Commentary

The hubris of planning

I’ve run across few items that encapsulate the hubris of planning than this exchange (the first serious, the second tongue in cheek) by two urban planners on a list serve. It was prompted by a Washington Post article discussing the increasing frequency of cluster mailboxes. Apparently, homeowners don’t like them: “many residents and developers say cluster boxes — traditionally reserved for apartments and townhouses, not single-family homes — are impersonal, inconvenient and downright ugly.” Some planners think this isn’t a very good reason to oppose them. Afterall, they are efficient (from the postal service’s perspective) and it forces lazy suburbanites to excercise by walking to their box: Planner 1: It’s depressing that people think they deserve mailboxes, especially when it’s clearly better in terms of efficiency and health to have clustered mailboxes. Planner 2 riposte: Next I suppose they’ll want to have their own computers right in their own houses instead of efficiently and healthily signing up for computer time at the library.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.