So this is kind of an interesting thought (or collection of thoughts) that's been going through my mind lately. Can planning be reconciled with libertarian or somewhat libertarian views, or are we all just a bunch of damn Commies? Hear me out -
First of all, I absolutely do NOT consider myself to be a libertarian. As someone with a planning education, I completely understand why America, in its present, heavily developed and industrialized form, cannot be quite as free as the Founding Fathers might have envisioned - the more urbanized a society gets, the more your actions affect the lives of others, thus the reason why big cities and states that have big cities in them tend to have much bigger, more powerful governments with much more regulation and oversight than places that are more rural in nature or are simply less densely populated.
However, I certainly believe in personal freedom to the extent reasonably possible, and there are times when I find myself muttering something or another about somebody being a damn Commie because I think they've just taken things too far.Some examples include Bloomberg's attempt in NYC to ban sodas (or I think it was sodas of a certain size), or San Francisco's attempt to ban male circumcision at city hospitals. The latter example is really far fetched, but if we look at the proposed soda ban in NYC, many do argue that the negative health effects of society is a cost that is borne by taxpayers because of increased health care costs - therefore government has a right to regulate it in the public interest. And yet, I still can't shake the feeling that if we follow this idea to its logical conclusion, somebody like Bloomberg or some other big city mayor will one day mandate everyone to eat a specific, government-approved meal that has been deemed "healthy" enough to negate the negative health effects that cost society as a whole so much money. Is this what we want? As planners, we are uniquely and acutely aware of how one person's personal decisions can have negative affects on their neighbors and on a city or a society as a whole - and we regulate accordingly. But how far do we take this? At what point do we draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough? Negative externalities be damned, let me have my freedom!
P.S. I do not want this to turn into a debate about whether Bloomberg's soda ban idea was right or wrong. I simply used that as an example. The idea I'm trying to float here is much bigger than Bloomberg or NYC, I'm trying to look at the big picture.
See the responses here.