Dissertation

Title:                            PLANNING AND PROPERTY:

                                   TWO REGIMES FOR ORDERING THE NATURAL WORLD

 

Name:                         Michael J. Rushman

Institution:                    Arizona State University

Date of Completion:    May 2000

ABSTRACT

            Human societies have always exhibited a desire to order their surroundings including the natural world. Two of the means used to accomplish this ordering have been the regimes of property and planning. This dissertation explores the ways in which these two approaches to ordering the natural world—property and planning—work with and against each other and what society’s use of them says about how it understands and values the natural world. More specifically, adopting an interdisciplinary perspective and using qualitative methods such as borrowing, theory building, narrative, and case studies, the dissertation examines private property, which has been the prevailing regime for four centuries, in the United States.

The theoretical analysis rests on a foundation of concepts and analytical frameworks for the two regimes of planning and property as well as three perspectives—economics, ecology, and ethics—from which these regimes can be viewed. The historical analysis traces the emergence of private property in the United States with particular emphasis on three periods—colonial settlement, the revolutionary era, and the nineteenth century, which was marked by economic growth and territorial expansion. It also examines challenges to the private property regime that have arisen in the areas of economics, ecology, and ethics and describes how that regime has adapted to those challenges. The dimension of practice is examined through three case studies that deal with the issues of (i) growth management in Vermont, (ii) preservation of the Northern Forest, and (iii) water resource protection in the Connecticut River watershed.

The dissertation concludes with a synthesis describing twelve principles for a new property paradigm that weaves the threads of property, planning, economics, ecology, and ethics into a tapestry that recognizes the three characteristics of land—the productive, ecological, and cultural. This new paradigm offers a means of resolving the current impasse between property rights and efforts to manage growth and preserve the environment without violating Constitutional safeguards for property.

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