Acton Institute Powerblog

Sprawl Not So Bad

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Robert Brueggman of the University of Illinois-Chicago offers a contrarian take on suburban sprawl in US News and World Report.

I’m not as relativistic as Brueggman is with respect to the aesthetic question: A lot of suburban shopping centers, highways, and neighborhoods are ugly—or at least boring—and don’t deserve to be preserved in the longterm. (Yes, a lot of urban buildings, highly respected by the architectural elite, are also ugly, in my opinion.) But Brueggman makes good points about the way most people view the benefits of suburbia and places the whole question in historical perspective.

For more on urban planning, Christianity, and markets, see the Spring 2003 issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Kevin Schmiesing Kevin Schmiesing, Ph.D., is a research fellow for the research department at the Acton Institute. He is a frequent writer on Catholic social thought and economics, is the author of American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895-1955 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2002) and is most recently the author of Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II (Lexington Books, 2004). Dr. Schmiesing holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in history from Franciscan University ofSteubenville. Author of Within the Market Strife and American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895—1955 (2002), he serves as Book Review Editor for the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is also executive director of


  • Steven Depolo

    I think urban sprawl should be controlled because of the waste and damage to community. I would be happy to discuss the many benefits of modern urban architecture, such as our lovely city hall.

  • Kevin

    I’m sympathetic to the concern about community, but the key point in that connection is that community can’t be forced. If people are opting for existences that are more isolated, then any solution has to involve primarily a conversion of mind and heart to recognize the importance of community.

    All of this also begs the question of whether those who live in “sprawl” actually enjoy a less communal existence than those who live in city cores. My guess is that many would dispute that claim.

    On the final point, I did not say, nor mean to imply, that *all* modern urban buildings are ugly.