A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003 :::
Another Thing Conservatives Giggle At But Shouldn't

All right, last night at 9:00, the nation's capital was shut down by four major accidents, three of them on the Beltway, which was also the sight of major, traffic-snarling construction. This is just a damnfool stupid way to live.

During the 2000 election, Al Gore trotted out the problem of "sprawl," and conservative commentators reacted as if he were an idiot. Ok, we are talking about Al Gore, but the fact is, sprawl is a problem, and conservatives should not let the left run away with yet another issue. Certainly, when it comes out of the mouth of a Harvard-educated child of a senator, particularly one who views his every burp as Olympian, conservatives are quick to detect the bi-coastal sneer against the suburban culture which really is the backbone of this country. And surely the votaries of Big Government are sniffing around for yet another wedge into the lives of private citizens.

But there is no good reason to spend hours in your car every day, separated from all human contact. Again, if conservatives make a great deal about morals and social restraints, this kind of isolation cannot be good for people. And it isn't. We certainly aren't going to get any kind of control on the drug problem when kids are isolated and bored, and families never see each other.

As it happens, the market is providing a solution. Just ask the African-American gentleman, friendly acquaintance of A Mind That Suits, who paid 60-some-odd thousand dollars for a house in the heart of Washington fifteen years ago, a house now assessed at $350,000. In Wilmington, NC, a private developer is building a huge self-contained development with shopping, offices, and housing. The morning rush hour is not likely to be lessened a lot, but it will be somewhat. You can imagine that the residents are going to find themselves depending on the stores that are easiest to reach.

Government does have a role here, the probably hang-up for many conservatives: zoning laws are not a bad thing if they are rational, decided in open meetings, and limited in scope. Indeed, it was leftwing fascination with social engineering that gave us zoning that favored keeping residential and business areas separate. "Why?" is a good question, but that is what happened: somebody got the bright idea that people needed to have their lives compartmentalized, and they were. There is a longstanding movement to change those laws, and allow something like old-fashioned main streets nearer to residential areas.

Economies of scale mean that many of us, this writer included, will still prefer his choices at those mega-stores, so what will evolve will be something new. But it is not stupid to point out that sitting alone in smelly traffic is not a good for people, and what is not good for people is not good for society.

For an interesting take on the transformation of shopping culture, see this interesting article by Pulitzer-Prize-winner Daniel Henninger.

A Mind That Suits got a good chance to review a French language tape this weekend, sitting in the traffic, which is what inspired the thoughts. Back to flying.

Have a good one.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 12:26 PM



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