Cities and Governance
By Arnold Kling
Most cities evolved blindly, and have ended up semi-workable, whereas a city that is started from scratch can, in theory, benefit from intelligent design. But, even with long-term investors, to build a viable city at scale nowadays represents a daunting challenge, requiring not just architecture, but also modern infrastructure, schools, and hospitals. Moreover, in addition to people, investors, land, and other tangible assets, an independent yet accountable government must create and enforce rules, and a charter must specify how the rules can be changed.
Suppose that you owned land that you wished to use to create a city of several million people. What sort of governance structure would you put in place? Possibilities:
1. Dictatorship. One person ultimately sets all the rules for the city.
2. Representative democracy. Have the rules set by an elected legislature.
3. Decentralized by location. Divide the territory into boroughs or neighborhoods, and give each autonomy.
4. Decentralized by function. Divide government functions into water treatment, transportation, zoning, police, etc., and create autonomous government agencies to manage these functions.