Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A look at "Compact or spread-out cities"

A brief commentary on the Gusdorf and Hallegatte article, “Compact or spread out cities: urban planning, taxation, and the vulnerability to transportation shocks.”

This article takes an interesting approach to the entire question of sprawl. It takes techniques that I think would work in reducing sprawl, and relates them to something that is arguably much bigger than the simple tug of war between the interests of the anti-sprawl people and the ones who see it as something that is not quire worth worrying about: saying that the reduction of sprawl can reduce one’s home’s vulnerability to economic shocks. It is something that strikes me as completely plausible, since the people who live three miles past the city limits and have to drive to work will pay a much higher cost than those who opt to live nearer work.

That being said, I can’t help but think that this is true anyway. Furthermore, it fails to account for the fact that people are not a homogenous group; some just want to live out in the countryside, just like there are those who would be perfectly happy to spend their entire lives in a Smart Growth community. If they can afford to, they will! Those who are more marginal will be persuaded by taxes and measures to keep population density high will be more likely to stay in the city, and they are welcome to do so.

Honestly, this is why I would be more likely to support taxes to mitigate what is seen as taking advantage of a common resource than zoning that requires people to do one thing: with the tax, those who still want to do what they will like to do will be able to do it. It preserves free choice; zoning is, effectively, imposing an absolute restriction on the people who have ideas.

1 comment:

Larry Eubanks said...

With our relatively free economy, can you give me any instances of "economic shock" that fit with the conceptual analysis of the article?

Do you think this concern about "economic shocks" would be a new source of market failure? Or do you suspect that each individual can see and react to the conceptual issues raised in the article?