Why Don’t More Conservatives Support Smart Growth?

A self-identified conservative who supports the “broader vision of smart growth” has identified a reason why more conservatives don’t support smart growth: the political economy of sprawl.

In an article following on a recent post by Richard Florida about the political divide between urban and suburban America, James Bacon proclaims, “I’m one of the world’s few conservatives who supports the broader vision of the Smart Growth movement.”

“I have articulated a vision of Smart Growth that is based upon the principles of fiscal conservatism, limited government and free markets. But not many people are buying it,” says Bacon.

Why not? “The reason, I think, can be traced to the political economy of sprawl. Republicans, the party that nominally stands for fiscal conservatism and free markets but rarely governs that way, comprise the party of sprawl. (By “sprawl” I mean the scattered, low-density, autocentric pattern of development that prevailed during the post-World War II era.) Republican voters tend to live in communities born of sprawl, benefit from the subsidies and cross-subsidies that perpetuate sprawl, don’t want to change the way they live and don’t want to give up the subsidies.” 

Bacon, like Planetizen blogger Michael Lewyn before, also directs our attention to the Smart Growth for Conservatives blog, for more solidarity for his arguments. 

Full Story: The Political Economy of Sprawl


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