Sunday, April 04, 2004

Voting With Their Feet

David Brooks stands out because he is, both, insightful and fun to read. His Bobos in Paradise as well as Patio Man and the Sprawl People examined modern American lifestyles and, essentially, celebrated them. He does more of that in today's NY Times Magazine ("Our Sprawling Supersize Utopia"). Intellectuals have been sneering at suburbanization and associated lifestyles for many years. Many environmentalists have joined the chorus in recent years. Yet, not only are the new communities the result of free choices but they are also auspicious, once examined rather than dismissed.

Brooks sees the (mostly privately) planned communities cropping up in the exurbs as the modern realization of the American Dream and representative of a boldness of imagination missing in many other cultures, including the Province of Intelligensia. Yes, these places are even diverse.

"Suburban America is a bourgeois place, but unlike some other bourgeois places, it is also a transcendent place infused with every day utopianism. That is why you meet so many boring-looking people who see themselves on some technological frontier, dreaming of this innovation or that management technique that will elevate the world -- and half the time their enthusiasms, crazes and fads seem ludicrous to others and even to them, in retrospect."

Under the radar and/or dismissed by people whose vision is squarely focused on the pedestrian past (and the European cities that they have toured since high school art history), the new exurban/suburban places that Brooks describes so well are currently the destination of one of the biggest and most significant migrations of our time.

This is where new modes of living and socializing -- as well as new ways of land use planning and governing are being pioneered and tested.