Tuesday, April 12, 2011
En route to other things, I learned something interesting about the urban development of St. Louis, in my grandmother's home state of Missouri, that fellow advocates of capitalism could profit from: It is dotted with small enclaves called "private places." Upon encountering this odd term, I naturally looked it up, and learned the following.
A private place is a self-governing enclave whose common areas (e.g. streets) are owned by the residents, and whose services are provided by the private sector.The short Wikipedia entry on private places is interesting in itself, but it also cites a thought-provoking reference I plan to look at more closely at some point: David T. Beito's "From Privies to Boulevards: The Private Supply of Infrastructure in the United States during the Nineteenth Century," which appears as a chapter in Development by Consent: The Voluntary Supply of Public Goods and Services.
The urban history of St. Louis, Missouri is significant in the development of private places. Most were laid out by Prussian-born surveyor and planner Julius Pitzman, who conceived the idea around 1868 as a way for residential landowners to control real estate speculation and maintain property standards, in an era before the protections [sic] of zoning. Pitzman designed 47 of these developments over a 50-year period.
Many of these developments are well-preserved and still gated, patrolled, and functioning as private enclaves. [hyperlinks and footnotes omitted]
The Amazon synopsis of the book reads as follows:
This book explores how myriad goods and services -- among them the generation and delivery of electricity, building and maintenance of roads, sewage and refuse disposal, water delivery, education, and transportation -- have been voluntarily supplied by individuals and groups in the absence of government mandates or sanctions. A recollection of the voluntary habit that predominated in nineteenth-century America stands in marked contrast to the expansive contemporary role of government in the United States and other countries, both industrialized and developing. Many additional examples conjoin in this volume to provide both leaders and citizens of debt-ridden governments with case experience of nongovernment alternatives for supplying sorely needed goods and services.And here's the opening paragraph of the chapter on private places:
An implication of the evidence in this volume is that the development of any country can occur as a result of expanding the consenting actions of its citizens -- in the absence of a growing government, or in spite of it. Poorer countries are most likely to benefit from acting on the lessons of this book; voluntary means for meeting people's demands are even more appropriate where resources are less abundant. All countries can benefit from prohibiting the additional expense of having government do what its citizens would do otherwise. Richer countries may be able to afford the excess burden (or deadweight loss) that is incurred when government supplants private endeavors with its own. But in poorer countries, such additional cost is truly waste, and may very well preclude development. Better the voluntary alternatives of this book, and development by consent.
During the late 1970s, the term privatization first came into common currency to describe a process which was then emerging. Whether or not the term itself is of recent origin, there is no doubt that the reality of privatization has deep historical roots. Throughout the nineteenth century, the private sector played a major (often dominant) role in nearly every imaginable service now monopolized by government.Regulars here, and anyone who has been influenced by the ideas of Ayn Rand, will already appreciate the enormity of the task of effectively promoting capitalism. The fundamental task of such cultural activism is, if not to promote egoism and capitalism, to at least cause many more people to question common assumptions regarding the propriety and practicality of altruism and collectivism.
Needless to say, concrete examples of the efficacy of capitalism, often lacking in today's cultural and political context, are always helpful. It looks like I have bumped into a very useful resource indeed!
Some time back, I blogged John Swansburg's "I Hate My iPad." I see that he eventually followed up with some curated reader responses, pro and con, and some additional commentary of his own. (He still hates his.) I very much like the email he quotes at the end of the second article.
Not your patriarch's Koran reading group... Amy Peikoff is starting a Koran reading group. I won't be participating, but the following line from the announcement made me smile: "We will read approximately 20 pages of the Koran per week, along with the corresponding commentary published by Robert Spencer. " I see that the link takes me to a series called, "Blogging the Koran."
This is sad. If what this young writer says is true about her upbringing, I don't blame her one bit for rejecting "objectivism." (Compare her account of her upbringing to the answer Leonard Peikoff gives to the following question: "How do you explain the concepts of 'religion' and 'God' to pre-school-aged children?") The facts that the article blatantly misrepresents Objectivism and incorrectly refers to it with a common noun speak ill of the editorial staff of Salon in more than one respect.
If you didn't get enough to think about here, Myrhaf has just posted the fifth installment of his "Cavalcade of Links" series.
Today: Corrected "The Atlantic" to "Salon."