The Next Conservatism: New Urbanism

Some conservatives seem to think we can let cities die while their surrounding suburbs live on happily. That is not the case. If the city that functions as a region’s center dies, the region dies too.

The next conservatism wants America to have living, healthy cities that are good places to live and work. Fortunately, there is a national movement that knows how to bring that about. It is called the New Urbanism. We’re all for it.

Despite the fact that the architecture profession is dominated by leftists, at least in the architecture schools, New Urbanism is profoundly conservative. In our book The Next Conservatism Paul Weyrich, and I wrote,

The New Urbanism seeks to build new neighborhoods, villages, and towns similar to those we built through most of America’s history, up until World War II. It wants to revitalize our inner cities as well, again by returning them to the way they used to be. While New Urbanism does not always demand traditional architecture, it usually favors it. New Urbanism offers a Retroculture alternative to post-war sprawl suburbs, where everything looks the same and you cannot do anything without driving.

Traditional neighborhood design helps create something conservatives value highly, namely community. (Note that community and the Left’s value of “diversity” are in tension; the more diverse a place’s population, the less easy it is for community to  form.) We value community because people who live in communities care what their neighbors think of them. That in turn generates peer pressure, which is the most effective force upholding proper morals and manners. People behave well because if they don’t, they may find themselves excluded from the community. Conservatives favor peer pressure and, when necessary, exclusion, because they are both more effective and less dangerous than law and the power of the state in leading people to behave themselves.

I have been involved with New Urbanism almost from its beginning. I attended the third Congress on the New Urbanism and many thereafter. I know New Urbanism’s founder, Andres Duany; in fact, Andres, Paul Weyrich, and I co-authored a monograph, Conservatives and the New Urbanism: Do We Have Some Things in Common?, copies of which may still be available from CNU. As a conservative, I recognize that just as New Urbanism offers something conservatives should want, namely physical settings that help create community, so conservatism offers New Urbanism something important as well: a free market mechanism that can help New Urbanism spread.

Some libertarian critics of New Urbanism like to pretend that sprawl represents a free market choice. It does not. Sprawl was mandated by government in the building codes local governments adopted after World War II. For the first time in history, anywhere on earth, government mandated that where you live, where you work, and where you shop must be separated by distances too great to walk. Those codes remain in force today. Sprawl is a product of government regulation, not the free market.

Where New Urbanist developments have been allowed to compete with sprawl, they have done very well. The same floor space usually sells for a substantial premium over surrounding sprawl. The problem is, the codes make it very expensive for developers to offer traditional neighborhood design, where you can walk to school, to work, to shop, and to church. One developer told me that to build one small TND development, he had to obtain more that 120 variances, each of which cost him time and money.

So here’s a free market, conservative proposal: let’s adopt dual codes. Developers would be free to build under either the current sprawl code or a New Urbanist, TND code. That would create a level playing field for New Urbanism. Let it succeed, or fail, in the marketplace. Libertarians are supposed to be free marketeers. How about it, guys?

The New Urbanism represents the core of the next conservatism, Retroculture. In the design of the places we live as in so many other things, what we had was better than what we have now. We need to turn back to what worked. Our old towns and cities, where they survive, are often beautiful. No one ever called a strip mall that.


P.S. The future of the next conservatism, and so much else, depends on Donald Trump winning this election. Trump represents a possibility for change. Under the Establishment, no change is possible in anything. Make sure every Trump voter you know gets to the polls on election day, even if you have to take them there yourself.

10 thoughts on “The Next Conservatism: New Urbanism”

  1. Damnit Bill! WTF are you talking about? “New Urbanism”? If effing Hilliary gets in the WH it’s all over, America dies! America’s cities? America’s cities are urban warzones populated and governed (if you can call it that) by brainless baboons who only want to rape, rob and kill.

    Instead of wasting your time on such nonsense, you should use your considerable talents figuring out how people may secede from the corrupt, cultural-marxist USA and how to defeat a police/military sent to conquer them.

  2. I think constructing neighborhoods in which amenities and community facilities are in walking distance is important to both the left and right side of government.

    HOWEVER; I do believe that philosophy of “walkability” ( ) or sustainable urban design – is actually in conflict with the free market; as obviously a greater profit can be made from a smaller area if high-density housing is installed instead of walkable communities.

    So for me at least; this topic serves to remind us of what good government should do: Protect its citizens. Even if that means protecting them from corporations which might only see profit; corporations which might get myopic and in turn create eye-sores.

    The problem is; it’s a developers market. New space is seldom created at a low cost – so increasing the density of pre-existing spaces seems to be the current fixation of the market (from the developers standpoint).

    After all; why bother preparing land and hooking up costly things like water, sewage and power – when you can simply demolish a park, a town square or low density housing.

    It’s a case where the government must protect us from enemies foreign AND domestic.

  3. Achieving the classical design of city layout is a must for a Traditional aesthetic. The differentiated man cannot tolerate such ugliness as the sprawl.

  4. To solve the problem we need a holistic approach. We need to provide a vision and a goal for what life will be like under our rulership.

  5. Yeah; the real power is in any system that obeys feedback…. and that doesn’t have to be limited to markets (nor is it always present in all market conditions or for all types of commodity).

    A government that obeys feedback would really be something! Much better than falling for the

    >muh freemarkets

    meme (Why conservatives! Why did you fall for it?)

  6. The free market is a means to an end, not and end in and of itself. That “end” was “the good life”. Not, in the sense of a race to acquire the most toys, per the old dictum, but rather to have what one needs to raise a family, help neighbors, and build and enjoy beautiful, productive, and sane cities, towns, and farms. Floors and ceilings are important in buildings and they are important in community maintenance. Floors on behavior: below this level of morality and you will be excluded as a reprobate; ceilings on accumulation: above this level and you will be excluded as a vulgarian servant of Mammon. The idea of a tidy city with clean, safe streets, modestly sized but well-kempt houses, and locally owned productive businesses sounds like a veritable paradise. But it requires virtue to create and maintain, and the market is always seeking to make more money, even if it is required to resort to the cheap, the tawdry, and the unseemly to do it. That is why conservatives are for restraints, limits, fences, etc., to prevent forces of all kinds, (including market forces) from running wild and destroying carefully built institutions like families, churches, communities, nations.

  7. Yep. That you’re free to buy anything or work anywhere has been divorced from free to sell anything and produce any product anywhere (rationality applies here) within a nation.

    The Free market ain’t free, and it hasn’t been since regulators began regulating first for their profit, then the lobbyists profit, and now for power.

  8. In regard to freedom:

    True freedom is so terrifying that most cannot stomach it. This is why humans have swung between two poles when it comes to freedom. The first is to use a government to externally impose controls on freedom. The second is to generate a culture that self-restricts to impose controls on freedom.

    The US was originally created as the second one.

    In the current age external controls must be imposed due to the dyscivic and dysgenic practices that have destroyed the original cultures.

    The pendulum must swing now, and its going to swing like an axe. In time, as people learn to control themselves, it will swing to a self-regulated culture again.

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