Rod – I have some sympathy for the desire to keep neighborhoods’ historic aesthetic character intact. But just for the record, I agree with you that Jeff is being imprecise when he uses the word utopian, because what you describe isn’t a kind of utopianism at all. None of the people advocating large houses on small lots are claiming that the world will be perfect if only they can have a three car garage. And I agree with you that there are a lot of people on the right who argue for the triumph of the free market in all things to the exclusion of other good things. My point was that while one may argue that this is a wrong-headed, ugly, myopic or sacrilegious point of view with varying degrees of merit, it is difficult to argue that it is a form of utopianism. Indeed, to the extent people trying to get bigger houses invoke the free market, my guess it is out of opportunism, not utopianism. It has always amazed me how rich people can so quickly become socialists in order to protect their property values.
One last point worth making, I think. Again, while I agree that some deference should be paid to considerations beyond pure market forces in many situations, most particularly at the local level, I think it’s a bit of a dodge to chalk up unwanted changes to the cold impersonal specter of the “free market.” “The free market” is an abstraction, to be sure, but in real life it is a means by which we seek to maximize individual choice and happiness in very concrete ways. It is a mechanism by which individual people are allowed to choose what will give them satisfaction and enjoyment. For every neighborhood resident aghast at a big house there is another would-be resident who is overjoyed at finally being able to live in the house he always wanted.
Anyway, my objection (or at least the relevant one) was that Jeff is using the word utopian imprecisely. And I stand by that.