I don’t mean that as snark. It’s a serious question. Suburbanization has to be one of the greatest human influences on the environment. So I was intrigued by this statement by Ross Douthat about suburbanization (bold Douthat, italics mine):
But I don’t think we should make “rebalancing in the direction of urbanism,” as Matt puts it later in his post, a major policy goal; I think suburbia is a great (maybe the great) American socioeconomic achievement, whose virtues far outweigh its vices, and that using the levers of government to encourage families to leave the suburbs would represent a deep betrayal of what I take to be the heart of the American Dream. (Which is a cliche, sure, but also a reality.) When it comes to global warming, therefore, I’m all for telecommuting and fuel-efficient cars and various other ways to reduce our carbon footprint; I’m not for any plan that stands athwart suburbanization, yelling stop.
So I would like to turn it over to you. Do you agree with Douthat? There is one ground rule, however, and it’s important enough to highlight:
You have to make affirmative arguments for suburbanization.
In other words, saying that suburbs are good because urban schools suck is not what I’m looking for–after all, one could improve the urban schools. So what are positive things about the suburbs? Is it “the great American socioeconomic achievement?” And I’ll add something else to twist your noodle: 100 years ago, would towns and small cities have been viewed as “the great American socioeconomic achievement”, , simply because that’s where many relatively well-off (or at least, not poor) Americans lived? Is Douthat arguing from what is, and not what could be?