Restoring Urban Life In Crisis Times: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
February 1, 2004

Restoring Urban Life In Crisis Times
Can Private Initiative Contribute to Community Renewal?

As state budgets continue to be stressed by slow job growth and rapidly rising health care costs, experts predict cuts to public and social services will continue in many cities across the country. In California alone, a $15 billion deficit has generated serious cuts in health, education, social, and public services to cities around the state.

Is there another way to provide city services? Is there an alternative to a special interest-driven political process that too often leaves cities with failing schools, traffic gridlock, pollution, poverty, and crime? “These questions come at a propitious moment,” say urban planning and policy experts David Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander Tarbarrok, editors of THE VOLUNTARY CITY: Choice, Community, and Civil Society (University of Michigan Press/The Independent Institute). “For the first time in decades, increasingly severe failures in the governmental sector have led officials to ponder long-neglected arguments for private provision-from privatized education and social security, to prisons and municipal services.”

In THE VOLUNTARY CITY, a wide range of urban planning, development, and policy experts examine a variety of ways that non-governmental institutions have collaborated to provide public services. From the history of America’s private turnpike companies to the growing popularity of contemporary neighborhood associations, this collection of essays looks at the rich history of how private and non-profit collaborations can provide superior social services, urban infrastructure, and community governance. THE VOLUNTARY CITY examines:

  • The failure of public schools, public transportation, and public health care services.

  • How mutual aid societies provided social services to millions of Americans in the early nineteenth century.

  • The vital, yet often ignored, role of the nonprofit sector, a major provider of health and education services.

  • How private enterprise, including the early turnpike companies, produced networks of highways to facilitate travel and trade.

  • Why private neighborhood associations have grown in popularity recent years.

“The Voluntary City sketches out a provocative vision for communities based on civil cooperation and entrepreneurship…it shows why the de-bureaucratization of urban life is crucial to fostering thriving markets, vibrant neighbors, and educational excellence.”
—Jerry Brown, Mayor, City of Oakland

“The Voluntary City explores the fascinating history of bottom-up approaches to the challenges of urban living. It provides refreshing counterpoint to the dominant urbanologist tradition which stresses the indispensability of government engineering of basic city institutions.”
—Robert C. Ellickson, Professor of Property and Urban Law, Yale University

“This book may lead to a reconsideration of how public services might be better provided through voluntary, market-based arrangements.”
—Nathan Rosenberg, Professor of Public Policy, Stanford University

“The Voluntary City is a fascinating book in that it challenges many conventional paradigms on the urban economy and on provision of public goods. It brings together original material from both the U.K. and the USA on early ways of executing governmental competence.”
—PETER NIJKAMP, Professor of Spatial Economics, Free University, Amsterdam

THE VOLUNTARY CITY: Choice, Community and Civil Society
Edited by David T. Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander T. Tabarrok
Foreword by Paul Johnson
University of Michigan Press/The Independent Institute
424 Pages • 4 Tables • Index o 6” x 9”
$65.00 Cloth • $24.95 Paperback


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