Reason’s Nick Gillespie has some harsh words for DC:
D.C. was the world’s first Brasilia—a fake capital created just for political shenanigans. In many ways, the city still reveals its roots—or more precisely, its lack of roots. Unlike, say, Philadelphia or New York, the life here isn’t thick in the way it is in a city that gets built from the ground up. What’s the last retail trend or store that started in D.C.? For the most part, it’s a place where chains come after they’ve been proven in Los Angeles, Chicago, or elsewhere. It’s got genuinely abysmal public schools, which cost as much or more than anywhere else. It’s filled with the most shallow, careerist folks this side of Hollywood. It’s overpopulated with the detritus of failed regimes that are practically carried around on litters, like ancient rulers. Remember Clark Clifford, the great D.C. fixer whose big claim to fame was being an even worse Secretary of Defense than Robert McNamara and who was finally revealed as the dime-store cheater that he was? D.C. is chock full of junior varsity Clark Cliffords.
Criticizing a snarky interview in Splice Magazine is probably an exercise in futility, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Call me a statist if you must, but I actually like DC’s federal aesthetic. There are, of course, exceptions – this Air Force Memorial in Arlington looks like it was inspired by Barad-dûr – but I tend to prefer towns that reflect some underlying sense of purpose (even if that purpose is a bit unsavory). Sure, the Late Night Shots crowd makes me want to commit seppuku on the steps of the Capitol, but we’ve also got some decent cultural spots – the Atlas District, my beloved 9:30 club – the mall is still pretty awesome, and most of our monuments have gradually morphed into graceful civic shrines. As for Gillespie’s “central planning sucks” schtik, Louis-Napoleon may have been more concerned with suppressing would-be revolutionaries than walkable neighborhoods when he commissioned Baron Haussmann, but the end results turned out pretty damn well. Given the circumstances, L’Enfant’s heroic attempt to make life on the Potomac bearable wasn’t half-bad, either.