Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Series of Short Reviews

This week's readings, over policy versus private property, started with a textbook reading that was, as always, very neoclassical. Lots of static multipliers, and static equations that frankly make me wonder where the researchers park their time machines so they can jump back to the precise moment when their models are accurate. Still, amongst all these instructions for making visual aids there were a few useful reminders. That equilibriums are never constant, because education, population, and technological advancement change things practically on an hourly basis. Also that a policy, to, for example, build a sports stadium, does not create wealth so much as redistribute it.

Nevertheless, it was a useful framework for the articles. The reading from For a New Liberty talks about a world that is completely privately owned, where everything is driven my profit, and it really doesn't sound so bad. There is the temptation to be resistant to it because it describes a utopia, just like the champions of Smart Growth, but it has something that Smart Growth testimonials that I have read have not: historical examples and proofs. The economic stimulation of the railroads and good service of their private police in the 19th century, and the private building of roads in the 18th century in England that had the same economic effect. Proof by statistics is much stronger than proof by anecdote.

Anecdotal proof is really all that the deliberative democracy article has to offer. Not in its charges, oddly; it not only says that there is considerable evidence sprawl is a contributing factor to several health problems, it also lists 42 references, so it thinks that it can back that claim. But it lists anecdotal proof for deliberation, and, while sounding good, offers no framework for decisions. Debate is well and good, but government is force, and force requires a decision to be made. The "Symposium" article by Ikeda and Staley actually sums it up pretty well, I think: "...public support for Smart Growth rests on (a) a faith in government intervention and planning to effectively steer (and sometimes predetermine) the growth of a community and/or (b) a fear that new development will fundamentally alter a community."

That quote actually sums up the "Symposium" article pretty well, too. The only thing that I have to add is that it is only the introduction to a symposium, but it has piqued my interest. As soon as I have the time, I think I'll be tracking down more of this material.

And those are my short reviews: static information, Utopian vision, saber rattling, and raised curiosity.

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