Freeman

ARTICLE

The Idiocy of "Smart Growth"

APRIL 19, 2003 by BARRY LOBERFELD

One of the more obnoxious (and, frankly, dangerous) trends here on Long Island is the growing number of “grassroots” activists who’ve taken it upon themselves to inform the “less socially aware” — meaning everyone else — that our fair isle is suffering (yes, suffering) from “too much development”: too many warehouses and office buildings, too many cars and highways, too many golf courses, too many strip malls (a particularly favorite target, for some reason), too many new neighborhoods, and — the root of all this evil — too many people. We are sacrificing “the environment” — our trees, trails, ponds, blueberries, warblers, and tanagers (I had to look that last one up) — to this “too much development,” to the “urbanization of the suburbs.” Pledging themselves to “act locally,” these self-styled “progressives” are petitioning their county legislature (Big Brother’s little brother) to step in and—as if normal community growth were a felony offense — put a stop to any further development, an agenda that is ridiculously dubbed “Smart Growth.”

Now it seems to me that this arrogant presumption suggests its own modest proposal: If we are already> suffering from “too much development,” which implies that these activists know (and have the right to determine) exactly how much development the rest of us should have, then shouldn’t we demolish some of this development in order to descend to that specific (though as-yet unspecified) level? Why not send in the wrecking crews to raze the strip malls and even the major ones — and then attempt to reforest the area? Why not turn the Roosevelt Field Mall into blueberry fields forever? Let’s bulldoze all that new housing and allow Mother Nature to reclaim the land for the warblers and the tanagers. Instead of merely opposing expansion of Route 25A, why not go ahead and close it off to everyone? Those who wish to travel can bike the trails or, even better, walk.

But the really great thing about all this destruction is how it will solve the people problem (“population congestion”) by necessarily forcing the flight of Long Islanders of every stripe, from Mexican day laborers to the “quality of life” protest groups that routinely demand their deportation.

Those on the left look at development the same way their right-wing counterparts look at immigration: It was fine before, but not anymore. Both scramble to close the gates behind them — and to hell with those on the other side. Incredibly, they imagine that they can freeze time or even turn back the clock to a “more preferable” period (for them, that is). The fact is, property — and freedom — will always attract new people, which means new development, which in turn attracts more people. It is the history of human civilization, and it will be the history of the human future. We cannot sacrifice that future to a conception of “the environment” that, too obviously, signifies only all that is not human.

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

April 2003

comments powered by Disqus

EMAIL UPDATES

* indicates required

CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
Download Free PDF

PAST ISSUES

SUBSCRIBE

RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

Essential Works from FEE

Economics in One Lesson (full text)

By HENRY HAZLITT

The full text of Hazlitt's famed primer on economic principles: read this first!


By FREDERIC BASTIAT

Frederic Bastiat's timeless defense of liberty for all. Once read and understood, nothing ever looks the same.


By F. A. HAYEK

There can be little doubt that man owes some of his greatest suc­cesses in the past to the fact that he has not been able to control so­cial life.


By JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Leonard Read took the lessons of entrepreneurship with him when he started his ideological venture.


By LEONARD E. READ

No one knows how to make a pencil: Leonard Read's classic (Audio, HTML, and PDF)