Public Square Conservatives (aka The Downtown Blockers)

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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3 Responses

  1. E.D. Kain says:

    A few questions:

    First, how does a community or state begin the process of erecting “the commons” and how is it protected – both from the government and the market. One concern I have with this concept is that at some point things must be enforced, and a state-enforced commons seems hardly more than the creation of some sort of (potential) monopoly or monopolized resource by the state.

    Second, the problem I have with new-urbanist visions (even those I agree with, and I tend to agree that the walkable, front-porchy vision of urbanism – that anti-suburban aesthetic is better on the whole for human beings) is that it is all planned; zoned to the teeth, and expensive. Organic neighborhoods of the past which essentially were built without zoning of any kind, seemed to quite naturally create something the new-urbanists now seek to craft.

    Then again, I’m not sure that anymore the alternative would work. So how does a city push for new-urban growth that is also affordable to the middle and working class….?

    Third, that piece by John Robb is fascinating. I remember hearing about this years ago and then it completely slipped my mind. What a notion, eh? And the concept of “normalizing” living standards as connected countries begin to level is also interesting. I wonder if it will happen smoothly or if it will be all pain or if it will happen at all equitably.Report

  2. Chris Dierkes says:

    The Commons needs legal recognition I think, but not state-power. It really needs to be thought of and actually concretely realized as a third realm if you like. Really I think the issue is the illegal enclosure of the commons by a combination of market and state forces. It ruins capitalism ever properly functioning.

    So obviously the question is how to create another power center which would mean the market-state ceding the territory they have illegally stolen? That’s the trick. If a Commons could help revitalize economically previously downgraded districts, then I think you could get buy-in from business. And then Common-ers would have to show the state function that having a Commons reduces social cost (in terms of crime and such) while increasing productivity (hence more tax revenue which they’ll like to hear). Or at least that’s my potentially naive ideal sales job.

    The Commons in other words does not so much need to be erected as proclaimed where it already exists: excess bandwith, the air, artistic commons, information commons, the ability to create money.

    Now in response to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ argument–that is if no one is in charge then no one is responsible, then the Commons gets trashed–we will need an administrative function for Commons-es. But not the state you see.

    The answer to your question about the high costs of planned urbanism is a good one. I suggest Jeb Brugmann on that point who is very critical of a lot of New Urbanism because it tends to get mixed up with neo-progressive social puritanism “clean up our streets stuff.” What Brugmann shows is that what we call ghettos in many places are actually quite legitimate hubs of human interaction. Not without problems undoubtedly. But generally the best solution for the migrant community looking to move up the ladder. Upper class types come in to “gentrify” or “clean up” an area which becomes a victory for the corporatist state function and a loss of the natural ecology of the place. Also C.K. Prahalad has written persuasively on this point as well. I’m really looking forward to Brugmann’s next book as I hope it will lay out in more detail precisely how to go about the process of doing what he theoretically (in terms of principles really) lays out in his current book.

    The other piece relative to how to manage costs is the way John Robb discusses local production/fabrication.

    But as long as the area is largely a sluice for the volatile global economy that will go through and out of the area, then yeah any attempt at New Urbanism will be heavy on regulation, high cost, pricing out those we would want to keep there (see Vancouver where I live). That was my point relative to Wendell Berry and disagreeing with Carl Scott. The only way to do it is really to radically produce an alternate economic praxis (the ethos will then follow).Report