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Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. 1999. City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 8)

The final section of the book begins with Chapter 8 and discusses how Frugs concept of community building could positively impact the provision of city services. Traditionally, cities have provided services according to a consumer-oriented approach, which is linked to Tiebouts Pure Theory of Local Expenditures; city services are simply a set of goods to be consumed in the marketplace by consumer-citizens. Responding to Tiebouts approach, Frug highlights three distinctive concerns:

1. A consumer-citizen approach implies that instead of one-person/one-vote, services are allocated according to one-dollar/one-vote.

2. We should not confuse freedom of choice with freedom of consumer choice (as Tiebout assumed that each individual could choose his or her preferable selection of goods, disregarding that mobility is a factor of income).

3. Tiebout uses a conception of self that is exceptionally narrow; an individuals priorities as a citizen versus a consumer are not necessarily aligned. Counter to Tiebouts assumption, one often votes for services that one doesnt intend to fully utilize.

Furthermore, Tiebouts notion that these consumer-citizens voluntarily associate into homogenous groupings does not accurately describe the character of most cities. A city is not a voluntary association as public goods theorists would have us believe, but a fortuitous association a group within which individuals simply find themselves, thus requiring an ability to get along with the other members of the group despite existing differences. Cities, then, are places of difference, not just enclaves of sameness. Thus, the consumer-citizen approach directly inhibits community building by encouraging the fragmentation of the city.

Our author suggests that an alternate version of city services is possible, so long as it respects the ideas of fortuitous association and encourages community building. He notes that the forces that tend to shape these fortuitous associations are highly dependent on legal rulessuch as school district boundaries. As the wealthy citizen/consumers flee problem areas, they take their resources across jurisdictional lines, leaving poor neighborhoods in worse condition than before. Thus, different rules could be utilized for the purposes of dissolving these exclusive clubs. Frug suggests that zoning, redevelopment, and regional authorities for city services could be used to create greater legitimacy for more allocative policy measures. This would help to create a system where citizens work together to solve problems, rather than simply move to escape them.