PlanMaryland: The Enlightenment hits a roadblock

Galileo GalileiCatonsville

America is a product of the Age of Reason. Our founders used their rational powers to free us from the ignorance and superstition that shackled less enlightened societies. For over two centuries, we have assumed that the Age of Reason was here to stay, a permanent flowering of our intellectual growth.

Alas, the anti-planning hysteria in parts of Maryland reveals that the Age of Reason may have been just a phase, one that is ending as we regress to the magical thinking of centuries past.

Consider:

In the 17th century, the Church decreed that the sun revolved around the earth and forced Galileo to recant his theory that the earth revolved around the sun. Today, the most powerful interests deny the existence of climate change and sea level rise. Furthermore, they believe that environmental destruction imposes no cost, and the more we destroy the natural world the higher our standard of living will be.

In the 15th century, alchemists believed they could transmute lead into gold. Today, anti-smart-growth politicians believe that money grows on trees: roads, schools, libraries, parks, police and fire stations, etc., can be built everywhere, even to the remotest spot where just a few people choose to reside. This infrastructure, once in place, also requires no repair or replacement.

In the millennium before Christ, the ancient Greeks believed that numerous gods and goddesses intervened to protect their well-being and way of life. Today's anti-planning mystics believe that an enduring economy, society and civilization come from turning farms and forests into two-acre lots. The chariot of the ancient Greeks is today's riding mower, the temple of Apollo a gas station.

Smart Growth is a rational concept. Planning is what rational people do. Should the critics of PlanMaryland prevail, we can say goodbye to the Age of Reason. Whatever we devolve into, two things will be certain: the future won't be pretty, and it won't be cheap.

Daniel Rosen, Catonsville

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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