Tea Party Advocates Big Government? September 24, 2012

Because the quote I want to use is from a comment on Lisa Hymas’ post at Grist.org that is way down toward the bottom, and because I mainly want to respond to that comment, I will quote it here in full:

Marc 1875:
What I fail to understand is why the Tea Party advocates for government control over every aspect of urban development – from mandatory controls on density in suburban areas (density limits) to opposition to infill development in urban areas to mandatory minimum parking standards. Added to this is opposition to efficient transit systems and even . . . to quality-of-life parks systems. Several conservatives, such as Weyrich in “Moving Minds” and the American Chamber of Commerce more recently, have made the case for multi-modal transportation systems.

[Bragging rights: My philanthropic foundation was one of the major supporters of Weyrich’s “Moving Minds.”]

Now I have avoided the Tea Party, pretty much, and I am not at all sure what the Tea Party’s views actually are on the power and authority of local government over the use of land [which I have said before are one’s basic view of government], or if they have any. I certainly would not speak with Marc 1875’s confidence about what Tea Partiers’ views on this subject are. I do know that a lot of suburbanites who would call themselves Republicans and anti-Big Government people do hold the views described. And bureaucracies are the same all over the country, especially at the local level. Those, like The Becket Fund and others, who travel the country defending the land use rights of churches and other organizations, do not spend most of their time in the ‘blue states’ as we now call them.

I have probably said before that I draw from Francis Schaeffer my understanding that suburban politics is driven not primarily by love of liberty or love of virtue but by the two ultimate values of personal peace and affluence [which I sometimes abbreviate to PP&A], for which, if necessary, they will sacrifice both liberty and virtue to the extent liberty or virtue threaten PP&A. And ‘smart growth’, whatever its deficiencies, is often opposed by ‘no growth’, which is often accompanied by complaints about overpopulation and explains why there is a kind of secular conservatism that supports Planned Parenthood. [I have a lot of problems with Planned Parenthood, but there is nothing left wing about it.]

My approach would tend to be ‘forbid not’. Forbid not density, especially in transit hubs; forbid not sprawl, provided we have set aside some of the aesthetically best countrysides as open spaces, public or for the preservation of historic agriculture. A really just society, politically, from the point of view of housing would be over-entitled in both fairly dense housing units and single family lots; that is to say, if all that is legally entitled were to be built, there would be an excess of both dense housing and single family housing on the market and many would stand empty.

By the way, ‘density’ in a New Urban context usually does not mean the high rise ‘vertical suburbs’ that are found in some big cities, though there is a place for them; it evokes the small town, not the high rise city, and likes single family homes on smaller lots with rentable ‘mother-in-law units’ and low density apartment or condominium buildings where the building looks consistent from the outside but the apartments may be of radically different sizes so that they might be ‘mixed income’ without subsidy; and retail on the ground floor of some apartments, or should we say apartments on the top of retail?

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