July 5, 2012: A Reminiscence on a Defense on Density

Facebook has evolved much over the last decade and even over the last five years. A feature I have grown to appreciate is the “On This Day” feature that allows one to go back to see what one posted exactly a year ago, or three years ago, or depending how long one has been on Facebook eight or nine years ago. A little while ago I found this very economical use of words that I posted as a status update. I think it still articulates my basic view that there are some pretty deep reasons why cities (and this is almost a synonym for density in this case) make sense and are important. You can read a much longer exposition on my old Seattle’s Land Use Code blog

I am a density advocate because more people in a smaller space is the most efficient and sustainable use of our limited resources. Density has fewer impacts on the environment. Rather than limit our choice and freedom, land use policy that promotes density helps make us more free, prosperous, and can help us realize some the most basic and accepted goals of every human society, including the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Contracts and love are felt and made between people, not by individuals in isolation. 

In order for this to make sense, we have to start with the principle that freedom derives from a social contract between people and that the contract is best enforced by good government; good government doesn’t limit our freedoms–whether we are born with them or not –but instead helps us realize those freedoms. And if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we can best do that when our neighbors are close by and plentiful. Contracts and love are felt and made between people, not by individuals in isolation.

These positive outcomes of density are best achieved when government regulates the exchange of ideas and money with broadly written rules, adjusting them only occaisonally and in a limited way. Rules need referees that don’t rewrite rules each time they are violated or declare success each time they are followed. And governments are best when they last long enough to earn reelection because their rules are truly beneficial or lose reelection because their rules truly failed.

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