Tyler Cowen ponders the least bohemian cities in the world and the United States, prompted by a reader who asks:
I have a blog request: a list of the top ten least bohemian cities in the world. Why are some cities more conducive to bohemian lifestyles than others? Does rent control result in more or less of this? I would love to read your thoughts and hopefully so would other people.
Writing this from rent-controlled Stockholm which I believe deserves a place on the top ten.
Tyler doesn’t think rent-control has much to do with it. I wonder if zoning regulations are the more likely culprits?
Obviously some zoning is necessary – you want to keep some industries zoned away from shops and schools, and there are certainly cases to be made for preserving the character of a city and especially its historic districts*. I am thinking more along the lines of zoning laws which restrict the height of buildings; which prevent mixed zoning of businesses, rentals, and homes; and which regulate the size of lots to create sprawl.
Essentially, sprawl is a sure killer of whatever bohemian character a city might have. A big car-dependent city like Phoenix has very little in the way of a bohemian culture, and I suspect this is largely due to the car dependency of that city. All the neighborhoods are partitioned off by big four-lane roads and freeways. Cities with more organic zoning codes – and especially historic districts in many towns which were built before modern zoning codes took effect – tend to be much more bohemian and interesting.
I’d definitely give Phoenix a spot in the top-ten least bohemian cities in America. What are some others?
*As I mentioned, historic districts are often bohemian because they were built before many zoning laws were written. In essence, protecting these areas protects that artifact of the past. We should also replicate these neighborhoods – by deregulating our terrible, restrictive, and environmentally destructive zoning regulations!