The American Dream: Look for it in Jackson Hole, China

Over the years the American longing to form their own communities free from European -style clusters of apartment renters shuffling to and from work on state-devised public transport lines, confined to nearby schools and shops, has been possible because of widespread private ownership of cars. Like household appliances, cars have as well liberated women to join the workforce, allowing more flexible scheduling to fit each family’s needs. Mothers can work and still do the shopping, drop the kids off at schools and to their countless activities.

Urban planners -- likely singles who had a semester abroad and been bedazzled by a brief, limited, and blinkered view of life abroad, and who harbor contempt for the American way of life (“ticky tacky houses” in suburbs with lawns) -- assiduously work with equally biased political elites to make it increasingly impossible.

In China, we can see in one small development, called Jackson Hole, a community on the outskirts of Beijing, how ubiquitous and desirable is the American Dream -- to many people if not to our urban planners and political elites.

Traveling about in Audis and Land Rovers, to timber-framed houses, the inhabitants have formed their own communities, something difficult in the congested, more state-controlled city.

’America represents wilderness and freedom, and also a big house…The United States is cool…’ Communist Party edicts and conservative commentators have sought to demonize so-called Western values like human rights and democracy as existential threats. Even if the menace is seldom identified by name, the purveyor of such threats is widely understood to be the United States.

But the campaign has done little to dampen popular enthusiasm for foreign ideas and products. American universities remain the top destination for students seeking an overseas education, and Chinese consumers largely shun homegrown brands, making the Buick Excelle, the Volkswagen Jetta and the Ford Focus among the top-selling cars here. Imported holidays like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day continue to gain traction among young consumers.

Jackson Hole, China, like the frontier towns Tocqueville wrote of, even has a nondenominational church and more than a hundred affinity clubs. Its residents even love backyard barbecues and flock to all you can eat buffets, the former presently being targeted by the totalitarians at the EPA and the latter the horrid example of our gluttony to the kale and tofu crowd.

Just as some Chinese sample with pleasure the delights of American-style suburban life and the freedom cars have given them, Americans are seeing a push by planners and pols in the opposite direction.

Take a look at Pagedale, Missouri, where the government’s insatiable desire for more revenue -- revenue most likely wasted on foolish projects, has beset its citizens with what George Will has dubbed “a steady blizzard of capricious fines”.   

Pagedale residents are subject to fines if they walk on the left side of a crosswalk; if they have a hedge more than three feet high, a weed more than seven inches high, or any dead vegetation on their property; or if they park a car at night more than 500 feet from a street lamp or other source of illumination; or if windows facing a street do not have drapes or blinds that are “neatly hung, in a presentable appearance, properly maintained and in a state of good repair”; or if their houses have unpainted foundations or chipped or aging layers of paint (even on gutters); or if there are cracks in their driveways; or if on a national holiday -- the only time a barbeque may be conducted in a front yard -- more than two people are gathered at the grill or there are alcoholic beverages visible within 150 feet of the grill.

These actions are now subject to a lawsuit on the ground that they violate due process, and the argument is advanced that not merely the method of the enactment of these restrictions, but their substance is justiciable under the Due Process Clause.

the Constitution gives priority to liberty, not just to the democratic processes that produce government acts. Again, “the Constitution does not require just any process but due process.” Were “due” simply a synonym for “democratic,” the due process guarantee would guarantee nothing. Governments are ravenous for revenues to fund the promises that purchase votes. But the governed are resistant to taxes. So governments increasingly resort to arbitrary behavior that is difficult to distinguish from theft. Which is why all Americans have a huge stake in the correct resolution of this case from a small Missouri city.

In a similar vein, cities larger than Pagedale -- Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to be specific -- are at work to make their own roadways impassible for private cars and the federal government is using your tax money to impose this pattern elsewhere.

In Washington, D.C., where traffic is already congested and most streets cannot be widened, our officials have been working to make traffic even more unbearable. They’ve reduced the flow by adding bike lanes, and blown $200 million dollars on an ill-conceived streetcar line which has yet to carry a single passenger and which if ever completed will only travel a few blocks, and which in any event will exacerbate safety and bottleneck issues. 

a dysfunctional transit project… has cost the city $200 million and is nine years late. Since 2014, operators have been shuttling the bright-red streetcars back and forth without passengers, each trip underscoring questions about the District’s ability to get big things done.

Our very expensive metro system has been poorly administered, is becoming increasingly unsafe and unreliable, causing riders to flee and drive themselves about. And our mayor’s response in a statement that defies reality is to make driving even more difficult and frustrating

Over the next two years, drivers in the District will have to be watchful of more traffic cameras, 24/7 school zones where speeds are limited to 15 mph, and fines of up to $1,000 for speeding violations.

Those are among several measures Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) unveiled Wednesday as part of her commitment to eliminating traffic fatalities by 2024. Her “Vision Zero” action plan lays out strategies for enforcement, public education and street engineering, and also is expected to expand the city’s sidewalk and bicycle network.

“Any loss of life is unacceptable especially if there are things we can do systematically to prevent those losses. That’s why we talk not only about reducing traffic fatalities but getting to zero,” Bowser said at a Wednesday morning news conference. “We can do this by being steadfast in our investments and steadfast in implementing those investments.”


Under the mayor’s Vision Zero action plan bicyclists in the District will get 20 miles of upgraded or new on-street bicycle lanes and the city would fill in at least 40 blocks of sidewalk gaps.


More active enforcement will also be sought of parking violations by commercial and delivery trucks such as parking on bike lanes, crosswalks, and double parking. 

On one hand, the planners applaud the use of online shopping, on the other hand, best of luck getting those packages delivered. In fact, you’ll be lucky if the local shops and restaurants will be able to keep stocked.

Los Angeles politicians, too, are working to make their city utterly unworkable. Under a “mobility plan” (better named immobility plan in my opinion) they, too, plan to carve out bike lanes on already congested roads.

Known as Mobility Plan 2035, the plan spells out hundreds of miles of new bicycle lanes, bus-only lanes and other road redesigns. It also seeks to cut the fatality rate from traffic collisions to zero within 20 years, in part by keeping cars within the speed limits. And it builds on other changes the city has already made to its streets in recent years.


Opponents are preparing a legal challenge, saying the city’s own analysis shows that the plan, and the accompanying loss of car lanes, will lead to increased traffic congestion and delays by emergency vehicles.

“We can’t stand by and let this happen,” said Laura Lake, a volunteer with the advocacy group Fix the City. “We want to see real transportation reform, but this isn’t it. This is aspirations and slogans, not transportation planning.”

And if you imagine you are going to be free of this odious meddling, consider this:

American cities are now invited to submit proposals for how they would remake themselves. The challenge is open to medium-sized cities of between 200,000 and 850,000 people that have a public transportation system of some sort. They should not be part of a larger metro region, so the proposal doesn’t have to work in conjunction with other cities. Of the prize, $40 million is coming from the DOT (subject to future appropriations), and the rest is coming from Vulcan, Paul Allen’s philanthropic organization.

What the plans should include, however, is open to interpretation.[Secretary of Transportation] Foxx refuses to offer examples of what he’d like to see, for fear of constraining potential solutions. The competition’s meant to spark creativity, after all. “We want to see what comes back to us,” he says.

Foxx does offer a list of ingredients and general areas to hit, like vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, autonomous vehicles, and on-demand services. The plan should include ways to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and use open data, so outside parties can more easily collaborate with municipal powers. Partnerships with those outside parties are encouraged.

Maybe cities applying for these funds could hire the streetcar geniuses in D.C. or the Metro transportation board which has run our fine subway system into an unsafe, expensive, unreliable disaster.

I happen to think the best transportation systems arose organically, taking into consideration the needs of the people and their goods to move efficiently and cratering existing thoroughfares to accommodate the 1% who can and choose to bike around cities is madness. Let me know when you see public officials biking to work in D.C. or L.A. Send me the pictures of them taking public transportation to work and shop. In the meantime, I’m asking Jackson Hole, China for some brochures.