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Thread: What would be the role of urban planners in a libertarian society?

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    What would be the role of urban planners in a libertarian society?

    Title pretty much says it all. Would planners exist and what would be the nature of their work?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by last4ever View post
    Would planners exist
    Absolutely!


    Related topic:
    What is your take on public vs. private sector jobs?


    .
    Last edited by Shellac And Vinyl VelocitY; 25 Jan 2009 at 8:37 PM.

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    Cyburbian
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    i think planners would return to their roots and do physical site planning/design working for a developer
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    i think planners would return to their roots and do physical site planning/design working for a developer
    Do you have a job description of a physical site planner?

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Land use planning and libertarianism are mutually exclusive ideas. At the end of the day, planners tell people what to do and provide consequences if they do not. Keep in mind Houston, TX as an example of libertarianism, has no land use planners. I imagine a libertarian society would resemble Houston with everything being done by mutual consent in smaller groups, HOAs basically. Just some random ideas.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by last4ever View post
    Do you have a job description of a physical site planner?
    A physical planner utilizes skills and knowledge of physical form (i.e. topography, streams, roads) of both man made and natural features to produce a set of best uses for the site or conversely to accommodate what the client is asking for and obtaining the maximum profit allowable based on a pro-forma.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    A physical planner utilizes skills and knowledge of physical form (i.e. topography, streams, roads) of both man made and natural features to produce a set of best uses for the site or conversely to accommodate what the client is asking for and obtaining the maximum profit allowable based on a pro-forma.
    Sounds more like an version of an engineer instead of a planner.
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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    Land use planning and libertarianism are mutually exclusive ideas. At the end of the day, planners tell people what to do and provide consequences if they do not. Keep in mind Houston, TX as an example of libertarianism, has no land use planners. I imagine a libertarian society would resemble Houston with everything being done by mutual consent in smaller groups, HOAs basically. Just some random ideas.
    Uh, Houston has a lot of planners. There is a planning world beyond zoning.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  9. #9
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Uh, Houston has a lot of planners. There is a planning world beyond zoning.
    Indeed. And in reality they may not have zoning per se, but they certainly have municipally managed land use regulation. There's a difference.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    Sounds more like an version of an engineer instead of a planner.
    The first "planners" were engineers, architects, and surveyors. They physically "planned" the land. The more regulatory side of planning really grew after WW2 with the boom in public infrastructure projects across the US.

    IMO, libertarianism promotes individual liberty. However, that is sometimes mis-interpreted as anarchism, or no government at all. If the United States became a libertarian society, I think government at all levels would just be smaller. There would still be public sector planners, but staffs would be significantly reduced.

    State compiled statutes, municipal codes, comprehensive planning would be re-written to leave a lot more flexibility in interpretation. The roles of the plan commission, zoning board of appeals, and the village board would also be reduced. However, this might lead to a steady rise in lawsuits over land issues (as if the number of lawsuits wasn't high enough already).

    Cardinal made a good point on another thread that, even in good times, there are more people interested in planning than there are jobs available. Leaner staffs in the public sector may force dedicated workers into the private sector (consultants and/or developers) and non-for-profit positions. This abundant labor supply would drive wages down even more. To stay afloat, planners would need to diversify their skills (i.e. branch out into other related fields such as engineering, architecture, surveying, landscape architecture, etc.) to stay more marketable.

    The reduced regulatory role in planning would allow more freedom for the developer to do as they wish (again, leading to increased lawsuits). Some planners might find a stronger role in the physical aspects of site planning.
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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    First, my bad about Houston. I should have researched a bit more before posting. The point is well taken. The point is also taken about there is more to planning than zoning.

    In my completely uninformed opinion, Libertarianism seems to focus more on the individual and smaller groups instead of a bigger, more societal picture. This would seem to breed more chaos. As planners, we have all struggled with a lack of coordination/competition between smaller governmental units. Where I am working now has shown the most amount of intergovernmental cooperation than any other place I have worked. Libertarianism would seem to make the factured nature of things worse.

    With that being said, governmet can significantly stiffle ideas,innovation and drive, which are the very traits that drive growth and prosperity. Further government can intrude far too much on the rights of individuals. Further, government can fall into the hands of people who exploit the citizens resources for their and their friends benefit. The struggle seems to strike the balance between allowing and encouraging innovation and drive and protecting the rights of the citizens. Again, just my 2 cents worth and I didn't mean to hijack this thread.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    i think planners would return to their roots and do physical site planning/design working for a developer
    Interesting that you see physical site planning as the roots of the field. I personally don't agree with this, but as you fall more to the design side of planning than I do, I can see why you'd state this. For me, I think our roots are more that of facilitator for community input and as liaison between all of the other parties who play a role in how the built environment is developed. Just goes to show that the words "urban planner" mean different things to different people.

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    For me, I think our roots are more that of facilitator for community input and as liaison between all of the other parties who play a role in how the built environment is developed. Just goes to show that the words "urban planner" mean different things to different people.
    MJ, does Daniel Burnham ring a bell? Piere L' Effant? Fedrick Olmstead Jr. All of these planners worked on the physical side of things. Really these guys started the whole planning movement in trying to create urban form and environment. IMO it was the latter part of this profession (in the 1960's) did planners really just deal with community input. Back in the day it was all about "how do i make this vision a reality" no matter what the costs or what people cared about.

    SO i agree with nick on this one, our roots lie with a physical site planning rather than what planning has morphed today due to the social changes that came about from the 1960's. Than again, i also fall on the design side of planning
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Interesting that you see physical site planning as the roots of the field. I personally don't agree with this, but as you fall more to the design side of planning than I do, I can see why you'd state this. For me, I think our roots are more that of facilitator for community input and as liaison between all of the other parties who play a role in how the built environment is developed. Just goes to show that the words "urban planner" mean different things to different people.
    MJ, you make a good point. In my first post on this thread, I said planners would go into back to physical planning, and I elaborated on the reasons why in the second post (a libertarian society would reduce the need for public sector staff). In the libertarian scenario, yes, there might be other areas that planners may gravitate toward, design or non-design. It just wouldn't be in government.

    Again, the regulatory side of planning didn't take its current form until after WW2. Starting in the 1950's planners slowly became recognized as a separate profession, apart from architecture, engineering, surveying. Community input and advocacy planning developed in the second-half of the 20th century (Paul Davidoff, Saul Alinsky, etc.). IMO, environmental justice (the siting of a waste plant a in working-class neighborhood, lack of proportional representation by disadvantaged groups, etc.) made some headway under the Clinton Administration, but still hasn't really progressed since it started in the 1980s. However, the ROOTS of "planning" go back THOUSANDS of years. Back then "planning" was focused on the spatial arrangement of buildings, squares, fortifications, etc.

    If anything I am a huge history buff...or maybe my head is still filled with the history stuff from the AICP exam Yes, I have experience on the design-side and talk way more about that on here, but I also have equal experience on the regulatory sides (current, long-range, ED, environmental, transportation, housing, HP, GIS, yadda yadda yadda...). My post was not so much pro-design as just a history lesson I think it would be a lot harder to do regulatory jobs in a libertarian society (original post).
    Last edited by nrschmid; 26 Jan 2009 at 1:02 PM.
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    Cyburbian
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    Sorry, don't mean to hijack the thread, but just thought that this is a rather interesting discussion on the history of the urban planning profession and its divergence into the different 'streams' nowadays.

    I read this article on the Harvard GSD website, written by the Prof of UP (if I'm not wrong), on what the mission of the Urban Planning programme at Harvard is - and I think it contains alot of nuggets of thoughts, whether you agree or not, on the history of planning and where it possibly sits at now:

    http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/research/...22_Kayden.html

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    Cyburbian
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    Libertarianism simply means that individuals have a natural right to do as they will so long as they are not adversely affecting others. Since adverse effects can sometimes be measured in terms of the negative effect on an abutter's property value, a system of town arbitration has been proposed where a developer is simply required to pay impact fees (for increased use of roads and services) and to compensate neighbors for any negative effects that they feel when a new development goes up.

    Libertarianism does not necessarily refer to a 100% private sector society with no taxation, but a system of government with minimal taxation and public spending. It's a philosophy intended to minimize the arbitrary capriciousness of government power, of one man over another.

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    I am not a professional in this area, but Nashville has so many regulatory boards and committees, it is almost impossible to get anything done. There is a saying in our city, "...Nashville plans buildings and projects but Atlanta and Charlotte actually build them..."

    Serious regulation in Nashville including how tall buildings can be in downtown based on what lot they are on.

    It's time for some deregulation in our urban core.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by maxxoccupancy View post
    Libertarianism simply means that individuals have a natural right to do as they will so long as they are not adversely affecting others. Since adverse effects can sometimes be measured in terms of the negative effect on an abutter's property value, a system of town arbitration has been proposed where a developer is simply required to pay impact fees (for increased use of roads and services) and to compensate neighbors for any negative effects that they feel when a new development goes up.

    Libertarianism does not necessarily refer to a 100% private sector society with no taxation, but a system of government with minimal taxation and public spending. It's a philosophy intended to minimize the arbitrary capriciousness of government power, of one man over another.
    Interesting. I see law (in a democratic society) as the mechanism that humans have created to protect each other from the arbitrary capriciousness of power of one man over another, and government as the mechanism that was created to administer law. Any attempts to label "government" as some external, independent force that works contrary to human being's needs and outside of their control shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how government works (IMHO).

    My opinion of how planning would work in a magical land of libertarianism:

    (1) Libertarian land use systems are instituted as discussed above

    (2) Someone buys the property next door to me and proposes building a fat rendering plant. They decide that they have reduced my property's utility by $5,000, and cut me a check.

    (3) I dispprove of this, and state that there is no amount of money that can mitigate the impact of living next to a fat rendering plant, nor am I willing to be bought out and move.

    What happens next? Do I then have to buy out the fat renderer next door, because of his "natural right" to use his property "freely?" Or does my freedom trump his because I was there first? Will my neighbor decide I'm too much trouble and just burn my house down? What would my recourse be? Perhaps this occurrence would make me see the need for some sort of system to control what kinds of things get built where so problems like this wouldn't happen again.

    Perhaps my neighbors and I would get together and form some sort of cooperative organization, and vest it with some of our personal authority to act on our behalf. Perhaps we would call this authority "police power." Perhaps that police power would then be exercised to ensure that our personal freedoms are not infringed upon by others.

    Perhaps we would decide to manage this cooperative organization by electing willing neighbors to make decisions on our behalf. Perhaps also we would decide to fund it based on some fair formula, such as a percentage of the value of each of our respective properties or incomes.

    Then, when something occurs that places one person's rights in direct confrontation with another's, we would then have a system to deal with it.

    Perhaps we would then want to name our new system, and because it helps direct human activity towards non-confrontational ends, we would call it steering. And, because steering doesn't have that certain cachet, we would borrow from ancient greek (where so many other words originate) and call it government.

    Long story short, if libertarianism were instituted tomorrow, we'd be right back where we are now a week later. Why? Because it's the only way that works.

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    a magical land of libertarianism:

    Jimplans - I think you make a great point about the 'magical land of libertarianism' - it is a nice idea in theory, but I don't see it working on a national scale in practice.

    On an urban level, how close is Dubai to being described as 'libertarian'? Socially, it is a curious mix of being liberal by the standards of the Middle East, but still conservative by Western standards. Yet buildings have been thrown up like there's no tomorrow - even if the bubble might have burst of late. But this lack of control - or could one say Architecutral anarchy - has brought traffic chaos, which one or two metro lines won't easily solve.

    Exactly as you and others say with property rights, I would argue about transportation rights. Cities like Houston or Phoenix might offer fantastic freeways, but one person's freedom to drive can have a serious impact on someone else's freedom to breathe easily. And a truly open market should give people freedom of choice about how they get around - but going for a walk doesn't generate any direct economic output, so it is often missed by narrow economic models.

    In terms of minimising government, there are communities which replace the local authority with the corporate body - Celebration as the bastardised realisation of EPCOT springs to mind, and in these cases, I'd say there's a need for more planning, not less, as they want to maintain a set of commercial values, and this inevitably means dictating building codes at the very least.

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    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Libertarian and society are mutually exclusive terms.

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yeah....

    Quote Originally posted by fringe View post
    Libertarian and society are mutually exclusive terms.
    What fringe said

    I think we would be expected to take out the garbage and sweep the floors...and maybe wash the windows every now and again
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    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    Long story short, if libertarianism were instituted tomorrow, we'd be right back where we are now a week later. Why? Because it's the only way that works.
    Great post. Theoretcial societies are not able to put into practice. I believe the most effective government is a reasonable weighting of all political philosophies. Now this doesn't mean it'll be the best government because that's a subjective determination.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

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    Taken from IBM site
    Consider the following when you plan for your SDMC hardware:
    Position the SDMC hardware must be within 7.62 m (25 ft.) of the managed system. If it is more than 7.62 m (25 ft.), you must provide web browser access to the SDMC from the managed system's location so that service personnel can access the SDMC.
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    Cyburbian
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    I guess it depends on what kind of planning you want to do. I do most of my work for developers instead for governments, so I'm not sure my day-to-day work would be that different. Of course, the regulations I have to deal with and help my clients get the best value from might be different, but that's just about it.

    The reality is that outside of the most insanely totalitarian and megalomaniacal planning systems (such as the 5 year plans of the Soviet Commissariat for the Municipal Economy, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development rules and codes in China, the underwriting requirements of the Government Sponsored Enterprise/Agency financing system for suburban America, the planning standards of the Singaporean Housing Development Board and Urban Redevelopment Agency, and now the Smartcode of the New Urbanists), most land-use and zoning work is just tweaking around the edges of the existing bid-rent curve. As such, land-use regulation is actually pretty libertarian as it is.

    There's health and safety police powers, of course, but mainly our ability to dictate form and upzone and downzone adds up to minor refinements of development intensities, densities and uses dictated by the respect bid-rent curves of the land market as a whole and the particular programmatic divisions in that market. Few of our publics and stakeholders would allow us to go radically outside of what the curve dictates, and even if they do, it's highly unlikely we'll attract much private sector money to build in it. Land cost, cost-supportable infrastructure, construction costs, land-use efficiency, and consumer preference work together to pretty much dictate a vice-like starting point, and then we work to plan minor variances on that starting point.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Maybe not as theoretical as we might suspect. I'm surprised no one has posted this story yet:

    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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