The traditional development pattern of towns and cities evolved with humans, the same way ant hills evolved with the ant and bee hives evolved with the bee. Yet around the time of the Great Depression, North Americans began jettisoning millennia of accumulated wisdom about city-building in favor of a suburban development pattern that was scaled for cars rather than people, built to a finished state and all at once, resistant to feedback and adaptation, and ultimately unable to pay for itself. At Strong Towns we call this massive and relatively sudden shift the “Suburban Experiment”—and we’re all the guinea pigs.

Several generations into this experiment, the data is in: the suburban development pattern doesn’t work: North American cities exchanged long-term stability for near-term growth, but now the bills are coming due. An entire continent of cities are slipping toward insolvency.

Last month, Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn was the guest on Saving Elephants, a podcast geared toward conservative Millennials. Chuck and host Josh Lewis had a great conversation on a range of topics, and we received permission to re-run the episode here.

In this episode, Chuck and Josh talk about the ways in which cities undermine their own competitiveness, why the big box store model is competitive at the national level but extractive at the local level, and how cities pursue megaprojects backwards. They also discuss the role of local conservatives and why the Strong Towns message is “trans-partisan.” You’ll also want to hear Chuck’s answer to this question from Josh: “How screwed are we, as younger Americans?”

Additional Show Notes

Saving Elephants (Twitter)

Charles Marohn (Twitter)

Strong Towns content related to this episode:

“Building Strong Local Economies (without Cheesecake Factory),” by Charles Marohn

Big Box Stores: America’s Rigged Game for Retail (free e-book)

Big Box Stores (Action Lab)

“The California High-Speed Train that Wasn’t: The Opportunity Cost of Megaprojects,” by Daniel Herriges

“On the American Jobs Plan: A 5-Part Response from Strong Towns”

“Nobody wants to ‘destroy the suburbs.’ But everyone should want to end the Suburban Experiment.” by John Pattison

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