Top-down money vs Bottom-up

This exchange on Twitter is provocative. Here the implication is that top-down money is bad and bottom-up money is good. When an overlord government pushes an ambition down onto a community things will go sideways. When a community builds up the aspirations from the bottom everything will come up gardens and rose beds.

I’ve been living here for years and unfortunately I can confirm this process as I saw it as it developed. Unfortunately a large part is also due to the bad policies where a lot of stuff is handled by the state rather than local, which prevented Rome to develop as an alternative commercial hub outside tourism. Today in Rome you have a delude of top-down money (coming from the EU) to transform it even more in a Museum, and very little bottom-up money (local commerce outside tourism). With the consequence that locals are getting pushed more and more outside the city (as they can’t afford it any longer due to price spikes due to touristification) and local communities are getting slowly dismantled (new local towns are rising well outside the city).


I guess it’s easy to think of examples of both. When the freeway system was developed, thick swaths of housing, usually disadvanteged housing, were taken down and paved over. This top down money destroyed communities. Yet it is common for the bottom up money to restrict any building other than the status quo.

Maybe the good and the bad of top-down and bottom-up money can be more clearly seen if we divide up the player into different groups. The freeway system was and is an undeniable benefit for a great number of people. The ability to travel more efficiently for work and recreation continues to be a boon for many people. Yet for the small communities which were crushed, the creation of the roadways was definitely bad.

Similarly, when a community consistently maintains a certain level of housing through construction restrictions it is good for them. They are in fact reacting in a way that many would want to react for the small cluster above who were poorly impacted when the freeway system went through. Yet here it is viewed as negative because as they protect their nook in a greater metropolitan area, density is disproportionately falling to nearby neighborhoods.

I would argue that there’s a balance in there where the private needs of a small community are blended with the needs of the more expansive overarching community. Whether action is taken through top-down money or bottom-up money, there is a calculation that steers towards a balance in the obligations.

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