The vital importance of civic commitment // reducing optionality unlocks new commitment-specific goods
Oh yeah, in the last few months this has actually been the framework I've been thinking about NYC in. Purely because when catching up with acquaintances I realized staying here is one of my biggest certainties, whereas as you say, people like to preserve optionality, almost on instinct. Great post!
It’s a wonderful analogy and I think it was event to include your bullet points on how to know if “you’re ready”.
Knowing what we are looking for in a partner comes relatively easy to most: looks, personality, shared vision of the future etc. For the city we haven’t developed the skills to as easily identify what our ‘type’ should be.
The analogy also raises the question for me about how important it is travel to and live in other cities? Perhaps like modern dating the answer is *maybe* it can be helpful to collect more data but actually the commitment itself is more important.
Getting married after many - ultimately ephemeral - partnerships appears to be more of a predictor for failure to commit than an accumulation of wisdom.
To take this fascinating line of thinking further, I'm wondering about homebuying as a form of civic commitment. Like marriage, it's declared before a number of people: the seller, real estate agents, attorneys, notaries, lenders, etc. It's also a matter of public record and readily available through tax assessment and deed records.
Studies on civic engagement show that people's behaviors change when they become homeowners. After all, homebuying is a huge financial commitment and because mortgage payments in the beginning largely go towards interest (not to mention transaction costs too), it only makes sense when you're planning on being there for a relatively long time.
Because so much of people's net worth is in their house, it also creates a strong financial incentive for them to invest time and money into their communities in order to preserve (and grow) the value of their asset.
Some neighborhood association members discount the opinions of renters (and don't want to see more of them) because they perceive them to be transient and not committed to the long-term future, which is unfortunate because homeownership isn't an option for so many. Even if they wanted to stay for the long run, there are factors they can't control: they can easily be priced out by the market or forced to move elsewhere because of a bad landlord.
Marriage's stability is mostly dependent on the other person, but one's civic commitment has so many external factors. I wonder what mechanisms might be possible for the other side of civic commitment--the city at-large--to honor this pledge and provide the assurance that they can continue to be a part of the future (for richer or poorer).
oh this is a very interesting read. I’m surprised - looking at myself - how naturally committed I’ve been able to be in some areas of my life (same partner for 17+ years & counting [I’m 35]; friends; business partners for 10 years & counting) while it still feels extremely challenging in some others (geography being top of mind of course; longest time I’ve lived somewhere since I left my teenager bedroom more than 15 years ago is: 3 years!).