Denseness about Density

Robert Bryce’s article, “Get Dense” (City Journal, Winter 2012) includes this strange paragraph:

Perhaps the most familiar example of environmentally friendly density, though, is the way humanity has concentrated itself by moving from the country to cities, a process that is happening especially rapidly in the developing world. The opposite process, suburbanization, requires far more land area per resident—and therefore more miles of streets, electricity cables, and sewer lines (see “Green Cities, Brown Suburbs,” Winter 2009). In a 2009 essay for the Atlantic, architect and author Witold Rybczynski wrote that “being truly green means returning to the kinds of dense cities and garden suburbs Americans built in the first half of the 20th century.”

Well, so what? There is much more to life than “efficiency.” Why does Bryce suppose that suburbs grew while many large cities rotted from within? The answer is that there is a strong preference for living away from crowding, filth, noise, and crime: the hallmarks of large cities.

And it may come as a surprise to Bryce to learn that “more land area per resident” is a positive good that is widely valued. Does Bryce propose to force people out of suburbs and into large cities? That seems to be the implication of his statement.

I had heretofore found the offerings of City Journal to be in the conservative-to-libertarian camp. I hope that Bryce’s article is an aberration.