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Recent policy debates over the best way to address human problems can be summarized in three words: People or places?
The "people" side of the debate says that government policy should provide as many choices as possible for individuals to pursue their dreams for family, jobs, education, and community. In this restless age - with constant revolutions in family makeup, ethnicity, business, and, of course, information - people need to be ever ready to remake themselves. People need to make meaningful choices in all aspects of their lives.
The "places" side of the debate says that individuals' choices are only as good as the places where they live. It is fine to demand that people retool themselves many times over their lifetimes. But people's choices are only as good as their community's homes, schools, parks, places of worship, labor organizations, little leagues, and political parties.
In reality, both sides are right. Countless individual decisions determine the health of a community, but no individual can succeed without the intricate webs of cooperation and competition that are made possible by place.
In 2001, the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston strove to develop an agenda that responds to both sides of this debate. This book-length report is one result of this effort.