Episode 47: Oliver Porter

Episode 47: Oliver Porter

Listen on SoundCloud or subscribe via iTunes.

Oliver Porter designs and implements partnerships between municipalities and corporations, allowing cities to privatize virtually all of their functions. Since his central role in incorporating Sandy Springs, Georgia in 2005, Oliver his moved on to advising numerous other American and Japanese cities through his consultancy firm PPP Associates and has authored two books, Creating the New City of Sandy Springs and Public/Private Partnerships for Local Governments. Before his work in urban privatization, he was an executive at AT&T.

Our conversation telescopes from micro to macro, beginning with the story of Sandy Springs’ incorporation and ending with an extended back-and-forth about the role of government, human nature, and American decline. You’ll want to keep Lawrence Torcello’s discussion of John Rawls in mind as Oliver and I discuss the biological and social lotteries—which segues into a contrast with Chuck Collins regarding safety nets and opportunity. Happiness and satisfaction come up as well and we discover a resonance between Laura Musikanski’s work and Oliver’s interest in making government more responsive to the electorate. Finally, we’ll revisit the question nagging at James Bamford: what is democracy good for if it chooses to undermine itself? Let’s be honest, nobody’s going to answer that question more succinctly than Winston Churchill.

Micah and I conclude the episode with a discussion of how Oliver’s themes relate to local/central and individual/collective tensions we’ve seen elsewhere in The Conversation. We’ll also touch upon declension narratives, opportunity and historical context, and return (twice) to Mark Mykleby’s aphorism that “our assumptions have become our truths.”

Artwork by Eleanor Davis.