Harvey M. Jacobs

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Selected Projects


The Taking of Europe? Globalization of an American Ideal

Private property is a foundational social institution for democratic and market-based societies. In the 18th century the framers of American democracy argued that it was specifically the ability to hold and control private property – land – that provided the conditions for political liberty. Because of the recognition of the special role of private property, provisions were put into the U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights for property’s protection against the arbitrariness of governmental action. During this period of history Adam Smith penned the foundational document of capitalist theory. It recognized that the secure right to hold and control land was key to a market economy.

This present period of history is one in which property is again dominant on the world stage. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the western countries have been actively promoting democracy and capitalism throughout the second and third worlds. At the same time, property in the developed world is a subject of renewed attention. With the rise of the modern environmental movement over the last 30 years, there has been a systematic assault on the integrity of private property. Within the last decade, a counter movement has arisen throughout the developed world to assert the necessary primacy of private property – in all democratic and market-based societies, developing and developed – and thus to dampen the effect of governmental-based regulatory environmental action. They have had surprising success in the U.S. at state level, and are a significant component of debates for regulatory reform in most western democratic developed countries.

This project addresses the social and legal transformation of private property in western Europe, a place where the subject has received limited attention to date.

Through theoretical, legal, historical, institutional and case study research a set of questions are examined. These include: is a transition in the institution of private property taking place? If so, how aware are Europeans of the concerns and criticisms about the U.S. model of private property? To what extent does it appear that Europe will learn from the United States’s lessons with the management of private property?

The research had been supported by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the University of Wisconsin Center for European Studies , and the University of Wisconsin Center for German and European Studies and a spring 2006 individual residency from the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio (Italy) Study Center . A working paper based on the research is available from the Lincoln Institute . Current plans are for the submittal of a revised manuscript (following additional research) for publication as a book in 2008.

Graduate Student Exchange in Land Use and Environmental Management

Together with Profs. Caitilyn Allen (Plant Pathology) and Don Waller (Botany), I am co-director of a multi-year exchange opportunity for graduate students across campus in the areas of land use, conservation biology, and environmental management. The exchange is funded by the French American Cultural Exchange Foundation for French-American Academic Partnerships, and the U.S. National Science Foundation, and is managed under the sponsorship of the UW Dean of International Studies. The exchange opportunity provides for 5 +/- students per year to go to France in the spring semester to take classes or undertake research (and a similar number of French students to come to UW). To date, the primary partner institution in France is AGRO-M, one of “ecole supérieure” for agriculture, located in Montpellier in the south of France. The exchange began in spring 2006 and will continue at least through the 2008-2009 academic year.

European Innovations in Urban and Environmental Management: A Seminar Series

Under seed funds from the University of Wisconsin Center for European Studies I will be organizing and coordinating a multi-year seminar series on European innovations in urban and environmental management. Europe is in a period of tremendous change with regard to urban and environmental management. The long-standing paradigm of command and control, which provided a strong role for the central state, has been challenged both theoretically and practically. Theorists and practitioners across the political spectrum are actively exploring alternatives – some of which provide stronger roles for markets mechanisms (such as through tradeable discharge permits to manage air and water pollution, or transferable development rights to manage urban growth), some of which look to non-governmental organizations to undertake roles traditionally reserved to governments (such as the management of public spaces like parks). At the same time, the European Union is articulating an integrated spatial framework for urban growth and environmental management. This series will examine the specific innovations being explored within individual countries and across Europe. Invited speakers will be scholars, professionals and activists engaged in the promotion and assessment of these innovations, individuals who study and care about the physical and social qualities of urban and environmental spaces. One of the goals for the series is to create a dialogue about the lessons to be learned from Europe for the engagement of similar problems in the U.S.