1. Boby Jindal, as Pete says, is a better for choice for Mitt than Rubio. It’s sort of ridiculous to speculate on what kind of demographic impact this or that candidate would have. In every case, the answer is: NOT MUCH. The relatively big issue is how the VP choice makes the P candidate look. Romney’s theme should be grown-up executive competence. So he should pick someone who could plausibly to be said to have the best record of executive accomplishment in the country. That might not literally be Bobby, but the claim can still be made. Having said that, I can add quickly that a Southern, Asian Catholic loved in a very evangelical state can’t hurt. Bobby’s lack of spoken eloquence just won’t make much difference.

2. So in teaching public policy, I did spend a little time on the environmental issue. There’s the view of Roger Scruton that eco-reform needs to begin locally, with love of place and home. That of course is sort of the view of Wendell Berry, although Scruton’s farm/village thing seems a bit more sophisticated (being ENGLISH and all). But there’s the view of the fine book GREEN METROPOLIS that the most eco-sound living situation in America is New York City, with lots of people huddled into small apartments with low energy bills and without cars. Our Manhattanites do a lot more walking in the normal course of their daily lives than the rural agrarians who live around me. They almost never own SUVs or monster trucks. The city is also a very diverse, challenging, and fascinating place to walk, much more interesting that some farm field. And people who grow up in big cities love their neighborhoods and all that as much as small-towners do these days. Their neighborhoods are often full of the sophisticated amenities that smart and educated people can’t help but prefer. If you want a Walmart-free environment, go to Manhattan (or Brooklyn or “Fishtown” etc.). And REAL CITIES are usually more healthy in most ways than Boboized or new-urbanized parts of town. People are more used to living with less. Their environmentalism is less conscious and so less selective. Some middle-class, ethnic neighborhood in Brooklyn might be (unconsciously) more eco-sound than Portland, Oregon or Davis, California.

3. So a great threat to the environment, studies show, is TELECOMMUTING of various kinds. That allows sophisticated folks to move to rural areas to get back in touch with the land or nature or whatever. They end up with lots more square feet than they had in the cities, bigger energy costs, and even working from home they do a lot more driving. They never become so immobile that they’re satisfied with the beauty of the field behind the barn. They drive their guts out over distances far longer the whole length of Manhattan island to the various amenities that they’ve become accustomed to etc. With lot of telecommuters, the “social ecology” of this or that small town is ruined by the greedy and so natural impulse for entrepreneurs to satisfy those bloated city desires by introducing ridiculous amenities (expensive designer food made with locally grown organic produce) in the “revitalized” parts of the small town etc. But that only cuts back the amount of driving some . . .

4. All in all I’m sympathetic to the various efforts to get people out of the suburbs—where people drive way too much in horrible traffic—and back into the cities. But the truth is that middle-class people with kids aren’t into a position to make such a move. They’re not about to spend more for fewer square feet. The relatively densely populated parts of the city of Atlanta are becoming whiter and younger and gayer as they “revitalize.” (So Dr. Pat Deneen couldn’t possibly leave the VA suburbs to move into DC; on to South Bend seemed the only option.)

5. University towns are also eco-friendly, although they become less so as they become crowded in a sprawly (as opposed to a dense) way. Mr. Ceaser, despite all his big talk about big cars, either walks or takes a motor scooter his mile or two to work. University towns, of course, are full of amenities in a way other comparable towns can’t be. Everything is so perfectly livable that everything becomes too expensive for ordinary guys to afford, unless they want to live like graduate students (and who wants that?). The tendency is for people who live in university towns—such as university professors—to never quite grow up. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—see Allan Bloom’s best-seller.) They certainly aren’t usually about raising their kids the way Berry correctly recommends.

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Articles by Peter Lawler


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