Sunday, July 24, 2005

Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to sensationalize the present

London has survived a devastating fire, various outbreaks of civil violence, plague, torturous bombing by the Nazis and years of IRA bombs. It has incorporated new waves of population over centuries. And yet the Washington Post Outlook section wastes space on this petty piece of nihilism suggesting that the whole enterprise is doomed because a couple of idiots strapped bombs to themselves.

Yes, Joel Kotkin cites plenty of historical precedent on his own, but I think the fall of various Central American cultures and the fall of Rome are a little less relevant than London's recovery from all manner of misfortune in the more recent centuries.

Kotkin has intriguing ideas about how technology can decentralize the population. I spent the first 28 years of my life in mid-sized towns, and I think it's great to see them revitalized by new opportunities. But that's no reason to push aside all the advantages of "urban" life -- downtowns with character, thriving marketplaces not contained within the walls of an exurban Wal-Mart ... and yes, mass transit.

One reason London can survive so well is that is has so much mass transit that a few terrorist strikes can't possibly take down the whole system. Just look at the Tube map, then consider how many buses and commuter trains run in addition to all that. In fact, London is already the sprawling complex of multiple centers that Kotkin describes here.

Someone tell the Post not to bug me with this depressing nonsense on a Sunday morning.

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