The Rise of Anti-Urbanism

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Paul Krugman reflects on the demonization of cities and the people who live in them.

Basically, the accusation is that anyone with a good word for urbanism must just hate the American lifestyle.

[T]he same thing is true about pro-sprawl commentary ... Conservatives really, really hate on Portland; examples here and here. Aside from the tendency to engage in factual errors, the hate seems disproportionate to the cause. But it's an aesthetic thing: conservatives seem deeply offended by anything that challenges the image of Americans as big men driving big cars.

Me, I like dense urban areas. But I'm a pointy-headed intellectual. And bearded, too.

This trend is not new.

A disdain for cities and the diverse, open-mined people (like Krugman) who gravitate to them has long been a rallying point on parts of the right. Long before their forays into foreign policy, neoconservatives were railing against cities.  Edward Banfield's tellingly titled, The Unheavenly City offered an incredulous chapter on "Rioting for Fun and Profit."  Early essays in the Public Interest sported snappy titles like "The City as  Reservation" and "The City as Sandbox." Not to mention so-called "benign neglect" which argued that cities should be left to rot and run-down so that land could become cheap enough to entice large-scale suburban-style retrofitting.

The anti-urban strain continues today,as Krugman notes. Ironically, its persistence is what's really anti-American - anti-American economy that is, making it ever more difficult to leverage the powerful role played by cities and urban areas in innovation and economic growth for long-run economic prosperity.

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Richard Florida is Senior Editor at The Atlantic and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. See his most recent writing at The Atlantic Cities. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He is founder of the Creative Class Group.

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