By now you've all heard that theorist and civic activist Jane Jacobs has passed away at the age of 89. She was an amazing woman: brazen, outspoken, but with a pragmatism that belied her passion. This pragmatism came partially from her grounding in small-scale economics, from also her love of people and her going to bat for the different kinds of people that live in a city -- including night and weekend workers, younger people who don't own homes and aren't raising families, transient types who prefer or need to rent, those for whom property value is not the be-all-and-end-all of human existence, but who are typically capable of making their money talk just like anyone else. "THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN"-style arguments don't hold much water with me, because they never account for everyone who doesn't have a voice, and they don't particularly want to account for them. We need more thinkers like Jacobs.
I'm not a Reason fan and I think their views are too often as simplistic as they accuse the hippie idealists of being -- basically they're just overgrown babies going "waah rules are bad, why can't we do WHATEVER WE WANT." That said, this 2001 interview with Jane Jacobs makes more sense than anything I've read in Reason, and the interviewer actually acknowledges the practicality of Jacobs' ideas and helps make her case more attractive to the conservative readership. It would be easy for a libertarian to co-opt Jacobs' fervent anti-government principles, although I wonder if conservatives understand that the type of government that she was against is the same type they vote for in every election. Pure government (as a benevolent entity looking out for the public interest) is a very good thing and can be extremely effective on the local level; a "free market" government that lets the rich people call the shots is something else entirely.
(I still think Jacobs took an antiquated view of the planning profession -- it's more forward-thinking now than it used to be, and it's less about playing God than about analyzing what is already happening and will be happening if the data forecasts prove correct.) (I also think zoning -- which she hated -- can be useful in some cases, but it needs to be open to change and public debate. I personally believe that the future of cities is in mixed-use development, adaptive reuse rather than reckless bulldozing, and tax incentives for small businesses in residential areas.)