Join 3,382 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Growth Ponzi Scheme
June 23, 2011 11:08 AM   Subscribe

The Growth Ponzi Scheme, a series of five blog posts on the financial underpinnings (or lack thereof) of the American post-war development pattern. 1: The Mechanisms of Growth - Trading near-term cash for long-term obligations. 2: Case studies that show how our places do not create, but destroy, our wealth. 3: The Ponzi scheme revealed - How new development is used to pay for old development. 4: How we've sustained the unsustainable by going "all in" on the suburban pattern of development. 5: Responses that are rational and responses that are irrational.
posted by parudox (84 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
Or, What Happens When You Let The Engine Drive The Car
posted by $0up at 11:15 AM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is not a perfect system; but it beat the Soviet post-war development pattern!
posted by Renoroc at 11:15 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the mark.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:16 AM on June 23, 2011


From the first link: Cities routinely trade near-term cash advantages associated with new growth for long-term financial obligations associated with maintenance of infrastructure.

aka "It seemed like a good idea at the time." I have a tough time criticizing the architects of the suburbs in hindsight. It really did seem like a good idea at the time. But now, not so much.

says the guy who moved from the city to the suburbs. *sigh*
posted by GuyZero at 11:17 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cities routinely trade near-term cash advantages associated with new growth for long-term financial obligations associated with maintenance of infrastructure.

aka "It seemed like a good idea at the time."


More like "It will get/keep me in power."
posted by DU at 11:24 AM on June 23, 2011


More like "It will get/keep me in power."

So I think that's a uncharitable interpretation although not inaccurate.

But there's no incentive for individuals to plan that far in advance. No one is Mayor or City Planner for 37 years (well, not many people). Even the Soviets didn't have 37-year plans.
posted by GuyZero at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, wait, is this in-line with, or against, the earlier blue post about urban planners are responsible for everything ? Since these folks seem to be urban planners themselves ..
posted by k5.user at 11:27 AM on June 23, 2011


This is super interesting, thanks for posting.
posted by clockzero at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2011


In college, I had professors saying that things would be worked out by "scientific innovation".

Pro tip: Don't base your long-term plans on shit that isn't invented yet, and might never be invented at all.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


I really hate articles like this:

Now ask yourself how this existed in the first place. How did we build such an amazing place [Brainered, Minn. circa 1894)before the home mortgage interest deduction? How did we accomplish this before zoning? Before the International Building Code? What created this place before we had state and federal subsidies of local water and sewer systems? Before HUD? Before DOT? Before the state highway system? Before Fannie and Freddie and subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations? How did we ever accomplish this before tax abatement, tax increment financing, SBA and local economic development? Heck, we did this before the advent of the 30-year mortgage!

Here's how you did it:

1. Slavery. It was abolished by 1894, but to this extent that this town built off of 130 years of American history immediately preceding it, that growth was fueled by millions of people getting paid literally zero until the day they died.

2. No minimum wage or labor laws. Consider the litany of exploited workers who built the railroads that were the basis of the creation of Brainerd in the first place. Who mined the ore, worked the steel mills etc. Do those people live in those houses on that street? It was the condition of people like these that are invisible in the photo on that site that Karl Marx invented the idea of communism.

3. The land was free, despite having an original owner. We paid basically nothing for the Louisiana Purchase, and the rest of the west we took from the Native Americans. By force. Those we didn't kill we literally moved. I don't see any Indians in that photo of Brainerd.

Slaves, exploited immigrants and workers, and a slow-motion native American holocaust. That's how Brainerd was built. What is the financial value of all that exploited labor and those exploited resources in today's dollars? Trillions? There is a post on the front page about hauntology. What haunts Brainerd's future are the spectres of the past I just listed. No slavery, no labor exploitation, no more free land and natural resources to steal from others = no more Brainerd.

Growth is not a ponzi-scheme. Growth is the entire history of human civilization, fueled by intellectual freedom and technological innovation. Where the former was stifled, the latter ceased. The only threat to america is people trying to curb growth.

Curb consumption, not growth. It is perfectly reasonable to borrow from the future to invest in the present to build that future.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:54 AM on June 23, 2011 [70 favorites]


It's a peculiar problem.

On one hand you have the population since WWII showing a marked preference for suburban and exurban living. Generally this is in single-family detached housing. Highly dependent on 2 automobiles and low energy costs.

This has been supplemented by transfer payments from the Federal government in the form of mortgage interest deductions as well as big subsidies in the form of highway funding, etc.

From a developer standpoint it's highly desirable to get a big parcel in the country and subdivide. You are generally only on the hook for initial installation of utilities but you don't have to deal with a ton of zoning restrictions. You can look at what goods and services and price points are in demand in a community and build housing that precisely meets that need.

Redevelopment or infill development isn't as profitable in many communities. You generally have smaller tracts of land and the costs of development in urban areas can be ridiculously high. In larger urban areas you do have redevelopment in the urban core as urban elites seek to maximize their happiness by reducing commute times and increasing their proximity to desirable goods and services. Even so the desirability of urban living is bounded by family status and socio-economics. Many urban elites seem to love living in the city until they need to find room for a growing family and they want access to good schools and other family-centric services.

Aberrations do exist: NYC, San Francisco, etc all have enough place based advantages that they can fight the inertia towards outward suburban growth.

It seems apparent that is not the case across most of the US and while I think the urban planner desire to create sustainable walking communities composed of dense multifamily housing intermixed with shops and offices is an admirable goal I'm not sure that it does enough to combat the very real market preferences towards the old suburban model.

Without really addressing the reasons why people move in ever expanding concentric circles out from the urban core it seems impossible to really counteract that tendency regardless of how unsustainable it really is.
posted by vuron at 11:59 AM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


> technological innovation ...
> shit that hasn't been invented yet


It has now been invented.

posted by hank at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I first moved to Tucson, AZ in the early '80s, I came to realize that the economy consisted largely of carpenters and masons building houses for plumbers and electricians.

Succeeding waves of construction workers climbing the earnings ladder and buying homes built by the previous waves.

All through the '80s and '90s, local government kept saying two things:

1 - "We need to encourage growth for the economic benefits that it will bring"

and

2 - "We need to raise taxes to pay for this phenomenal growth"


Thanks for this FPP.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:05 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So growth can be infinite? Interesting.
posted by maxwelton at 12:08 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you're a cancer, yes.
posted by jrochest at 12:16 PM on June 23, 2011


If you're a cancer, yes.

Cancers can only grow until the host organism dies.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:18 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I keep being reminded of
...you move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague...
I think perhaps at this point the ETs need to step in and wag their fingers and say, "okay children, play nice." Because I don't think we're gonna do it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:19 PM on June 23, 2011


1. Slavery.

In 1894? In Minnesota?

2. No minimum wage or labor laws.

No questioning on this one.

3. The land was free, despite having an original owner. We paid basically nothing for the Louisiana Purchase, and the rest of the west we took from the Native Americans. By force.

Not saying that stealing land from Native Americans was right or wrong, it's not the argument I want to put out there. But killing people, moving people and taking their land by force requires investment nonetheless. The difference is that the investment and cost to maintain the investment was covered by the revenue generated by the investment. The investment was the cost to send troops to kick out/kill Native Americans, clear forests for farmland, build roads, build basic water systems, build railroads, etc. Land might have been low-cost, but the development wasn't.

The point of the entire series is that the growth has continued unabated. The development and investment isn't creating revenue to cover the cost to maintain it. In the 1970's we (collective we) kicked the debt down the road by bonding it all out and creating more growth on the same flawed principles. The investments were crap that wouldn't pay themselves off or cover maintenance in the realistic life cycle of the very infrastructure that was built. Eventually shit has to hit the fan. Previously depressions had to hit to undo the terrible decisions along the way.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:25 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Waitaminit, is this another "Give up your back yard and go live in a slum like a good citizen" arguments? (Re-reads article).

Yup. It is.

Sorry, folks, cities suck to live in. They are dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell. No family in their right mind wants to be anywhere near one.

"Sustainable Cities" is the Gold Standard of the left: a weirdly obsolete economic policy that plays to notions of moral rectitude and "Thems was the Good Old Days!" fetishism of late Victorian America, which was really a squalid hellhole compared to today, with economic crisises that make todays' look like a picnic happening once or twice a decade. The promise is that with a little bit of pain forced on everyone, we all get to live in a bright and shiny future where the sun doesn't explode and zombies don't rise from the grave and tigers all eat us.

Look, conservation is good, living within our means is good - the notion that turning everything over to avant garde city planners is a reasonable part of this is as reasonable as the notion that abolishing the Fed is going to cure inflation.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:38 PM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have a tough time criticizing the architects of the suburbs in hindsight. It really did seem like a good idea at the time.

Yeah, I don't know about that. I mean, did they just assume we'd have just an unlimited source of energy to feet an ever-growing fleet of cars? Some of the other stuff I could forgive -- perhaps they didn't know how the suburbs would fuck up our cities or society or environment, and maybe they didn't understand basic traffic dynamics... but they had to realize we'd eventually run out of fuel. Right?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:40 PM on June 23, 2011


Sorry, folks, cities suck to live in. They are dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell. No family in their right mind wants to be anywhere near one.

Do you have as hard a time separating your personal opinions from facts on other subjects?
posted by adamdschneider at 12:43 PM on June 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


> Here's how you did it:

Your points are valid.

However, the fact that the author is ignorant of these very salient facts, does not invalidate the remaining balance of the essay.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now ask yourself how this existed in the first place... [BLAH BLAH]

That's easy. The Northern Pacific built it, largely because the federal government threw shitloads of free land at it to build railroads through undeveloped territory.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:47 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the finale:

We built places that financially sustained themselves. Do you know how I know this? Simple. If this place did not financially sustain itself, it would have gone away. In 1894, nothing was going to artificially prop it up.

They had to organize themselves and use their collective resources very wisely. I look at the pictures of the beautiful way in which they maintained our now decrepit parks, the purposeful way in which they placed grand public buildings, the way in which they regulated the public realm and it is clearly evident to my trained eye that these people understood how to wring every penny of value they could out of their built environment. They knew the art of placemaking.


I'm more of the opinion of City: Urbanism and its End mentioned in a comment here a while back, that's cities like this were no purposeful action, and more of an accident of late 19th century industrial needs. Looking at the wikipedia page for Brainerd, it was a railroad and paper mill town. The city didn't create value, it fed on the value provided by industry.

A big part of the book is that the city "planners" of yesteryear didn't plan. The close knit shops and residential units were because cars didn't exist, so people couldn't travel far on the day to day. And an industrial base that was tied to things like railroads and sources of power. None of these exist today, so what is the value of Brainerd versus every other town of 14K people?
posted by zabuni at 12:48 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My straw-man could beat up your wimpy 98-pound straw-man.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:51 PM on June 23, 2011


So, wait, is this in-line with, or against, the earlier blue post about urban planners

That post spelled out the (I believe wrong) idea that urban planners were helping to amplify the problem of poverty due to their efforts at historic preservation.

This set of posts doesn't really speak to that. Instead, it notes a calculation that often goes unaccounted for when looking at development. A road seems like a one-time expense. If your local community can get support to build it(through a builder/developer or government higher up the food-chain), building the road seems win-win. We get a cheaper than normal asset plus added taxes from development that will spring up along the road.

The problem is that the road (and, more generally, a host of infrastructure improvements) have recurring costs that spring up further into the future than the people in power (at the time the decision is made) are thinking about.

For what it's worth (and that may not be much), here is my take.

There is the problem of the "house". In the US, the "house", conceptually, is two things. One, it is a tool that provides shelter. It is a basic "need" (in the Maslow described needs), and one that we need to pay for just to survive. We also view a "house" as a financial asset. Something that we can invest in and that we have come to expect will appreciate in value.

This is weird. We want to use this tool...we need to. We also want this tool to be worth more than we paid for it should we decide to sell it. We use it for a while and then it give us more than we spent on it in the end. In some ways, we have come to treat the "house" as a sacred thing (at least within the religion that is American Culture).

To talk about "growth" and not talk about "the house" is to miss the point. "Homeownership" is the ruler that developers/builders (d/b) use to bang our knuckles when we question their authority on these matters. To dovetail with the articles for a moment, homeownership is our collective dream. "How can you deny this dream, this rite to anyone?" "How can you question homeownership's inherent goodness?"

What's more, the idea that "the house" would constantly appreciate in value lulled most of us, d/b included into thinking that even people who couldn't afford one should still get one. I believe that there is an enormous amount of inertia that build when need and investment opportunity and quasi-spirituality are working together.

Who can stand in the way of such inertia? Most of us believed in this. What local politician - worried about re-election, cognizant that the biggest donors are consistently members of d/b community, and probably a believer in the panacea that is the "house" - will stop development?

Today, so many of us wag our fingers at "sub-prime" borrowers or condemn them outright. So many complain that the Community Reinvestment Act is free-market heresy. The fact is we were led to believe in something that wasn't true. It is easy to believe that we could use something and it would be worth more because of it, so we are all partly guilty. But the government does subsidize the behavior. And the d/b community does profit mightily from the deception.

But the real truth lies in the statement's like Slap*Happy's ("No family in their right mind wants to be anywhere near [a city]"). The 'house" is the salvation from the spaces that are "dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell".

There are armies prepared to fight for this orthodox view. And those armies are more powerful than any planner clutching their copy of "The Geography of Nowhere".
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 12:52 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Curb consumption, not growth. It is perfectly reasonable to borrow from the future to invest in the present to build that future.

Pastabagel even has a plan for this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:54 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Sorry, folks, cities suck to live in. They are dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell. No family in their right mind wants to be anywhere near one.

You're right, sort of.

Suburbs are great for raising kids. I grew up in a suburb. But I live in an apartment in a city now and I don't consider it "dirty, noisy, and dangerous ... inconvenient and expensive as all hell".

I kind of like being able to walk/bicycle to things, and not feel trapped in an endless maze of bland stucco and concrete, decorated with faux architectural doo-dads and painfully artificial greenery.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:56 PM on June 23, 2011


Suburbs are great for raising kids.

And as long as that's true, it's going to be hell on earth getting people out of them. Single people and DINKs have always migrated to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city. Because they can, and don't need to worry about the bums on the street, or the quality of the schools, or who is living next door.
posted by zabuni at 1:05 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Median incomes rise by 15% every time population density doubles. That's how and why we pay for growth.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:10 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, folks, cities suck to live in. They are dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell. No family in their right mind wants to be anywhere near one.

I live in the city. I live in a clean, quiet and safe neighborhood. My cramped 4-bedroom house that I live in comes complete with a large, sunny backyard. The nearest two grocery stores are under a half mile away. The nearest park is about 750 feet away. The schools aren't perfect, but having been in the high school, well, it was better than my rural high school I went to.

Oh, but wait. I live in Portland.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Growth is not a ponzi-scheme. Growth is the entire history of human civilization, fueled by intellectual freedom and technological innovation. Where the former was stifled, the latter ceased. The only threat to america is people trying to curb growth.

Oh. Here I thought that it was the crumbling, sprawling, and by this point third-rate infrastructure which America can now neither afford to maintain in decent shape or replace with something better.

The argument in the series isn't against economic growth, nor is it even against population growth. It's simply pointing out that if you build sprawl, you should actually plan for how to pay to maintain the infrastructure to service it. (Of course, if your infrastructure is falling apart, you can hardly expect to maintain much economic growth.)
posted by parudox at 1:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Suburbs are terrible for raising kids, but let's not bring facts into this.

I do hope you suburbanites enjoy your tickytacky houses when the suburbs have completed their transition to slums. Maybe you can hitch the SUV to your oxen and go through the drive-thru at the burned out husk that used to be a McDonald's for old time's sake.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Local governments are currency users, so they absolutely have to be self sufficient, and they can't keep growing forever as a way of funding. Fun fact: in California 2 years ago, there was one city in the black. That city was Cupertino-- they managed to convince Apple to site most of the online Apple store in the city , so the city gets the sales taxes for nationwide sales.

The federal government, on the other hand, is a currency issuer and not a user.....it doesn't have to issue debt to fund spending. I really dislike Kunstler because he seems to think that the US can't "afford" to build infrastructure like transit etc, because we're "bankrupt" and "owe it all to China." He's wrong. We can build the infrastructure, so long as there are enough goods in the economy to soak up spending.
posted by wuwei at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mister Fabulous, I envy you so hard. I guess that's why I'm trying to move up there...
posted by daq at 1:26 PM on June 23, 2011


vuron : It seems apparent that is not the case across most of the US and while I think the urban planner desire to create sustainable walking communities composed of dense multifamily housing intermixed with shops and offices is an admirable goal I'm not sure that it does enough to combat the very real market preferences towards the old suburban model.

Not so sure about that. I'm more inclined to agree with :

zabuni : A big part of the book is that the city "planners" of yesteryear didn't plan. The close knit shops and residential units were because cars didn't exist, so people couldn't travel far on the day to day.

Nearly everything about America's built environment is a contingency. Urban Planning as a discipline didn't even really exist until Jane Jacobs came along in the late 60s, and even then it was mostly a reaction to the failed highway and urban renewal projects of the early postwar era.

Suburbs, sad to say, pretty much attained their present level of popularity because white people wanted to get away from black people. It's called white flight for a reason.

Yes, people like their lawns and their cars and their blah blah blah and their et cetera, but I think that's mostly a post-hoc conclusion made by people who look at what they currently have and think, "Hey, this isn't all that bad". What they're not taking into account are the opportunity costs of not having livable cities. SF and NYC are really the only two real options for car-free living in the US, and those are our most expensive cities. What if Cincinnati and St. Louis and Atlanta had stronger tax bases and were more friendly to non-drivers? Then maybe people wouldn't think of non-suburban life as "dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive".
posted by Afroblanco at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mister Fabulous, I envy you so hard. I guess that's why I'm trying to move up there...

I don't even live in a "hip" or "cool" neighborhood of Portland. I live in the "bad" East Portland. My house still has a WalkScore of 74.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2011


I would ask the folks who favorited pastabagels comment, assuming they were doing so based on his premise of curbing consumption and not growth (and it's not clear to me they're actually different things, in an economic context, at the end of the day): Where does this infinite growth come from?

In some cases, it's literally impossible; we have islands here in Puget Sound which have no more fresh water to provide residents, building new homes on them is impossible. Those communities cannot grow their way out of their infrastructure problems.

People will not pay for infrastructure willingly. When we were looking at houses, we bounced our way down many a private road which was barely passable; the residents along the road were more than happy to trade bottoming-out their cars and potentially getting stuck in the mud for not paying for a load of gravel and a grader every few years. I suspect that was true when there were 2 houses on the road and when growth pushed that to ten houses.
posted by maxwelton at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe you can hitch the SUV to your oxen and go through the drive-thru at the burned out husk that used to be a McDonald's for old time's sake.

I've lived in Boston, New Orleans, Lowell, Providence and Newport for a good chunk of my adult life. I know from cities. If the only cogent argument you have for living in one is that it's going to go all Mad Max out in Framingham, you don't really have a cogent argument for living in cities.

The reason people like living in cities is mostly cultural - you like cities, but only when they're gentrified. Go live in an urban food-desert where there's more check-cashing franchises than bank branches, and tell me how spiff-a-riffic American cities are for the average family. The challenges to sustainable suburban living are paltry to the challenges in making cities livable for more than yuppies, DINKS and bohemians.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:34 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's only one piece of advice I have with regards to American infrastructure: Be ready to move when it starts to downslide faster.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:41 PM on June 23, 2011


Suburbs are terrible for raising kids...

'Wisdom' doesn't get any more conventional than this. But it's bullshit. Please make an effort to go beyond this cliché.
posted by waxbanks at 1:42 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mister Fabulous: "Sorry, folks, cities suck to live in. They are dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell. No family in their right mind wants to be anywhere near one.

I live in the city. I live in a clean, quiet and safe neighborhood. My cramped 4-bedroom house that I live in comes complete with a large, sunny backyard. The nearest two grocery stores are under a half mile away. The nearest park is about 750 feet away. The schools aren't perfect, but having been in the high school, well, it was better than my rural high school I went to.

Oh, but wait. I live in Portland.
"

Portland is one of the few places in the US with tremendous place based advantages. Combined with the urban planning authority represented in Metro has done wonders in limiting urban sprawl.

That being said, look across the river to Vancouver and Battleground and Camas and you can see a pretty good amount of sprawl and 3000 square foot + mcmansions. Yes people are willing to pay a premium for urban living but there is also an escape valve for people who want to enjoy suburban and exurban living.

Personally I think Portland is a great example for many cities to aim for but I also realize that the great outward expansion characterized by areas like DFW, Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, etc are going to be hard to counteract without significant changes in how metropolitan areas are governed and how Americans choose to live.
posted by vuron at 1:42 PM on June 23, 2011


k5.user: So, wait, is this in-line with, or against, the earlier blue post about urban planners are responsible for everything ? Since these folks seem to be urban planners themselves ..

Howdy, I'm planner by education and by trade. The long-term planning side of planning (versus the implementation side) attempts to forecast growth patterns based on statistics and trends plus federal, state, and local mandates (green house gas reduction is BIG in California -- San Bernadino County settled with the State of California in a 2007 lawsuit, with SB County required to inventory and mitigate GHG emissions associated with its land use planning decisions).

The planners project and plot a course for the future, and they bring that to their bosses. In my local, that's the Board of Supervisors, 5 elected individuals who each represent a portion of the County. The decision-making process is public, so the future planning is out of the hands of planners. Anyway, planners are projecting into the future, making "educated guesses" about how things will be in 5, 10, 20, 50 years out. New technologies, major wars, environmental disasters, or countless shifts in trends could screw up these long-term plans within a few months.


Slap*Happy: Sorry, folks, cities suck to live in. They are dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell. No family in their right mind wants to be anywhere near one.

This is a mindset that fascinates me, as a planner and for my personal decisions. In one of my college classes, we visited a high-density development that wasn't too far from the city's downtown core. They were smaller two-story duplexes with communal play areas for kids. The responses to this development ranged from professional interest to personal dislike, as there was no real private yard space around each house, the suburban norm. One student, who grew up in Taiwan, said it was too open. His family lived above their shop, and the only real vegetation he saw there were street trees. Cultural understandings of space vary greatly, and it seems the North American Suburb is not an international norm by any means, nor a desired end-goal.


Pastabagel: Curb consumption, not growth. It is perfectly reasonable to borrow from the future to invest in the present to build that future.

When the population stops growing (or where it already has), there is only consumption left.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:46 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Go live in an urban food-desert

Puh-lease. The USDA made the Food Desert Locator a while ago. Even Detroit barely has food deserts. In fact, the biggest food deserts in the Detroit Metro are in... *drumroll*... the suburbs!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:47 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Further to Mister Fabulous: my parents live in what could generously be called the suburbs. They drive half an hour to a big-box store, where they buy meat of unknown provenance and tomatoes picked (probably) by Mexican slaves in Florida. I live in a city, have a garden, buy locally grown food at a market on Saturday, have some more delivered by bicycle on Tuesday and get the rest at one of the two grocery stores I can walk to in under 15 minutes.

My parents' property is lovely, but their lifestyle is necessarily unhealthy. I'll stick to the city, thanks.
posted by klanawa at 2:08 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Suburbs are great for raising kids.

And as long as that's true, it's going to be hell on earth getting people out of them.


They'll leave on their own if the trajectory implied by these essays comes to pass.
posted by mmrtnt at 2:13 PM on June 23, 2011


Go live in an urban food-desert where there's more check-cashing franchises than bank branches, and tell me how spiff-a-riffic American cities are for the average family. The challenges to sustainable suburban living are paltry to the challenges in making cities livable for more than yuppies, DINKS and bohemians.

So, your argument is that you don't like poor people or something? That's the only way I can parse your check cashing vs bank branches comment, because otherwise I can't tell what that has to do with "livability". The "food desert" comment is bullshit, as Mister Fabulous points out. I'm not sure what a yard has to do with raising children, as I see many, many obviously non-poor (thus, people with choices) people every day with children in the city. What else have you got?

By the way, I see a lot more evidence of poverty in Steubenville, OH, where practically everyone has a yard, than I do in Chicago.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:23 PM on June 23, 2011


Suburbs haven't been a good place to raise kids since dual-incomes became the norm, if they ever were. No supervision, nothing to do, no way to get anywhere unless you drive... Is it any wonder the suburbs are full of ill-socialized, drug-addled, obese people?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:23 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


His finale was pure fantasy and misunderstanding. Why did 1894 Brainerd "rock"? Well it probably didn't. It was much less regulated, harsher, was built on wild speculation and risk-taking, and was supported by the failure of many. Dirt-cheap immigrant labor provided the basis for the wealthy few to own most of the land and buildings. This was the start of the Ponzi scheme! I hope this is not the model of where we aspire to return.
posted by JJ86 at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My walkscore is 98, but I live in the original Portland.

Personal anecdotes aside, one has to agree that, as a general rule, cities are more cramped, dirtier, and less safe than rural areas.. but that comes with great advantages like one's walkscore (and all that implies). I'm not sure how I feel about that as I have "wish I lived in the woods" days and "wished I lived in Manhattan" days, but of course having a place in the woods AND Manhattan would be even more wasteful..
posted by mbatch at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2011


Cities are more productive than suburbs and rural areas because they are more dense.

But regulations in most places severely restrict density. This artificially limits the number of people who can contribute and benefit from the density of cities, which drives up costs; cities are 'expensive' relative to the suburbs because our regulations (including things like low gas taxes) obscure the actual cost of suburban and rural living.

Slap Happy is wealthy enough that he doesn't require the productivity boost that cities provide and strongly prefers. Good for him, but the regulations shouldn't encourage or require low productivity behavior at the margins.
posted by Kwine at 2:54 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I vote for a rational response. (I expect an irrational response.)
posted by DaddyNewt at 3:00 PM on June 23, 2011


Sorry, folks, cities suck to live in. They are dirty, noisy, and dangerous, not to mention cramped, inconvenient and expensive as all hell.

Well, feel free to stay away, then; it's no skin off my nose. Just don't ask me to subsidize your gasoline-dependent suburban lifestyle.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:19 PM on June 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


"The only people who believe in infinite growth in a finite world are madmen and economists". Kenneth Boulding
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:22 PM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure why these debates on Metafilter always devolve into cities versus suburbs, while ignoring rural communities. That's living: plenty of land, plenty of quiet,and no noisy local governments telling you that the tall grass on the bit of lawn where you park the boat is a "snake hazard."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:42 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The trouble with rural communities is that either you're a farmer or you're unemployed (mostly). If you're not a farmer and you live in a rural community it's like the suburbs but worse.
posted by GuyZero at 3:56 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rural communities don't factor in the debate too terribly much mainly because the whole subject is on development, and development tends toward cities and suburbs. The article still managed to point out a couple of rural case studies, and the result was the same for them as anywhere else: they are dropping in developments on a smaller scale, but still don't have the revenue coming in to cover the maintenance costs in the long term.

My original hometown (population 4000) has an industrial park, probably a couple hundred acres divided up into several lots. They built the water, sewer, electric and roads, with an option to connect to the nearby railroad. They are soon running into the same problems as were described but with a bit worse of a hit. The revenue wasn't planned for well enough in advance and the industrial park never filled. I think it topped out at 60% occupancy in the good times. My hometown is in Michigan, and I assure you it is still not the good times right now. The town's biggest business was a paper mill that went belly-up 10 years ago, and now they want to tear it down and develop it at a very large expense.

I expect them to do as described in the article: the old mill will get torn down, the town will eventually get financial assistance from the federal government to clean up the brownfield site, they will have a developer come in, build the houses, water, sewer, electric, etc. and pass the ownership and responsibility to the city. The initial money that comes from the development will go to fix issues with the underutilized industrial park, and none will get saved. 30 years from now, when everything begins to fall apart the property taxes won't cover the maintenance and replacement of both developments.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:06 PM on June 23, 2011


I'm having trouble explaining this without going off on a rant about the unbearably boring desert-like emptiness of the suburb I grew up in, but I am extremely skeptical of the idea that suburbs are good places to raise children. Unless - are you trying to raise a couch potato, on purpose?

Personal anecdotes aside, one has to agree that, as a general rule, cities are more cramped, dirtier, and less safe than rural areas..

I'm not actually convinced of any of these things.

More cramped: It is tautological that cities pack more people into a smaller space, but in exchange for a smaller amount of personal space, you get access to a far greater wealth of public space. In a suburban or rural environment, most of that land around you is private property. I feel less cramped in a city because more of it is open to me. Only way out, past the suburbs, past the rural towns, out into what's left of the public wilderness, do you find the same kind of freedom to wander that you get in the middle of a big city.

More dirty: this one depends completely on context. In the neighborhood where I live, yeah, you find beer cans on the sidewalk, snack wrappers in the gutter, graffiti tags on the signs. Downtown, not so much; there are public trash cans and recycling bins everywhere, and a cleanup crew that roams around picking up litter. The higher density downtown makes that sort of extra cleaning service feasible. Anyway, what's "clean"? Think of all the dead cars up on blocks in rural yards; or, more abstractly, all the extra CO2 in the atmosphere from people driving to and from their suburban homes. Is that really "cleaner"?

Less safe: this depends on the sorts of dangers that concern you, and that is mostly a function of what's familiar. People who think the city is dangerous are probably thinking about gang violence, or getting mugged. But what about becoming stranded in your suburban house, miles from any grocery store, when your car breaks down or an unexpected blizzard buries it in the driveway? What about living in a neighborhood where everyone's at work during the day and burglars can operate with impunity? What about being the weirdo, standing out too much in a homogeneous culture? I feel safe in the city because I know how it works.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:11 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm fully aware of the problems with rural areas, I was mainly setting up a joke about my redneck childhood of boats on lawns.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:18 PM on June 23, 2011


mbatch: "My walkscore is 98, but I live in the original Portland."

Maine? Or the island in England?
posted by dunkadunc at 4:23 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well in my local suburb we have boats in driveways, RVs permanently parked in front of houses and the occasional 12' high monster truck. It's really a pretty nice place but let's not joke around - we're about 3 cinderblocks away from being the redneck stereotype even though we lack the stereotypical rednecks.
posted by GuyZero at 4:23 PM on June 23, 2011


Maybe rednecks aren't the stereotypical rednecks.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:39 PM on June 23, 2011


We are going to need to buy less cheap crap in the future, and find a way to produce better shit. In other words, despite all of our bad judgement, China will have as many growing pains in the 21st century as we will have no-longer-the-only-superpower-pains.

Slowly the reality will dawn on suburban Americans, that there is no going back. Some will take their unreal "American Dream" to their graves, but others will adapt, move to cities or become telecommuters amidst the crumbling infrastructure.
posted by thebestusernameever at 6:21 PM on June 23, 2011


The linked essay is nice and all, but it seems pretty light on facts. As do the comments. It's either a 1890 slum, or a 1980 vinyl siding slum. No in between.

I grew up in the city. Lots of sidewalks, nowhere to go. Bars on the windows of beautiful homes. Now I live in the just-outside-the-city suburbs. Fewer sidewalks, but there are actually businesses and restaurants and movie theaters. And it is cheaper to live, and I can look out one window and see a park, and the other window and see a 1/4 acre of open space. What would you have me do?

Live and let live.

(Not to mention, it seems like the big cities are the ones with the financial and infrastructure problems. Cramming more people in doesn't seem like a solution.)
posted by gjc at 6:49 PM on June 23, 2011


More cramped: It is tautological that cities pack more people into a smaller space, but in exchange for a smaller amount of personal space, you get access to a far greater wealth of public space.

No you don't. You have to go out to the 'burbs to find a decent bikepath or nature reserve - not a National Park or anything, just a pleasant wild space with a few miles of well-groomed paths.

In the city you have filthy parks or crowded and noisy bars and cafes, which they have out in the 'burbs, too.

Also, you're boned if you enjoy kayaking/canoing/motorcycling or woodworking unless you shell out money for storage or a workspace. Then you have to spend time away from your family to go work on your projects or check in on your stuff.

In the neighborhood where I live, yeah, you find beer cans on the sidewalk, snack wrappers in the gutter, graffiti tags on the signs. Downtown, not so much; there are public trash cans and recycling bins everywhere, and a cleanup crew that roams around picking up litter.

So, you have to hop on the bus to find someplace that isn't a grimy roachtrap? Sounds appealing!

all the extra CO2 in the atmosphere from people driving to and from their suburban homes

Have you bothered to breathe the air in the city you live in? For serious? And then there's the noise and light pollution.

depends on the sorts of dangers that concern you, and that is mostly a function of what's familiar

I'm familiar with distracted drivers blasting down city streets lined with parked cars, blowing through intersections and crosswalks without care. I commute by bike thru the city daily - no way in hell I'd let my kid ride on any of these streets, even the residential side streets. City drivers are animals. Cars kill more people than muggers - and there are a shit-ton more cars per mile of road in the city than in the 'burbs, and nothing like a residential cul-de-sac for kids to play on and travel through.

Also, I live in New England. I lived at the corner of Comm Ave and Harvard Ave in Alston (Boston) during the April Fools Blizzard. It was Not Handled Well. Generally, natural disasters are amplified by the city. It's too dependent on outside resources, and there's too many people and vehicles getting in each other's way to do proper disaster management.

And, yes, crime is much worse in the city. I've never been mugged in the 'burbs, tho I have been burgled once. I've been mugged, assaulted, burgled twice and had my car vandalized on multiple occasions in the city - and I'm a full grown man.

Once my wife has her degree, we're going to leave city life for good, and not look back. People were not meant to live this way.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:29 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cultural understandings of space vary greatly, and it seems the North American Suburb is not an international norm by any means, nor a desired end-goal.

The fah? Who doesn't desire space? I want names. What, scumbag land developers?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:02 AM on June 24, 2011


The fah? Who doesn't desire space? I want names. What, scumbag land developers?

Not everyone wants a parcel of land they have to keep up. Sometimes a one or two bedroom apartment with a balcony is all you need. The knowledge that your building takes up a fraction of land that used to be arable farmland or wild forest (as opposed to your average suburban subdivision housing the same number of people) is a minor bonus.
posted by spoobnooble at 6:29 AM on June 24, 2011


funny, huh.
Where I live the inner city is prosperous, the outer city suburbs are prosperous, but there are a few middle zones (places with 1/4 acre blocks, not apartments) where crime produces bad neighbourhoods.
It's almost like it doesn't matter where you put the poor, crime follows...
Maybe if we want better places to live we need to start with helping out poor people.
posted by bystander at 7:35 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc, point taken - I did mean Maine (original meaning "the one Portland, Oregon was named after").

Mars Saxman:
More cramped: It is tautological that cities pack more people into a smaller space, but in exchange for a smaller amount of personal space, you get access to a far greater wealth of public space. In a suburban or rural environment, most of that land around you is private property. I feel less cramped in a city because more of it is open to me. Only way out, past the suburbs, past the rural towns, out into what's left of the public wilderness, do you find the same kind of freedom to wander that you get in the middle of a big city.

I was kind of thinking of more rural than suburban, but nevertheless, this statement leads me to believe that you've never spent any time in a country setting. Or if you have it's damn unfriendly. I live in Maine and, sure, some land is posted and some people are cranky about their private property, but as a general rule people could give a rats ass where you wander off into the woods. In my small city growing up there were miles upon miles of woods to explore along the river literally 50 feet from my house, and we lived 1/4 mile from the center of downtown.. I'm talking about New England, though, and specifically Maine. My limited exposure to "new" suburbs - those stamped out by the corporate construction regime with cookie-cutter houses - yah, they do seem pretty miserable.
posted by mbatch at 7:51 AM on June 24, 2011


I've been looking for someplace to put this.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:55 AM on June 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


all the extra CO2 in the atmosphere from people driving to and from their suburban homes

I disagree with a lot of what Slap*Happy says, but he's spot on here. Air quality in cities (I'm in Boston, which is relatively walkable/transit friendly) is terrible and a serious threat to peoples' health.

Once my wife has her degree, we're going to leave city life for good, and not look back. People were not meant to live this way.

There are just as many pitfalls in the suburbs, many are more subtle but over the long term just as deleterious.

My take is that it won't matter. The financials of suburbs are subsidized to an unbelievable amount and eventually the cities and feds will have to break down and make hard decisions. You can leave the city now, but almost everyone will be back soon.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 8:13 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


(by soon I mean 1-1.5 generations)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 8:13 AM on June 24, 2011


I was kind of thinking of more rural than suburban, but nevertheless, this statement leads me to believe that you've never spent any time in a country setting.

True, that. I've lived in suburbs, I've lived in close-in neighborhoods, I've lived right smack downtown among the high-rises, but I've never lived in a country town - only visited. Perhaps if I were a local I would know which barbed-wire fences and "keep out" signs I was free to ignore, but as a non-resident it seemed like I just had to keep going until I reached the open public land past all the towns. Maybe this is a difference between the West and the East.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:58 AM on June 24, 2011


I am not the first to suppose that one of the major attractions of the suburbs is that they create a natural barrier to keep out the poor, and all the problems of the poor. If you make it impossible to live your life without a car, then you effectively keep out people who can't afford a car. When the suburb is shiny and pleasant and new, only people who can put up a lot of cash, or convince a bank to lend it to them, can move in, which ensures that every resident is a person of means. Indeed, an unspoken rationale of many HOA rules is that people who fall on hard times, who might otherwise try to save by neglecting maintenance or by taking on a roommate, will instead be forced out. But time goes on. Some people's fortunes decline. Infrastructure wears out, and taxes have to be raised. But that can be ok-- your suburb is full of well-off people, who can afford it.

But what happens when you have some hard times? An economic slump, or a sudden jump in fuel prices? People start neglecting their properties, voting against spending public (or HOA) funds on maintaining the area. If a lot of people do it, you can't force them all out. If things start to visibly deteriorate, the area becomes less attractive. If the deferred maintenance bills then start coming due, living there becomes more expensive. Who wants to live in an expensive, unattractive area? Result: home prices fall. Some people, who have the money, move to a newer, shinier suburb. Poorer people move in and bring the problems of poverty, even as tax receipts are falling and maintenance is even more neglected. Police are laid off just as police are most needed. Never mind, move on to the next exurban ring to repeat the process, and leave the losers behind.

And then came our bubble. In the bubble, suddenly, everyone could get a loan. The gates were down! Money was pouring in and infrastructure maintenance was no concern at all. Everyone could flee the problems of poverty, including those who were poor themselves.

But, of course, exclusivity for everyone is exclusivity for no one.

And then the bust. The cycle is short-circuited. Neglect is immediate, obvious, everywhere. The ring of decay expands faster than the ring of construction. Those who in times past would have escaped are overtaken-- when the decay has hit the houses still under construction, where can you possibly run?
posted by alexei at 1:55 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, you're boned if you enjoy kayaking/canoing/motorcycling or woodworking unless you shell out money for storage or a workspace.

Bullshit. We live in a duplex in an urban neighborhood 10 minutes from downtown. My husband has a kayak and woodworking tools. Our neighbor (who shares our 1.5 car garage) has a kayak and canoe. We also have 3 bikes and 2 cars. Cities aren't all high rise condos, you know.
posted by desjardins at 2:45 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what about the city? The residential parts of cities were the original abandoned suburbs. They took a heavy blow when they were left with all the concentrated problems of poverty-- crime, dirtiness, all the things people have been complaining about. But they survived, and endured. And they have one major advantage over the suburbs: they are fundamentally cheap. I did a Google Maps comparison of a typical century-old block in my neighborhood with a block in Las Vegas (1). The result is that, on a per-lot basis, Las Vegas has more than double the length of streets as does SF. It follows that it will have double the sewer pipes, water mains, and utility wires, and double the maintenance costs of all those things. The requirement for a vehicle is imposed on every independent member of the Las Vegas household--not so in SF. And these are not big apartment buildings I'm talking about, but single-family homes, most of which have gardens (though half the size of the ones in Vegas).

So the city never died. If people couldn't afford cars, they walked. If they couldn't afford to maintain their house, they split it in two and rented out half. Life went on. And now you have ever-increasing gentrification, for better or worse. Areas feel safer. Crime decreases, even as there is more money for policing. Public schools gradually improve. House prices skyrocket, because what's better than an exclusive community with high maintenance costs? An exclusive community with low maintenance costs.

The city government has continual budget problems, sure, but what would happen if it took a page from the suburbs and made poverty Somebody Else's Problem? Today, new highrises are required to subsidize lower-income housing to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. The city spends hundreds of millions a year on social services. If, one day, the city should vote to walk away from that (and who knows, with the gentrification that is happening, maybe it will), what would happen? The idea that the inner city is inevitably a hotbed of crime and ugliness is a pretty uniquely American phenomenon, and the forces which gave rise to it are fading.

(1) A big shout-out to Google Maps for allowing this sort of analysis. It would have been impossible without it.

I am comparing a block in my neighborhood (the block of 650 3rd Ave., SF, CA 94118, which is medium-density for SF and would probably have been considered somewhat suburban when it was built about a century ago) with a block in Las Vegas (the rectangle which contains 6304 Espinosa Ave Las Vegas NV 89108), and take some measurements. For the roads which make up the outside border of the block I counted half of each road in the area calculations, as they are shared with the lots across the street.

The Las Vegas block: 3280 linear feet of road for 87 single-family homes (38 ft/lot). The typical lot is 6000 sf (60x100). All are single story. Typical backyard: 2200 sf, with another 1000-1500 for the front lawn and the sides. Typical street frontage: 60 feet.

SF: 940 feet of road for the block, which consists of 52 lots (18 lf/lot). Mostly single family, some converted/replaced by similar-size 2 unit buildings (and probably some in-laws which aren't visible), and a handful of ~3-6 unit buildings on the corners, with some small commercial establishments. Typical lot: 3000 sf (120x25), typical yard: 950 square feet (though a few have none). Unlike Vegas, there are no front or side lawns. Typical lot width: 25 feet. Most have garages, some have none, and it's likely they fit only a single car. They average about three stories tall.

The LV example has a walkscore of 71 "Very Walkable" and transit score of 42, while the SF one has a walkscore of 91 and a transit score of 81. Consider the nearest LV grocery store, however: according to walkscore it is 0.32 miles away (a "walmart neighborhood market"). However, if you don't want to run across a seven lane road with no crosswalk, you have to walk about 3500 feet (over twice as far), and in either case you have to cross several smaller roads and parking lot entrances which have wide curves to allow drivers to avoid slowing down, and don't have any traffic control signs or crosswalk markings. The way does have a sidewalk with ramps (except for the parking lot).

For SF, the nearest grocery store is the "Arguello Super Market" which is well reviewed (4 stars with 200+ reviews. Who reviews a supermarket?). This requires a walk of 960 feet, and crossing two streets, one of which has a stop sign, the other of which has a "pedestrian crossing" sign. Both have painted crosswalks. There's a Safeway if you go twice as far, with similar pedestrian conditions. The sidewalk wide, protected by parked cars, and IMO pleasant to walk on.

Approximately the same analysis holds for every other category.

posted by alexei at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


dunkadunc:
> technological innovation ...
> shit that hasn't been invented yet

hank: It has now been invented.

... which in no way lessens the wisdom of his maxim, nor it's applicability here.


1. Slavery.
In 1894? In Minnesota?

Mister Fabulous, since Pastabagel addressed this in the very next sentence, I have to assume your reading skills are atrocious. Or you're trolling.


Suburbs are terrible for raising kids, but let's not bring facts into this.

Citation, entropicamericana? Since it's a "fact".
posted by IAmBroom at 6:28 AM on June 27, 2011


So growth can be infinite? Interesting.

maxwelton, that is precisely the implication taught in my college economics class in the 1980s. Sustainable economic health is only achievable through growth, and ultimately through population growth.

Even as an 18 year-old, I could see the overwhelming danger in this idea.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:43 AM on June 27, 2011


Perpetual growth works in the natural world, as long as there is periodic disaster to cull stuff back. Forest fires come to mind.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:48 AM on June 27, 2011


Citation, entropicamericana? Since it's a "fact".

Laziest form of rebuttal ever.

I already mentioned why suburbs are bad place to raise kids, and if you're genuinely curious instead of just scornful, I suggest your read The Geography of Nowhere and Suburban Nation for lengthy arguments on why suburbia sucks. Of the two, Suburban Nation has more scholarly argument.

Of course, not all suburbs are created equal: "streetcar suburbs" can be downright idyllic, but nobody builds those anymore.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:45 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if anyone is capable of analyzing the economics behind this article. It sounds good on paper, but the author makes his conclusion sound so obvious that I'm surprised that more people haven't come to the same conclusion. That is, unless he's leaving something important out. All this talk of suburb versus city is besides the point, if the economics of the suburbs are unsustainable.
posted by Edgewise at 10:22 AM on June 27, 2011


I suspect it's a typical case of everyone involved in the planning and execution having a financial incentive in moving it forward and no financial incentive in calling attention to problems that may appear decades down the road. That, plus a boundless optimism in the capacity of technology to eventually fix all our problems.
posted by alexei at 2:45 AM on June 28, 2011


...and here is a recent story which is pertinent.
posted by alexei at 5:43 PM on June 28, 2011


Bullshit. We live in a duplex in an urban neighborhood 10 minutes from downtown. My husband has a kayak and woodworking tools. Our neighbor (who shares our 1.5 car garage) has a kayak and canoe. We also have 3 bikes and 2 cars. Cities aren't all high rise condos, you know.

It's all about who's got THE BIGGEST CANOE.

/obscure Australian pop-culture reference from TV adland.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:36 PM on June 28, 2011


« Older Twenty years ago today, the gaming world saw the l...  |  Go-Bag porn for the Arab Sprin... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments