Last week at CNU, I took part in a session on conservatives in the New Urbanism. I've been told there will be a video of that session available soon.
During the Q&A of the closing minutes, we were asked a question that was predicated with the false belief that conservatives "are against change." I (politely) called that base assumption intellectually lazy (it is) and put forth a different understanding.
In my estimation, being a conservative is not to be against change but to have a healthy respect for history, for the wisdom of the ages and for knowledge gained through trial and error. That respect creates a level of humility; an assumption that, while we believe we know what we are doing, in a complex world there is no way to fully grasp the consequences of our actions.
We might think we have it all figured out, but so did the people who created today's messes. What really makes us any better?
As an example, I pointed to Urban Renewal. Wikipedia says that Urban Renewal has "had both successes and failures." Maybe that sounds acceptable to you -- you think it depends on the batting average -- but when you consider that it was a big government experiment on human lives, neighborhood cohesion and economic ecosystems, the burden for showing success should be dramatically higher than it is.
My suggestion, which I've made before here on the blog, is that anyone with an AICP should be required to go to an Urban Renewal site once a year, lay a wreath and make a statement of penitence to reinforce their own humility in the face of complexity.
Before the session was over, audience members had come up with Urban Renewal Remembrance Day and fittingly picked Jane Jacobs' birthday -- May 4 -- as the proper day for the occasion.
Please take some time today to remember those who suffered from our collective hubris. Then vow to never to be fooled by randomness.