The Triumph of the Creative Class

The election of Obama, that is, according to noted sprawl apologist Joel Kotkin. It’s a compelling proclamation, and Kotkin has some insightful things to say about it. But alas, you can’t get very far through the piece before his trademark enmity for urbanism shines through.

First, he decides that Richard Florida’s own definition of the creative class isn’t good enough, and that it ought to exclude those who “live in suburbs, have children, and… attend conservative churches.” Cause, you know, all those urban, single, childless secularists (read: not real Americans) are the true uppity ones.

And here comes the boogy man:

“Also threatened will be anyone who builds the suburban communities–notably single-family houses and malls–that most Americans still prefer but that Gore and his acolytes dismiss as too energy-intensive, not to mention in bad taste.”

It may well be true that Americans have preferred the suburbs. But the idea of preference loses its significance when there is little choice to begin with, when the choice is subsidized up front, and when it has ongoing external costs that the buyer doesn’t pay. In any case, the times are changing:

“…a majority of future housing demand lies in smaller homes and lots, townhouses, and condominiums in neighborhoods where jobs and activities are close at hand. …demographic changes, shrinking households, rising gas prices, lengthening commutes and cultural shifts all play a role in that demand.”

Kotkin’s position boils down the this: People made sprawl: therefore is it good, and always will be good.

And sorry Joel, the energy-inefficiency of sprawl is not the invention of acolytes, but is established scientific fact. It’s unfortunate that those whom you deride as “jihadis in the war against climate change” are helping to save your planet too.

What’s more, Kotkin warns, the ascendancy of those clueless urban creative classers is literally a threat to the food on your table, because “this could prove very bad news for groups… that, like large agribusiness firms, are big consumers of carbon.” Presumably the underlying concern here is that most Americans prefer industrial, processed food.

For a more transparent taste of Kotkin’s anti-urbanism, check out No More Urban Hype. Here, Kotkin is positively giddy about the drop in housing prices in big cities like New York, which to him, signifies the puncturing of the urbanist bubble. The more rapid decline of housing prices in car-dependent suburbs has been widely discussed since last Spring.  But contrary to Kotkin’s fancy, even up until a month ago, New Urban News reported that, “the US lending crisis has cut homebuilding nearly everywhere, but walkable, transit-oriented developments are suffering least.”

And if you really have too much time on your hands, visit Kotkin’s There, currently ranked number one under “popular content,” you’ll find a piece by Wendell Cox entitled “Root Causes of the Financial Crisis: A Primer,” that extends the the blame to excessive land use regulation and smart growth. Who could have known that density is so evil?