Will end of Sprawl boost centralized planning and squash public input?

The Saint ReportRetail, saintblog3 Comments

In the Washington Post, Eduardo Peñalver, an associate professor at Cornell Law School, sees the end of sprawl as a silver lining for middle-class homeowners facing housing market collapse and high gasoline prices. Given the connections between car-dependent suburban development and social ills from climate change and the destruction of wetlands to obesity and social isolation, Peñalver says the end to post-World War II sprawl can come none too soon. For his full article, click more.

But that is only part of the issue. Peñalver sees the end of sprawl leading to more regionalized planning to tackle long-standing planning disputes between urban and suburban communities.This, in turn, raises a host of concerns about the perils of centralized planning and the suppression of public dissent it may engender, as Ben Kelahan, a Saint Consulting division manager in Washington, and Mike Saint, chairman of Saint Consulting, comment below.

3 Comments on “Will end of Sprawl boost centralized planning and squash public input?”

  1. The end game of central land planning must be that all decisions will be made by central bureaucrats who know best how people should live. They will not tolerate dissent from the “ignorant” little people “who obviously” don’t understand why they should live as the bureaucrats decree — according to good land use planning dictates. They will justify these government controls on the basis of energy consumption, reduction of carbon footprints, fighting sprawl, preserving open space and other causes of the day. There will be no room for citizens telling officials how to vote. It cannot be allowed. If politicians overrule the bureaucrats the central plan won’t be implemented. (So we will not be needed.)

    In so doing, of course, they will create regulations that produce bizarre consequences. E.g. Rent control in Cambridge, MA during the 70’s and 80’s that ended up letting wealthy people pay below market rents and discouraging any new rental housing from being built in the city for decades, further exacerbating the very housing shortage that rent control was designed to alleviate.

    The free market, in economics or in land use, provides important feedback to buyers and sellers whether more or less of something is needed. It does this in the form of prices. Higher prices means more is needed. Lower prices mean less is needed. If given free reign, the market steps in and adds more where more is needed and produces less if less is demanded.

    Central land planners, in their desire to create a “perfect world” where everybody lives in a New York City like environment of high density apartments above retail, mass transit and a minimum of cars and single family homes, will invariably make the wrong decisions, creating shortages of what people want and producing too much of what people do not want.

    Bureaucrats, in their efforts to centrally plan perfect communities (in their minds anyway), will abuse the rights of the people. E.g. Take private property by eminent domain and turn it over to those who will build approved centrally planned developments. If people don’t buy the apartments above the retail shops designed by the bureaucrats, they will have no choice but to enact laws requiring people to live where they are told. I.e. in apartments designed by central planning.

    A brave new world awaits….

  2. Not to many folks’ surprise I’m sure, I’ve always have been a fan of centralization and regional planning (too many years studying Marxism and the Politburo I suppose). However Mike, I agree with the implications on our business. Although it depends ultimately on what these theories would mean practically in terms of changing approval processes, at first blush I think this would mean less control of locally elected bodies we may be hired to pressure from within the community and more administrative functionaries impacting decisions. Reminds me at the micro level of DC, where the Office of Planning is perhaps the strongest force behind projects and moves them despite local Advisory Neighborhood Commission reaction and official recommendations. Then again though, our job there has been to keep OP politically covered enough that the ANC recommendations look marginal and meaningless, essentially usurping the ANC’s role in the process. OK, I’ll get back to reading Lenin’s Manifesto Shto Dyelit (“What is to Be Done”)….

    Ben Kelahan is a Saint Consulting division manager in Washington, D.C.

  3. Consider the implications on our work if this vision comes true. The central planners against whom Hayek railed in Road to Serfdom haved moved from economic planning to trying to central plan land use. I predict they will fail for the same reasons. Central plans will lead to unintended consequences and then to more regulations and less personal freedom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *