A couple of weeks ago I put online a piece (complete with video) entitled Barack Obama: Dreaming of the 50 Square Metre Apartment. It spoke of the stark reality that, in order to achieve Obama’s decidedly statist vision of reduced energy and riskless economics, one would have to go back to a system like the old Soviet Union where everyone is housed in high rise apartment buildings and small (by American standards) apartments.
I’m sure some of its readers thought I was nuts. But now we have Vincent Carroll’s piece in the Denver Post which shows that Robert Redford has disdain for the American alternative, the single dwelling subdivision:
Robert Redford is an example of the human species at its finestrich and good-looking, I mean — so naturally he would never consent to live in anything so tawdry as a “subdivision.” During his visit to Denver last week, the film icon and green activist had a few dismissive words for that particular type of development.
“I think the New West should return to the Old West, when there was an emphasis on communities, on families and neighbors,” Redford told a gathering sponsored by Project New West. “It’s time to think about what kinds of development we want, whether we want to develop more communities or subdivisions and sprawl.”
Carroll goes on to discuss sprawl:
What is “sprawl,” anyway? When I discussed that question last month with Tom Ragonetti, a Denver land-use attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Denver law school — he recounted an exercise he sometimes poses to students. If you had an unlimited budget, he says, where would you choose to live in metro Denver? Needless to say, most students do not mention a row house or apartment — even a luxurious one. Instead, they identify an upscale Denver neighborhood such as Country Club, or Cherry Hills, or perhaps Genesee or Evergreen.
Back to reality, Ragonetti then instructs them. Your budget is not unlimited. You can’t afford Country Club or Cherry Hills. What’s your next option — particularly if you’re trying to raise a family? Is it a third-floor flat near one of those communities? Far from it. Most students indicate they’d search far and wide for housing that comes as close as possible to their ideal.
“Sprawl is a million people making that decision,” Ragonetti explains.
That “million person decision” doesn’t sit well with Redford or many in our elites. But they’re not the ones paying the price if they get their way:
“Growth management is inherently an elite or luxury good,” he says. The wealthy will always win a bidding war for the most desirable dwellings while the poorer classes end up being squeezed. The more extreme the growth management, the farther it will slice up the income scale.
It’s supremely ironic that the housing decision taken by the Soviets as egalitarian and fair would be similar to the one which many in the upper reaches of our society would have for us. Idealism like this is great until it’s implemented. How else to eliminate “sprawl” except to cram everyone into high rises? But such a cram would favour upper income people in our society.
But then again, as I like to say, socialism is the rich man’s solution to the poor man’s problem.