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Reason Foundation

Emergent Order: Road Pricing and Urban Form

Leonard Gilroy
July 28, 2005, 8:28am

Hayek devotees and fans of books like Steven Johnson's Emergence -- which discusses the concept of emergent order in biological systems, computer science, and cities -- will certainly enjoy this article. Research on a new transportation network model offers some interesting findings regarding variable road pricing: I'd be curious to see what would happen if they tweaked the model to represent a transportation network with multiple centers, a la Houston or Atlanta. I also think that the implications of this type of research for land use and urban growth are interesting as well. It seems fairly obvious that micromanaged, long-range land use planning that attempts to impose a fixed pattern of future development would choke off the ability of the "network" (people, homes, businesses, etc.) to spontaneously reorient itself to adapt to changing conditions. Research into emergent systems seems to reinforce the argument that in a complex system like urban development, the only reasonable control mechanism is one that respects the inherently dynamic nature of the system. Like market-oriented planning! (via American Dream Coalition)

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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