Urbanists Left and Right

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Michael Lewyn's picture

There is finally a new blog, Smart Growth for Conservatives, focusing on issues of interest to those of us who generally support smart growth and new urbanism, and yet are less politically liberal than most people who do so.

How are conservative smart growthers (or CSGs) similar to their more liberal allies?  Like environmentally minded critics of sprawl, CSGs oppose government subsidies for sprawl and sprawl-generating government regulations.  In particular, quite a few of the new blog's posts focus on wasteful sprawl-generating road spending. 

Having said that, CSGs do tend to differ from other smart growth supporters in a couple of ways.  First, they tend to be fiscal conservatives, and thus skeptical of public amenities that are nice to have but perhaps not absolute necessities.  As a result, they are less consistently supportive of public spending on public transit and pedestrian/bicycle facilities than liberals might be.  Second, some issues that are generally part of today's liberal agenda are deemphasized by CSGs.  In particular, CSGs are less likely to discuss climate change or social diversity than liberal new urbanists.   I also suspect that CSGs are less likely to support smart growth regulations such as Oregon's growth boundaries; but since most Americans don't live in Oregon, CSGs aren't as obsessed with these regulations as are conventional pro-sprawl conservatives. 

Of course, CSGs differ among themselves.  Some CSGs are (as Mitt Romney might say) "severe" fiscal conservatives, and thus tend to be skeptical of all large-scale government expenditures. Personally, I am more of a Nixon Republican - which is to say, although I am less pro-regulation and egalitarian than many liberals, I am willing to support government spending not just as an "investment" (whatever that means) but as a public amenity akin to parks and schools.

Michael Lewyn is an assistant professor at Touro Law Center in Long Island.


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