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After reading the comments to my post titled "How to Build a Country," I am left wondering if the intense backlash to "central planning" represents a valid opinion or if it is more of a psychological condition.

If it is a psychological condition, it is one I've often seen. It is the inability to distinguish between an analogy - which could be a component of a valid opinion - and something that simply reminds you of something else.

For example, if you see a bed sheet blowing in the wind on a clothesline, it might remind you of a ghost, and that would be perfectly normal. But if you think the sheet might later haunt you because of its similarity to a ghost, you probably have a psychological problem.

Likewise, when my idea of planning a city from the furniture up reminds you of Stalin and Chairman Mao, you might be suffering from a condition that just feels like an opinion to you. I want to assure you that there is no danger from Stalin, Mao, or the bed sheet. You are simply reminded of them.

Keep in mind that any newer city in this day and age is centrally planned, from the road layout to the sewer systems to the water supply. And there is always some sort of planning commission approving new construction. If you are lucky enough to live in such a planned community, you'll be happy that you can easily get from one place to another and find parking. If you live in an older city, such as Washington DC or Boston, you know it's a nightmare to get from A to B.

I've lived in three planned communities. There was an apartment complex that was planned from the ground up. There was a housing development the size of a small city. Then there was a townhouse development I lived in for several years while building the house I live in now.

Do you know what was terrible about all of those "centrally planned" communities?

Nothing.

The cost of the homes was probably half of what it would have cost an individual to build from scratch, and they had all the safety and convenience features you would need. I could quibble about closet space, and the availability of guest parking, but that's exactly the sort of thing you can fix with better central planning. If there were no centrally planned government building codes, developers would screw the living daylights out of home buyers who don't even know what questions to ask.

When it comes to building a home or even a modern city, central planning is how it is already done, and it is the only sensible model. The alternative to central planning is unambiguously stupid. No intelligent human believes you get a better result by letting people do whatever they want with their homes, streets, and sewage. If you do believe that, you are once again confusing the bed sheet with a ghost. Political freedom - which we all want - is not an analogy to home building. If you give people the freedom to build whatever homes they want, you don't get something awesome like democracy; you get a shantytown nightmare.

Keep in mind that the planned city I described would have numerous different models of homes, just as current developments do. And no one would be required to move to this city. It would compete with every other open society on earth as a desirable place to live.

My post on building a city from the furniture up is about better central planning. Central planning itself is a given. There is no rational alternative. I'm only suggesting that technology would allow an amazing leap in livability if we plan correctly, and I think a company such as Google would do a better job than a government entity when it comes to planning .

And if you see a bed sheet and that reminds you of a ghost, that isn't an opinion.

 
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Mar 14, 2014

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Dec 4, 2013
I am sorry for the loss of your father. I "got" your viewpoint on the day of his passing--knowing just how you felt and I am not outraged. I am in the middle of your audiobook and enjoying it. I lost my father at 86, too and it was not a dignified situation either. I suppose we all could do a better job of voting in politicians who are compassionate when it comes to the end of our lives. Unfortunately, $8,000 for monthly care at the end-of-life is probably nothing to them. Peace.
 
 
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Nov 26, 2013
Just wanted to point out that Washington, DC was itself a heavily planned community. This is obvious from one glance at it from Google Maps - blatant grid system, interlocking diagonal parkways meeting in circles, a big 'mall' park downtown, and views of the capitol from miles away. It was considered one of the best planned cities at the time.

The real problem with extensive planning is that it's hard to know what to plan for. It necessarily involves guesses and choices, and over time the aggregated wrong guesses will pile up and the plan is less and less able to serve its purpose. Planning's great, but flexibility is the key to a good plan confronting reality, not consistency in the face of new situations.
 
 
Nov 20, 2013
Townhouses aren't terrible, I live in one myself. But they have no memories. When the old houses are razed to make way for the brand new sparkling townhouses and apartments the history of the place is gone and the people are scattered to the winds. I remember the old houses of my childhood that stood for more than a century, and see the shabby stucco buildings and parking lots that replaced them already deteriorating.

I just read about an area in Ethiopia, the home of humanity, near Djibouti. Afar villagers that have lived and prospered or not for uncounted generations have been wiped away by agribusiness that is growing sugarcane. Who will remember them? As the author said,"Our era's breathtaking changes flatten collective memory, blur precedence, sever lines of responsibility. (What disconcerts us about suburbia? Not just its sameness, but its absence of time, We crave a past in our landscapes.)

"Milan Kundera, the Czech novelist, once wrote that the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

 
 
Nov 20, 2013
Townhouses aren't terrible, I live in one myself. But they have no memories. When the old houses are razed to make way for the brand new sparkling townhouses and apartments the history of the place is gone and the people are scattered to the winds. I remember the old houses of my childhood that stood for more than a century, and see the shabby stucco buildings and parking lots that replaced them already deteriorating.

I just read about an area in Ethiopia, the home of humanity, near Djibouti. Afar villagers that have lived and prospered or not for uncounted generations have been wiped away by agribusiness that is growing sugarcane. Who will remember them? As the author said,"Our era's breathtaking changes flatten collective memory, blur precedence, sever lines of responsibility. (What disconcerts us about suburbia? Not just its sameness, but its absence of time, We crave a past in our landscapes.)

"Milan Kundera, the Czech novelist, once wrote that the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

 
 
Nov 17, 2013
Humane, human-scale central planning is far preferable to just letting profit-driven developers do whatever the hell they want to.

Think about the classic American small town. Mayberry is perhaps the most famous fictional example, but it isn't that far off the traditional reality.

What made the classic American small town so pleasing and fulfilling a place to live? The main reason, but far from the only one, is that they were deliberately designed to be walking communities, with the stores well within walking distance of the residences. A town where people regularly walk is a town where people get to know one another, and so the town becomes a true community held strongly together by bonds of true friendship. Front porches and tree-lined streets helped too. Compare this to the typical modern development, which is mostly a mere aggregation of isolated beings behind closed doors watching TV or reading postings from their Facebook "friends," or otherwise engaging in simulacra of true relationships.

The crucialness of walking to creating and nourishing true human community is the key insight of the New Urbanism, the most visionary movement in modern urban architecture/planning. An outstanding non-technical overview of the New Urbanism is set forth in an essay entitled "The Second Coming of the American Small Town," which can be found at www.polsci.wvu.edu/faculty/michelbach/d2.pdf‎.

Tragically, after World War II, the extremely destructive urban planning ideas of a megalomaniacal architect/planner who called himself Le Corbusier became extremely influential. His core idea was that somehow walking communities were very bad things and so, according to him, stores must be separated from residences by at least a mile, and instead of walking everyone would get around by using automobiles instead. (If this sounds like a formula guaranteed to isolate people from one another and so make them miserable, it is.)

So great was the worship accorded this maniac in academe and among the power elite that across the nation thousands of zoning laws were passed literally making it illegal to build new walking communities, or any place that was anything at all like the classic American small town. This and additional toxic ideas from Le Corbusier led directly to the thumping-dead sterility and alienation that now characterizes so many thousands of places around this nation.

A fuller exploration of the Le Corbusier disaster can be found in the celebrated book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," by Jane Jacobs.

The good news is that Le Corbusier-ism is increasingly recognized as a plague on mankind; and that there has arisen against it an increasingly powerful revolution, whose goal is to make where we live once again pleasant, human-scale places, which are sensibly designed not primarily for automobiles but primarily for fostering human happiness and fulfillment, and deep and true community and friendship. This is not a radical departure but is instead a new embrace of the best of traditional American community design.
 
 
Nov 16, 2013

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Nov 16, 2013

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Nov 9, 2013
I thought this was a pretty good troll.

The core thesis is that other ppls beliefs about socialism is superstition.

That is a pretty decent agitation. disrespect unisection with theism, perfect for atheists.

My entire experience with socialism is from a philosophical standpoint, the facts of worldwide abuse and suffering are convenient buttresses to my position. IOW stalin and mao had nothing to do with my decision.

Now, if you had said that central planning resembled a caste system with deciders and drones I can see a sheet/ghost analogy. They are really the same thing.

but hey, why not let their actions speak for themselves? communism produces misery and pits interest of individual against interests of state. its a cooking recipe for dysfunction. we have outcomes we can see. no need to ignore reality.
 
 
Nov 7, 2013
"Central Planning" as you describe it works pretty well when it is a development corporation that owns the land and has a stake in doing it right. Most importantly they get punished when they do it wrong. There are lots of failed real estate developments.

Government planning agencies that simply tell other people what they can and can't do with their own capital pretty much always get it wrong. And then it is the tax payers who get punished for it.

Always.
 
 
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Nov 6, 2013
When the police state and government run healthcare join forces:

http:// www. kob .com/ article/stories/s3209305 !$%*!$
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 6, 2013
American Hippie Communes of the 60's and 70's were communism and socialism without the guns and enslavement. Given the choice over time, most people left the communes, and they failed. Take the wall down and the Soviets failed. Remove the land mines from the DMZ and North Korea would fall in days.

One might say that it's very difficult to willingly keep giving up personal freedoms for strangers. For my daughter, yes - for my friend's daughter, maybe - for your daughter, why should I?

Don't forget, many of us were fed for years on "duck and cover", and instant nuclear death by those central planning monsters. We were taught the bed sheets were monsters.
Maybe the effects from fear of Russian central planning government we were taught as kids, will be similar to the future effects from fear of religious government terrorists children are facing today.


When the police state and government run healthcare join !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$
"This is like something out of a science fiction film, (forced) a n a l probing by government officials and public employees," Kennedy said.

Forget designing government from my chair outward, how about protection from our governments, from my colon outward?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 6, 2013
I'm starting to call the mindset that you can't change the way things are, 'isism". It is this way, so it must have to be this way.

The argument appears to be that those idiot socialists got in trouble by trying to break the law of isism -not because they had a philosophy that was tested and proven wrong. That's why anything that is remotely associated with socialism - has to be rejected - even if democratically elected officials make a proposal with the full support of their constituents. If it smacks of socialism, it is clearly in violation of the law of isism - and is therefore dangerous.

This mindset works best for people who don't pay attention to the silly studies, like history and philosophy. They can trace the development of technology to individual contributors. They would never argue that the internet sprang full formed from the ether, for example - but since the rest of life, according to this world view, just is, there are no contributors to trace.

The thousands of years of trial and error in developing systems of government - whenever philosophers had a chance to break through the might-is-rightists - is invisible to isismists.

If you try to argue the point that free people have a right to band together and voluntarily relinquish some personal freedom for the common good if they so choose - you will get back a question like, "Why I am obligated to pay for someone else's healthcare?" or "Why am I obligated to pay to feed someone else's child?"

In other words - you aren't having the same argument. The ismists is arguing that what you are suggesting is not and therefore should not be. You already know that and are trying to argue that it could be. You are trying to debate the idea on its merits. You can't do that with isismists because isismists don't deal in subjunctives.
 
 
Nov 6, 2013
Question more than comment - Does anyone know why utilities are buried under the roads? It seems like something gets repave just in time to dig it up for something. I would think that having a utility corredor to one or both sides of the street would make more sense.
 
 
Nov 6, 2013
Businessweek: How Houston gets along without zoning:
http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/hotproperty/archives/2007/10/how_houston_gets_along_without_zoning.html

Forbes: Houston Tops Our List of America's Coolest Cities to Live:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/morganbrennan/2012/07/26/houston-tops-our-list-of-americas-coolest-cities-to-live/

Having lived in Houston I can say that it is indeed weird - but there are many cool things about it which could not happen anywhere else.
 
 
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 5, 2013
I'm completely FOR central planning, as long as it's my plan.
 
 
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Nov 5, 2013
I just registered to write this.

"you might be suffering from a condition that just feels like an opinion to you" will be my new favorite quote. It applies in so many situations.

I also love all the commenters who confuse communism with dictatorship.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 5, 2013
The discussion clearly is bogged down in the opening analogy, and perhaps needs to be run at again?

The blog readers are not with you on this, Scott, but you are clearly passionate to be understood.

Based on some of the push-back, can another analogy be attempted?

We all have much in common, let's try again.
 
 
Nov 5, 2013
The year is 2035, and Elon Musk finally gets his Mars colonists off the launch pad. As the spacecraft reconfigures itself and gently begins to accelerate towards the Red Planet, the colonists introduce themselves and settle in for the long trip.

After several weeks, Libertarian leaders emerge who start badmouthing Mr. Musk's central planning. They conclude he has no "skin in the game", so they disconnect from Earth control to do their own thing, much like the sodbusting pioneers of the 19th century. "Nobody's gonna hold us back! What's Mission Control ever done for us?! We're freakin' space cowboys! Screw them!"

To kill time, a marathon poker game begins and eventually a lot of supplies change hands. One of the leaders finds himself with a vanishing pile of chips. After losing his oxygen generator, he needs to think of something fast. "Who the heck is this 'central authority' who says a flush beats a straight?! Screw them! We can do whatever we want!!"

And from then on, whenever poker was played in the flourishing city-states of Mars, a straight would beat a flush.

 
 
 
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