Sunday, August 10, 2008

Their Relevance, Our Traffic Jams

People who move to Washington quickly notice two things about the area: traffic is nasty and housing is high. Many reasons exist for this, but our small-stature downtown is clearly one of them. Where smaller cities sport several skyscrapers, the district sports no such space savers (or very limited versions thereof). Amity Shlaes in The Forgotten Man explains why. In the early 1900s,
...the federal government was a pygmy. Its size was less than 2 percent of the national economy, smaller even than that of state and city governments. Lawmakers of their generation constantly feared that the fast-growing private sector might further diminish their already questionable relevance. Back in 1910, word of the rise of the skyscraper in New York had panicked congressmen, who promptly zoned height limits for buildings in the District of Columbia, so that no private building could ever overshadow the Capitol.

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