Linky Friday: Picket Fences


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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100 Responses

  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    D1: Yup, all over the local news here. It’s a sad story. (It’s also why I won’t walk to work, despite living only a mile and a half from my workplace. A colleague was attacked by a dog but he was carrying pepper spray so he wasn’t hurt). Lots of people who should not have dogs have them, and they either don’t socialize the dogs properly or they actually socialize them to be violent.

    I am low-grade afraid of unfamiliar dogs (bad childhood experiences) and this is not helping.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:


    Improved mass transit. It’s green and it serves primarily the working class.
    Congestion charges for big city cores, with the money used to improve mass transit from the suburbs into downtown.
    Direct housing subsidies to the poor in high-cost areas.
    Better care for the homeless, both in terms of shelter and mental health.

    A conservative will spend any amount of his money to make sure he isn’t going to live next to poor people.

    A liberal will spend any amount of the government’s money to make sure he isn’t going to live next to poor people.Report

  3. Tr1 and Tr3 have some things in common. 11% of the US population uses public transportation daily or weekly, which would fit nicely with the 9% of non-car households in the Tr3 story and also explain why public transit is frankly just a foreign language to most of the populace in the Tr1. The other related item is, and Lyman points this out, a household once it has multiple children changes the dynamic massively. Millennials are now into their prime child bearing and rearin’ ages, no doubt that change will also affect their opinions on cars vs bicycles and mass transit, as it has for most other generations.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

      Plenty of people manage to have a lot of kids and still use public transit. Now European countries are often a lot smaller than the US but others aren’t like Canada.

      Sprawl has consequences and Will also pointed out it is heavily subsidized. Suburban sprawl probably could not survive without subsidies.Report

      • It wouldn’t be as prolific as it is, but there would still probably be plenty of sprawl. It’s just that the working class wouldn’t be able to afford to be a part of it.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Will Truman says:

          That’s the other thing, that suburban sprawl requires not just subsidy but middle class prosperity.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

          Suburbs would exist without subsidies but they would look very different. Besides fewer people being able to afford them, developers might build them differently.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

            The houses themselves look very different.
            When you have 5 children, and land is cheap and middle class jobs are strong, the houses were smaller, yards were larger.

            Now as the land is more expensive, with fewer middle class jobs, smaller families with fewer children we are seeing these massive houses on tiny lots, and instead of bedrooms they have amenities like home theaters and more bathrooms than occupants.Report

      • Sprawl does not occur in a vacuum, though, subsidized or not. There will always be a significant portion of public that either by choice or circumstantial force work in an urban area but do not want to live there for various reasons. To consolidate a point you were making in an adjacent comment here, I think there is merit in what you say about perceptions of “elite” and the comparison of cost of “cultured art” and fishing boats is a good one. These issues that end up coming down to “quality of life” measurements are not easily rectifiable in data. Some people just cannot envision life outside of a city, while others are horrified by the same prospect. Having to drive two vehicles 100+ miles a day to do jobs/schools/activities in the country seems crazy to someone that has mass transit and city services close at hand.

        For my part when I lived in Europe I readily used public transit, in fact paid annually for my EUrail pass to give me freedom in that regard to how and when I traveled. But even that changes from living in Frankfurt, a major transport hub, to living in relatively rural Schonenberg-Kubelberg in the Rhineland-Palatinate some years later that did not have public transit even for Europe.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

          I agree that there will always be people who prefer a lot of space and the U.S. has a lot of space. There will always be people who prefer smaller communities than larger ones.

          But any economist can tell you that the choices people make are based on subsidies and incentives. If we largely subsidize suburban sprawl than a lot of people might make those choices even if they want something else. Maybe the same would be true if the incentives were more for density and urban living.

          Right now we seemingly perceive cities* as being for really young adult and/or the marginalized in American life (the poor and/or minorities and/or other assorted misfits/bohemians), and interestingly the very rich. Middle-class families belong in the burbs or rural locations. There is also a lot of zoning rules and perceptions that makes developers build condos with Studios or 1 or 2 bedroom apartments instead of larger dwellings for families.

          But what if developers started building 3-4 bedroom units and cities went for upzoning, townhouses, etc. What if we taxed gasoline properly and people decided that long commutes were a killer?Report

          • If there was a market for it they would be doing it already. Granted some zoning prohibits as you said, but if you have to engineer moving into the city to that degree what’s the point? If your forcing people by regulation into cities you going to end up having to subsidize somebody to do something they aren’t willing to do, either in building or living there. So what did you gain by subsidizing the city instead of the suburbs? Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

              It isn’t helpful to think in terms of subsidy or not, engineering or not because suburbs themselves are highly engineered and subsidized.
              It’s probaby more helpful to think in terms of an overall vision of who we are and what we want to be.
              Like, we are living in smaller more fragmented families, yet without the prosperity that would allow individual household formation.
              How we respond depends largely on our priorities.
              We could revert to historical norms of multiple generations living in semi-private quarters and sharing resources.
              Or introduce a wage subsidy to facilitate individual living.
              In any case, we will need to envision a way of life that is very different from what we have known.Report

              • I want to think on this for a bit before responding with you thought of overall vision, which is different than where I was coming from with original comment.Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Chip Daniels says:


                Alternatively, instead of imposing some vision on how we should all live, we could just unwind all the subsidies to different lifestyles and let people figure out what they want base don the actual costs and befits of each option.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to James K says:

                How do you do “end subsidies to different lifestyles” though?

                If you collect taxes and use the revenues to build and/or maintain streets, water, sewer, and electric grids, public schools, fire halls, police stations, public transit, libraries, rec centres – you’re subsidizing the lifestyles of those who use them.

                If you don’t, you lose the next election to someone who proposes to pave the dirt roads in all the new subdivisions, deal with the cholera crisis, build a useful transit system, help the kids who don’t have a school anywhere near them and the kids whose schools are overcrowded with out-of-town pupils, etc. And then you’re back to subsidizing.

                So, to a large extent we have to choose what and how to subsidize, not whether.Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to dragonfrog says:


                I’ll grant you it’s hard politically, but I raise ideas like this not because I think they are easily doable politically, but because in bringing them up I’m hoping it leads people to realise there are options outside the extremely narrow range of tools that are part of our conventional political discussions.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to James K says:

                @james-k But if they’re so incredibly hard, politically, are they really even options? Or do options only count if they could actually be implemented? If not, why not?

                (These aren’t rhetorical questions, I’m interested in seeing where you take them….)Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Maribou says:


                Part of what makes ideas politically impossible is that people aren’t familiar with them – if we only discuss ideas that are already commonly contemplated, then there is no opportunity to consider innovations to our policies.

                Many economists in the 20th Century, Keynes, Coase and Friedman among them, suggested policies that were considered radical and bizarre when they were proposed, but became mainstream before they died.

                I’m ill-equipped to engage in political activism or rally groups of people, but I can at least raise alternatives that might get people thinking about what can and can’t be done.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to James K says:

                It isn’t hard “politically” its impossible to even define.

                It implies some prelapsarian state of nature without human intervention.

                The most basic of governmental functions, even the act of creating government itself, confers a legitimacy and material benefit upon one set of ideas, culture, or identity at the expense of others.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:


              • Avatar James K in reply to Chip Daniels says:


                The impossibility of perfect neutrality does not preclude increasing the amount of neutrality in our institutions.

                It is impossible for a government to be totally neutral on the matter of religion, that doesn’t mean we have to have established churches.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to James K says:

                The impossibility of perfect neutrality does not preclude increasing the amount of neutrality in our institutions.

                The only things I can think of off hand is increasing the gas tax and directing it at roads, and (massively) increasing transit fees.

                Other examples?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to James K says:

                Why should neutrality be a goal?

                Using your example, while the government is agnostic about religion, it is not at all neutral about morality; We establish laws declaring certain behaviors bad, and punishable.

                Rather than promote neutrality, it seems preferable to demonstrate an actual harm of whatever non-neutrality exists.Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Chip Daniels says:


                Indeed, I’m not suggesting a complete free-for-all. Some one who uses their land in a way that harms other users should be required to pay appropriately for doing so. And yes, there is a subjective element to defining “harm”.

                But current urban planning regulations aren’t optimised for mitigating harm so much as they are optimised for allowing local government to control exactly what each parcel of land may be used for – it is this sort of centralised planning of land use I object to.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Canada is as suburban as the U.S.:

        Percentage of metro population that is auto suburban:
        Canada: 70.7%
        Australia: 70.5%
        United States: 68.8%

        Percentage of metro population that is exurban:
        United States: 16.4%
        Australia: 7.2%
        Canada: 5.2%

        Percentage of metro population that is auto suburban or exurban:
        United States: 85.2%
        Australia: 77.7%
        Canada: 75.9%


        Also, in all three countries all of the residential growth in the last five years has been outside of the urban core / public transit suburbs.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        To paraphrase Stone, the US is not Europe, our cities developed differently from Europe, are zoned differently, and we will not be like Europe in any of our lifetimes.

        So stop holding up Europe as the example. We need different transit solutions, and looking at Europe for ideas is probably counter productive. We should be looking at Japan, or maybe even China, for ideas. Or perhaps just try figuring it out on our own.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Japan has a lot of rail transit too! They have rail transit in really small cities and rural areas. It would take a long time but it is possible to get from Tokyo to Osaka using nothing but local train routes instead of the Bullet train. In China, a lot of people use bikes.

          Here is a map of all the train lines in the Greater Tokyo area alone. Note that Chiba is its own prefecture/city:

          I find that the “America is not Europe” argument is overused and overly broad. It seems like American conservatives use it for any policy American liberals advocate for.Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I find that the “America is not Europe” argument is overused and overly broad.


            “We can’t do that in (city X)! We’re not Amsterdam or Copenhagen!” they say – but Amsterdam and Copenhagen in the 60s weren’t the Amsterdam and Copenhagen city planners keep pointing to now (whether as ambitions or objections to others’ ambitions). It took political will to transform them, same as it will in whatever city X.

            And now in the few cases where US city X did the thing despite “we’re not Amsterdam” arguments, and got good results, other US cities’ planning departments are objecting that they’re not city X.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          My post seemingly got eaten. Lots of people in China use bikes. Japan has one of the most extensive rail lines in the planet. It is possible to get from Tokyo to Osaka (or nearly) using just local lines. It will take a long time but it is possible. Here is a rail map of the Greater Tokyo area:

          The problem with the “America is not Europe” argument is that it is overly used. It is seemingly used for anything liberals advocate for.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            The problem is that people see the argument as a way to say transit can’t work in the US. What it actually means is Euro style transit will not work well in the US.

            There is no reason public transit can’t work, but making it work means look at the city you have, not the city you wish you had.Report

            • There is no reason public transit can’t work, but making it work means look at the city you have, not the city you wish you had.

              And historical decisions may make the transit enormously more expensive. Not too long ago I was looking at a comparison of a European light rail extension compared to Denver’s light rail system. One of the things that jumped out at me, that made the European project much cheaper and faster to finish, was how the government dealt with the freight rail operator (I forget if it was private- or state-owned). Anyway, the local government was allowed to build on the freight rail rights-of-way without payment; they were allowed to dictate upgrades to the freight rail control systems; and in the case of shared rails, were able to preempt the freight rail operator’s use at certain times of the day.

              In Denver, one of the proposed lines will probably never be built, because Burlington Northern has said, “You want access to 20 miles of our (seldom used) right of way? $7B cash, all up front.” The line to my suburb has been finished for 18 months but not put into service because of (fundamentally) problems in the specification of the wireless version of the gate control system, and the freight operator sharing the right-of-way won’t allow use of the wired version. The two Denver lines that have gone into service on time and under budget were the one built as part of a major highway construction project, and the one that uses the old trolley right of way that Denver has owned since the 1950s.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              I have no idea what you mean by Euro style transit. Euro style transit covers a lot of different things from subway systems, trams, light rail with its own right of way, busses, and intercity rail. Some European countries like France and Germany have a lot of transit. Others like Great Britain or Ireland have very little compared to other European countries.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Transit systems that are not competing with car-centric infrastructure.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                There is a lot of car-centric infrastructure in Europe. These are affluent nations with millions of citizens that like to drive. They haven’t entirely neglected transi like America did for decades.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yes, because they had transit already before the cars came. Because they didn’t allow their transit systems to die off. Because their urban cores were old already and they had no desire to expand roads through them.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                American cities had transit before cars came. There were street cars and interurbans like Pacific Electric or the Key System. They existed throughout the United States.Report

        • This is true but that doesn’t mean we can’t look to Europe for examples (both inspirational and cautionary).Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Japan is even less of a model for the United States than Europe. Its a lot denser and much more transit oriented than any European country. There are passenger train stations everywhere. The few places without train access have bus access. China isn’t much of a model either. When the American government decided not to invest in transit, the Chinese government made massive investments.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

            I’m thinking more about how their cities are laid out and how transit addresses that. Where else in the world do you have car-centric sprawl like we do, with cities that evolved post industrial revolution?Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Australia, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, and Canada.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Better examples, thank you.Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to LeeEsq says:


                I can’t speak for the other countries, but New Zealand doesn’t offer much in the way of good examples. The only city in New Zealand with decent public transport is Wellington, and that is for purely topographical reasons.

                Wellington’s development was heavily constrained by coastline and rugged terrain, such that it consists of a (by our standards) dense urban core with development happening along the valleys that stretch away from that core. This is pretty much a perfect layout for trains – run a train line down each valley and you’re set.

                Without that topography you get Auckland – a very low density city (the 6th largest in the world by area, but with only 1.5 million people in it) and with no clear point in the CBD for people to congregate at, you end up with everyone trying go from everywhere to everywhere else. This makes its public transport of limited value, expect by coincidence.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James K says:

                I wasn’t using New Zealand as an example America could look to. I was using it as a place outside the United States with car centric sprawl.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          I think my reply is trapped in the spam box. Can someone check?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        You also have some very densely populated states. California has 40 million people and is about the size of Sweden. Sweden has ten million people and a better rail net because of policy choices.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

          More and more I find myself asking about density in the “built” areas. Sweden and California both have very large areas that will never be “built”. Wendell Cox has been saying a bunch of interesting (and contra the conventional wisdom) things based on the Census Bureau’s recent data on urban areas — eg, that California’s built areas average denser than New York’s despite NYC, that metro LA is denser than metro NYC when urban area is used rather than county boundaries, and that seven of the ten “densest” US states are in the West (because western suburbs average almost twice the density of suburbs in the rest of the country).Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Michael Cain says:

            LA County is about the size of Connecticut and has a population of ten million people. By all accounts, its a very dense place. It has a big public transportation network by American standards. Orange County is also a very dense place.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I find Tr1 might say something more about conservative projection then anything else. Paul Waldman has an essay in the Washington Post about why liberals should stop caring about accusations of being “elite” or “smug.” He basically said this is a fight we will never win so fuck it.

    I’ve often noticed that sneers against liberal elites are often more about aesthetics than actual elitism. In right-wing parlance, anyone who enjoys highbrow culture is elite. The NYC public school teacher who buys nose bleed or partial view tickets at the ballet is elite but the Florida paving contractor with a 300,000 dollar fishing boat is not.

    There is another aspect where conservatives never think liberals are sincere and further, liberals (especially white ones) secretly agree with conservatives.

    What’s wrong with wanting to be a bit more like other countries if you think they have some better policies? Also why can’t both be be true?

    Lyman Stone is doing a whole lot of projection.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’m somewhat in agreement that many American liberals often do complain that White Americans aren’t European enough even if they don’t use those words exactly. Look at how many times religiosity is mocked on liberal blogs. You would think that the rest of the world is atheist. What they really are saying is why aren’t White Americans secular like Europeans. Much of the rest of the world is more religious than the United States.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I find Tr1 might say something more about conservative projection then anything else. Paul Waldman has an essay in the Washington Post about why liberals should stop caring about accusations of being “elite” or “smug.” He basically said this is a fight we will never win so fuck it.

      Waldman is as right as he is wrong.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Ho2: not sure what I was expecting from Drum here, but that was not it, and I am pleased it wasn’t.Report

  6. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    [Tr1] Has a bit of an oddity in it. He pooh-poohs the “appeal to Europe” arguments made against his tweets, in which he universalises a study that is specific to the US…

    Anyway, I totally agree that in practice, (1) having kids, (2) in a social environment where we’re reluctant to let them travel independently (3) in a city where children’s fares for transit start at a young age, and (4) (true for most Americans) transit is crap anyway, does rather negate the economic savings of using transit.

    Thing is, Lyman argues mostly (1) add though the other three points were immutable.

    My city is likely to address (3) shortly, to done extent, by making transit free for kids under 13. It’s attempting to address (4) as best they can.Report

    • From my experience on (2) there is something to that. In our village in Germany I had no problem letting my then 10 year old daughter walk a few blocks to the bakery, Wassgau, Shell station, whatever that I would never have done in the states. Kids walk to school, walk home for lunch, return, then home again without any supervision or assistance there so very much a societal norm, for lack of a better word.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        Kids walked places and a lot of independence in the United States up until the 1970s. It’s only when cul-de-sac developments that link directly to major roads plus some Santanic panic when this didn’t become common.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

          It’s only when cul-de-sac developments that link directly to major roads plus some Santanic panic

          This typo is uncannily appropriate to my own childhood, when my aunt strictly forbade my cousins from riding their bicycles out of the cul-de-sac and onto Santana Street.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to LeeEsq says:

          In my region, there were also a couple high-profile kidnappings. My parents still let me walk everywhere but if I was going to someone’s house I was expected to check in with them when I got there.

          But yeah. I remember the summer days of walking up the street with my friend Elizabeth to where the creek was to try to catch frogs, or going “exploring” with the kids across the street in an area that had been platted out (roads put in, streetlights put in, but houses never built) for a future subdivision.

          I wasn’t allowed to walk to school when I was in high school though, even though it was near enough to do it, because it involved crossing railroad tracks.Report

        • Not sure I agree with that. 70s also brought waves of consolidations, especially of rural areas, of schools. The end of the one room and local schools made walking impractical in a lot of those cases and dramatically affected education in everything from transport to funding to identity. Independence of children is it’s own argument (see the “free range” debate) but education wise consolidation isn’t factored in as much as it should be for both school and societal change.Report

        • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Kids walked places and a lot of independence in the United States up until the 1970s

          That rings true for my experience (if we excise the reference to culs de sac and “Santanic” paranoia). My siblings, who were born between 1958 and 1965, seem to have had much more freedom of movement than I, who was born in 1973. That’s only anecdotal (and impressionistic) (and faulty because memory and personal recollections tend to be faulty) evidence, but my sense was and is that I was more restricted in my movements than my siblings.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Lyman’s main point is it’s the destination though. Children is where a lot of that becomes more apparent because it multiplies the number of people and destinations. Friends in L.A. have three children, going to three different schools in three different cities, plus shopping, plus dance class, plus Bar/Bat Mitzvah education, etc. The idea that they would move to a high-rise residential structure near public transportation without parking for one or more cars seems ridiculous.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to PD Shaw says:

        We make these decisions that constrain us to driving through our lives, and then we say “transit doesn’t work – see, I could never live this specific way that I committed to knowing it required a car to be feasible.”

        It’s true, it would take some rearranging. They’d have to have their kids in schools reachable by public transit (or if they’re older and attending college, put the car money into residence and commuter rail expenses instead), and chosen dance and Bar / Bat Mitzvah times and places that take advantage of the strengths, and avoid the weaknesses, of transit.

        You could say that about any form of transportation. I could just as well constrain my life to transit by moving into a highrise without automobile parking, sign my kids up for different commitments that put them in opposite ends of the city at the exact same start time and then say “private automobiles don’t work – see, the only way my daughter can make it to curling and my son to sculpture at 5:00 every Tuesday and Thursday, while I’m still at work, is for them to board separate buses in separate directions. And I have nowhere to even store a car.”

        Again, it would mean rearrangement. I’d have to change my living arrangement, and sign them up for courses with times and places consistent with my shuttling them around by car, that don’t require the independence from my own schedule that transit allows. Take advantages of the strengths, avoid the weaknesses.Report

  7. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Fo3: Those would be the long-term effects of eating that kind of food on a regular basis. In the short term, it promotes the release of dopamine and makes you feel good, which is why it’s addictive.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    D6: Are there Arminian dogs? Ezekiel 18, verses 21 and 22 say:

    21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

    22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

    This implies that dogs *CAN* be good.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

      I never realized “Who’s a good boy?” could be a theological conundrum…

      (I always assumed the “state of grace” thing for animals, that they can’t decide to be evil. I remember also having LONG discussions with a Catholic officemate about whether pets could go to heaven or not. We agreed on “yes,” but he was troubled because a priest once told him dogs didn’t have souls, and his argument was, “if heaven is supposed to be everything good, it wouldn’t be good for me without my dogs, so my dogs would have to be there.” I sort of came down on the side of “if you are loved, you have a soul” which is maybe an odd position but….)Report

    • Avatar Mark Van H in reply to Jaybird says:

      No, it doesn’t. It merely makes clear that only the righteous can live and as St. Paul makes clear, there is none righteous, no, not one and it is therefore obvious that dogs need the imputed righteousness of Christ if they are to live.

      Of course, since we can only with speak about what we see in this realm, I would consider it fairly clear that there is no sign whatsoever that dogs exhibit anything that even hints at sanctification and their clear lawlessness and disobedience make it very unlikely that many of them will have been predestined.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mark Van H says:

        Oh. Paul. Yes. I understand that he did say some things.

        Jesus, on the other hand, also said some things. The Parable of the Banquet, for example, makes plain that people have the choice between going to it and not going to it. Sure, the invitation was to everybody. But the guests themselves are the ones that choose to go to the banquet or not.Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:


    Improved mass transit. It’s green and it serves primarily the working class.
    Congestion charges for big city cores, with the money used to improve mass transit from the suburbs into downtown.
    Direct housing subsidies to the poor in high-cost areas.
    Better care for the homeless, both in terms of shelter and mental health.

    These tools are effective means for liberals to make sure they don’t live next to any too poor people .Report

  10. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Lyman Stone does make a very good point which most urban planners already know, which is that the entire structure of America is designed around individuals and automobiles.

    The physical structure of our cities, their layout and functional zoning; Our banking structure of mortgages and government backed securitization; Our legal structure of subsidy for freeways and gasoline.

    For a hundred years now, all the organs of our society have worked with the implicit assumption that the “correct” way to live was in a nuclear family in a suburban house commuting by automobile to work in a city.
    It wasn’t a conspiracy, and it wasn’t the only template, it was just considered more desirable, more hip and cool. And in truth, the typical American city in 1918 was in fact dirty, smelly, loud and unpleasant.

    And the issue was every bit as politicized and tied to identity then as it is now. When Frank Lloyd Wright sneered at city living as “pig piling”, was he commenting on the physical congestion, or the large families of Italian and Jewish immigrants living there? Was it the chaotic bustle of poor people living frantic lives in tenements and sweatshop compared to the quiet orderliness of an Oak Park suburb? Was it the political power of the Anarchists and Reds versus the WASP industrialists?

    And how could it be different?

    How we live our lives is always going to have cultural and political overtones.

    This article about the evolution of the American home to its open plan format touches on this, how the shape of a house is predicated on the roles of the family members; Who is cooking, who does the dishes, who watches the children, where and how do the children play?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Even before the car or widespread car ownership, Anglo-Protestant Americans fetishized the single family home as the only real way to live. Many cities from the East Coast to the West Coast promoted themselves as a city of homes. When brown stone ownership became increasingly impossible even for affluent people in Manhattan after the Civil War, there was a minor panic because you couldn’t raise a proper Anglo-Saxon family in a French flat. American society always had an element of weaponized domesticity and the single-family home was at the heart of it.

      I would point out that American cities really didn’t begin to decline until the 1960s. Most cities hit their peak population in the 1950 or 1960 census. Afterwards, it was a steep downward descent that many only started to recover from.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Can’t ignore the regional nature of this. Draw lines from about the middle of Missouri, one north and one east. The cities that “crashed” are almost all in the upper right area of the country. Elsewhere, peaks, if they occurred at all, were later — mostly the 1970 census — declines were smaller, and recovery began relatively quickly.

        From 1960, approx 60 US House seats have been reapportioned out of that region. The most recent projections I’ve seen suggest that eight more will go after the 2020 census.Report

      • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Anglo-Protestant Americans fetishized the single family home as the only real way to live

        That seems overbroad. I’m inclined to say it’s “middle and upper-middle class Anglo-Protestant Americans….” Or, I’m inclined to leave the “Anglo-Protestant” out of it entirely.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I think the trends go back further than a hundred years though. This article is a nice overall of the rise of single-family detached homes originating from 17th Century Holland. I’m not sure I agree with all of this, but there is an important point that there was something that changed:

      The Netherlands was Europe’s first republic, and the world’s first middle-class nation. Prosperity allowed extensive home ownership, republicanism discouraged the widespread use of servants, a love of children promoted the nuclear family, and Calvinism encouraged thrift and other domestic virtues. These circumstances, coupled with a particular affection for the private family home, brought about a cultural revolution.People began to live and work in separate places; children grew up with their parents (rather than being apprenticed to strangers, as before); and the home, securely under the control of what we would now call the “housewife,” was restricted to the immediate family. This intimate domestic haven was always a house.

      The style crossed the Channel and the trend went from row houses, to duplexes, to detached units. In America land was not only cheap enough, but land was rarely if ever subject to inter-generational hereditary claims. A lot of people immigrated to this country in the 19th century in order to one-day own land that was an impossible goal in the Old World.

      I think the crowded lower-class living conditions at the turn-of-the-century in structures like tenement buildings were aberrational and despised by the middle class as not how Americans are meant to live. This could either motivate charity, reform movements or immigration quotas, sometimes at the same time. But I think the preference for a space of one-own is centuries old.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to PD Shaw says:

        The word downtown comes from when early 19th century New York. When the tip of Manhattan started growing to dense, the affluent moved north for their living arrangements. All their businesses stayed around the southern parts of Manhattan. The men would walk or ride down to them every day and go back at night. Hence, downtown became a word for the commercial parts of a city.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to LeeEsq says:

          My parents’ town, recently, the “downtown” area has “gentrified” (or it thinks it has) and it’s started calling itself “uptown.” Which seems wrong to me. And many people who have been opposed to the whole process (which involved deficit spending on the city’s part and also led to several long-time businesses either leaving or being kicked out of city-owned buildings) still make a point of calling it “downtown.”

          The whole thing seems stupid to me. The biggest issue? The “downtown” used to be a campus town; now most of the restaurants/businesses have priced out the professors and many of the students from using them.Report

          • it’s started calling itself “uptown.” Which seems wrong to me.

            Not to comment on your parents’ town (and I think I know which town it is, and I’ve been there a couple of times), but “uptown” in my city is not usually regarded as a place where you (the generic you) would want to go unless you had a reason and a way to get home. (In other words, I agree that “uptown” seems a bad fit, though perhaps for reasons that differ from yours.)Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to PD Shaw says:

        While I don’t think a lot of the policies that get thrown around have more than a marginal impact, I think a big one that doesn’t get mentioned enough is the act of extending the interstate highway systems into the urban core. They destroyed residential housing (mostly in ethnic minority neighborhoods) and substantially reduced commuting costs. I can’t think of anything that transformed cities at such a scale.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to PD Shaw says:

          I agree with this. If the Interstates and other freeways went around rather than through the existing cities like Paris, the cities would look very different. More neighborhoods would be left intact and this might lend to stabler neighborhoods.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

            @leeesq The cities would, but the suburbs also would. The banlieues are the difficult part of Paris to live in, by a long shot, and not particularly “suburban” by American standards.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

              American suburbs would never look anything like Parisian banlieues without some really heavy government intervention. The trend of the inner city being for poor people with middle and upper class people living further away started in the 19th century in the United States.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Maribou says:

              Probably not like Paris but they might be more like the older bedroom communities (as suburbs used to be called) where there is a commercial district and walkability. I grew up in an older suburb of NYC and we had a small and central commercial district that was very to relatively walkable from most of the residential areas. This is in contrast to the cul-de-sac to major road to strip mall model that seems more predominate from the later part of the 20th century.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Sure, I just thought y’all brought up Paris as a model / exemplar and I was saying “If you want Paris, you’re getting some pretty crappy suburbs, actually.” If that’s not why you brought it into the conversation, never mind.

                Some (smaller) cities still do have those kinds of bedroom communities, of course – Syracuse is a good example, there are a ton of such around there. It’s pretty great, at least during the 3 weeks a year their weather is neither too muggy nor too adrift in 8 foot snow banks ;). ( Just to give a size indicator, from wiki: At the 2010 census, the city population was 145,252, and its metropolitan area had a population of 662,577.)Report

              • Avatar J_A in reply to Maribou says:

                Paris is e tre elf expensive to live in. Hence, there are middle class and upper class banlieus in Paris, too. Versailles is one, a very expensive one, mind you.

                The banlieus of newsreels fame are located to the North and Northeast of the city. The good banlieus are to the West and the Southwest.

                (My grandparents lived in Paris, in the very boring, very middle class Southeast)Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to J_A says:

                @j_a thank you for clarifying…Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Its going to be pandemonium. I’m morbidly curious in how this is going to work out. The existing transit to get people along the L into Manhattan isn’t enough. Manhattan can’t handle more people coming in by car. There isn’t enough parking. Employers are going to need employees in to work.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Tr2: Seriously distracted (eg, texting) hasn’t spread across the full age range yet. Myself, I expect traffic fatalities to continue to increase over the next decade, then begin to decline again, as the Boomer bulge moves through the accident-prone (and less likely to survive) group of drivers aged 65+.Report

  12. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Ho2: Drum says that subsidizing housing for the poor in high-density areas should be a high priority, but density should not. Together these add up to a great big fish you to the urban middle class. To the extent that subsidizing housing for the poor allows them to continue living alone in expensive urban areas, rather than moving out or doubling up with roommates, this reduces the amount of housing available for people paying their own way. If there’s no increase in density, then the only way the market can clear is for rents to rise enough to drive some of those people out of the city or into roommate arrangements.

    As moral principles go, “You have a right to live where you want, but only if you’re not pulling your own weight” is pretty perverse.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      One would think that rental assistance would be prioritized to people who work in the city and have a family, or have significant needs that are most easily accessible by living in the city (disability or medical needs where being close to social or medical services is important), etc.

      The SINK or DINK should be dead last in the assistance priority list, unless they have some significant need.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Maybe it depends on the form the subsidies take?

      I’m a fan of requiring builders to set aside certain percentages of their apartment buildings for below-market rentals. They don’t have to be fixed suites – if someone gets a new job and no longer needs the subsidy, they needn’t move, but the landlord has to offer the next suite to come vacant at the subsidy rate. Neighbours don’t even need to know whose suite is subsidized and whose is not.

      Requirements around number of bedrooms – to make sure there are units big enough for people who need to share rent – might have a place too.Report

  13. Avatar Pinky says:

    Tr2: In the statistics the article cited, a driver is labelled “distracted” only if it is noted on the Police Accident Report. Will’s intuition (and the article’s intuition as well, since everything in the article but the stats depicts distracted driving as a significant problem) is more valid than these statistics would indicate.Report

  14. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I have a strong suspicion that even if the GOP loses Congress in 2018 and Trump loses reelection in 2020, our international reputation has been damaged forever or at least many generations

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      America is like that safe, stolid, respectable pillar of the community, who one day goes on a drunken bender and ends up naked in the city square fountain raving about chemtrails.

      Even after he sobers up and swears off the sauce, no one ever looks at him the same way again.Report

  15. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    [Tr1] VERY enlightening, I’d never thought of it that way but it makes a lot of sense.

    For similar reasons I have a huge SUV. In the big picture, it’s cheaper.Report