Sunday, October 07, 2007

Rhetoric examined

Here is the abstract and the link to an interesting paper that I heard presented last Friday, by Professor Nicole Stelle Garnett of the Notre Dame Law School.

Most urban growth management proposals fail the efficiency test but Professor Stelle Garnett writes that they are also promoted with a "rhetorical flourish" that is suspect. Most suburbanites did not abandon the central city and do not owe it anything. The idea that they have to be rounded up and corralled by a regional government is silly. Most suburbanites came from other suburbs. The escape-and abandonment-version has been out of date for over fifty years.

One can add that that migrants are free to move and do not really owe anyone anything. But political rhetoric is what it is. It is also true that city and suburb are part of a single economy and even if there are political walls, there are also gains from trade.

The recent San Fernando Valley secession move in L.A. was also thwarted with rhetoric to the effect that such things are just not done in polite society. On has to wonder just how polite cartelized government really is.


Most academics assume that suburbanites are “exiters” who have
abandoned central cities. The exit story is a foundational one in the fields
of land-use and local-government law: exiters’ historical, social, and
economic connections with “their” center cities are frequently used to
justify both growth controls and regional government. The exit story,
however, no longer captures the American suburban experience. For a majority
of Americans, suburbs have become points of entrance to, not exit from,
urban life. Most suburbanites are “enterers”—people who were born in,
or migrated directly to, suburbs and who have not spent time living in
any central city. This Essay reexamines current debates about growth
management and regional governance in light of the underappreciated
suburbs-as-entrance story. The exit paradigm provides a
powerful normative justification for policies constraining urban growth. When
it is stripped away, proponents are left with utilitarian arguments.
Economists challenge these arguments by showing that metropolitan
fragmentation actually may be efficiency enhancing—and these arguments may
ring hollow with suburban enterers themselves. This Essay sounds a cautionary
note in the growth management and regional government debates. The exit story
is an outdated rhetorical flourish that tends to oversimplify the case
for—and camouflage the complexities of—policies restricting suburban growth,
especially when it comes to distributional and transitional-fairness