Quotulatiousness

September 24, 2017

Rolling back the regulation tide

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle on the Trump administration’s attempt to rein-in the regulation machine of the US federal government and its many, many agencies:

One of the first things Trump did as president was to sign an executive order requiring that two regulations be rolled back for every new one that was promulgated. As a longtime advocate of rolling back regulatory complexity, I found a lot to like in this rule. Unless strenuous effort is made to regularly prune them back, regulations have a tendency to blindly grow until they have wrapped the economy so tight that nothing can breathe, much less thrive. Trump’s executive order forces us to do some very necessary maintenance.

Unfortunately, it’s a rather crude instrument for the job. It’s possible that nothing more nuanced would actually work; nuance and flexibility, alas, give regulators quite a bit of discretion to put off an annoying chore. Just the same, we should recognize the dangers of cutting with such a dull knife.

In agencies that are dealing with a genuinely new and disruptive force — one for which innovators need regulatory clarity before they can bring a product to market — such a strict regulatory requirement faces them with an unpalatable dilemma. Every new regulation that is vitally necessary means finding two regulations that aren’t. But each of those dusty old rules was created for a reason. Some of those reasons were bad; in some cases the rule never worked as intended; and in others the rule later became obsolete. But that does not describe all of our regulations. And imagine the brutal publicity that will ensue if someone dies or gets hurt in an accident that could plausibly have been prevented by a rescinded rule.

An even larger problem is that the “two for one” rule doesn’t really tell us about the relative quality of the regulations involved. An agency could satisfy that executive order by issuing a terrible, stupid, costly regulation that forced power companies to rip out their windmills, as long as it repealed two sensible and necessary regulations that (for now) prevent factories from dumping toxic waste into our watersheds.

Reducing regulatory complexity is an important goal, but it cannot be our only goal. We ought to strive for less regulation, yes, but also for good regulation, and for regulation that gives companies enough clarity to innovate and build their businesses. Unfortunately, while the Trump administration has proven enthusiastic about the first goal, we’ve seen much less talk about the others. And given how long it has taken for Trump to staff all the agencies he oversees, we haven’t really had the personnel to deliver on things like better regulation, even if doing so were the Trump administration’s main priority.

September 17, 2017

American military command and control, as adopted by the Canadian military

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ted Campbell explains why he feels the complex and cumbersome system used by the US Army (and derived from the US experience of raising, training, and running a vast army in WW2) is not well suited to the much smaller Canadian Army, yet has become the “way things are done” in Canada:

The problem, as I see it, with the American command and control system is that it is totally systematic. This is born, to some degree, out of the practical necessity that the US faced in the 1940s when it fielded a force of over 15 million men and women but it, systematic management, became something akin to a cult when Robert McNamara, who had been a pioneer of systems analysis in the US Army Air Corps in World War II and was recruited to be one of Henry Ford II’s Whiz Kids who would use those tools to help reshape American industry in early the post war years, became President John Kennedy’s Secretary of Defence (1961 to 1968). He reshaped the US military using systematic management as his main tool. It works for the administrative management of very, very large organizations … it, American style systematic management, may not work as well as many would hope, but it can, and did, bring order, to a very large enterprise. But it stifles individuality and initiative, which are essential for command ~ even, I have read, American unconventional forces are forced into a very conventional systematic matrix.

Systematic management requires a great deal of rote learning and adherence to doctrine. There is a “school solution’ to every problem and that is the one that second lieutenants and lieutenant generals, alike, are required to offer … there is little room for, say, a Robert Rogers, T.E. Lawrence, Orde Wingate or David Sterling … and, in fact, even the missions of the much discussed US Seal Team 6 seem carefully managed by check lists and risk analysis and other tool of the systems analysts. The notion, as one American special forces commander had, for example, of using local animal transport in Afghanistan in 2001, remains unpopular: systems analysis says that only the latest technology can be employed and officers who break the rules do not become generals because riding horses, rather then helicopters, is not the “school solution.” The fact that it worked didn’t really matter because it violated the process.

Why does Canada follow along, uncritically?

First: we, our military, has long had a “colonial” mindset. Until the 1950s we were, for most intents, a sub-set of the British military. It went beyond “buttons and bows” (scarlet mess jackets and the same rank badges, and so on) and included important traditions, like the regimental system, tactical doctrine and equipment. Canadian officers, especially, served, often, in the British Army, in jobs up to and including (during my service) a Canadian major general serving as commander of a British division that was “on the front line” in West Germany, and attended British training courses. In the 1970s we began to shift, more and more, to be a sub-set of the American military and many Canadian generals have served in senior (but generally powerless) “exchange” postings as deputy commanders of large American formations. They come home deeply influenced by the “American way.” The same things happen to Australian and British generals. The American aim is to have all its allies adopt its systematic approach which will make interoperability (by which the US means doing what they want their way) simpler. Exchange postings, as they are called, with other forces are never bad things, not even when the lessons we learn are the wrong ones … IF we understand what we are learning. My complaint with Canadians serving in senior “exchange” posts with the US military is that the post are less about exchanging information and ideas (learning from each other) and more about indoctrinating Canadians (and Australians and Brits) with US ideas about command and control and organization and management which, to my mind, anyway, are less than useful.

September 7, 2017

QotD: The United Nations, the “ratty old sofa of geopolitics”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Years ago I asked my father why a ratty old sofa was still in the house. He replied simply: It’s there because it’s there. The words had a strange finality about them. Almost metaphysical in their profundity. What we were talking about was a sofa purchased years ago, used and abused by the family, and then unceremonious shunted into an obscure room when the newer model arrived. As I recall on delivery day there had been talk of carting away the ratty old sofa. The haulers had offered to take it — for a price. My father balked and so it has remained. A dusty old sofa living out its days, slowly crumbling into the parquet.

The philosophy of furnishing a suburban home is important. It reveals something about the human psyche. When we spend a lot of time and effort bringing something into our lives, we become reluctant to dispense with it. When that particular something is a big and bulky item, requiring much effort to remove, lethargy places its death grip upon it. Think of how many things in your life where you can say: It’s there because it’s there.

Gingerly moving from the life of individuals to the life of nations we run into the same problem. Things that are there because no one has bothered to get rid of them. In the dim and distant recesses of the national memory a purpose was once understood. That purpose is long done and gone. Habit and lethargy defend the otherwise indefensible. This brings us to the ratty old sofa of geopolitics: The United Nations.

In one of those fits of New Deal liberalism that has cost America so much in treasure — and occasionally blood — it was resolved after the Second World War that world peace would be secured by creating a council of nations. This was suppose to be a new and improved version of the League of Nations. The much maligned League had been set-up after the First World in a fit of Wilsonian liberalism. It too was designed to secure world peace. Rather than junk the original concept entirely the United Nations simply tweaked it. As generations of history textbooks have wisely explained the neo-league had a Security Council which recognized the reality of Great Power politics.

[…]

The UN has been far more successful than the League of Nations in one very important way: It has survived. The most important thing for any bureaucracy is to survive. Accomplishing its intended goal is secondary if not outright dangerous. If the War on Poverty had been won why would we need three-quarters of the federal government? If complete world peace existed then the UN would look even more pointless than it does now.

The key to the UN’s survival has been one thing: Guilt tripping the United States. Suggesting that if the US failed to fund the UN it would lead to war and devastation through out the globe. Financially the UN cannot survive without American largesse. Diplomatically it exists at the sufferance of the American government, occupying prime Manhattan real estate in defiance of economics and common sense. Had they put the General Assembly building in Newark perhaps the foreign diplomats would have all gone home by now.

Richard Anderson, “The Greatest Waste of Money On Earth”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2015-09-29.

August 26, 2017

When is an archaeological artifact merely “recyclable”?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Government, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Sweden, apparently, it’s actually becoming a common practice to discard “excess” metal artifacts for literal recycling:

One of the amulet rings from the Iron Age that archaeologists are recycling. Previously, this type of object was saved, says archaeologist Johan Runer.
(Photo from Svenska Dagbladet, caption from Never Yet Melted)

Rough translation from Swedish language article in Svenska Dagbladet:

    While the debate about burning books is raging in the media, Swedish archaeologists throw away amulet rings and other ancient discoveries. It feels wrong and sad to destroy thousands of years of ritual arts and crafts, and I’m not alone in feeling so.

    “What you do is destroy our history! Says Johan Runer, archaeologist at Stockholm County Museum.

    Amulet rings from the Iron Age, like Viking weights and coins, belong to a category of objects that, as far as Runer knows, were previously always saved.

    He tried to raise the alarm in an article in the journal Popular Archeology (No. 4/2016), describing how arbitrary thinning occurs. Especially in archeological studies before construction and road projects, the focus is on quickly and cheaply removing the heritage so that the machine tools can proceed.

    He works himself in these kinds of excavations. Nobody working in field archeology wants to get a reputation as an uncooperative “find-fanatic” but now he cannot be quiet any longer.

    “It’s quite crazy, but this field operates in the marketplace. We are doing business,” says Runer.

    Often, especially in the case of minor excavations, there is a standing order from the county administrative boards that as few discoveries as possible should be taken.

    If you think it seems unlikely, I recommend reading the National Archives Office’s open archive, such as report 2016: 38. An archaeological preamble of settlement of bronze and iron age before reconstruction by Flädie on the E6 outside Lund.

    In the finds catalog, coins, knives, a tin ornament, a ring and a weight from the Viking Age or early Middle Ages have been placed in the column “Weeded Out”.

August 17, 2017

Words & Numbers: The Illusion of School Choice

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Education — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 16 Aug 2017

In private schools, as in private enterprise in general, poor performance drives funding away by driving paying customers away. Yet in public schools, poor performance is used as an excuse for increased funding. With incentives like these, is it any wonder that public schools are failing our children so badly? Isn’t it time to inject some competition into the system?

Education for all is a worthy wish. So is food for all. But we don’t force poor people to eat state-produced food. Even food stamp recipients get to choose where to shop. Why shouldn’t beneficiaries of public education spending get to choose where to send their kids?

Our hosts James R. Harrigan and Antony Davies want to know…

August 16, 2017

QotD: Management

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

I am no great admirer of management as a science or of managers as people. The latter tend to speak a strange language, a jargon neither elegant nor poetic; they buy very dull books at airports, they are often shifty and ruthless, and they seem to me to live in a constant condition of bad faith. They are bureaucrats pretending to be entrepreneurs even when they work for the state, an organization that secures its solvency by the simple expediency of printing more money — in fact, not even by printing it anymore, simply by adding a few naughts on computer screens. We live in a regime of paper money without the paper.

Presumably most managers want to be managers; it is their ambition to become such, though some, I think, are sucked into management from other activities without a full realization of what is happening to them. At any rate, they soon come to have a sense of importance and entitlement by comparison with everyone else in society, even the nominal owners of the enterprise in which they work, for they believe themselves to be doing the world’s real work, as it were. James Burnham, in his book The Managerial Revolution, pointed this out as long ago as 1941:

    The managers’ training as administrators of modern production naturally makes them think in terms of co-ordination, integration, efficiency, planning; and to extend such terms from the realm of production under their immediate direction to the economic process as a whole. When the managers think about it, the old-line capitalists, sunning themselves in Miami and Hawaii or dabbling in finance, appear to them as parasites, having no justifiable function in society….

They therefore appropriate shareholders’ funds (or public money) with a good conscience, reasoning that without them there would be no such funds in the first place.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Flying Off the Handle”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-10-10.

August 15, 2017

The Civil Service on Helping Foreign Nations

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 23 Nov 2010

Taken from Yes, Prime Minister

August 12, 2017

End supply management in one swell foop!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

As always, Colby Cosh can express my thought far more eloquently than I can myself:

Mad Max tried to sugar-coat it as much as possible. They rejected that option with great vigour. Now let’s just burn the whole thing down … before Trump forces us to.

August 2, 2017

Ontario has scared off foreign home-buyers, but bureaucratic delays still make housing more expensive

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Josef Filipowicz and Steve Lafleur explain why Ontario’s recent crack-down on foreign home-buyers in the Greater Toronto Area still leaves one of the biggest barriers to affordable housing untouched:

The Ontario Legislature in Queen’s Park, Toronto. (via Wikimedia)

According to a recent announcement from Queen’s Park, 4.7 per cent of properties purchased in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe (between April 24 and May 26) were acquired by foreign individuals or corporations. This in the wake of the raft of measures announced in April including a 15 per cent “Non-Resident Speculation Tax” ostensibly aimed at improving housing affordability.

It’s difficult to say how this portion of the housing market — foreign buyers — ultimately impacts the cost of buying or renting in Canada’s biggest urban region, and it’s far too soon to estimate the effects of the myriad of policy changes the Ontario government is introducing. But what we do know is that the laws of supply and demand apply to housing, and it’s hard to believe that a small percentage of buyers are responsible for the massive appreciation of housing prices in the GTA over the past decade. Rather than focus on a small tranche of buyers, we should focus on ensuring that regulations don’t prevent the supply of new housing from meeting demand.

[…]

So what’s preventing cities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe from issuing more building permits?

In short, red tape at city hall. Between 2014 and 2016, Fraser Institute researchers surveyed hundreds of homebuilders across Canada to better understand how government regulation affects their ability to obtain permits. In the Greater Golden Horseshoe, it typically takes one-and-a-half years to obtain a permit in this region, and per-unit costs to comply with regulation amount to almost $50,000. Approval timelines can also be affected by the need to rezone property. Approximately two-thirds of new homes in the region require this procedure, which adds 4.3 months (on average) before builders can obtain permits.

Another deterrent to more supply is local opposition to new homes. Survey results show that council and community groups in Toronto, King Township and Oakville are more likely to resist the addition of new units in their neighbourhoods, effectively preventing newcomers from moving in.

Update, 3 August: Mission accomplished. Toronto home sales plummeted 40 percent in July.

July 27, 2017

The EU is so abstruse that career UK civil servants are “not up to the task of understanding the complexities of EU processes and regulations”

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Samizdata‘s Natalie Solent linked to this article at Geopolitical Futures, saying that it suggests the kind of artificial, obfuscated complexity that kept ancient Egyptian priests in their secure and powerful positions for centuries:

In recent weeks, EU negotiators have claimed that the British negotiators of Brexit are not sufficiently sophisticated to understand the complex issues being dealt with, and that, in essence, it is frustrating for EU negotiators to deal with unskilled negotiators. I have found that dealing with unskilled negotiators has frequently created opportunities for me, but apparently the EU wants to have a better team to play against.

A great deal of this is, of course, political maneuvering. The EU desperately wants to avoid a British withdrawal from the bloc. By making this charge, it hopes to discredit the British negotiating team and sow distrust between the British public and the negotiators. Implicit in what is being said is that the British team is going to fail to get a good deal for Britain, and that therefore the risks of Brexit for Britain are pyramided. Why the EU wouldn’t keep this fact secret, and negotiate a superb deal for itself, is a mystery, but the posture is almost that the EU wants to save the British from their own stupidity.

It’s not a bad maneuver, but it unravels at a certain point. The British team consists of well-educated and experienced civil servants. In claiming that this team is not up to the task of understanding the complexities of EU processes and regulations, the EU has made the strongest case possible against itself. If these people can’t readily grasp the principles binding Britain to the EU, then how can mere citizens understand them? And if the principles are beyond the grasp of the public, how can the public trust the institutions? We are not dealing here with the complex rules that allow France to violate rules on deficits but on the fundamental principles of the European Union and the rights and obligations – political, economic and moral – of citizens. If the EU operating system is too complex to be grasped by British negotiators, then who can grasp it?

The EU’s answer to this is that the Maastricht treaty, a long and complex document, can best be grasped by experts, particularly by those experts who make their living by being Maastricht treaty experts. These experts and the complex political entities that manage them don’t think they have done a bad job managing the European Union. In spite of the nearly decade long economic catastrophe in Southern Europe, they are content with their work. In their minds, the fault generally lies with Southern Europe, not the EU; the upheaval in Europe triggered by EU-imposed immigration rules had to do with racist citizens, not the EU’s ineptness; and Brexit had to do with the inability of the British public to understand the benefits of the EU, not the fact that the benefits were unclear and the rules incomprehensible. The institutionalized self-satisfaction of the EU apparatus creates a mindset in which the member publics must live up to the EU’s expectations rather than the other way around.

July 26, 2017

QotD: From local private charity to national government social program

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Government, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In a small town, the impulse to assist the poor and disorganized was direct, and the people being helped were known to everyone. Big cities with their concentrated slums of poor immigrants led to social service agencies, funded at first by churches and cities, and then by state and federal governments. As the source of the assistance became impersonal, so did the aid — and the direct contact between those assisting and those assisted declined. Instead of the local church matrons with their bourgeois ideas of proper behavior and work, harassed social workers with enormous caseloads processed cases quickly, and the ideology of government assistance changed so that any behavioral expectation of the client population was viewed as an affront to their dignity.

In time, the government assistance ethos spread to every corner of the country and crowded out the local community services. Meanwhile, locally-controlled schools were gradually taken over by higher levels of government and distant union bureaucracies so that the influence of local parents was minimized. This was viewed as “progressive,” since distant elites thought local school boards and parents were too parochial and backward to be entrusted with decisions, and would get in the way of teaching the correct materials.

The incorrect application of emotions of sympathy and support to faceless categories of people like “the poor” and “the undocumented” removes any possibility of understanding the real situations of each of the category’s members. A hazy idealized poor family is envisioned, then a response that would be appropriate if that family lived next door (help them!) leads to voting for politicians that offer new programs to help “people like that.” By misapplying family and community feelings to higher levels of government, voters put into place a bureaucracy that misses most of the social signalling features of local groups and takes tax money to grow itself, crowding out local groups (and the valuable social signals that maintained bourgeois standards.)

Jeb Kinnison, “Real-life ‘Hunger Games'”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-25.

July 19, 2017

Conducting business in DC isn’t like some stagnant backwater like NYC

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

It’s no wonder that Il Donalduce‘s squad of family members and friends are finding all the quicksand in the DC swamp — there are rules of conduct inside the Beltway that you must know and obey to get things done:

The Trump family is no doubt canny about the dog-eat-dog landscapes of the Manhattan real estate lagoon. But when the Trumps arrived in Washington, as political novices they entered an entirely new swampland, with which so far they remain unfamiliar. Their transition down the coastal corridor is sort of like leaving a Florida bog of alligators and water moccasins and thereby assuming one is de facto prepared to enter the far deadlier Amazon jungle of caimans, piranhas, and Bushmasters.

Here, then, are some Beltway Swamp rules:

1) Improper Meetings. Always meet in his/hers jets, “accidentally” nose to nose on the airport tarmac. Style mitigates unethical behavior. When caught, claim the discussions centered around “grandchildren.” In contrast, never go to any meeting with a Russian anything. If one must meet a foreign official for dubious reasons, then a revolutionary Cuban, Iranian, or Palestinian is always preferable.

[…]

3) Opposition Research. The more outlandish and impossible the charge, the more it will be believed or at least aired on CNN. Rumored sex without substantial deviancy is not necessarily compelling (e.g., urination is a force multiplier of fornication). As a general rule, ex-intelligence officers-turned-private investigators and campaign hit men are both the most lurid and least credible.

4) Leaking. Assume that those who collect intelligence also are the most likely to leak it, the FBI director not exempted. The more the deep state recalls the excesses of J. Edgar Hoover, the more it exceeds them. Expect every conversation, email, and text to show up on the desk of one’s worst enemy—at least for a few seconds before being leaked to the press. The more a journalist brags on airing a supposedly smoking-gun leak, the less the public cares. In sum, leaks are more likely to be fabrications than improperly transmitted truths.

[…]

6) The Deep State. Signing legislation into law or issuing executive orders does not equate to changes in government policy. Assume that almost any new law or reform can be nullified by cherry picking a liberal judge, serial leaking, or through bureaucratic slowdowns by careerist and partisan bureaucrats. The deep state works with those who rapidly grow the government; it seeks to destroy those who grow it slowly. The most powerful man in Washington is a federal attorney. With a D.C. jury and an unlimited budget and staff, he can bankrupt most anyone with dubious charges, on the assurance that when they are dropped or refuted, the successful defendant is ruined and broke while his failed government accuser is promoted. The more conservative the target, the more likely his lawyer should be liberal.

July 16, 2017

QotD: The value of price controls in World War 2

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Government, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In World War II price controls [in the United States] were administered by the Office of Price Administration (OPA). I have been present at discussions where serious attempts were made to assess the OPA’s damage to the Allied cause, measured in terms of the equivalent number of German panzer divisions. The estimates tended to be large.

Steven Landsburg, The Armchair Economist, 2012 revised edition.

July 11, 2017

QotD: The non-profit scam

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Oddly, another form of this non-profit scam exists in my industry. As a reminder, my company privately operates public recreation areas. Several folks have tried to set up what I call for-profit non-profits. An individual will create a non-profit, and then pay themselves some salary that is equal to or even greater than the profits they would get as an owner. They are not avoiding taxes — they still have to pay taxes on that salary just like I have to pay taxes (at the same individual tax rates) on my pass-through profits.

What they are seeking are two advantages:

  • They are hoping to avoid some expensive labor law. In most cases, these folks over-estimate how much a non-profit shell shelters them from labor law, but there are certain regulations (like the new regulations by the Obama Administration that force junior managers to be paid by the hour rather than be salaried) that do apply differently or not at all to a non-profit.
  • They are seeking to take advantage of a bias among many government employees, specifically that these government employees are skeptical of, or even despise, for-profit private enterprise. As a result, when seeking to outsource certain operations on public lands, some individual decision-makers in government will have a preference for giving the contract to a nominal non-profit. In California, there is even legislation that gives this bias a force of law, opening certain government contracting opportunities only to non-profits and not for-profits.

The latter can have hilarious results. There is one non-profit I know of that is a total dodge, but the “owner” is really good at piously talking about his organization being “cleaner” because it is a non-profit, while all the while paying himself a salary higher than my last year’s profits.

Warren Meyer, “The New Rich – Living the High Life Through Your Non-Profit”, Coyote Blog, 2015-09-29.

July 10, 2017

“Jane Jacobs was fatal to conventional wisdom”

Filed under: Books, Bureaucracy, Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Reason, Sam Staley reviews Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs, edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring, calling it “Jane Jacobs in her own words”:

In her books, articles, and activism, [Jacobs] destroyed the 20th century urban planning groupthink and laid out a radically different way of thinking about cities and society — one that rejected the prescriptive and centralized approach that dominated the planning profession, and one that instead highlighted how decentralized, market-driven decisions lay the foundation for vibrant and sustainable cities.

A journalist rather than an academic, Jacobs worked regular gigs at Iron Age and Architectural Forum and contributed to popular magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s. By the time she took a leave of absence from Architectural Forum to write what remains her most iconic book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs was already starting to acquire a reputation as a fierce critic of conventional top-down planning.

She was not opposed to planning per se. Indeed, she believed small-scale plans were vital to cities’ sustenance. Neighborhood parks were essential to urban vitality, for example, and their location required planning to be successful. But to work, planning — and governance in general — needed to be devolved to the neighborhood level, moving away from large-scale systems that concentrate authority and power. Jacobs was thus an ardent critic of regional planning and regional government. Regionalizing, or “amalgamating,” made city government too far removed from the governed.

[…]

During the 1950s and ’60s, Jacobs used her position at Architectural Forum to examine urban development and redevelopment. Though the magazine championed modernist city planning, Jacobs emerged as one of modern planning’s chief critics during her stint there. Her journey from urban observer to planning critic began, as Zipp and Storring point out, as she examined how buildings, and then cities, worked rather than how they looked or were designed to function.

In the process, she started to develop her critique. “Philadelphia’s Redevelopment: A Progress Report” (July 1955) reviews the city’s redevelopment plans for 10,000 blighted acres. The city avoided large-scale slum clearing — what economist Martin Anderson would call “the federal bulldozer” a few years later — but still targeted large swaths of land for redevelopment using “a busybody concern with what private developers will be up to next.” (It wasn’t all bad, though: She lauded the city for incorporating some neighborhood features that reinforce such institutions as churches, schools, and playgrounds.) Another Forum column discusses the difference between “pavement pounders” — planners who walk around cities and neighborhoods to get a feel for the urban fabric and dynamic — and “Olympians,” those who plan based on maps and statistics. Her appreciation for small businesses as the glue that holds neighborhoods together comes out in “The Missing Link in City Redevelopment” (June 1956), where she laments the tendency to think of businesses merely as storefronts or spaces, not as enterprises that also serve as social centers and community anchors.

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