The rise and decline of American civic life has provoked wide-ranging responses from all quarters of society. Unfortunately, many proposals for improving our communities rely on renewed governmental efforts without a similar recognition that the inflexibility and poor accountability of governments have often worsened society's ills. The Voluntary City investigates the history of large-scale, private provision of social services, the for-profit provision of urban infrastructure and community governance, and the growing privatization of residential life in the United States to argue that most decentralized, competitive markets can contribute greatly to community renewal.
Among the fascinating topics covered are: how mutual-aid societies in America, Great Britain, and Australia provided their members with medical care, unemployment insurance, sickness insurance, and other social services before the welfare state; how private law, known historically as the law merchant, is returning in the form of arbitration; and why the rise of neighborhood associations represents the most comprehensive privatization occurring in the United States today.
The volume concludes with an epilogue that places the discoveries of The Voluntary City within the theory of market and government failure and discusses the implications of these discoveries for theories about the private provision of public goods. A refreshing challenge to the position that insists government alone can improve community life, The Voluntary City will be of special interest to students of history, law, urban life, economics, and government.
David T. Beito is Associate Professor of History, University of Alabama. Peter Gordon is Professor in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development and Department of Economics, University of Southern California. Alexander Tabarrok is Vice President and Research Director, the Independent Institute.
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David T. Beito is associate professor of history at the University of Alabama. He is the author of Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890–1967, and Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Resistance during the Great Depression. He is the author of several scholarly articles and his popular articles have appeared in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, National Review, Perspectives, and Reason. He lives in Northport, Alabama. Peter Gordon is a professor in the University of California's School of Policy, Planning and Development. He and his colleagues have developed various economic impact models which they apply to the study of the effects of infrastructure investments or disruptions from natural events or terrorist attacks. Recent work involves the modeling and study of economic impacts. He has been published in most of the major urban planning, urban transportation, and urban economics journals. He lives in Los Angeles. Alexander Tabarrok is research director for the Independent Institute, assistant editor of the Independent Review, and associate professor of economics at George Mason University. He is the editor of Changing the Guard: Private Prisons and the Control of Crime and Entrepreneurial Economics: Bright Ideas from the Dismal Science. His papers have appeared in the American Law and Economics Review, the Journal of Law and Economics, the Journal of Health Economics, and the Journal of Theoretical Politics. He lives in Centreville, Virginia.
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