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> it is the cultural norm and everybody's expectation. To a lot of people you may as well be a Martian to defy it.

Incentives play a major role in defining such a culture. It doesn't have to be a positive seemingly self-selected incentive to want to live in the suburbs, but negative ones play a major role as well, such as the insanely high costs to own property... due to severe limitations on developing high density multistory buildings in cities, which is why modern cities are exclusively full of either a mega skyscrapers or a single family homes. Or the ease of an automobile-first lifestyle - which is almost always a reaction to poorly developed mixed density urban areas, causing urban sprawl, not a cause of it.

Just because a lot of people have responded to opting the easiest options given to them doesn't mean the easiest option was the result of market/personal choices. Rather it was ultimately a result of the intention, or more often unintentional, side effects of government policy, not a prolonged series of personal choice.

This is hardly limited to just urban sprawl and land development. Thomas Sowell has a brilliant book on how this same cycle has been applied across US culture/politics/economics for decades after WW2 - well beyond just real estate - to nearly every major sector which influences modern US lives: https://www.amazon.com/Wealth-Poverty-Politics-Thomas-Sowell...

If one considers government economic and social policy by their results, not simply their good intentions, this pattern can be seen in countless places. Yet the popular reaction by the media and political parties is so often to blame personal choice and 'unrestrained' markets for the output.




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