Life in Utopia

Jane Jacobs, writing in her landmark The Death and Life of Great American Cities, remembers Ebenezer Howard, whose ill-named Garden Cities were essentially an anti-urban utopian impulse and, unfortunately, an inspiration for much of the disastrous Urban Renewal of the post-war era.

His aim was the creation of self-sufficient small towns, really nice small towns if you were docile and had no plans of your own and did not mind spending your life among others with no plans of their own. As in all Utopias, the right to have plans of any significance belonged only to the planners in charge. (p. 17)

I remember that whenever I hear of a Really Great Idea That Could Make Life Better, and try not to champion any cause too firmly. Without freedom and opportunity, ideas and dreams — even the best ones — can’t be meaningfully followed by any others.

3 Replies to “Life in Utopia”

  1. I don’t quite get what you mean, but by Great Ideas, I think of any number of reforms or plans that claim way too much. Like Esperanto or Amway.

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