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Reason Foundation

New Urbanism and Markets: A Delicate Balance

Leonard Gilroy
June 27, 2005, 9:44am

Though I share many of author Steven Greenhut's opinions on modern urban planning and the need to curb the rampant abuse of eminent domain, I have been mildly critical of his recent writings on New Urbanism (see here). In short, I think that he has shown a tendency to blur the distinction between New Urbanism (a movement advocating a return to traditional urban forms and architecture styles) and Smart Growth (a movement aimed at using all manner of intrusive, anti-market, and often counterproductive policy mechanisms to produce radical changes in development patterns and, ultimately, human behavior). While there are common goals between the two movements, New Urbanists tend to be at least marginally more receptive to the use of markets to achieve their goals. Smart growth advocates, by contrast, may support a cherry-picked set of specific market-based policies, but then augment them with all sorts of coercive, anti-market policy prescriptions, such as urban growth boundaries and open space preservation schemes. In my opinion, Smart Growthers distrust markets because they wrongly perceive that the urban sprawl they abhor is the result of unfettered market forces, rather than the inevitable by-product of a market constrained by outdated, Euclidian zoning ordinances and poor planning policies and frameworks. Anyway, with this (arguably subtle) distinction in mind, it was welcome to see Steven Greenhut clarify his sentiments on New Urbanism in Sunday's Orange County Register: Kudos to Greenhut...whether you agree or disagree with his opinion of the philosophical foundation of New Urbanism, he certainly hits the nail on the head with regard to policy. (Via Planetizen)

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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