Density 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 21 Feb 2008 18:34:00 GMT

Alex Steffen at WorldChanging in January, with My Other Car is a Bright Green City (edited for publication in BusinessWeek), and Allison Arieff at the New York Times’s By Design blog on Monday, with Is Your House Making You Look Fat?, take involved and interesting looks at the environmental, energy, and health consequences of America’s love affair with sprawl. In Steffen’s words: “The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.” Arieff mirrors his sentiment: “First, let’s talk about cars. Stop designing for them.

Their excellent essays have spurred varied responses.

Ezra Klein at the American Prospect, yesterday: How We Live Now:

There’s often a tendency to assume that the status quo is the most “natural” way for things to be, and that rejiggering the relevant subsidies is somehow more artificial and presumptuous. But the current system was built atop a massive structure of subsidies and tax breaks. The mortgage tax deduction advantaged bigger homes; funding schools through inequitable property taxes encouraged families to move out of cities where the property taxes were low and into richer suburbs where the schools would be wealthy; putting billions into costly and little-used roads made far-flung developments appear cheap to those who only saw the finished product; underfunding public transportation heavily influenced development patterns, and so on and so forth.

Matt Yglesias picks up at the Atlantic: Dense:

What’s particularly astounding about this stuff, in my view, is that fixing the problem would hardly require some totalitarian density police to come around and force us to all live closer together. Instead, the main step we would need to take would simply be to allow people to build more densely if they want to. As a secondary measure, scrapping or limiting the tax code’s weird and destructive subsidy of big houses would do some good.

Other blogs that picked the thread up include Duncan Black’s Eschaton, 2020 Hindsight, Urban Grounds, Dove’s Eye View, Trinifar’s Some Maintenance Required, The Vigorous North, and The Velorution.