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Defenders of suburban sprawl assert that sprawl is inevitable in affluent societies, based on trends in Western Europe. According to supporters of this Inevitability Theory, European cities have decentralized and become more car-dependent, thus proving that even where governments are more aggressively anti-sprawl than American government, anti-sprawl policies will be futile.

This Article compares Western Europe to the United States, and criticizes the Inevitabilty Theory on the grounds that:

(1) Europe is in fact far less automobile-dependent than the United States;
(2) Europe has not, contrary to the Inevitability Theory's claims, become more car-dependent and suburbanized in recent years; and
(3) Although some European sprawl did occur in the late 20th century, some European cities' pro-sprawl highway-building programs may be partially to blame. It logically follows that the Inevitability Theory is simply wrong - that sprawl can be, and in fact has been, limited in the affluent societies of Western Europe.

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