jefferson and sprawl

leonardo vazquez wrote an interesting criticism about how thomas jefferson's anti-urban policies encouraged sprawl. while i'm not endorsing vazquez's argument, i don't disagree. i just find it strange that he felt compelled to blame a modern phenomenon on a dead president. not to say i'm defending jefferson either (more of a scholar than a politician, yet closed the biggest real estate deal in the history of united states).

some background information: sprawl is 'bad' these days because it's a sign that land is not developed to its maximum utility. that acre of manicured lawn? wasteful. in its place can be rows of homes housing families that for whatever reason, have been priced out of being able to afford a shelter. in certain areas, sprawl threatens to encroach onto rural land, as sometimes it's cheaper to build outward, than to demolish existing structures and rebuild, resulting in fields of abandoned structures. a key metric for determining if the land is efficiently developed is per capita land consumption, which takes into consideration multiple social factors such as neighborhood amenities (jobs, recreation, religious and cultural opportunities, parking, transportation, education, government services, etc).

as with most public interest advocacies, anti-sprawl campaigns range from evangelical to reasonable.


Blogger Mitesh said...

His argument is pretty weak. So half a state's power in the Union comes through it population. The other, through the Senate, comes through sheer existence. I can't speak volumes about how powerful Congress was relative to Senate, but I know for the most part, the Senate seems to be more powerful.

When he talks about encouraging people to spread out over the land. That's nice and all, but the money, the fame, the food is all in the cities.

Then he argues that Jefferson's policies prevented cities from forming. I'll give him the point that this was effective in the South, but because it didn't need to happen in the South. Rather, when the Industrial Revolution got into full swing, the cities were the only places people could go to actually make steam powered machines.

While I sympathize with Jefferson, I don't think he gave cities a fair chance either. Wendell Berry lays out a strong argument in the same vein of Jefferson. But Jefferson never really acknowledges that his university education is available to him for the same reasons that cities form.

All in all, I don't care for sprawl. It separates a person's home from their work. When those two lay miles upon miles apart you don't serve the people you live with. In my opinion, you really have no compelling reason to get to know either really well.

Just my two cents.

11:26 AM  
Blogger aingeal is said...

sprawl might become irrelevant if someone would invent the teleporter already.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

i learned about sprawl in my intro to public admin class. i feel enlightened!

1:22 AM  

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