Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Response to "Urban Policy and Families: How Concerns about Order Contribute to Familial Disorder"

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Response to "Urban Policy and Families: How Concerns about Order Contribute to Familial Disorder"

Article excerpt

Introduction                                                1187   I.   Clarifying the Thesis and Operationalizing         the "Social Order Dynamic"                          1188   II.  Testing the Article's Examples Against the         "Social Order Dynamic" Paradigm                     1190   III. Probing "Social Order" and Its Inextricable         Relationship to "Social Welfare"                    1195   IV. Solving the Governance Problem with a         "Family Impact Statement" Policy                    1199 Conclusion                                                  1204 


Dr. Raphael Bostic argues that a phenomenon called the "social order dynamic" explains the negative effects on families of various past and current housing and land use policies. (1) Dr. Bostic defines social order dynamic in the following way: sometimes policymakers adopt policies to maintain the urban economic order, but "because domains rarely operate in isolation, efforts to maintain order along one dimension can exacerbate conditions and increase disorder in others." (2) "Families, particularly those with low incomes, often live at the intersection of these conflicting forces," (3) and suffer negative effects because of such policies. Dr. Bostic's article ("the Article") identifies examples of the social order dynamic, and then offers some suggestions for avoiding this dynamic or mitigating its effects, while still serving the original policy goal of maintaining the urban economic order.

This response to the Article consists of four parts followed by a brief conclusion. First, I clarify the Article's thesis and operationalize the social order dynamic by clarifying its elements. Second, I compare the Article's examples of the social order dynamic with the refined definition of the social order dynamic. Third, I explore the meaning of social order in the Article and its inextricable relationship to social welfare. Fourth, in light of these discussions, I consider the Article's proposed solutions to the problem and offer an alternative.


The Article aims to identify the social order dynamic as a distinct policymaking or governance problem: a situation in which policymakers adopt a particular policy to bring social order into one particular dimension of urban life (i.e., the economic one). (4) This policy, however, has the unintended effect of causing disorder in the "family" dimension of social life through some kind of spillover effect. (5) In other words, it is a problem of externalities (6) applied to policymaking. Because the Article invents a new phrase to name the problem it examines, I assume the problem is not just a standard application of the economic concept of externalities, nor is it just the traditional argument that every policy has unintended consequences. To follow and analyze the argument, it is necessary to flesh out the social order dynamic phenomenon--to make it operational and, therefore, testable.

The Article views cities in economic terms as "the spatial realization of firms and households responding to" economic incentives to invest or to spend. (7) "[T]he focus of order in this context is the preservation of conditions that permit for an efficient functioning of urban markets, such that resources are primarily devoted to commerce and production." (8) This focus entails two goals: (1) limiting impediments to "establishing and operating businesses and buying and selling finished goods," (9) and (2) permitting "a maximal amount of private investment, so as to maximize the productive capacity of the regional economy." (10) In other words, the Article appears to embrace the standard economic view that governments create and maintain the conditions for well-functioning economic markets to maximize social welfare. It explains that certain "urban disamenities" (e.g., crime) create disorder, that this disorder leads to both private and public outlays to address it, and that these expenditures are inefficient because they represent money that could have been used for more productive purposes. …

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