The contrarian myth

MLewyn's picture

For some reason, defenders of the sprawl status quo are often referred to as "contrarian." For example, if you google "Joel Kotkin" and "contrarian" you get 498 hits. By contrast, if you google "Andres Duany" (a leading New Urbanist architect) and "contrarian" you only get 101.

But what the heck is contrarian about defending the status quo, especially when that status quo is defended by some of the largest and most politically savvy businesses in this country?

Businesses benefitting from automobile-dependent sprawl include a big chunk of the Fortune 500: Auto companies, oil companies, tire manufacturers. And at the state and local level, developers and road builders benefit from the status quo. (Representatives of most of these groups are on the board of the American Highway Users Alliance, a leading pro-road group; over the past 20 years, this organization's chairmen have included representatives of the American Trucking Association, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, 3M, Texaco, Chrysler, and General Motors).

And against these groups, who? A few environmentalists, and a few architects and planners and, um, um....

Saying that sprawl defenders are "contrarian" in America makes about as much sense as saying that it is "contrarian" to be Muslim in Saudi Arabia.


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