Monday, March 20, 2006

A Benevolent Planner's Problem

Suppose that you are Paul Krugman. You are a benevolent planner who wants to maximize the well being of all 300 million people in the United States. Where should these people live and at what population density? Would you build 100 3 million person cities with the density of Houston or of New York City's Downtown? Would you build 10 Mega Cities or would you distribute the population uniformly across space?

Economists are always interested in how close does the outcome we see in our market economy approximate the "ideal outcome" that the benevolent all knowing planner could achieve.

To solve the planner's problem you would have to grapple with the question of the costs and benefits of cities and how these private benefits and social costs change as a function of city size. Ed Glaeser's 1998 Journal of Economic Perspectives piece ("Are Cities Dying?") offers a clear overview of the economic forces encouraging and discouraging the formation of big cities. Vern Henderson also posts several useful urban papers here:
http://www.econ.brown.edu/faculty/henderson/papers.html

If you would like to see my new paper: "Quality of Life in Sprawled and Compact Cities" a .pdf is available here:
http://fletcher.tufts.edu/faculty/kahn/publications.asp

10 comments :

Rob Dawg said...

"Benevolent Planner" is an oxymoron, there's the problem. Seriously, planners only become planners because they want to make a difference.

Dano said...

Sheesh, robert.

Def of benevolent.

Do you want to try again?

Best,

D

Dano said...

Matthew:

Interesting paper. You have effectively reframed the issue in a way that may make some additional folks view the situation on the ground a little differently. Of course, not everyone wants to live in a compact city, so accomodating those that don't while saving land we'll need to feed 9B people in 2050 is important...

Best,

D

Rob Dawg said...

Sheeh, Dano yourself. I reitterate "Benevolent Planner" is an oxymoron. For the asute it was also unnecessary to draw the secondary implication that clearly sailed right past your head; ""Benevolent Dictator" is also an oxymoron.

The Planner's Creed
"Those of us who have failed to learn from the past are
determined to make YOU repeat it."

Olmstead was a true
planner. DC was planned. Philly, Back Bay, lots of places were
"planned" "sucessfully."
Modern planners are social scientist dropouts. They got into planning
to make a difference and discovered that the only difference they
could impose was for the worse. Sane persons walked away from the
false gods, the rest stayed and gave us Nickerson Gardens.

Planning is Luddites driving a spaceship. [With affordable housing
above and a Starbucks on the main deck.]

In the 50's through 70's planners
told us that the postwar planning of the previous generation was all wrong
and now we have the 80's and 90's planners telling us the previous
generation of planners had it all wrong. The "science" of planning has not
advanced one bit in the mean time.

The goals methods and agendas of urban planning advocates are not in
sync with the expressed preferences of the general public.

Indeed, faced with a growing list of failed human experiments, Planning
Magazine regularly includes advice for circumventing public participation.
A recent example was suggesting the NU study groups only include
academes and NU advocates and not any general public members.

And since we are talking oxymorons; "planning professional."

ex-planner said...

Prior to my complete demoralization, I did "planning" at a local level for six years. I would best describe my function by saying that "I served the interests of the developers."

Dano said...

1. Robt., how does mindlessly cut/pasting FUD phrases, creating strawmen with floppy hats, and typing simpleton slander address my implicit assertion? I mean, besides it doesn't? And your original comment conflicts with your most recent assertion.

2. If ex-p was processing permits all day long, I suspect that would be demoralizing. If one gets involved and changes/creates something other than developer-friendly code, that's doing something. Unless you're in California where developers control everything, which would indeed be demoralizing. Long-range planning, I suspect, is better at avoiding demoralization in this regard.

Best,

D

Rob Dawg said...

California where developers control everything...

I live in Ventura County. You know, -that- Ventura County. Home of SOAR. Still want to claim developers control everything? This says almost everything about your ability to participate in this discussion. I say almost everything because your distasteful use of direct personal insult to make yourself feel more important says the rest.

All those catchphrases are my original works. Interesting that you seem to recognise some of them.

Dano said...

I moved from Sacramento County, where the Greek Club's tentacles spread to Placer, San Joaq., Sutter, and Yolo Counties. I did projects in East Bay and found similar. You may want to ask yourself what states on the west coast have UGAs and whether CA is on the list, and why. And, I'd point out, Robt., that your trying to hand-wave away from the fact that I pointed out your strawmen and simpleton slander doesn't work with me.

So I ask again [re-phrasing according to your input]: how does mindlessly typing FUD phrases, creating strawmen, and using simpleton slander address my implicit assertion?

And, I say again: your original comment conflicts with your most recent assertion. That is: you assert without backing that planners only become planners because they want to make a difference, then claim without backing that planners aren't benevolent, and then claim without reference that a professional magazine read by 'oxymoronic planning professional[s]' advocates circumventing public participation. So they are, aren't, aren't. Which one do readers go with?

Lastly, do you think it's possible, Robt., that you could back some of your wild, unattributed claims? I know it must be tough to be called on your tactics, but I'm doing it. Let's back our ideological claims, shall we?

Thanks!

D

Rob Dawg said...

Decorum prohibits an appropriate response so I fall back on my fathers' advice; never wrestle with a pig, the observers may not be able to tell the difference and the pig enjoys it.

You won't even retract the blatantly false claim, "California where developers control everything..." There isn't any value in continuing. I just wish I could step out of character long enough to call you an ass but I cannot and besides Samuel Clemens had much to say on the comparison anyway:
There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be
destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass,
for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest
spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has
brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an
ass, we are left in doubt.

I trust I have left no doubt that I will no longer stand by and be on the receiving end of simpleton, mindless and slanderer. I've put up with for this long in order to butress my assertions that planners hold the general public in low esteem and are out of touch with their function as public servants.

Dano said...

You assume that planners are out of touch. I forgot to mention that, I think. That's another claim for which you have provided no evidence.

I notice you do that a lot.

I also notice you continue to hand-wave away from the rest of my assertions; while it may be useful to your ego to inflate the 5 words you choose to focus on, it would be just as easy to clarify whether I literally meant 'everything' or rhetorically meant 'everything'.

But that would take away your hand-wave.

So you don't like planners. So what. You haven't demonstrated anything other than ideological reasons. Is that the only axe you have? Do you have a parcel that you can't develop the way you want? Is there a wetland on it that causes you so much bile?

Best,

D