Sunday, January 18, 2009

American Suburbs

Newsweek just published an interesting article on U.S. suburbs and I think it is a source of many discussions.

One such discussion revolves around the idea of regionalism, which is promoted on page 2.

Essentially, academics have been calling for regionalism for some time (i.e. looking at an area not as a city but as a region, such as planning around not just Philadelphia, but its suburban areas too). The reasons for regionalism are many - government consolidation, decrease taxes, business attraction, poverty reduction, and the like.

In particular, the article points to suburbs declining in economic status, while cities still find it difficult to attract innovative industries. Can planning on a regional scale solve this? Maybe, but local governments rarely find it possible to work cooperatively, especially in home rule states like PA and NY.

Maybe the economic crisis will spur different areas to move in this direction. For example, New Jersey politicians have started to talk about government consolidation as a means to reduce state debt and provide better services.

Do you think "regionalized" policy making would be better than a more micro scale approach?

The article points out correctly that people tend to move to the suburbs to "get away" from the city, be it from crime, noise, etc. Unfortunately, the act of forming active communities seems to take place less in the suburbs - often times to the point where neighbors don't know each other - something I have come across personally and in the academic literature. Such characteristics of suburbs seem to be a defining conundrum for policy makers even slightly interested in regionalism.

As the U.S. economy reorganizes itself and policy makers begin to want to reform education, the prison system, and economic development (among others), can regionalism make matters easier? Will cultural dynamics ultimately impede such efforts? Can cities and suburbs be viewed as one?


jez said...

Hmmm... interesting food for thought. I do believe that government works better on a smaller scale, be it because of cultural nuances or agriculture/industry specialties. It even varies within a state. I agree that the suburbs are a form of communal isolation which is an interesting thing as well.

Pat Jenkins said...

prog why is the soultion to any calamity constriction?

Progressive said...


Do you think there is some tipping point where smaller and smaller governments are less effective? What about in the other direction with larger and larger governments?


Progressive said...


That's a good question. I wonder if its because of the issues and the need for coordination. Why do you think?

It also depends on your definition of constriction? Do you mean freedoms? Local control?


Pat Jenkins said...

less of anything prog. the left never seems to be for expansion, but elimination. i find that very constricting, would you not agree?