Working paper

Metropolitan planning: economic rationalism and social objectives

URP Working Paper No. 22
Urban planning Economics Welfare state Markets Australia
Attachment Size
apo-nid130651.pdf 13.32 MB

The paper covers a familiar subject-the basic value of the market system and the major defects of markets such as their instability and inequality. Peter Self contends that planners have contributed to the stabilisation of urban systems, but have often added to the inequalities of the market system rather than reducing them.

Self examines the basic criteria of welfare economics and argues thal there is no necessary disrepancy between economic and social goals. The ultimate economic goal is to maximise the sum of individual welfare and this goal logically includes unpriced, as well as priced, aspects of individual welfare. Planners' possible contributions to the creation of a 'liveable city' and a better 'quality of life' are shown to be substantial but have still to be realised in Australia. He then deals with the apparent conflict between 'efficiency' and 'equity', arguing that more equality in the distribution of welfare (of all kinds) would in fact tend to maximise the sum total of welfare. The reasons why many economists shy off this conclusion are discussed.

The way in which market inequalities are, in fact, augmented by the economic structure of the big, modern city is analysed. Self argues that an effective and just planning strategy requires a combination of substantive goals (which benefit society generally) and egalitarian goals (which discriminate in favour of poor and disadvantaged groups.) The author then applies this general approach to the metropolitan strategies recently prepared for four large Australian cities. He reviews urban consolidation policy, centres' policy, environmental policy, and State development policies from this standpoint.

In the paper's concluding sections, the author deals briefly with the scope of metropolitan planning and its relation to social justice strategies, and with some current economic and ideological objections against a wider role for planning. He then summarises future directions for planning.

Publication Details
License type:
Access Rights Type:
Publication place: