Cities, Real and Ideal: Categories for an Urban Ontology by David Weissman

By David Weissman

Towns, genuine and excellent claims idea of social constitution is empirically testable and proven. It proposes a model of social justice applicable to this constitution, thereby updating Marx’s declare that justice is realizable with no the intervention of things extra to society’s fabric stipulations. (Text taken from amazon)

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32 The alternative avers that citizens organize to achieve common goods: security and personal freedom, for example. Temporarily abstracting from private concerns, they form a public that considers the interests of all: drivers, for example, enact efficient ways to reduce traffic accidents. Government, on this telling, is the constitutionally established expression of a public organized for self-regulation: it maintains essential infrastructure, and mitigates complexity and conflict; it organizes forums (a legislature) where goals are fixed and obstacles are anticipated.

The idea of a deliberating, self-regulating public seems naïve, even simple-minded, given Mancur Olson’s careful argument that competition and calculation preclude its formation. Why join a deliberating public if participation’s costs outweigh the benefits, or if advantages accrue equally to participants and free-riders? 33 Hence this strategy: don’t cooperate when it reduces profit by increasing costs. Notice, however, that Olson’s formulation ignores the many goods—including safety, mitigated conflict, literacy, health, tolerance, civility, and dignity—to which profit and wealth are incidental.

Effective laws are often hard to write. The issue is straightforward when an activity is banned because it violates basic interests—murder, for example—but proscription is the least subtle option. Prescription—lawmaking that facilitates an activity while controlling it—is more inventive. There are various ways to divide traffic; the one chosen is typically the most effective given available money and space and the speed and maneuverability of current vehicles. Material conditions alter, so traffic laws change as the ban against murder does not.

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