Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Development Politics

"Regime theory must first demonstrate empirically that presently employed development policies largely fail to meet standards of economic rationality. By exposing this economic irrationality, regime theory in turn demonstrates the fallaciousness in Peterson's economic determinism."

David Imbroscio, Urban America reconsidered: Alternatives for Governance and Policy

Why? We're in the debate world about the relative autonomy of local politics and how much it is constrained or directed by competitive economic forces external to regions. Why do most cities adopt the corporate-centered, downtown development, big project approach to growth? Imbroscio argues that a good part of this explicit economic development investing doesn't meet the simple test of promoting real growth.

Whether this favored development approach is succesful or not in specific circumstances, I wonder whether it's really all about politics anyway. It's not about success but whether a city's interventions and proposals have political credibility. Success and credible action are the same thing. And promoting individual development projects, however large and complicated, falls solidly within the realm of local state powers--and produces all sorts of benefits for political allies of different kinds. And there is the frequently heard refrain from "weak market" cities that a specific development policy or project kept things from getting even worse.

No comments: