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Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. Alternative Conceptions of City Services, in City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Frug begins his examination of city service provision by reviewing recent attempts to modify Charles Tiebouts (1956) public choice model into a more realistic version. He also discusses the problems inherent in this model. Frug first describes Hamiltons conservation of Tiebouts basic vote with your feet model, appended with the caveat that the rich will move to escape the poor, while the poor will follow the rich to reap the benefits of a stronger tax base. Buchanans alternate modification permits bribery (in the form of better services) of wealthy residents in order to keep them as local residents and underwriters of services for the local poor. However, as Frug points out, Tiebouts model leads to cities which resemble self-segregated voluntary associations of consumers who want privatized services. These consumers view services as objects of consumption for those who can afford to pay.

Frug illustrates his concerns over privatization with two models of cities. The voluntary association model discussed above reduces citizens involvement and investment to that of consumers, with no principles of democratic equality and no collective civic collaboration or responsibility. Freedom of choice in the voluntary association model is defined in terms of choices to consume, but neglects the reality that without sufficient resources to exercise preferences, choices to consume are severely limited. A second model of cities which also minimizes group interactivity and defines choice in terms of consumption is the public choice model. This model depicts cities as merely the sum of the individual residents and promotes fragmented services as offering more choice to consumers. In both cases, the individual consumer focus promotes exclusivity and erosion of consideration for others.

As an alternative to these individualistic and consumer-oriented models, Frug promotes the fortuitous association model as his vision for the future of cities. This model likens a city to a group of individuals who happen to live together and must learn to tolerate as well as work with each other. In addition, it expands the concept of freedom of choice, which Tiebout conceived as ability to move, to encompass freedom to stay in a neighborhood. Building community by working together empowers residents to use this interconnection and social capital to address problems and make the neighborhood a place residents want to call home. The fortuitous association model views residents as citizens instead of consumers. Frug sees this model as a modern and more respectful reincarnation of the early American city services, which served the poor in part to control them and socialize them to act more like middle-income people, but also because those in power realized that providing basic city services to all, including the poor, increased all residents quality of life.

Through the interdependent relationships and community-building inherent in the fortuitous association model, Frug hopes to fundamentally reform the current idea of the autonomy of cities. His vision would move funding and eligibility for services to a regional level, promoting equity by, in effect, legislating that all citizens have to consider the welfare of a greater number and diversity of people when making decisions about community services. The modern city in Frugs vision would celebrate and socialize respect for diversity.