Saturday, November 26, 2005

George Best, R.I.P.

George Best has died. George Best, the man who dazzled a generation with his footballing brilliance; the man who said about the loss of his fortune that he spent most of it on wine, women and fast cars, but he just wasted the rest; the man who once when asked by a journalist to what he could attribute his fall from grace, looked around the hotel lobby where they were seated, at the two blondes on his arm, and at the limousine waiting for him in the forecourt and replied, "What fall?"

Farewell, George. As Tom Waits once said, it's better to be a good liver than to have one.

[UPDATE: I notice The Times has a different version of the 'fall from grace' story. I'm sticking to the one I heard. Legend and myth-making seemed to follow Best around, just as beauty queens did.]

Books on the bedside table, 2

Some current or recent reading material, all of which I can recommend:

The Hope, by Herman Wouk. Called "magnificent" by Anthony Burgess, that was enough to lure me into its pages. An epic novel describing the birth of modern Israel, told through the lives and fortunes of its leading characters. (You may remember Wouk's Winds of War which told a story of WWII in a similar fashion, and which was turned into a TV mini-series?) The Hope is well crafted and enjoyable.

The Kingdom of the Wicked, by Burgess himself, is set in the same geographical area as Wouk's novel but two thousand or so years earlier. Another historical novel, this follows on from Burgess's Man of Nazareth (from which another mini-series came) and purports to recount the story of Paul and the Apostles in setting out to take over the world with their stories of Messiahs, miracles and other madness. Not Burgess's best, but it still shits all over lesser accounts of the same events, such as those by the Apostles themselves . . .

Moving on now to something completely different: Gordon Corrigan's Mud, Blood and Poppycock is an extended argument that all you know about the horrors of First World War trench warfare -- the stories of "lions led by donkies" -- the senseless slaughter, all so that as Blackadder observed, "General Haig can move his drinks cabinet a hundred yards closer to Berlin -- the talk of a 'lost generation' -- all this Corrigan argues is the stuff of myth and nonsense. At least, that is, for trench warfare on the Western Front, for the British, for most of the war. In that severely delimited fashion I think he does succeed, pointing out for example that the Generals and the military tactics adopted were highly successful -- for example, troops advancing under the cover of rolling artillery barrages would often succeed where later even tanks could not; pointing out too that the slaughter on first day of the Somme offensive, with 20,000 British dead, was both necessary, given the available materiel and the events at Verdun, and tragic -- but comparable in loss of life to, for example, the first day of the D-Day offensive in the Second World War, when 9,500 Allied soldiers died in the battle to begin the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.

A book worth reflecting upon if you think you know WWI.

Last but not least, Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus, an entertaining meditation as Eco desribes it on "the reasons we can tell an elephant from an armadillo (as well as why we don't normally mistake our wife for a hat) . . [a problem] even Kant (as we shall see) not only failed to solve but didn't even manage to express in satisfactory terms." For his part, Eco himself offers much indecision, gleefully taking as his motto "a quotation from Boscoe Pertwee, an eighteenth century author (unknown to me) which I found in Gregory (1981:558): 'I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.'"

Both the motto and his manner of describing it give a clue to the book: it's playful, learned and offering more questions than answers but with much insight and a friendly wink at his own footnoting. Less enjoyable than Eco's fiction, but still delightful for all that. [And if you really care what I think about Kant, you might be interested in several articles on the 'catastrophic spider' written in response to a Kantian philosopher, Kant Can't, Kant Couldn't, Kant Didn't, and Kant Really Wasn't -- the first by Lindsay Perigo, and the last three by yours truly.]

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Quiz: What Sort of Intellectual Are You?

Another dumb quiz. This one tells me:

ScientificIntellectual

What Sort of Intellectual Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, November 25, 2005

Beer O'Clock


I can see myself getting outside a few of these tonight.

Hope the rest of you have a good one too.

Cheers

Insulting all nations

This blog couldn't be truly Not PC without telling you about the great Racial Slur Database that allows you to insult everyone from every nation, including ours. Bookmark it and memorise it, you sheep rooters. [Hat tip Craig Ranapia]

Buy something day

Buy something today. That's the message from LibertyScott, who's fisking the Buy Nothing Day, and the know-nothing mouthings of those promoting it. As he says, the Buy Nothing Day
is an ill-conceived attempt to make people in wealthier countries feel guilty about their consumption, based largely on the theory that everything that exists on earth is part of a zero-sum game.
Don't buy into it. Read Scott instead.

High schools given the high jump?

High schools are "outmoded holding pens which should be abandoned" says Bard High School President Dr Leon Botstein. Students at New York's Bard High School follow the Year 9 and 10 programme, and then instead of the traditional "lost opportunity" -- which is how the US Department of Education described the high school senior year -- they begin uni classes given at the school, working towards an associate degree. It seems to work.

An article by David Kirkpatrick of the US Freedom Foundation points out that:

The problems of secondary education are hardly a new revelation. In "Secondary Education Reform," written in 1976 by A. Harry Passow, high school was described as "the most absurd part of an educational system pervaded by absurdity."

About the same time, a Carnegie Commission on Higher Education report concluded there is so much duplication between the last two years of high school and the first two years of college, that one or two could be eliminated.

Why not? As Kirkpatrick concludes, "As educators who claim to teach critical thinking and problem solving, why can't we think critically and solve some of the problems of conventional schooling?"

Linked article: Is Traditional High School Obsolete?

Top Googles to 'Not PC'

libertarian
wet soldiers (not on front page)
opposes to mozart effect (1st at Yahoo)
water bottled at putaruru (not on front page)
americans identifying nz on a map (not on front page)
summary of the seven-lesson school teacher (2nd on Yahoo)
getting rights right (5th)
lord denning approach to precedent (4th)
avian flue exaggerated (not on front page)
classical sex (1st on MSN)
time preference theory of interest (42nd)
newsweek baby boomer quiz (3rd on Yahoo)
nuclear power blair blog (not on front page)
jorn utzon (5th at MSN)
reasons for the war in iraq (not on front page)
bush was right (10th at Yahoo)
urban design (not on front page)
pictures of female soldiers iraq (not on frontpage)
iglesia de la medalla de la virgen milagrosa
(1st at Yahoo)
virgen milagrosa (2nd at Blog Search)

Amongst other oddities we also had the clearly delusional "pc hot for 2006," the mysterious "i want watch the pakistani stage dramas," and the frankly bizarre "bloody virgen blogs" and "i want to fuck brian larsen." Quite where I would send these searchers, I really don't know. Any ideas?

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Corbusier -- Ronchamp


Despite being arguably the most responsible for many of the excesses of twentieth-century town planning, and depite producing a clutch of buildings with no heart, no soul and (mostly) no colour other than white -- and most of them just variants on a simple theme: a box -- Le Corbusier (AKA Corbu) did produce one building worthy of worship.

The Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp is that building. Visit it any day, and you will find a carpark overrun with Citroens, and a building swarming with earnest young men sporting bow-ties. Briefly out of fashion with the over-earnest for being 'sexist' -- it's all to do with that entrance, I'm told -- this is one building that does deserve all its accolades.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Architects awards

Last night's NZ Institute of Architects Awards in Auckland featured "houses which . . . stepped away from brutal modernism towards a more personal style. "The one-room glass box with kitchen, living and dining altogether has been around for a while and some architects are now exploring other ideas," said Institute of Architects judging convener Craig Moller." Herald story here.

Well, he would say that, wouldn't he. The photo at right would have been chosen by the Institute to showcase the awards, and also presumably to highlight this bold new direction -- it's a bach, by the way. Now, photos aren't always a good way to judge a building, but the selected photo causes a few words to spring to mind, and 'more personal' and 'relaxed' aren't three of them. What words would you use?

Cullen: 'Whoops!'

DOMINION: Millions at stake in loan loophole

Economics genius Michael Cullen says he will be talking to Inland Revenue about 'closing the student loan loophole' exposed by one Thomas Banfield, who reclaimed his voluntary student loan repayments and whacked it in the bank to earn interest -- a smart thing to do when your loan is interest-free and the bank is giving you back eight per cent on your deposit.

'Closing the loophole,' Cullen calls it. But Cullen's 'loophole' is not the ability to reclaim voluntary repayments; the 'loophole' is the whole no-interest, money-for-nothing, student-loan election-bribe fiasco. Labour said during the election that 'there was unlikely to be a big rise in the number of students taking out loans, even if they were interest-free.' As anyone with a brain knew at the time, they were wrong. It's looking like another $1 billion error.

(Supplementary question: If you publicly predict an outcome that you know by your own judgement is the opposite of what will occur, is this a lie? Or just an election promise.)

Outsourcing the literate

It isn't only New Zealand that has been infected with the virus of school-induced illiteracy. As reported here the other day, aproximately 18 percent of adult New Zealanders are functionally illiterate, but the US has a similar State-induced mediocrity, just one reason for the popularity there and elsewhere of the practice of 'outsourcing.' 'Geography has been eliminated by technology,' and countries like India, China, Malaysia and even Egypt and Ghana are now becoming leaders in supplying staff who work offshore, but are linked to the home company by technology. All these places have two things that distinguish them from us, and make them attractive to local employers: lower wages, and literate workers.

Literate workers are the necessary foot soldiers of a knowledge economy. When literacy dives at home, as it has -- more feel-good crap and less real learning seems to be the motto of the state's factory schools both here and the US -- then it becomes easier to hire literate workers 'outsourced' from offshore.

Even as our own literacy levels plummet, this drive for literate workers outsourced from offshore offers an enormous incentive for those countries to improve their education systems.,
The good news is that all this competition is encouraging many countries, regions and cities to take a hard look at their education systems, infrastructure and other fundamental drivers of competitiveness. That ultimately raises productivity and prosperity in all locations. And for companies, it means they are all the more likely to find the ideal solution for each one of their functional needs, somewhere in the world,' [says Simon Bell, director of AT Kearney`s Global Business Policy Council].
So at least literacy is valued somewhere, if not yet in the classrooms of New Zealand and the United States.

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Bush was right, #2

'Bush lied, thousands died.' You can hear that malicious mantra from every direction: from the extreme left, from anti-war libertarians, and from newsreaders and daily editorials all over. "These sentiments are intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible," says Victor David Hanson in response.

While the U.S. military conducts a brilliant campaign to implement democratic reform that is on the eve of ending with an Iraqi parliament, while there has been no repeat of promised 9/11 attacks here at home, and while the entire dictatorial Middle East from Lebanon and Syria to Egypt and Libya is in crisis — baffled, furious, or impressed by a now idealistic United States pushing for something different and far better — our intellectual and political elite harp on "WMD, WMD, WMD..."

Sadder still, they stay transfixed to this refrain either because polls show that it is good politics or it allows them a viable exit from an apparently now unpopular war.

But no, not so fast.

History has other lessons as well — as we know from the similar public depression during successful wars after Washington's sad winter at Valley Forge, Lincoln's summer of 1864, or the 1942 gloom that followed Pearl Harbor and the fall of the Philippines, Singapore, and Wake Island. When this is all over, and there is a legitimate government in the Middle East that represents the aspirations of a free people, the stunning achievement of our soldiers will be at last recognized, the idealism of the United States will be appreciated, our critics here and abroad will go mute — and one of the 23 writs for a necessary war of liberation will largely be forgotten.

In short, they're wrong, and Bush was right. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's reported death is just one more very large mark for the positive side of the ledger. While reflecting on Hanson's arguments, you might want to remind yourself of Christopher Hitchens' Top ten reasons for the war in Iraq from August. "The case for overthrowing Saddam was unimpeachable," said Hitchens.

Linked article: War & Reconstruction -- For Bush’s critics, even hindsight is cloudy.

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Price Tower -- Frank Lloyd Wright


"The tree that escaped the crowded forest" was what Wright called his Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Truth be told, he'd designed an earlier version of this for the Manhattan jungle that wasn't built, and he was eager to see it erected anywhere. Discounting his earlier collaborations with Louis Sullivan, the Price Tower was his only built skyscraper. More pictures here.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Vanity

Heh heh. New photo up. Heh heh. Well, it's not that old. (Quiet you.)

Gotcha! (Maybe)

INDEPENDENT, UK: Iraq awaits verdict of DNA test on Zarqawi 'corpse'

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in the Middle East, may have been killed in a firefight in Iraq, according to the country's Foreign Minister. Hoshyar Zebari said yesterday that urgent DNA tests were being carried ou
t on the bodies of several people who died when US and Iraqi forces stormed a house in the northern city of Mosul.

To mark the event, I'm posting an old Cox and Forkum cartoon which in itself explains why this is a good piece of news. Gotcha! We hope.

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When conservation kills

Staff at the Department of Conservation (DoC) have a joke they often share with each other: What's the best way to eradicate possums? Answer: Give them to DoC to protect. Yesterday's meditation on the relative superiority of private efforts in constructing public projects is also reflected in the superiority of many private conservation efforts over those presided over by the Department.

Roger Beattie (pictured right) and his wife run a 20-hectare, predator-proof, buff weka reserve on the Banks Peninsula, and he tells a fascinating tale about DoC efforts to discourage the Beatties even while DoC staff themselves kept killing weka on the Chathams. He concludes:

We have spent more time and effort fighting bureaucrats than saving wildlife. I believe DOC would rather have native species die out than be saved privately. DOC has a vested interest in endangered species.

Roger talked about the failures of DoC and the setting up of his weka conservancy in The Free Radical back in 1994. Here's a link to a scans of page 1, and page 2. Beattie points out that government-run operations like the Mt Bruce Endangered Species Unit have "a vested interest in keeping native birds endangered," and says "the best way to get conservation thriving in New Zealand is to make it turn a profit." Quite right. If people value conservation -- if they really and truly value it -- then that value will be reflected in their wallets.

The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is one place relying on that support, and by all accounts are achieving great success. (I'd love to hear more accounts from anyone involved: Crog?). And it's the same story told by Dr Graham Webb in Darwin, who says that farming endangered animals is the best way to protect them. "At the very least," he says in an article titled 'Eat Them, Skin Them, Save Them', "you can give landowners some commercial incentive to pursue conservation more than they are able to do today."

Quite right.

They're everywhere

There's someone that Susan the Libertarian is eager to meet, someone who - if you believe all you read -- apparently represents a dying breed. She would like to meet "the one single, solitary Kiwi who's never been":

1. Molested by Dad, Mum or any family member, schoolteacher, scoutmaster or church leader

2. Obese, anorexic or bulemic

3. Racist, sexist, ageist or vice versa

4. In danger of getting skin cancer from the sun, or just plain old cancer from coffee, meat or anything else that tastes good

5. Addicted to anything .. alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling, sex, shopping or sugar

6. Made redundant, bankrupt or otherwise insolvent - (in spite of Christmas costs!)

7. Exposed to the latest chemical from some evil foreign corporate, or the latest potential 'pandemic' destined to wipe every human from the face of the earth; eg Sars or Bird Flu

8. Worried about hyped-up crap from greenie-reds such as Global Warming or the Ozone Hole, and finally

9. Influenced by dorks in government depts!

So where is the Kiwi who thoroughly loves life and his or her family?!

They're everywhere. They simply - and sensibly! - ignore the 'news' and all its nonsense.

[Note that you can now get Sus's Sound Bites through an RSS feed!]

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Clive Woodward: hero or zero?

The Times of London has examined the merits or otherwise of Sir Clive, based on assessments by the very players who won him the 2003 World Cup, and his reputation as a coach.

They begin by revealing that Jonny Wilkinson was once dropped for the 1999 World Cup Quarter Final on the basis of a dream that Woodward had the night before, and continue . . .
A Woodward joke among the players: why does Clive jump up and down in his seat when we score a try? Answer: because he’s never seen the move before. Was Woodward a good coach? The answer: a unanimous “no”, he left the coaching to the coaches. “Does he even class himself as a coach?” Will Greenwood asked rhetorically . . . As one player said: “People talk about Sir Alf Ramsey with absolute reverence. I don’t think that’ll be the case here.”

When public meets private

With the prompting of a recent drive-by. and a post by TinCanMan, I thought I'd re-acquaint myself with Auckland's $80million Vector Arena, according to the Auckland City Council website "a world-class, multi-functional indoor arena that seats up to 12,000 people . . . being built at Quay Park in downtown Auckland" in a public-private partnership which will is costing ratepayers the princely sum of 68 of those 80 million dollars.

Amongst the things that struck me about the Arena project was both the prospect of seeing undercover ice hockey on Auckland's waterfront -- who amongst you could fail to be excited by that? -- and the history of the project. This was a project conceived way back in 1996, and is due to be completed ten years later in 2006. Ten years! And unlike Auckland's Ayatollah Centre project, and the more recent Britomart project, both of which took many, many years to traverse their fraught paths -- and many years in which whole city precincts were shut down so that each white elephant could be erected -- the Arena project has travelled relatively smoothly and promises more value for the effort involved. But it still took ten years from conception to erection: we might perhaps view that as a benchmark time scale for a large public project done under the auspices of local government when all goes well.

How does that compare with other recent high profile public projects? Badly. Aside from the many restrictions and delays imposed on them by meddling local governments, private projects generally proceed in a fairly short and straight line rather than the long, complex and often pretzel-shaped path that council projects frequently traverse.
  • The St Lukes Shopping Centre was made over totally in a project worth $55 million in just two years, and without the welter of disruptions and closures attendant on the Britomart project (unlike council, private developers can't afford to piss off retailers in and around their developments).
  • The first stage of the enormous $538 million Sylvia Park shopping centre -- New Zealand's largest -- will open for business in August 2006. Including the time it took for the various councils to give the project the go-ahead and to include the possibility of such a thing in their various district plans and 'growth strategies,' the first stage of the complex will have been completed without undue fuss and bother in just ten years. (Bob Dey has summary of the site's history at the bottom of this page.)
  • And the $60million purpose-built Sky City Convention Centre (right) was conceived, designed and built in just three years (and probably making an enormous profit in a few more) all while council were scratching their heads, staring at their navels and wondering if a convention centre might not be a bad thing for a mayor to put his name to.
There's a lesson here about the building of infrastructure that I'm sure regular visitors to this site will be well able to draw for themselves.

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The Voluntary City

Traffic jams, restrictive zoning, slum housing, district plans, heritage plans, rate rises, mayoral embarassments ... all examples of local government failure. The idea of the Voluntary City offers an alternative in which the city's 'public goods' are provided by private means, and without the usually accompanying meddling and incipient failures. The Voluntary City integrates a large number of contemporary approaches to freedom in the modern city, and how institutions can and have been formed to make more freedom possible, and more local government unnecessary.

The Voluntary City movement is an idea whose time has come, one as Jay Jardine argues that can be embraced "whether you are a hard-core libertarian/anarchist, a social conservative or even a grass-roots green. Anyone who is interested in nurturing civil society will certainly be provided with compelling challenges to widely-held myths about the need and justification for government intervention."

Says the recent book The Voluntary City: "In many cities, government increasingly dominates life, consuming vast resources to cater to special interest groups. Decision-making has become intensely politicized, bureaucratic, and largely unaccountable to the populace." The problems that plague cities -- crime, homelessness, gridlock, pollution -- are examples of an oversupply of bureaucracy and an under-supply of freedom. [C/f: Andrew Galambos: "A traffic jam is a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity."]

The idea of The Voluntary City is an attempt to change that by making the point that communities can and have been formed and run by choice, rather than by failing and meddling central and local governments. That leaves a role for local government that as I see it is essentially just a forum in which disputes are resolved by common law, rather like a small claims court for property disputes.

A number of posts here at Not PC -- let's face it, a large number -- sit very well with the Voluntary City idea. Here for your edification is a partial list. Many of them outline the means by which the recognition and protection of property rights supports voluntarily chosen actions to produce a spontaneous order in which freedom can flourish:

THEORY:
Cue Card Libertarianism: Bureaucracy, Common Law, Pollution, Property
Decentralisation, and those who oppose it
Message to NZ: Dump the RMA
De-politicising the busybodies
The 'right' to a view
"What nuisance?" And who came to it?
RMA and the Common Law?? Answering back
Right to property = a place to stand
Countywide zoning is unwanted government control
Sprawl is good; regulation is not

PRACTICE:
Mediocrity and meddling announced by Hubbard and Co.
East Germany in East Auckland
Building slums while banning growth
Building the slums of tomorrow
Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City
Central planning pushing new boundaries
Meddling arseholes
Coromandel mining exposes "a clash of values"--Tanczos
Whose bloody land is it anyway?
Pylons v property rights
Piling on the pylon pressure
"No!" to more council powers
Libertarianz Submission to 2001 Local Government Act Review

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Thomas Cubitt: Belgravia & beyond

Grosvenor Crescent, Belgravia (right), just part of the high-density suburb of Belgravia (left and below) that was just one largely knocked up across London by rapacious developer Thomas Cubitt in the days before zoning was invented. Cubitt might almost be said to have invented the high-density London suburb damn him. People hate them*, and pay enormous amounts of money to avoid having to live in them.

Isn't it amazing just what developers were allowed to get away with in the days before those nice planners began to rein them in, thank goodness!

*This, by the way, is irony, just in case you wondered.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Harry the libertarian?


Here we go again. Every time there's a new popular enthusiasm, some libertarian or two will pop up and make the case that X -- whatever X is -- is libertarian. It happened with the Lord of the Rings, and it's happening with Harry Potter. Here's the latest argument for the proposition: Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy

Neither free nor education

DOMINION POST: It's back to school for workers.
The Labour Department estimates up to 530,000 New Zealand adults have inadequate literacy and numeracy skills. . . In a briefing to incoming ministers, the department said though the latest adult literacy and numeracy survey was nearly a decade old, 18 per cent – or 530,000 adults – had "very low" competencies. Living standards would slow in the next decade unless "skills and adaptability" of the existing workforce improved.
After too many years in operation, it's apparent that New Zealand's 'free education system' is neither free - as taxpayers can attest -- nor a system of education. Illiterate graduates of the State's factory schools have been let down by a system that promotes the government's chosen values ahead of promoting real learning. We are all the losers.

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Countywide zoning is unwanted government control

Land zoning is currently an issue in Vance County, North Carolina, where an ordinance to approve mandatory countywide zoning is being debated. The argument against zoning is summarised in The Daily Dispatch.

Ask yourself these questions. Do you support zoning laws? Do you support land development plans and restrictions? Do you support restrictions on where businesses can locate? Do you support restrictions on building designs? Do you support government management of community growth?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are licensing the government to infringe on someone else's property rights. And what happens if a bigger mob doesn't like what you are doing with your land? Once the precedent for government control has been set the monster is loose. There is no turning back.

What is zoning? Zoning is government control of privately owned land...

This isn't to say that people should be able to do whatever they wish with their homes and property - only that they should be left alone as long as their actions do not violate anyone else's rights. If someone is concerned that his neighbor's excessively tall grass is becoming a haven for disease-infested rodents, for example, then the job of local government is to provide a forum (a courtroom) where such concerns can be addressed. But the onus is on the complainant to prove not only the existence of a menace, but also that the menace is directly affecting the use and enjoyment of his property. Of course, such a standard would relegate all but the most extreme cases to the dustbin. That is precisely why little government busybodies wouldn't stand for it.

Read on here. What's the libertarian alternative? The alternative is a 'voluntary city,' in which environmental conflicts are treated as an invasion of property rights, and imposed zoning is replaced by voluntary covenenants, market processes, and the protections of common law. Professor Bernard Siegan explains the libertarian alternative here. Cato Institute propose the halfway house of a Developers' Bill of Rights here.


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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Decentralisation, and those who oppose it

[Only one post today: a long one. This post is written as a follow up to two earlier posts, Sprawl is good; regulation is not, and Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City, and to comments made therein.]

Centralisation was the ideal of monarchy . . . the individual unit compelled to revolve around a common center.
Integration is the ideal of democracy . . . many units, free in themselves, functioning together in freedom.
Frank Lloyd Wright, 'New York Times, 1932

Planners have fought the car since the planning profession was invented. The car is the enemy of the planner. The car gives people individual choice, and the freedom to locate oneself where one will; the planner despises individual choice -- the only 'taste' he recognises is his own; taste he thinks should be prescribed from above: "Get with the programme!" he commands.

The car gives people mobility, the freedom to seek out one's own happiness; the planner despises mobility -- he prefers people to seek their happiness in the 'community', in one another, rather than seeking it out in the wilds alone; lone wolves, people who seek their own happiness in their own way, are not the pillars of the community that planners would have us emulate. The car is the enemy of centralisation, and centralisation is the planner's friend -- indeed, it is centralisation that is the planner's goal: a self-anointed elite prescribing the way of living for the lumpen masses they despise.

The planners are fighting reality.

The human spirit refuses to bow to the commands of the self-anointed, and like trying to divert a raging torrent, the flow escapes the planned strangulation of the spirit and breaks free of its bounds. As Frank Lloyd Wright described so presciently back in1932, mobility and technology combined kill the planner's drive to centralisation, and makes a joke of his prohibitions:

Centralization, whether expressed as the city, the factory, the school or the farm, now has the enormous power of the machine-age setting dead against it. It is in the nature of universal or ubiquitous mobilization that the city spreads out far away and thin. It is in the nature of flying that the city disappears. It is in the nature of universal electrification that the city is nowhere or it is everywhere. . . .

By means of the motor car and the inventions that are here with it the horizon of the individual has immeasurably widened. A ride high into the air in any elevator today only shows the man how far he can go on the ground. And a view of the horizon gives him the desire to go. If he has the means, he goes, and his horizon widens as he goes. The physical release is at work upon his character. . . . After all he himself is the city. The city is going where he goes and as he goes. When he goes he will be gone where he may enjoy all that the centralized city ever really gave him, plus the security, freedom and beauty of the ground that is his. That means he is going to the country with his machine by means of the machine, in larger sense, that is opening the way for him. [From Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Disappearing City']
The city's expansion is inevitable -- equally inevitable is it's decentralisation. Technology makes it so. Fighting that is like fighting on the side of Canute, only when one fights this inevitability one fights against the will of individuals seeking their freedom from the city, not against the tides. The city will continue to go out to meet the country, and the planners will seek to bring it back again. 'Containment!' 'Sprawl!' These are their watchwords. Meanwhile, 'lifestyle' properties continue to surround the city -- the planner's compromise between individuals who seek to escape the city and the planner's wish to contain that desire -- and the planner's latest weapon, the mis-named 'Smart Growth!,' seeks again to rein us all in.

The Smart-Growth weapon of choice in Auckland at present is 'Plan Change 6,' about which I've written a few times before. Countryside living according to this thinking is “unsustainable” because it "takes productive land out of production" and “undermines public transport.” How they hate people making choices for themselves! The provisions of Plan Change 6 are in essence a plan to end countryside living and to make rural New Zealand a National Park -- such is the aim of the New Apostles of Smart Growth. Their chief achievement so far is to make Smart Growth-adopting cities severely unaffordable -- houses in New World cities that have adopted the 'urban consolidation' policies of Smart Growth take twice or more a household's income to buy as compared to those cities that have rejected this fashionable nonsense. That's twice as much -- at least -- of your life spent working to pay for your home, if you can afford to, and all due to the planner's desire for control. This is little more than a lifestyle tax, with no beneficiary except the planner's ego.

The planner would like us all reined in. Compliant. Obedient. Living where we're told to, in the way that we're told to, following the tastes we're required to subscribe to. But it can't be done, and the wish to do so impoverishes us all. The human spirit breaks out from the prisons of the soul in which they've been placed by the planners and the meddlers of the welfare state. They break out with violence sometimes: spectacularly in the banlieus and the cités of Paris; quietly and grimly in the inhospitable concrete squalor of East Europe's bourgeois-proofed, planned cities, and in the planned precincts and New Brutalism of housing projects across the US and Western Europe. 'Suburban neurosis' has nothing on the battleship existence of the housing projects, and the atopic suburbs themselves in their present zoned-and-controlled form are just another product of the planner's pen. As I've said before, the planners themselves know they've failed:

As the schemes for worker housing became increasingly uninhabitable, the plans for radiant cities drawn up by planners quietly began to be shelved, but the town planners themselves were harder to get rid of, and they began to look around for other pastures to pollute.

Jane Jacobs pointed out in ‘The Death and Life of American Cities’ that some of the places so hated by Corbu and the planning fraternity actually worked very well. The ‘mixed use’ of streets of terraced housing and brownstones in places like Manhattan she pointed out are very good places to live, with private houses often cheek by jowl with shops, cafes, and the like all an easy walk away. People choose to live in such places because they like them.

So too with the explosion of the suburbs – people everywhere including NZ like living in their own house in the suburbs. But planners hate suburbs. Too bourgeois! And they never really understood Jane Jacobs. They drew up plans that zoned the hell out of everything, ensuring that ‘mixed-use’ became a dirty word, and restricted the density of suburban subdivisions, thus ensuring more of the sprawl they are so against.

Planners hated suburbs all the more for the sprawl they themselves created. American suburbs are “a chaotic and depressing agglomeration of building covering enormous stretches of land,’ said, not a planner, but a book titled ‘The New Communist City’ produced by Moscow State University, whose graduates had designed Halle-Neustadt and the other concrete wastelands of Eastern Europe. Western planners agreed with those graduates, and bought into their “search for a future kind of residential building leading logically to high-density, mixed-use housing.”

Thus was born a new movement called ‘Smart Growth’ that eager young planners have subscribed to in droves. Portland, Oregon is the home of this drivel, and as an eager young Portland planner told a reporter in the late sixties, "We got tired of protesting the Vietnam War, read Jane Jacobs, and decided to take over Portland." They did, and the city is only now beginning to recover.

With the zeal of those for which there is only ‘one true way,’ smart-growth advocates gloss over Jacobs’s’ key point that choice is the key to what makes some places work and other places just suck, and they declared that everyone must live in the One True Way prescribed by the planning profession.

Asked when speaking in London many years ago about the desirability of the lower class's high-density 'battleship existence' for providing sturdy yeomen to fight the causes of Empire, Wright admonished the questioner and recoiled at the sentiment behind it. What sort of person would want to keep human beings in squalor, he responded? Why indeed, especially just to please the planner's own sense of taste and esthetics?

Of course, there is nothing inherently or necessarily wrong with high-density living any more than there is with low-density living -- San Tropez in summer enjoys one of the highest population densities anywhere, and you don't see anyone complaining. The crime comes when either is forced upon people by the impositions of the planning profession, and the misdirections of the architectural profession. The twentieth-century mass-production of squalor began when the Brave New World of architectural modernism joined hands with central planners and Soviets-in-spirit to knock up their Radiant Cities and shining cities of the plains; their "row after Mies van der row of glass houses," the "worker housing" that has spread over our land like the elm blight," as Tom Wolfe described in his ebullient 'From Bauhaus to Our House.' It continued with the blight of zoning and other meddling mandating the mediocrity of uniformity.

Forget this mass production of standardised misery. "There should be as many kinds of houses as there are kinds of people and as many differentiations as there are different individuals," said Wright. And why not? One man's buzzing inner-city enclave is another's high-density rabbit warren; one man's suburban paradise is another's soulless sprawl; one family's lifestyle block pastorale is another's blot on a pristine landscape. Let them all be! Why impose?

What's wrong with choice, and letting people exercise it? What's wrong with a cornucopia of choices, an abundance of options, a profusion of possible housing choices? Why can't you leave people alone to choose for themselves their own manner of living? For when you strip away the veneer of buzzwords surrounding the planners' latest fads -- for which we're all required to pay -- when you burrow beneath the latest fashionable gibberish of 'sustainability' and 'smart growth,' of 'environmental responsibility' and 'urban redevelopment,' of 'alternative transport options' and 'urban decay' and the 'new urbanism,' when you see what's underneath all the fashionable verbal clothing worn by the apostles of control, here's the raw reality you're left with: these people don't like the choices you make about how to live, and they will make you pay any price to avoid letting you do so.

Don't let them get away with it.

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