Economies, Policies, and Systems

Author’s Note: 

As a scientist, and someone who studies systems, it is not my job to take a political side. Sure, I have my own political and social views. However, as a systems scientist, it is imperative for me to consider the perspective of “the other” in all forms, i.e., economic, political, social, ecological, etc… And I must stress, the questions I pose in this article are but just the beginning of the exploration into the science. Even if my scientific findings suggest disagreement with proposed arguments and policies by policy makers, I still know that the intentions from those who originally proposed such ideas came from a place of empathy and solidarity with those who struggle economically, politically, and socially. 

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

Policies can affect a city and its inhabitants in different ways. Some of these effects can be positive; some of these effects can be negative; some of the these effects can have no affect at all; and some of these effects can affect a city in a variety of positive and negative ways and combinations. In other words, where a policy, or policies, can change one part of the city in a positive way, it can change another part of the city in a negative way.

Table 1
Table 1

This is important to keep in mind because as this author has demonstrated in previous articles, depressed areas of Minneapolis tend to be more sensitive to systems’ fluctuations than non-depressed areas of Minneapolis. And there are a variety of reasons for why this may be. However, it should be recognized that when it comes to systems, the why is very difficult to ascertain, but some information and knowledge can still be gained.

Since its peak in 2008, the number of foreclosures has been decreasing rather steadily with the exception of a hiccup here and there, according to Table 1. This clearly illustrates a positive behavior for the general system. Taken together with the decreasing unemployment rate, the increase of more than 22 thousand jobs in Minneapolis since 2012, the increase in the number of employed since 2012, the steady increase in weekly wages since 2006, and the decreasing numbers of foreclosures and condemned and vacant buildings over the past 8 years, Minneapolis is showing some economic power, vitality, and stability. However, where some of Minneapolis’ sub-systems (Wards) aren’t necessarily affected or dependent on market fluctuations, other sub-systems are, at least that’s the thinking.

As Table 2 suggests, the 4th and 5th Wards are highly sensitive to market forces; whereas, the 2nd Ward, as can be seen, is not, at least with respect to foreclosures. Why might this be? Well that’s the question.

But here’s an observation from the data. While those on the north side were wrestling with the great recession, it appears that the 2nd Ward was on economic cruise control, although one variable doesn’t tell the entire story. Not even close.

Figure 1
Table 2

Systems are complex entities. In the case of a city like Minneapolis, the general system is composed of an economic system, a political system, and a social system. These systems are further intertwined with the ecological system of Minneapolis, and with each policy implemented, it could have a positive or negative effect, or no effect at all. So the question becomes, should policy makers in Minneapolis be implementing general policies to the entire system? Or should they be focusing on sub-systems within Minneapolis?

As an example, would it make sense to legislate rent control for the entire city of Minneapolis when wages have been steadily increasing and the labor force has been increasing? Would it make sense for policy makers to legislate a $15 minimum wage when wages have been steadily increasing and the labor force has been increasing? And if these policies were implemented to the system, how would the system react? Would the respective sub-systems illustrate similar behavior to that of the foreclosure behavior?

Or would it make more sense to focus in on those depressed areas of Minneapolis and their respective sub-systems? Would it make sense to pass policy that addresses the economic turbulence that those in North Minneapolis, for example, have been experiencing for the past few decades? Wouldn’t development from within be a more viable policy rather than attempting to penetrate the entire system with policies that may or may not be necessary, or that would perpetuate adverse effects?

These questions of course beg more questions, which they ought to. That’s the beauty of science and scientific analysis. If curiosity, exploration, discovery, and patience are emphasized and accepted, then time, data, policies, research, and the scientific method will eventually answer these questions, tell the story, and provide guidance on urban policy.

For further exploration of this subject, please feel free to explore Analyzing a Crime Pattern of a General System and Patterns of the 5th Ward: Unemployment.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

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