Saturday, May 20, 2023

A High-Regulation, Low-Trust Society

Chris Arnade has an interesting observation triggered by those ridiculous new "shade & light" installations at Los Angeles bus stops:
When you start comparing LA’s bus stop problem, or any other US cities, with the rest of the world you see the framework of a larger problem we are dealing with.

To get big-brained about it, something like La Sombrita could only happen in a high-regulation/low-trust society like the US. In every other variation (low regulation/high trust, high regulation/high trust, low regulation/low trust) you get either larger public works without fear of vandalism or misuse (a proper bus shelter), or like in Quito (a lower regulation society) you get natural ad hoc bottom-up solutions.

It’s only in the high-regulation low-trust society (ours), that you end up building the least to protect against the worst — the constraints of both regulations and behavior results in things the majority doesn’t want, or doesn’t find useful.

This is why there are so few new functional things in US cities and why what is built feels “cold.” Regulations limit bottom-up and top-down solutions, and then what is built has to protect against all sorts of bad behavior — limiting functionality and “warmth.”
You really should go read the whole thing.