How Privatization Encourages Our Seclusion

privatization encourages our seclusionDo you know your neighbors? A lot of us don’t. Americans are less likely to spend time with the people who live near them than they were 40 years ago. Furthermore, attendance at public forums, religious groups, and civic organizations has been steadily declining. Pacific Standard’s article about this City Observatory report looks at what the report’s author, economist Joe Cortright, believes is behind these trends:

He argues that a growing preference for private spaces over the public commons has dramatically affected how Americans socialize. Nowadays, people prefer the quiet of their own homes or of private organizations than the local commons that are meant to be the centerpieces of communities. These growing divisions manifest themselves in stark ways—Cortright mentions the rise of charter schools, gated communities, and other “exclusive” communities like swimming pools—and more subtle ones, like broad economic segregation.

“Our city governments, schools, and communities are more fragmented and less inclusive than in days gone by,” Cortright writes. “In many cases—in leisure, entertainment, and schooling—we’ve enabled people to secede from the commons and get a different level and quality of service.”

In his report, Cortright points out that even when we are in public spaces, many of us make our own private cocoon by sticking in our earbuds—a universally understood “do not disturb” sign that discourages casual conversation.

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