Ken Masugi has invited me to address the question "New Urbanism: Friend or Foe of Property Rights?" To which I have both a short answer and a longer answer. The short answer is: Yes. My longer answer follows.
New Urbanism is concerned first and foremost with urbanism; which is to say, concerned with city life. It is animated minimally by the conviction that city life is in itself a valuable and objective human good; and maximally by the conviction that cities exist in order to promote the very best human life possible, and that good cities do just that.
The oldest systematic intellectual understanding of this view of cities is articulated in Aristotle's Politics. For Aristotle the best life for human beings is the life of moral and intellectual excellence lived in community with others, and especially in a polis—which is itself, as Aristotle wrote, "a community of communities, the highest of all, embracing all the rest, [aiming] at the highest good: the well-being of all its citizens."(1) Implicit in Aristotle's understanding of the polis is that every shared human enterprise exists for the sake of some specific human good or goods—an orchestra for the sake of music, a baseball team for the sake of baseball, a school for the sake of learning, etc.—but that what is unique about the polis is that the good it seeks is the well-being of each and all of its citizens over the course of their entire lives; which also suggests that the good for which the city exists must not only embrace the great variety of lesser genuine goods that human beings pursue, but also that citizens and communities will and on occasion must for prudential reasons arbitrate between lesser goods, emphasize some goods over others and subordinate some goods to others, even if only temporarily. It is in this context of considering goods, cities, and human well-being-over-the-course-of-a-lifetime that I would have us consider the subject of New Urbanism and the good not only of property rights, but also the related goods of both individual liberty and free markets.
Prior to a consideration of New Urbanism itself however, I must briefly mention two ideas that are foundational for my own presentation and promotion here of New Urbanism. The first is anthropological, and is actually a cluster of ideas; and the second is political. The foundational anthropological ideas are that human beings really do have a nature; that we are oriented to an end that I will here simply refer to as "human flourishing;" that we are social animals who require good communities in order to flourish; that flourishing includes both exercising individual freedom and embracing the disciplines of communal obligation; that there are certain types of behaviors that promote human flourishing (habits of moral excellence commonly called "virtues"); and that there are also forms of behavior that—because they both undermine the communities necessary for individual flourishing and corrupt individual character—are properly forbidden, whether by moral consensus, legal consensus, or both, and however imperfectly. Those of you already acquainted with these ideas will recognize them as central to a long tradition of western thought that runs from Aristotle through (among others) Aquinas, many of the American founders (notably Jefferson and Madison), Tocqueville, Gilbert Chesterton, and in our own day Karol Wojtyla and Alasdair MacIntyre.
MacIntyre is a particularly interesting figure here, insofar as his re-presentation of these classic western anthropological ideas draws into sharp focus how this older understanding of human nature differs in important ways from mainstream modern Anglo-Enlightenment social contract theory's view of human beings as autonomous rational agents.(2) This latter view of human beings, says MacIntyre, is deficient because it fails to take into account the entire spectrum of what is required for human flourishing from conception to death. In order to flourish all human beings invariably require care in utero and as infants and children; typically require care in old age; and always may and frequently do require care during illness and/or subsequent to injury, even during our adult years of rational agency and relative autonomy when we are also primarily givers of care as well as potential receivers of care. It is therefore insufficient, MacIntyre argues, to understand human beings simply as autonomous rational agents, and more true to understand ourselves as "dependent rational animals;" and this understanding necessitates a corresponding re-thinking of all that it implies for how we think of, and the importance we assign to, not only individual habits of moral excellence but also those communities of just and generous giving and receiving which every human being requires in order to flourish over the course of an entire life—perhaps the foremost of which, as both the Aristotelian tradition and New Urbanists argue, is the polis, the city.
The corresponding foundational political idea I want to mention is common to much of western political and religious thought, and indeed is associated with the anthropological ideas I have just described. It is known in Catholic social theory as "subsidiarity," in the Reformed tradition as "sphere sovereignty," and better known in American democratic culture as the idea of federalism. The principle of subsidiarity holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization that can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any good activity that can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. It follows that government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacity of individuals or private groups acting independently. The principle is based upon the dignity and value of the individual human person, and holds that all forms of society, from the family to the state to the international order, should be in the service of the human person. The principle of subsidiarity assumes that human persons are by our nature social beings; and particularly in contemporary social theory emphasizes the importance of small and intermediate-sized communities or institutions—the family, the church, voluntary associations, and (not least) the neighborhood—as "mediating structures" that require and encourage individual action, empower individuals, and link the individual to society as a whole. The principle of subsidiarity, like the related ideas of sphere sovereignty and federalism, is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It is directly opposed to the tendency and desire for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of both totalitarianism and the modern welfare state. But here I must emphasize that the idea of subsidiarity is not against government per se, even a centralized government.(3) Subsidiarity simply emphasizes that in deference to the good of individual freedom and local communities, as many decisions as possible should be made at as small an institutional scale, and by and as close to as many individuals, as possible.
With all this in mind, let me return to the contention that the polis exists for and is the locus of the best life for human beings. Even among those for whom Aristotle remains a foundational and authoritative political thinker and moral philosopher, many tend to either forget about or ignore that what Aristotle meant by a city was very small: typically, a community of perhaps 3000 to 20000 persons, small enough so that people can know one another's character by reputation if not personally and accordingly govern themselves rationally; and typically, a community with physical dimensions governed largely by the area and distance that a human being can comfortably walk, usually some 80-200 acres. This understanding suggests that what Aristotle meant by a polis is something much less resembling New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, and something much more like what we would today consider either a small town, or a traditional urban neighborhood. Indeed, this is a fundamental point reiterated by New Urbanists: that the neighborhood is the primary unit of town planning and urban design; and that housing, commerce, civic institutions, recreational amenities, and transportation policy should always be considered with reference to their roles and location within and impact upon neighborhoods. Conceptually, it helps to understand a "hamlet" or a "village" as a neighborhood standing alone; a town as something constituted by two or three or several adjacent neighborhoods; and a city as comprised of literally dozens of neighborhoods.
Whether village, town, or city, all human settlements—better and worse—simultaneously both exhibit and themselves are an environmental order, an economic order, a moral order, and a formal order, each of which also affect the other. Traditional towns and urban neighborhoods over the course of long histories have proven themselves to promote and sustain diverse living conditions that both support and are supported by the free exchange of material goods and ideas. But free exchange as a moral principle is not an autonomous moral principle. Although it is to be given wide latitude, it nonetheless remains a good that exists among other human goods—one that has a reciprocal relationship with rather than a determinist relationship to cultural values, and one therefore subject to certain moral and cultural constraints.(4)
The primary interest of New Urbanists is the formal order of human settlements, which likewise has a reciprocal relationship to their environmental, economic, and moral orders. But what makes New Urbanism "new" is not some innovative theory about traditional town planning and urban design, but rather that New Urbanists promote traditional town planning and urban design in the context of a culture that is simultaneously both hostile—and, n.b., legally hostile—to traditional towns and city neighborhoods, but nevertheless is vaguely aware that something has gone terribly wrong with how we make our built environment.
This cultural context—the condition to which New Urbanism presents itself as a partial corrective—is commonly called urban sprawl, but is more accurately called suburban sprawl. Suburban sprawl is the practice and result of making human settlements characterized by the strict separation of daily human activities. Unknown prior to 1945 and the post-war proliferation of the automobile, sprawl is today typically the only form of development legally permitted "as-of-right"—meaning: legally permitted without procurement of a typically costly and time-consuming variance. Beyond its legal establishment however, sprawl has become a cultural habit that finds expression not only in positive law zoning ordinances but also in the mental habits and building practices of virtually every institution having anything to do with the creation of the built environment, from developers, planning departments, banks, governmental housing and financing agencies, schools of architecture and planning, the real estate industry, traffic engineers, advertising agencies, even the church development bureaucracies of various religious communities. Look at virtually any agent of human settlement patterns today and you will find that its foundational if unarticulated assumption about The Good Life in America is suburban—and "suburban" today means "sprawl." Illustrated here is an aerial view of sprawl in southwest suburban Chicago. Note the distinctive forms of the residential subdivision pods, and their separation from the big-box pods of offices, shopping, and light industry.
Here is an aerial view of the advancing edge of sprawl (on the right) into the agricultural landscape southwest of Chicago (on the left).
The foremost physical characteristic of sprawl is the separation of uses by function into conglomerations of single-use activity that urbanists characterize as "mono-cultures." Here is a single use mono-cultural sprawl settlement of housing.
A sprawl mono-culture of shopping.
A sprawl mono-culture of commercial offices.
A typical sprawl example of a still nominally civic institution. Though from its appearance it could be a "big box" retail center or perhaps a medium security prison, it is in fact a public high school.(5)
The foremost influence upon the formal arrangement of the sprawl environment is the automobile; so much so that the infrastructure network of the sprawl environment has come to be designed exclusively for the automobile and in total disregard for the pedestrian. Here is a not a-typical sprawl arterial. The businesses that front it are all geared exclusively to drive-up traffic. There is not a sidewalk to be seen. The single pedestrian in this photo (center) is literally in mortal danger.
The combination of these elements in the sprawl environment makes for weird-yet-common conditions such as this one: Residents live in settlements with few if any sidewalks. (Note how the single-family houses are kept separate from the multi-family apartment buildings.) Some who live literally less than 100 yards from shopping are nevertheless required to get in their car and drive approximately a mile to buy even a carton of milk. Shoppers park their cars in a surface parking lot designed to handle parking for the first shopping day after Thanksgiving—but which the rest of the year is more often 90 per cent empty. This raises several questions. Is this a mere aesthetic affront, and hence just a matter of taste? Or, at worst, just an inefficient use of land? Or are there more serious problems here, of which sprawl is a symptom and to which sprawl is a contributor?
The Congress for New Urbanism was founded in 1992 with the primary objective of promoting traditional urbanism as an alternative to sprawl development. Although its members include politicians, academics, engineers, environmentalists, journalists, developers, and stay-at-home moms, it is a movement founded by architects and urban designers whose first objection to sprawl is largely aesthetic. But urban aesthetics are marks of cultural character, and New Urbanists argue that the aesthetics of sprawl are in fact physical markers of a larger set of cultural problems. Beyond aesthetics, the primary arguments against sprawl are that it is unjust, and that it is culturally and environmentally unsustainable. How so? Here are some observable problems attributable to or associated with sprawl, problems that are either direct consequences or unintended byproducts of sprawl's formal patterns of development:
Sprawl makes it impossible for people of different generations and different incomes to live in proximity to one another, and to work, shop, play, learn and worship in the proximity of where they live;
Sprawl effectively de-mobilizes and disenfranchises persons without cars and persons unable to drive, notably children (whose parents become de facto chauffeurs) and the elderly;
Sprawl injures the common good by concentrating both wealth and poverty; by separating people by income, age, and race; and by failing to provide a genuinely public realm shared by all;
Because sprawl separates housing settlements by class, it promotes extreme inequality of educational opportunity;
Sprawl hastens the loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the settlements it creates are not worth the tradeoff;
Sprawl, by its automobile-dependent lifestyle, contributes to current and unprecedented rates of obesity;
Sprawl is ugly, produces nothing in the public realm worthy of aesthetic contemplation, and creates a public physical environment for which virtually nobody has either care or affection;
Although suburbia has become a cultural ideal, it is a contradictory ideal because sprawl consumes the landscape that is the very substance of the suburban promise; and finally
Because sprawl cannot deliver on its promise of convenience, mobility, natural beauty, individual freedom and well-being for all, its self-contradictory dynamic is culturally problematic and undermines the common good. This is evidenced in part by the observation that often the persons most recently arrived at the fringes of suburbia are also the persons most vociferously opposed to its continuing extension (the political phenomenon that has come to be known as NIMBYism—"Not In My Back Yard").
The specific task undertaken by New Urbanists is the revival and creation of traditional towns and neighborhoods in a physical context of sprawl and the legal and cultural context that promotes it. Among the intellectual tools increasingly employed by New Urbanists is an idea called The Transect, presented by New Urbanists not only as an intellectual construct but also as a discovery and articulation of a general principle of both land use and historic human settlement. The Transect diagram depicts six distinct Transect Zones (T-1 through T-6). Zones T-1 and T-2 refer to "Rural Transect" zones in the most general way, insofar as they relate to the development of human habitat. The "Urban Transect," strictly speaking, is described by zones T-3 through T-6; and together with the Rural Transect zones constitute The Transect proper. The Transect attempts to both describe and promote the general conditions of a range of good human settlements, and likewise can be used as the basis for locally particular zoning law. It may be defined as follows:
The Urban Transect refers to that range of human habitats that support human flourishing, within which human settlements are part of a sustainable eco-system that may include both natural and cultivated landscapes. These human habitats, which can be visually depicted as "Transect-zones," range from less dense human settlements (T-3) to more dense human settlements (T-6); but each urban Transect-zone denotes a walkable and mixed-use human environment wherein within each urban zone many if not most of the necessities and activities of daily life are within a five-to-ten-minute walk for persons of all ages and economic classes.
What are the Transect zones, and what do they look like? What they look like on the ground varies of course varies from place to place and region to region. But for purposes of human settlement patterns, the idea of the Rural Preserve / T-1 zone is that it represents land that will never be subject to development as human habitat. Examples of T-1 zones would include those portions of the natural world where it is impossible for human beings to build; but would also include those areas where human beings could build, but have definitively decided not to. Examples of these would include wilderness preserves, agricultural land that has been placed in trusts precluding development, and even large urban parks. Illustrated here is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park on the northwestern edge of Michigan's lower peninsula. The Village of Empire may be seen on the right side of the image; everything above, to the left of and below the Village may be properly considered as Zone T-1 / Rural Preserve.
Rural Reserve / T-2 land may be visually indistinguishable from Rural Preserve / T-1 land. But the idea of the Rural Reserve / T-2 zone is that it represents currently undeveloped land that may or may not be developed. In other words, its future as natural or agricultural landscape remains in question and is subject to political determination. The implication of this is that all land currently zoned as T-2 / Rural Reserve will eventually be designated as either T-1 / Rural Preserve, or become designated as one or more of the Urban Transect Zones T-3 through T-6. Illustrated here is an American mid-western farm town surrounded by agricultural land. Unless and until such time as this surrounding farmland has been declared off-limits for development as human habitat, its proper Transect zone designation (exclusive of the town itself) is T-2 / Rural Reserve.
With the Sub-Urban / T-3 zone we enter into the least dense end of the Urban Transect gradation. The general characteristic of the T-3 zone is that it allows for relatively low-density human habitat (detached buildings of various sizes, typically set back from street front property lines) that nevertheless exists within a pedestrian-friendly environment and within a 5-10 minute / 1/4-mile to 1/2-mile walk to a variety of daily life activities---such as would be common in a traditional village, or in a low-density traditional urban neighborhood. Although most of these buildings are in fact houses, note well that Transect-based zoning also allows them to shelter other activities: e.g., a bed-and-breakfast, a home office, a funeral home, a restaurant, a day care center. Urban Transect zones by definition permit a variety of uses; zoning is therefore based upon building type and density rather than permitted or excluded uses. Thus the actual land use density of the Sub-Urban / T-3 zone may in fact be no different than the density of a sprawl residential sub-division; the difference between them is that the T-3 zone is a mixed-use and walkable environment, whereas the sprawl sub-division is not.
Illustrated here are examples of Sub-Urban / T-3 zone environments in both small towns and a big city. The upper left example is in Cooperstown, New York; the two examples to the right are in Skaneateles, New York. The example on the lower left is in New Orleans. Please note how in the Cooperstown image on the upper left the buildings in the foreground are set back from the street, whereas the buildings in the background are set close to the street---this is a point of inter-face in Cooperstown between the lowest-density Sub-Urban / T-3 and the higher-density Urban General / T-4 zones.
The Urban General / T-4 zone represents the next most dense type of urban land use. As shown in the diagram, buildings may be attached or detached, but the density remains fairly low; and although a mix of uses are permitted, the non-public building types in the T-4 zone are commonly intended to be primarily residential. Note also that residential property in Zones T-4 through T-6 is not limited to detached single-family houses, but might also include both owner-occupied and rental properties developed as townhouses, duplexes, 2-3 flats, and corner and U-shaped apartment or condominium buildings. Nevertheless, as in every T-zone, the environment is walkable and within pedestrian proximity of a variety of daily activities.
Illustrated here are examples of Urban General / T-4 zones in both pre-modern European and modern American towns and city neighborhoods, showing blocks of both single-family and multi-family attached and detached buildings, some of which may legally shelter non- or extra-residential activities. The upper left example is in Bruges, Belgium; the upper right example is in Nantucket, Massachusetts; the lower right example is in Chicago; and the lower left example is in Cooperstown, New York.
The Urban Center / T-5 zone represents the next most dense type of urban land use, and again may be characteristic of both small towns and large city neighborhoods. Here---unlike the T-4 zone building types, in which alternative uses are permitted but not presumed---T-5 buildings are more often attached rather than detached; and are of a type presumed and designed to accommodate different uses within the same building, most commonly residential or commercial uses located above ground floor retail activity.
Illustrated here are examples of Urban Center / T-5 zones, again in both pre-modern European and modern American towns and cities. On the upper left is the main street in the Italian hill town of San Gimignano; to the upper right is Lincoln Avenue in Mr. Bess's Neighborhood in Chicago; on the lower right is Royal Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans; and to the lower left is the short one-block main street of the small river town of Ripley, Ohio.
The final and most dense Transect zone is the Urban Core / T-6 zone, which differs essentially from T-5 zones only in terms of the former's higher densities of population and activities. There is debate among New Urbanists about whether it is proper to characterize T-6 densities as applicable to small towns. I think not; the kinds of densities characteristic of Urban Core / T-6 zones are such that they are really only typical of large cities; and New Urbanists really have not yet addressed the issue of whether there are forms of human settlement that are in fact too dense to properly be considered as conducive to human flourishing, and hence part of the Urban Transect. Nevertheless, the examples that New Urbanists have in mind when we think of T-6 zones are unquestionably some of the finest and most hospitable human habitats in the world.
Illustrated here are examples of Urban Core / T-6 zones, in both European and American cities. On the upper left is the Campo dei Fiori in Rome; on the upper right the Champs Elysee's in Paris; to the lower right Regents Street in London; and to the lower left Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
Although diagrams of the idea of the Transect properly illustrate it as a gradation according to density, it would be a mistake to assume that the Transect necessary implies such exact shades of gradation in actual cities. Transect zones of very different densities are sometimes juxtaposed to one another to great effect—and Transect-based zoning allows for such juxtapositions. A dramatic example is illustrated here in this image of the 1st and 18th fairways of the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, with the town of St. Andrews hard up against the edge of the Golf course—an example of a T-1 / Rural Preserve zone (the Old Course) immediately adjacent to a T-5 / Urban Center (the town of St. Andrews).
An even more dramatic example, of course, occurs in New York City, with the juxtaposition of the Rural Preserve / T-1 zone of Central Park immediately adjacent to the T-6 zone of mid- and up-town Manhattan.
Here I can only speak briefly about how the Urban Transect serves as a basis for a new kind of zoning law. For any particular New Urbanist town or neighborhood proposal there are typically four kinds of inter-related legal documents that New Urbanists propose as alternatives to the current zoning ordinances that mandate sprawl. These are (in descending order of importance): a Master Plan, a Regulating Plan, an Urban Code, and a Traditional Neighborhood District Ordinance, three of which are depicted in this and the following three slides. Here are some illustrations that comprise a small portion of the Master Plan drawings that illustrate what a project is intended to look like.
An example of a Regulating Plan that designates land use zones according to Transect-based categories.
A page from an Urban Code, which illustrates one of the building types permitted in one of the T-zones, along with diagrams indicating permitted building heights, the relationship of the building to its property lines, off-street parking requirements, and the mix of uses permitted.
Another page from the same Urban Code.
Streets and neighborhoods vs. arterials and subdivisions.
It is germane to consider how these alternative legal documents—the master plan, regulating plan, visual code, and written ordinance—are created. They are not imposed upon citizens from above but rather rise up from below by means of brief, intensive and public design workshops called "charrettes." New Urbanist charrettes are initiated by private for-profit developers, by local agencies of government such as town councils and planning departments, by non-profit community development corporations both secular and faith-based, by local neighborhood associations, by property owners, and potentially by anybody who has an interest in how some particular piece of urban or rural land might be settled and inhabited by human beings. These are persons and groups of persons whose interests can and do overlap, but whose interests are obviously not identical. Regardless of who initiates the charrette however, it is prudent that all such parties be invited to participate in it; as well as the general public, including (most importantly) anybody who might have some reason to oppose the kind of development under consideration. I won't go into the details of how New Urbanist charrettes work, but they are directed by a multi-disciplinary design team whose own interest—acknowledged from the outset as one among many interests present—is in traditional neighborhood design as the best way to make human settlements that are beautiful, convenient, just, environmentally sustainable, and (not least) economically profitable. Out of this contentious and cooperative charrette process there typically emerges in relatively short order a consensus around some set of visual documents representing a development proposal and how to implement it that has addressed if not completely satisfied the particular concerns of the competing interests present at the charrette. It is no accident that New Urbanism is American in its origins. It is an almost textbook example of what Tocqueville regarded as American democratic culture in action: free associations of self-governing citizens pursuing a public interest.
I hope we are now in a better position to understand the nature of my short affirmative response to the question: "New Urbanism: Friend or Foe of Property Rights?" At one level, to even question whether New Urbanists are opponents of private property (and by inference, free markets) borders on the absurd. New Urbanists make their living working with developers; and New Urbanism originates and operates in and presumes a market economy. Everything about New Urbanism presumes that whatever else partially constitutes its success, it must be successful in a marketplace and culture that value private property as a public good—a marketplace and culture in which New Urbanists themselves are participants and commonly property owners. Indeed, this is one of the primary reasons why New Urbanism, for all its favorable reception in disparate quarters of American culture, has been least welcomed in the architectural academy and among the architectural avant gard: New Urbanism is too closely associated with middle-class American values. Nevertheless, private property always co-exists with a better or worse public realm; and sprawl culture is singularly indifferent to and incapable of creating a good public realm. In contrast, the primary interest of New Urbanists is with the public realm, which is the formal manifestation of any culture's understanding of their common good. For New Urbanists therefore, private property is a good but it is not the good; and even if property rights are inalienable, property rights are not absolute. Private property and its attendant rights exist for the sake of the good life for human beings; but precisely for the sake of the good life for human beings property rights may be more or less circumscribed by both customs and laws that express communal will acting for the sake of the common good.
There are issues of land use and transportation policy—so-called "Smart Growth" issues—that exceed the scale of the town and neighborhood; issues that it seems necessary to address at least at regional if not national levels rather than local, issues with implications both for property rights and for a cultural re-direction of the marketplace. I have little to contribute in terms of substantive suggestions about specific public policies regarding these issues, other than two brief observations: 1) that the principle of subsidiarity certainly seems to justify addressing these issues by agencies at levels above those of local communities; and 2) that for some sixty years there has been a tremendous imbalance in the amount of federal dollars devoted to the creation of interstate highways in comparison to federal dollars devoted to other forms of local and regional transportation, and that the consequences of this imbalance—notably sprawl—warrants a reevaluation of this federal public policy.
About the need to provide alternatives to sprawl development, and about the nature of those alternatives, I am much more confident. Sprawl is not the necessary price Americans pay for freedom. Sprawl is rather the consequence of federal government-supported public policies and regulations that, although they resonate with strong historic American cultural sensibilities, nevertheless have the unintended consequence of encouraging what Tocqueville recognized as a peculiar temptation of democratic societies, a tendency toward what he called "individualism," which he understood to be ultimately corrosive of both democracy and freedom.(6) Sprawl is the formal expression of a culture of individualism.
Let me conclude with the conjecture that, were New Urbanists interested in a kind of creedal formulation of New Urbanist belief and practice commensurate with their evangelical fervor, it might well be described in terms something like the following:
We believe that individuals have both rights and obligations, that individual well-being requires good communities, and that liberty is not license. We believe that individual persons should have as much freedom as justice allows. We believe that the Urban Transect as a principle both promotes and accounts for the widest possible variety of free, just and environmentally sustainable human settlements.
We contend that traditional towns and urban neighborhoods have proven themselves to promote and sustain diverse living conditions that both support and are supported by the free exchange of material goods and ideas, including private property. We profess traditional urbanism in all its manifestations through the Urban Transect as the best way for human beings to organize and make human settlements. We fight for those who desire to live in compact, diverse, walkable communities, in the proximity of open landscape and a public realm of plazas, squares, and pedestrian-friendly streets. We fight for the legal right to build traditional towns and neighborhoods.
We hope and believe that the merits of traditional towns and neighborhoods, manifest in various specific local forms, will cause traditional urbanism to once again someday prevail as a cultural norm. We work for the common good now, and for the common good of future generations.
The "Amen" is optional. Thank you very much.
Aristotle, Politics, Book I, chapter 1; from Great Books of the Western World, Robert M. Hutchins, editor (Chicago, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952), Volume 9, page 445.
"Agents" who, MacIntyre points out, are not quite acknowledged also to be animals. See Alasdair MacIntyre Dependant Rational Animals (Chicago: Open Court, 1999), chapters 1 & 2.
Writing in the web-zine Comment (Vol. 22, No. 6, August 2004: http://wrf.ca/comment/2004/0804/85), David Koyzis points out that "[d]espite the best of intentionsâ€¦there has been a historic tendency for federal systems to become progressively more centralized, irrespective of what is written in a constitutional document. In the United States, the twin issues of slavery and civil rights for racial minorities effectively discredited the old constitutional doctrines of state sovereignty and states' rights, which were henceforth viewed as little more than pretexts for maintaining institutionalized racism, particularly in the American south. It was, after all, the federal government that undertook to protect black Americans against the vicious policies of racial segregation mandated in the southern states. Subsidiarity would support such intervention on behalf of beleaguered citizens—but only as a temporary measure. Once the injustice was rectified, the federal government should presumably withdraw and allow the states to pursue their own political interests as their voting citizens now expanded to encompass the previously disenfranchised—would have come to understand them. However, despite the theory to the contrary, Washington has generally maintained its pre-eminence over the state governments, [in spite of occasional movements] to reverse the process."
MacIntyre (op. cit., p. 117) provides a simple but apt example of this in the pages of Dependant Rational Animals, where he writes that "relationships of rational exchange, governed by norms to which it is to the advantage of each participant to adhere, are also embedded in and sustained by relationships governed by norms of uncalculated and unpredicted giving and receiving. So it is with those institutionalized relationships that make possible the exchanges of markets. It is indeed true that 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest' (Adam Smith, The Wealth of nations I, ii). And just as the butcher, brewer and baker generally act with regard to their own interest, so too do their customers. But if, on entering the butcher's shop as an habitual customer I find him collapsing from a heart attack, and I merely remark 'Ah! Not in a position to sell me my meat today, I see,' and proceed immediately to his competitor's store to complete my purchase, I will have obviously and grossly damaged my whole relationship to him, including my economic relationship, although I will have done nothing contrary to the norms of the marketâ€¦. Market relationships can only be sustained by being embedded in certain types of local non-market relationships, relationships of uncalculated giving and receiving, if they are to contribute to overall flourishing, rather than, as they so often in fact do, undermine and corrupt communal ties."
It is not coincidental, incidentally that many New Urbanists are supporters of alternative educational models---including smaller public schools, charter schools, religious schools, and home-schooling---that more closely resemble the traditional neighborhood school than today's "big-box" schools.
In Democracy in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), Volume II, Second Book, chapter II, pp. 98-99, Tocqueville writes (in 1840) that democracy has given birth to the novelty of individualism, "a mature and calm feeling, which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellows and to draw apart with his family and his friends, so that after he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itselfâ€¦. [Thus] does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, [and] hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart."
Philip Bess is a Professor and the Graduate Director of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. He is the author of several books, including Inland Architecture: Subterranean Essays on Moral Order and Formal Order in Chicago and City Baseball Magic—Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks. Professor Bess also runs the research and design consulting firm, Thursday Architects