Monday, January 12, 2009

The Edwardsville Cargo Cult

You remember how Edwardsville, Alabama -- "It ain't even a wide spot in the road" -- decided it needed $375 million in federal money for "green" projects? Well, now (via Michelle Malkin) the much-mocked folks of Edwardsville (pop. 194) are defending their proposal. What caught my attention was this:
Phillips went on to discuss that in various ways, long-term planning must be incorporated into cities and towns so they will not later be faced with congestion and high-cost road construction. "By incorporating golf cart paths into community design, such as the acclaimed Peachtree City in Georgia, planned green community residents can do almost all their local errands without the use of polluting and traffic congestive cars. Having recharging stations is an integral component to success when cities consider these planning options."
Can you say, "Cargo cult"? The fallacy:
  • Peachtree City is a wonderful place;
  • Peachtree City has Policy X; therefore
  • If we enact Policy X, we'll be wonderful, too
Peachetree City was built as a town self-consciously upscale, an entire community of planned development, and drew lots of Delta pilots from nearby Hartsfield-Atlanta airport. The extreme stringency of zoning in Peachtree City was notorious in the region by the late 1970s. (I'm an Atlanta native.) So, yeah, a posh suburb of booming Atlanta has golf-cart paths throughout. Some relevant Census data:You cannot zone your way to wealth. It doesn't work that way. And if you build upscale golf-cart communities in Edwardsville, you'd better start by figuring out where you going to find affluent residents who can afford to live there, because they sure ain't the folks living there now. And if you did attract a bunch of rich outsiders, what does it mean for your current taxpayers? That their children will have the privilege of saying to the newcomers, "Want fries with that?"

If there is a legitimate demand for upscale housing in Cleburne County, Ala. -- Yankee retirees looking for low taxes, or folks working in Douglas County, Ga., who want a more rural lifestyle -- the market will supply that demand without any $375 million stimulus from Uncle Sugar. As it is, you're working on a fallacious theory of causation so shockingly primitive in its backwardness that I'm amazed any literate person would fall for it.

Golf-cart trails in Edwardsville? Oh, puh-leeze.

Much better idea: Dirt-bike trails -- with mudbogs!

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