Stories, Learning & Place

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New planning: segregation by values
   social engineering by the market

The Washington Post covers the segregation by values that is emerging in the real estate market. A marketing survey from a new planned community, Ladera Ranch, in Orange County asked predictable marketing questions, such as whether people wanted ballfields or trails. Then came a section titled ‘values.’ ‘Please check the box that comes closest to how you feel most of the time,’ it began, and asked people to rate how strongly they agreed with various statements,” including “We need to treat the planet as a living system,” “Abortions should not be legal unless there’s a threat to life,” and “I have been born again in Jesus Christ.” Other questions dealt with corporate greed, divorce, the merits of foreign travel, and so forth—and the result are different sections of the planned comunity: “Covenant Hills” for folks who identify with Christian cultural traditions, “Terramor” for those who want photovoltaic cells and bamboo flooring.

“These things have always happened organically,” said Robert Lang, a demographer at Virginia Tech who studies the exurbs. “What we don’t have experience with is a contrivance of this, where it’s engineered. . . . You target people, you catch a niche of preference in lifestyle, and it creates a community and intensifies the inward focus of the niche, like an island.”

Reason discusses the ways local government has been increasingly privatized. He sees an emerging “postmodern political order”:

We’d have a world where the size and functions of local government would be determined by a trial-and-error process of competition. Different institutional forms would contend with one another; rather than following a central administrative plan, the nature and tasks of local government would be determined by a private market. The “governments” themselves would be more private than public, facilitating a routine flow of mergers, breakups, divestitures, and other organizational rearrangements.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 04/18 at 09:31 AM
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©2006 Michael L. Umphrey
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