I really can't stand to be in New York City for very long. The crowds, the hassles and the lines all conspire to drive me crazy. Every second I feel like I am packed around by more people, and I find it horribly claustrophobic.
If your immediate reaction to this statement is to feel like I am attacking you or your lifestyle, you are wrong. My purpose is not to say that those who love it here in NYC are making an incorrect choice, for they are not. If they derive energy from the people and the density and all the amenities that density can justify, great. It is in fact an interesting (and depressing) feature of modern discourse that my saying that I don't personally choose a certain lifestyle is found as threatening to people who do. Why should it? My only answer is that this zero-sum statist society of activists has created the expectation that the next step of anyone who expresses a negative preference for something will be to run to the government to get it banned.
The reason I bring my preference up at all is that the vast majority of city planners get a huge hard-on for New York. Their goal is to turn the world into Manhattan. They wish to maximize densities and minimize personal automobile use and, well, backyards. In other words, a bunch of folks who have the ear of the government wish to use the coercive power of the government to turn the world into something I can't live in. Again, I have no problem with New Yorkers having New York, but why does Scottsdale have to be New York too?
By the way, on a quasi-related topic, the Anti-Planner has an interesting observation: Supposed gains in sustainability in high-density urban areas have more to do with making everyone poor than with the density (emphasis added):
Many planning advocates take it for granted that sprawl and auto driving are inherently unsustainable. McShane shows
just how this attitude can go when he describes Halle Neustadt, which
some Swedish urban planners once described as "the most sustainable
city in the world."
McShane here refers to some field work
done by the Antiplanner. To make a long story short, what made Halle
Neustadt "sustainable" was poverty, and as soon its residents gained
some wealth, many of them moved out and most of the rest bought
automobiles, turning the cities many greenspaces into parking lots.
Owen then turns to climate change, which he describes as the last gasp
of smart growth. Smart growth, he notes, "has always been a policy in
search of a justification, a solution in search of a problem." Now, in
climate change, smart-growth advocates hope they have found such a
One difficulty, McShane notes, is that there is no guarantee that
smart growth is really more greenhouse-friendly than ordinary sprawl.
Depending on load factors, Diesel trains can emit more greenhouse gases
per passenger mile than autos, and concrete-and-steel high-rise condos
can emit more CO2 than wood homes.
McShane refers in particular to an Australian study
that found that "place doesn't matter," that is, low densities were not
particularly greenhouse unfriendly. Instead, income was much more
important, meaning that the high-rollers living in million-dollar
downtown condos were generating far more greenhouse gases than
Which implies that the "solution" to sustainability (whatever that is) and CO2 emissions is to promote poverty. That may seem like a tongue-in-cheek exaggeration, but in fact the latest IPCC warning on climate relies heavily on the work of Nicholas Stern, who says the solution to global warming is to make western income levels look more like those in India (emphasis added):
Mr Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, sends out a
very clear message: "We need to cut down the total amount of carbon
emissions by half by 2050." At current levels, the per capita global
emissions stand at 7 tonnes, or a total of 40-45 gigatonnes. At this
rate, global temperatures could rise by 2.5-3 degrees by then. But to
reduce the per capita emissions by half in 2050, most countries would
have to be carbon neutral. For instance, the US currently has, at 20-25
tonnes, per capita emissions levels that are three times the global
The European Union's emission levels stand at 10-15
tonnes per capita. China is at about 3-4 tonnes per capita and India,
at 1 tonne per capita, is the only large-sized economy that is below
the desired carbon emission levels of 2050. "India should keep it that way and insist that the rich countries pay their share of the burden in reducing emissions," says Mr Stern.
Translation: India should stay poor and the West should become that way.