Friday 7 October 2011

The localist trilemma

Prof Henry Overman of the LSE has some interesting thoughts on lessons for urban policy from Dani Rodrik's book 'The Globalization Paradox'. I'm particularly interested in Rodrik's concept of an inescapable trilemma governing world economic affairs, according to which "democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full". Or in graphic form:

I wonder whether a similar logic applies to 'localism' and land use policy, as follows

  • Strong local governments which are also very responsive to the local electorate are more likely to be NIMBYist;
  • If you want to combine democratic institutions and liberal land use policy you probably need relatively weak local government, with wider interests represented by elected regional or national tiers promoting growth over local resistance;
  • And if you want strong local government combined with liberal land use policy then a somewhat undemocratic 'local growth machine' is perhaps the best way to get it.

Or if you prefer the graphic version:
No doubt this is a little too neat, but I think there's something to it. Which is troubling for people who like all three things in those boxes.

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