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City Limits F First Paperback Edition Used Edition
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Cities face a dilemma, they must balance the requirements they have to provide services with the tax loads they can adequately impose on their citizens. Provide too little in the way of services and the quality of life in the city suffers. Provide too many or too varied a service mix and the taxing requirements to fund these services will drive the productive population beyond the physical limits of the city.
Cities must provide services to the poor. If they do not, the social pathologies of the poor then drive down the attractiveness of the city as a place for entrepreneurial activity. So cities must spend and tax productive populations (those consuming services in a negative ratio to the taxes they contribute) in order to fund these services. However, tax too much and provide too many services and the productive populations will exit the city to more tax friendly areas. Due to the spatial limits of cities, cities cannot extend their taxing reach. Thus cities must provide the bare essentials and encourage economic growth.
The solution to the dilemma is to allow the federal government to provide the majority of redistributive (aid to the poor) services and focus, as a city, on the provision of distributive (road repair, police) and regulatory services (health, sanitation).
Not a ringing cry to help your fellow man, but a cogent analysis of the fiscal demands and limitations facing urban America.
Urbanists, planners and public administration scholars will encounter this book somewhere in their professional training.
John C. McKee
Some believe that Peterson's "Unitary" interest of cities is incorrect in that politics do matter and that cities do not just have one interest of developmental politics. Nevertheless, Peterson's theory is tight, well-reasoned and more correct than it is incorrect.
One implication? No redistributive policy, where the taxes of those who make up the major part of the tax base are used to assist those who have few resources. On the other hand, the tax base would be quite pleased to see their taxes used for purposes that they believe would benefit them.
In the end, cities' power is "limited" by the desire to please the tax base. Actual data for this thesis are somewhat mixed. Again, though, a very thought-provoking work. . . .