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Thread: Why are most planners liberal?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Why are most planners liberal?

    I have noticed that most planners are liberal. What is the reason for why this field is dominated by liberals? I would like to know how many of you in here label your self conservative, and if so how does your ideology interfere with your job if it does.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Liberals generally care a lot about environmental concerns; I think this is the main reason.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    So since many conservatives dont take the environment as serious as liberals, does that actually make them bad planners?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Laredo Urbanist View post
    So since many conservatives dont take the environment as serious as liberals does that actually make them bad planners?
    It is all a matter of degree really. Some planners take the environment too seriously and neglect other important concerns. While I consider myself an environmentalist, I believe it is important to know which battles are worth fighting for when it comes to the environment.

    Those of a conservative mindset can add a lot to the planning profession IMO. Planners must reconcile regulation with property rights and engage the free market to foster better planning, and conservatives (excepting neo-cons) have a valuable perspective in this regard. Yet I don't think you can call yourself a planner if you don't believe that urban planning has a responsibility to promote ecological sustainability.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    There would be a lot of citizens out there that feel differently
    Terms that come to mind
    1. What do "you" mean I can't do that on "my" property
    Usually followed by references to nazi etc etc and/or parentage
    2. This is America and I have my rights

    I think you get my point

    I guess the term "liberal planner" may not be embraced by a part of the population

  6. #6
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Planning may have some environmental aspects to it, but it also has significant social engineering aspects to it - which appeal to some liberals (and may turn off some conservatives).

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Planners take people in general into account - both the rich and the poor. Like journalists, because they go about meeting everyone to gain knowledge, they tend to be liberal.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jess's avatar
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    Diversification+Creativity. That's the reason - Being a visionary to the future growth of the planned city.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I take issue with the USian use of "liberal" to mean center-left/social-democrat but anyhow...

    In resposne to the question: I think you'll find that public-sector employment generally attracts a disproportinate amoutn of social-democrats. It does make sense.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    I do not think liberal is the right word for it. Planners are simultaneously agents of change and agents of protection. Whether it is land use, tansportation, economic restructuring, we try to be agents to improve communities through these devices. At the same time, we are concerned with historic preservation, environmental conservation, and the protection of property rights. That makes us more conservation minded. The progressive and conservation mindset of most planners creates a perception that they tend to be liberals.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I consider myself more of a moderate than a conservative on social issues, and much more of a conservative on financial issues. In terms of development, I would call myself a reactionary

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    The planning profession has evolved into a profession of advocacy. Planners advocate for affordable housing, access, bike & ped, etc. They tend to restrict rights of individuals who have the influence (money) to run over the system.

    This usually means that planners are seen as liberal leaning. As the profession has become a profession of advocacy, it has attracted more people with liberal leanings.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    I am going into the planning profession because I have always had a passion for the built environment. Ever since I was small I was passionate about cities. Now that I have grown older and have become interested in politics I have become dedicated-for lack of better words- to my conservative ideology. However, I have seen that most planners are liberal minded and I would hate to have to change my profession. Is there any other conservative minded planners in here?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Laredo Urbanist View post
    I am going into the planning profession because I have always had a passion for the built environment. Ever since I was small I was passionate about cities. Now that I have grown older and have become interested in politics I have become dedicated-for lack of better words- to my conservative ideology. However, I have seen that most planners are liberal minded and I would hate to have to change my profession. Is there any other conservative minded planners in here?
    There isn't any reason for you to consider changing professions, simply because you're conservative. There is plenty of room for multiple views in any profession. Wouldn't you relish the chance to have some of your views seen by those of an opposing viewpoint?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Besides, there are lots of conservative planners on here...go read that GOP thread, you will feel better.
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Liberals generally care a lot about environmental concerns; I think this is the main reason.
    I think that is a major reason. It is what got me moving in the direction of becoming a planner. I also think planning in the public sector involves affordable housing, concerns about public health and safety and advocacy, which people of a liberal mindset have a proclivity for.

    I've found that planners in the private sector are more likely to be more conservative.

    It is all good. Interaction with people of different views stimulates your mind and fuels creativity. Stay with only like-minded colleagues and you will intectually stagnate. Exposure to different points of view helps you better defend your position and of course opens you to the possibilty that your position might not be 100 percent right.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  17. #17
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Laredo Urbanist View post
    I am going into the planning profession because I have always had a passion for the built environment. Ever since I was small I was passionate about cities. Now that I have grown older and have become interested in politics I have become dedicated-for lack of better words- to my conservative ideology. However, I have seen that most planners are liberal minded and I would hate to have to change my profession. Is there any other conservative minded planners in here?
    Good urban design and urban planning doesn't have to be liberal or conservative. Either sensibility can create outcomes that are successful.

    Don't be so literal.

    Now, there is certainly a difference between libertarian and authoritarian in terms of planning - Liberatian=less intrusive regulation, Authoritarian=more intrusive regulation.
    Last edited by mendelman; 15 Jun 2007 at 1:12 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    I think that is a major reason. It is what got me moving in the direction of becoming a planner. I also think planning in the public sector involves affordable housing, concerns about public health and safety and advocacy, which people of a liberal mindset have a proclivity for.

    I've found that planners in the private sector are more likely to be more conservative.

    It is all good. Interaction with people of different views stimulates your mind and fuels creativity. Stay with only like-minded colleagues and you will intectually stagnate. Exposure to different points of view helps you better defend your position and of course opens you to the possibilty that your position might not be 100 percent right.
    I agree with the pop. I would consider myself conservative when it comes to property owner rights (except when it truly serves the public good, like roads and not many of these so called 'economic development' schemes like baseball stadiums...but that is a whole different thread!) and social engineering (affordable housing, mass transit), but more liberal when it comes to protecting the environment. Yeah, the transit-environment thing probably sounds like a contradiction, but there are other ways to clean the air that are probably more efficient.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    It is true, I think, that most planners are progressive/liberal/whatever you want to call it, but that does not mean there are not conservative planners, either. And I think there are plenty posting here on Cyburbia.

    I think one complicating factor is that planning is very very diverse. Natural resources, physical planning, community development. Others here have identified subsets within these areas like advocacy planning. I think there is plenty of room for more conservative planning, depending on what area interests you.

    The history of zoning and planning as a municipal department does have roots in libreal thought, though, and that may be part of what has impacted the field. Planners of the turn of the century into the 1920's were largely concerned with protecting those in society that had limited rights. Whether it was protecting immigrants in tenement housing from inadequate living environments or residential landowners from harmful neighbors (factories and other industrial uses - ie. the Euclid case), the central thrust was that planners were there to protect the little guys.

    Over time, this approach came to feel a bit elitist and condescending and so a new movement was born that sought to partner with groups getting the short end of the stick to identify and seek resolution on contentious issues. Thus advocacy planning was born.

    So, that's why I think planning is, in general, a more progressive field. I think "conservatives" (another rather general description) are more apt to be critical of programs that smack of welfare or government playing the role of protective daddy. They also may feel that some planning-related interference in the social realm might be better addressed through private enterprise (or, in the current climate, possibly faith-based organizations - but not government).

    Still, I think key areas like economic development are where progressives and some conservatives may be on the same (or similar) page - how to create an economic environment that promotes, growth, entrepreneurship and new opportunity. For progressives, this may be about empowerment and upward mobility. For conservatives, it may be about finding non-governmental solutions to pressing social problems and stagnating economic growth.
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  20. #20

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    I think most people here are missing the point on why most planners are liberal/progressive/whatever you call it.

    Two words -- public interest. Most planners, whether specializing in environment, transportation, economic development, land use and zoning, or anything else, ultimately got into the field because they wanted to improve the built environment for the public interest. The principal agent for acting in the public interest in the US has been government (local, state and federal). And most planners in all the various subfields tacitly accept that government is the place to be to do the work they want to do.

    I think the one thread that links most conservatives of all strains is a belief in limited government, and that private actions best serve public interests. To me that's in conflict with the beliefs of most planners (but certainly not all).

    I think I read that about two-thirds of planners are public sector employees.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    I reject these labels

    I am more or less a Libertarian now and take a less societal engineering position on my job. But, I care much about the environment. I just don't think Uncle Sam is the best person to look after it.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Ditto what pete-rock said.

    It would be interesting to see a statistical breakdown on public sector planners and private sector planners and their political leanings.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    It would be interesting to see a statistical breakdown on public sector planners and private sector planners and their political leanings.
    Indeed it would. I'm in private industry, but I work with public sector planners in different regions every day. Certainly, in my area of the country there are going to be more "liberals" than "conservatives", but I still find a pretty good mix. In my experience, I find the private sector to be more conservative, the public sector to be more liberal, and the non-profit sector to be well, even more liberal.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    This is a fascinating topic! It is true that the majority of planners are "liberal." Why this is so is a complex question because there are so many ways to define the liberal/conservative split.

    A factor which has been alluded to, but I feel has not been directly addressed, is the simple fact that the very idea of "planning" proposes that the economy must be meddled with - that someone needs to stand back, take a synoptic view, and tinker here and there to make sure things are functioning correctly. In contrast, the libertarian view on economics (often held by conservatives) holds that the economy functions best when rational actors enter the free market and pursue self-interest.

    Although a libertarian might object the most to planning within the public sector, it seems to me even private sector planning would be objectionable - perhaps seen as charlatans making money by providing services that aren't really needed.

    I would be curious to hear from conservative planners how they reconcile this tension - do they reject libertarian thought or do they view planning as consistent with it? For example, Laredo Urbanist, you said:

    I am going into the planning profession because I have always had a passion for the built environment. Ever since I was small I was passionate about cities.
    Passion for cities is one thing, but why do you want to *plan* cities? Do you see shortcomings in the process of market-based development that need to be fixed? If so, how does this square with your conservatism?

    I don't mean this as a challenge nor do I intend any disrespect. Just, as someone who lives in a self-acknowledged liberal bubble (liberal city of residence, liberal planning program, liberal friends... you get the idea), I am genuinely curious about what conservative planners think of planning's role outside the free market.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    "Liberal" planners

    Quote Originally posted by Laredo Urbanist View post
    I have noticed that most planners are liberal. What is the reason for why this field is dominated by liberals? I would like to know how many of you in here label your self conservative, and if so how does your ideology interfere with your job if it does.
    Planners tend to be liberals because the idea of interfering with property rights appeals to them. Many are environmentalists. This movement is basically socialist but more specifically fascist. The difference is that fascism is much more efficient, as title to property is left in private hands so taxes can continue to be extracted from the (so-called) owners. This trend to total government control was long ago recognized by the hierarchy of the planning community and was labeled "The new Feudalism". The "environment" is a great excuse to wrest control of property from the capitalist pig owners, so if you are an evironmentalist planner you may proudly be a "fascist" but don't say so publicly as a lot of the common people still think Hitler and Mussolini were bad guys.

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