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Ideology and Urbanism

Stephen Smith has an excellent post over at Market Urbanism that explores why liberals and conservatives hold seemingly inconsistent beliefs about urbanism.

(from M.V. Jantzen on Flickr)

I've been thinking about this issue over the past few weeks, and I think Smith is right in suggesting that the elements of urbanism do not fall neatly into liberal or conservative buckets. Good urbanism incorporates elements that both sides should theoretically love, and some elements that they should both hate.

Ultimately this leaves someone who strictly believes in an ideology intellectually torn.

If you're a pro-free market, hands-off government libertarian, for example, then you would oppose government imposed parking minimums (good for urbanism) but also oppose government funded public transit infrastructure (bad for urbanism). If you're a liberal, perhaps you would support walkable communities that reduce carbon footprints (good for urbanism) but also support subsidizing auto-manufacturers to protect union jobs (bad for urbanism).

To be a true urbanist means you have to set hard political ideologies aside. It means that you need to accept that urbanism draws upon ideas from both liberalism and conservativism, and that it's OK to cross the ideological aisle.

Urbanism, after all, shouldn't be about propping up a political ideology. It should be about creating livable, walkable, affordable neighborhoods. And it should be about making life better for the people who live in them.


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