Monday, June 15, 2009

Bulldozing the Economy?

This is probably one of the most strangest proposals I have ever read in my life, and cannot grasp the "logic" justifying it. Apparently it is being seriously considered that some U.S. cities should be bulldozed in order to improve the economy. What?

At this point it seems like it would be best to consult the article for clarification, but all the given justifications are useless since they provide no technical explanation whatsoever as to why this should work. All we are given are either analogies or unsupported statements as to what should be done:

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

[...]"Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," [Karina Pallagst] said.

[...]If the city didn't downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, [Mr. Kildee] added.

[...]Mr Kildee acknowledged that some fellow Americans considered his solution "defeatist" but he insisted it was "no more defeatist than pruning an overgrown tree so it can bear fruit again".

These particular excerpts constitute the bulk of the most important quotes regarding the plan, but, as you can see, none of them explain in any way whatsoever just how shrinking the confines of some cities is supposedly going to help the economy.

In times when the government, local and national, faces a budget crisis, the best thing to do is incur massive expenses? In times of wealth destruction, the best thing to do is intentionally destroy wealth? (Remember, property, not just money, counts as wealth.) In times when the threat of bankruptcy is at its highest, the best thing to do is to support actions that will accelerate the decline?

As to why this proposal will fail if enacted, the most important thing to remember in this case is that the government is funded by taxpayer money. Anything it does that costs money is costing your money.

This proposal is not free of cost. In order to carry this out, the government is going to have to fund the companies that will provide the equipment, workers, and resources; it will have to pay for the use of the equipment and the cost of labor.

The end result? *Perhaps* some savings on fuel, for maybe at the end of this tearing-down people will be within walking distance of their place of employment. But the petty savings on fuel is not enough to justify the costs of such a big deconstruction project. Are there any other benefits? No.

With a straight face, the government officials are stating "We know that your personal wealth has been threatened during this economic crisis, so we propose to help you prosper by taking some of your wealth and using it to destroy potential wealth."

Ultimately, all this project will achieve is the destruction of potential wealth. People are leaving Flint for a reason: economic decline. Contrary to what Mr. Kildee asserts, the economic decline of Flint is not just a fact of reality in the same sense gravity is, it has human causes. Only by examining those causes can anyone properly construct a plan of action as to how to solve these problems. By refusing to acknowledge the actual problem Mr. Kildee is but preparing to only perpetuate it.

I can think of no better time to recommend the reading of Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt.


Richard said...

Wow, truly dumbfounding. The line that got me the most was this, "Much of the land will be given back to nature." Right, because apparently "nature" was the original sentient owner?

Burgess Laughlin said...

There is precedence, of a sort, for this movement.

Nearly 50 years ago, a book popular among Objectivists was Martin Anderson's The Federal Bulldozer: A Critical Analysis of Urban Renewal, 1949-1962. It chronicled the Federal government's mass destruction of housing and other old buildings in the period named --all with the complicity of local governments and real estate developers. All done for the sake of "urban renewal," it was eminent domain gone wild.

Benpercent said...

Thank you for the comments. A friend on Facebook, Mr. Hayashi, has informed me that the premise behind this absurdity comes from the economist Keynes. Apparently these politicians believe that cash circulation itself is what makes an economy healthy, rather than the production of values. Of course, this is not true. If I gave you a dollar in exchange for your dollar and then give you back your dollar in exchange for my dollar, we are obviously progressing down the road to nowhere.

It does not make the absurdity disappear, but I am glad the "logic" has been revealed.

Jason said...

Forget for a moment that eminent domain on any level is improper. How could anyone view such mass destruction as positive? Only a purposeless, unmotivated person with a decayed and stagnant mind could think such an insane idea would bring positive results.