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Old 05-14-2010, 03:30 AM
dameni dameni is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: New York City
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Default Re: Public space/sphere/options anyone?

Hello Jim,

Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
You might want to check this. The latin poplicus and pubis don't sound that similar, plus one is second declension, the other is third declension.
I'm not a Latin scholar but it seems that the Latin root of the word 'public': 'Publicus' is influenced by 'pubes', adult population.

Here's an online etymological dictionary definition:


mid-15c., "pertaining to the people," from O.Fr. public (c.1300), from L. publicus, altered (by influence of L. pubes "adult population, adult") from Old L. poplicus "pertaining to the people,"

Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Some specificity might help here. Are you talking about expressive content or expressive form. Because it certainly seems as if adult-oriented expressive content pervades public space. Or do you mean "adult" as in nudity as an expressive form?
If you think of a building as the embodiment of a boundary between public and private, you can also think of your clothing that way. While there are no building codes that I know of that prohibit that you build a completely transparent dwelling, there are laws, usually local and gender specific, that regulate how much of your body can be exposed in public even from within private property if that property is in sight of public space. So by extension, if you want to shower in your transparent house you either have to wear a bathing suit or build a fence. (yes, the steam in the shower would probably be occlusive enough. But but you know what I mean.)

Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
What's your definition of "public?" Is it possible in any society? The ability to use space inherently includes the ability to exclude other uses. I can't use a public baseball diamond to play baseball without excluding other people from it for a period of time. I can't use a track of land as a park without excluding someone else from building a shopping mall there. You can refrain from choosing by law whose competing uses win or lose, but you can't refrain from choosing at all whose competing uses win or lose. Someone has to win, be it by law, by custom, by societal pressures, or by force.
I'm not sure I have a personal definition of public, but lets say for argument's sake--and within the context of physical space--public space is shared space: The sidewalks and the streets, parks, plazas, beaches. Anywhere an individual doesn't have a right to privacy. That may well include in some instances business that are open to the public, but not a private club. Sure, a baseball diamond in a public park excludes one pair teams from playing while another one is, but that's just like saying I cant stand exactly where you are standing until you move a bit or sit on an occupied shady bench in a park until someone stands up. no laws are needed, just common courtesy. As for the public appropriation of space by force of law, or expropriation: We don't seem to mind doing it to build highways and shopping malls; but without a commercial interest to satisfy, (with the pretext of a larger common good such as jobs and traffic,) we rarely, if ever, see land expropriated to devote space for the public's use anymore. (Here I use public as a noun in the sense of people, the general public: Pupulus) The last great expropriation was for the national parks I think. Some argue that forced environmental conservation is a kind of expropriation, or even worst, a conspiracy to affect property values; but that doesn't necessarily involve access by the Public. In fact it may even result in the government proscribing both public and private access to such 'protected' land.

Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Different how? Physically? Culturally? Different in a way that can't be explained by the different history and growth patterns of the cities?
The old European piazza isn't like a park or a plaza in the sense that unlike those it wasn't meant for recreation or relaxation. It's more like a town square. Parks and landscaped public spaces came later in the form of public gardens in the tradition of the great French and English gardens. Piazzas are just empty city blocks. They don't have trees and lawns nor usually benches. There's no shade so sitting for long isn't very comfortable. You do find monuments and statues of national heroes, or a fountain; Piazza Navona in Rome is probably the more well known one. In general the piazza is used as a meeting place. A place you go take a walk in the hope you'll run into an acquaintance, (before text messaging that is.) Piazzas are generally in front of large cathedrals or mayoralties. They are more like open air market places although in larger cities markets had their own open spaces close to ports or areas more easily accessible from the countryside. Piazzas tend to be in the center of towns. In smaller towns the piazza could double as market but in general the piazza is the city's civic heart. Anything you wanted to make public, say announce a new law or decree, an execution, you'd do in the piazza. I suppose the equivalent in America are the town squares you'd find in the old northeastern towns. But then again these towns retained much of the European traditions of the early american colonizers. (17th-18th century English architecture is heavily influenced by Italian Renasaince, or Italian Mannerism as it was called.) Not to be nostalgic but we don't see town squares in post colonial towns and cities. And we probably never will again since the internet seems to have absorbed their functions. There are many schools of thoughts on the disappearance or nonappearance of the piazza or town square. Some posit that they are places where the public, the people can organize to promote social unrest. Tea party anyone? Others have argued that since the invention of the printing press and the advent of mass communication it afforded, piazzas and town squares became obsolete as places for official mass announcements.

Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Not precisely sure what you are asking. But 1st Amendment absolutism, which is concerned that all speech restrictions in a public forum be content-neutral, is a big point for many libertarians. A certain amount of libertarian work explores the way informal systems evolve to regulate common resources. Libertarian legal theory tends to focus on minimizing arbitrary, partial, or differentially-applied rules; on promoting stewardship through ownership; on preventing waste by ensuring efficient alienability; and on recognizing the interconnected nature of competing land uses.
I mean the question in the sense you mention when you write "promoting stewardship towards ownership". It seems that for a libertarian, private ownership of everything is an ideal goal. I suppose that I find that notion absurd, or at the very least, to be the codification of a simplistic and infantile egotism as a social system. While it may be true that every man is an island, we can't all live in islands. Public stewardship of some social resources such as education and judicial services tend to promote if not guarantee a necessary and essential continuity against the fickle nature of commercial markets.

Which brings me to the original paradox of public space, in that at least by pedigree it's an inherently adult space that needs to be infantilized to protect minors and prudish sensibilities in a way that doesn't infringe on rights of free expression and rights to associate. Yes there's plenty of 'adult' content being expressed in public albeit implicitly. Even in NYC where I live, there's no porn on the streets. And I couldn't post a large billboard with a provocative a quote from "Catcher in the Rye' which my son read in 6th grade, in Public school. Even a pregnant abdomen is considered inappropriate by many. I'm not trying to make an argument for porn on the streets, I consider it the professional wrestling of sexual relations. But I'm just trying to point out what i perceive to be a slow but ever increasing tendency for privatizing shared social resources in order to avoid having to deal politically with these contradictions. I don't think there's a conspiracy behind this, I do think it's a kind of natural evolution of a society that avoids dealing with difficult issues by pretending they don't exist or worst, by convincing itself they shouldn't exist.

Since we can't really privatize the streets, that's where you'll find most examples of private behavior in public space. The path of least resistance for indecent exposure seems to be down seventh avenue on gay pride, or Daytona beach during spring break, or bourbon street during Mardi Gras. I don't know of many other examples but I will guess many college towns have a similar tolerance for such behavior. I only bring up these issues because it seems to be the only form of expression that isn't protected under the first amendment. At least the ACLU hasn't brought about any lawsuits about it yet. And because societies that tolerate so called 'adult' forms of expression tend to also be the freer ones.

Public space is, in this sense, politically dangerous, and hard to control. Better not have it then?

You seem to know quite a bit about libertarian theory, I just know what I've heard Ron Paul argue in sound bites and reading through the Libertarian party website, so another question for you:

Is there, or has there ever been any purely libertarian societies in the world?

or in other words has it been tried out successfully anywhere?

Would you consider early american society before emancipation to be purely libertarian?

What's 'efficient alienability'? I couldn't find a definition online except for a mention in a summary of property law from a course at NWU...

Last edited by dameni; 05-14-2010 at 07:58 AM.. Reason: needed to correct typos and then gout wound up expanding what I wrote
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