Monday, April 19, 2004

Exurbia: the new frontier

This week in my B&C blog: The Atlantic on the case against genetic "perfection," right but weakly argued. Also: fighting crime with books in the Mexico City subway, and five articles more or less related to the topic of suburban development and cultural identity. LINK/ARCHIVE

In the blog I poke some holes in David Brooks' argument about exurbia and American identity. Some other fallacies in his essay I didn't mention: he attributes the culture of exurbia to our hard work, but doesn't a culture that reveres the golf cart, the Big Mac, and (as I saw on a recent ad) the trash bag deodorizer actually celebrate laziness? Also, Brooks equates exurban migration with the Puritans' effort to establish a "city on a hill," even though exurbia encourages an escape to isolated private prosperity while the city was to be a cohesive, collective religious body. Finally, while admiring the creativity of our capitalistic culture, Brooks fails to invoke, much less address, the ambiguities of Joseph Schumpeter's fine phrase, the creative destruction of capitalism.

Philadelphia magazine dug up some errors in Brooks' previous writings; I love the headline, spoofing his last book: Booboos in Paradise

But overall I like Brooks' writing a lot. Among the choice phrases in his NYT piece, he gets off this line about Trader Joe's, the place where

all the snack food is especially designed for kids who come home from school screaming, ''Mom, I want a snack that will prevent colorectal cancer!''

Speaking of American laziness, the chorus of excuses in the 9-11 testimony suggests we have gone from Can-Do America to No-Can-Do America, says Maureen Dowd.

Update: USA Today on why suburban sprawl is bad for our health.

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