Value Money?

In this month of October, we are doing a mini-series on site analysis and site planning. Annie wrote a great post about feminism and site planning. It raised some great questions for us to consider. I want to build off of the analysis that Annie did and the questions that she asked in her post, and I want to look specifically at values.

This week for one of my planning classes I was asked to write a memo. While we turn in memos weekly, this week we were asked to propose a site for green infrastructure and make an economic justification for our decisions. Their thoughts: Money talks, money makes decisions. We were told: You can’t just say that trees have a value.

I agree with their observation that money and power go hand in hand. But should we have to provide economic justification for things? Can something have a value if it is not viewed in economic terms? I think that a problem of much planning today is that we feel that we need to be able to justify everything through economic terms.

Money. Should we value it? Image links back to source.

I participated in collegiate debate, and whenever we made an argument we had to provide a criteria—how we wanted the debate to be viewed. Generally this was a utilitarian framework (who ever benefits the most people wins), but it could be freedom, capitalism… The framework that planners have for evaluation is economic, pure capitalism. Everything must fit into the mindset of saving money or generating revenue.

This mindset creates little room for activities that are “necessary” but do not have economic values and benefits. For example, environmental programs which are necessary on so many levels must be justified through economic means. It is not enough to say that planting trees will improve quality of life, reduce storm water run-off, and produce Oxygen. Rather many of these programs have to be viewed in terms of the savings of reduced flooding and increased tax revenue from the better quality of life. In my view, these values and lessened by monetizing them.

How should we as planners respond? Should we still use economic arguments in our justifications for physical planning? Is that continuing the cycle? Can we value something else?

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One thought on “Value Money?

  1. I agree with your analysis. It’s a shame that so many decisions must have dollar amounts fixed to it. This mindset severely cripples many forms of development that would serve a community much good but, because it either doesn’t “save” money or doesn’t generate “enough” revenue, they get shelved for other endeavors that are deemed “more profitable”. How many of these projects actually affect change? It’s a mindset, I think. And I’d like to think it can change in the near future and perhaps it’s changing already.

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