Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sepe & White on Urban Infrastructure & The Rule of Law

Simone M. Sepe (Arizona) and James T. White (Arizona) have posted The New City Beautiful: Urban Infrastructure and the Rule of Law.  The abstract:

This article argues that urban physical disorder weakens the relational social contract upon which the rule of law is built. Under this social contract, citizens follow legal rules in exchange for certain goods and services from the government, and citizens conditionally cooperate with each other, following the rules because others follow the rules as well. Urban physical disorder, as evidenced by crumbling urban infrastructure, signals both that the government is not fulfilling its obligations under the social contract and that others are not following the rules, contributing to a downward spiral that ultimately leads to a culture unsupportive of the rule of law. 

To test this theoretical account, this article analyzes empirical data from 124 countries related to the quality of the urban environment and the degree of commitment to the rule of law, as measured by perceived corruption. This analysis shows that the rule of law is both strongly correlated and causally dependent upon the quality of the urban environment. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that austerity is an effective means of controlling corruption, this article thus suggests that public investment in urban infrastructure and the creation of quality urban environments are essential components of efforts to cultivate and maintain the rule of law.

Really fascinating.  Tying the built environment to the rule of law is, in my opinion, one of the most important issues for the near future.

Matt Festa


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