Panchromatica reminds us with two cartoons (from Punch via book by one of my particular heroes --- a British architect/builder who had the wisdom to create a marvelous place --- Portmeirion --- so that one of my other heroes could be kept there as "The Prisoner") that we are not the first generation to be aware of the physical environment and that there is a History of bad design and it did not start with Post World War 2 America.
One of my own favorite gripes is that there is, subterranean or not so deep, an ongoing idea (which sounds like a hope from some mouths) that the abysmal condition of the our built environment can be attributed to some sort of particularly American moral failing. I hear that from the left and I hear that from the right. With both ears I hear not-harmless error.
The difficulties we face have two interrelated sources:
1. new technologies (cars in particular) which we have not fully learned to use;
2. enormous material success from forming our society around those technologies (cars in particular.)
The task we face in re-forming our cities will not be aided by feelings of moral inferiority or superiority. The job calls for well-wielded tools, not hand-wringing moralisms.