Friday, February 4, 2011

Reason Magazine Cheers On Jerry Brown

“There can be no doubt that a good many, at least, of the problems with which the modern town planner is concerned are genuine problems with which governments or local authorities are bound to concern themselves. Unless we can provide some guidance in fields like this about what are legitimate or necessary government activities and what are its limits, we must not complain if our views are not taken seriously when we oppose other kinds of less justified ‘planning.’”
–F. A. Hayek

Apparently, I seem to like posting stuff with a basic theme of libertarian critiques of urban planning issues. I'm decidedly more of a liberal than a libertarian, myself, but I think that the history of failed “urban renewal” schemes in the US provides many lessons about the limits of central planning to solve the problems of large cities. And any focus on the issues affecting our great metropolises coming from a libertarian direction is a pleasant surprise to hear. So often, it seems that libertarian ideas are created around some ideal world where people live in freedom and self-sufficiency by themselves with their guns and SUVs. The article by Tim Lee that I grabbed the Hayek quote above from offers a more cogent critique of modern libertarianism along those lines. But that's not what I want to focus on here.

This article on, cheering on California governor Jerry Brown in his quest to take on the state's bloated redevelopment agencies is the sort of thing I like to see. I don't know much about California, but I've been known to try to keep up on what the Boston Redevelopment Authority does. And much of it is the sort of necessary upgrades to the city's infrastructure that are always going to happen. (Also, their Boston Atlas is amazing if you love maps as much as I do, and the receptionist is always nice when I deliver stuff there.) But I've never liked the basic setup of the city basically putting its planning and development functions in the hands of a semi-autonomous, barely accountable agency. The whole way it's structured seems to invite collusion between the Authority and large developers, and hooking up those with the right connections with sweetheart deals on whatever property the city can grab via eminent domain (all given Supreme Court blessing in Kelo v. City of New London).

So I can heartily join in with Reason in hoping Jerry Brown is successful in taking on the redevelopment agencies. And, in the broader scheme of things, I hope that perhaps there's a way to find some common ground between liberals and libertarians interested in urban issues to dislodge the entrenched interests from the positions of power they command within our institutions of civic governance.

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