Suburbs Will Soar on Wings of Tech … For a few years it seemed that Americans were moving to the cities, but now the trends are toward the suburbs once again. Long-turn trends favor suburbs even more. -Bloomberg
Suburbs would likely not exist but for zoning and one can well ask if they should exist. They are a large element in the dysfunction of US society and the destructiveness of modern culture.
In the past in the US, towns and cities were “mixed use” with businesses alternating with dwellings. But in modern America – and the West generally these days – people’s living quarters are divorced from their places of employment.
Suburbs encourage a “supported citizen” who could not survive even for a week without an intricate grid of enterprises to feed him and provide necessary resources.
The message is one of learned helplessness and cultural conformity. No wonder so many children move away as soon as they reach young adulthood. Cities, with their mixed panoramas and varied resources are far more attractive and stimulating than the airless homogeneity of suburban life.
Nonetheless, suburbs have their enthusiasts and this Bloomberg article is written by one of them. The author in fact is celebrating technology that he believes will lead to a resurgence of suburbs – including Uber, drones and virtual reality.
Uber for instance will help people negotiate their suburban lives and get to work more more efficiently. Drones will provide goods and services in places where they did not exist before. Virtual reality will make living in a suburb just as interesting as living in a city.
These predictions may well be accurate at least to some extent but it will not change the fundamental destructive reality of suburbs. People living next to people and more people without a single manifestation of urban support – stores, restaurants, service centers, etc. – comprise a powerful statement about how modern society views its “workers.”
Suburbs are sometimes portrayed as ignoble compared to cities, and media centers like New York and Washington attract young, pro-urban writers who trumpet their hometown virtues. But let’s not forget that it is the suburban sprawl of Silicon Valley that has produced many of the biggest recent tech breakthroughs.
Suburbs are also the part of the U.S. that’s leading the way when it comes to the racial integration of school systems … Suburbanization is continuing, most of all, because people want it.
We certainly would dispute these last two statements. Suburbs have contributed a good deal to social separation from what we can tell. And we doubt the affection for these soulless conglomerations is as widespread as suggested. Mixed-use towns are certainly more pedestrian friendly than endless suburbs and having one’s place of work nearby one’s home – or directly below – encourages efficiency and availability.
Conclusion: To the degree that technology supports a suburban revival, we’ll be disappointed. We’d much rather that zoning died a deserved death along with its suburbs. People should be allowed to live where they choose not where municipal government commands.