It goes without saying that over the last year or two everybody's been touting the praises of smaller, limited government. Many Americans feel that government has gotten too big, too cumbersome, and most importantly too expensive. There's a growing right-wing sentiment in this country and it seems more and more plausible every day that in the foreseeable future, we will see government in America (at the federal, state, and local levels) trim the fat and cut spending, which of course they've already been doing for some time now, but it seems like this will happen even more so in the future than it is now.
My thing is this - the more and more I think about the incredible debt that America is now facing, the more unrealistic it seems that America will give planning any sort of priority. There's stimulus money floating around that's going to support the planning and construction of a few highway and transit projects around the country, but that's only temporary. Stimuluses (or is that stimuli?) cannot continue forever, and at some point spending will have to be cut. It seems to be that most Americans (including those in government) regard planning as some sort of luxury, something that government does but is not necessary compared to say, police and fire departments. Obviously I don't agree with this but all I'm saying is that if this is the public perception, it looks like planning is in trouble. Most planners work in the public sector so this obviously poses a threat to their careers and opportunities. But even if a bunch of planners just made the shift to the private sector............who's to say that that's any better? After all, private consultants simply operate under contracts to local governments to do the same work that a local planning department would do. A municipality would still have to pay for planning services. My point is, in this economy, do people consider planning necessary and will a smaller, more limited government role in America mean that planning jobs will be cut and perhaps even eliminated altogether?
Furthermore, I personally think that fiscal conservatism and responsibility is most certainly needed in America, but I'm afraid to voice support of the right-wing's attempt at smaller government frankly because I'm afraid that in essence I will be voicing support for the demise of the very field I worked five years to earn a degree in. Any thoughts on that?
Let's get a good, serious, and most importantly honest, discussion here. Can planning survive (and more importantly, thrive) in an America with smaller, more limited government at the federal, state, and local levels? Can planning be shifted to the private sector in such a society? What if society becomes more libertarian and people begin asserting government ought to have limited rights in addition to having limited budgets?
I'm enrolling in an MCRP program in the fall and have been contemplating getting a dual degree in Public Policy and/or GIS certification because to be honest, I don't have too much faith in the market to pick back up in two years. It doesn't look like things are going to bode well for planning at this point, at least in the foreseeable future. I would love for someone to prove me wrong, but this is just what I've been observing lately. Any feedback or criticism appreciated.