Saturday, April 29, 2006

The monkey on our backs

Back in September, when our politicians last took leave of their senses over rising gas prices, this is what I had to say:

I hate to get all James Kunstler on you, but we once again are reaping the whirlwind of poor development policies, of bad choices about where to live and how to organize our communities. (I'm not even discussing our abyssmal energy policies.) Will we finally be chastened and begin creating walkable, high-density communities, with adequate public transit, or when prices fall back to some reasonable level, will we breathe a sigh of relief and throw up another subdivision? I fear I already know the answer.

I still feel the same. I'm against all these schemes to lower gas prices and to help people afford to buy gasoline. I hope gas prices keep rising until, to paraphrase a line from an Al Pacino movie*, the stink rises all the way to Heaven. As Andrew Sullivan and Charles Krauthammer noted, it's supply and demand, stupid.

*Whoever correctly guesses what film that line comes from will get a year's free subscription to The Conversation. Those who answer incorrectly will get the same thing.


Blogger Sean McDaniel said...


as for the gas prices and subdivisions...they both keep going up. you don't have to wait for an answer hell, even rush limbaugh told a caller the other day that if she wants prices to go down that she should drive less (you know, lower the demand). And if she can't afford to fill her SUV, trade it in for a more fuel efficient model. Well, the caller said the prices weren't hurting her (yet), but her employees were suffering at the pump. and get ready for what el rushbo replied...give them a boost in their pay based in the increase of gas over the price from last year at this time. yeah, she stopped being compassionate real fast. now that's a bizarro world, if you ask me.

11:13 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

No, it's not "Gigli."

11:01 AM

Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

Is it, ... and Justice for All.

Al Pacino plays a Maryland lawyer who takes on a judicial system rife with dealmaking in this awkward blend of satire and sentimentality. Topical director Norman Jewison can't seem to help Pacino get comfortable with the mismatched material, which pushes the film into outrageousness at some turns and mawkishness at others. The script by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin is more an accumulation of random ideas and moments than a congruent story. However, it's interesting to see the large cast of good actors, most of whom hadn't become well known yet. (Christine Lahti made her film debut here.) Pacino gets to work for a second time (following The Godfather II) with acting mentor Lee Strasberg.


6:37 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

No, but in the film to which I allude, Pacino also plays an attorney.

8:06 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

the devil's advocate...where he met his acting match...keanu reeves.

9:49 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

You win.

6:19 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

i'm honored.

11:08 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

If "walkable, high-density communities, with adequate public transit" where of any interest to a majority, no, even a significant measurable percentage of the population than, let's say Gigli, then developers, being the spineless whores that they, would be cranking them out left and right.

A corollary of "follow the money", is "if there is no money in it, why bother?".

Are you aware of a recent book, Sprawl: A compact Histroy by Robert Bruegmann, a Professor and Chair at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Among other things Bruegmann agrues that "sprawl is neither recent nor particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, and choice that were once the exclusive prerogatives of the rich and powerful."

Sprawl sounds pretty egalitarian to me. Once most people achieves a level of affluence they flee dense center city.

10:31 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Even a New Urbanist zealot like James Kunstler doesn't try to argue that sprawl is a uniquely American phenomenon, nor that it is solely the result of the automobile or other purely modern factors. Nor did Jane Jacobs, for that matter, dispute that some people, having achieved a certain means, would flee cities. In fact, she argued against the efforts of planners in her day to try to lure back these people as elitist and patronizing toward those who were left behind, as though the poor and lower middle classes were incapable of organizing decent city neighborhoods.

I'm not in favor of government measures that coerce people into living in cities, or that artifically inhibit sprawl. I am not an advocate for example, of Portland's urban growth boundaries. But nor am I an advocate of interfering in the oil markets merely to perpetuate a lifestyle that may prove ultimately unsustainable. You may recall that I blogged some time ago about a Joel Kotkin essay, in which he noted that many suburban communities are trying to create town centers and become more walkable. It may be that people are coming to realize that while they may not enjoy the big city, they like many of the attributes that higher-density living has to offer.

The point is that our choices have consequences, and we've ignored them for too long.

2:28 PM


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