You know that Filing Cabinet I was talking about? Well, it hasn’t gone away you know. In fact I’ve even gone to the trouble of re-jigging it (well, creating another one) so that one entry equals one post - previously, one post could contain multiple entries.
Anyway, I’ve started filling it up. I haven’t quite got round to migrating everything over from the previous version but I guess I’ll get round to that eventually. One article that justified an entry was an old Libertarian Alliance pamphlet by John Hibbs. Unfortunately, it’s one of the rather annoyingly large number of LA articles that’s only available as a PDF (aargh!) Anyway, annoyed at this I stumbled across a way of converting it to HTML relatively quickly. “Ah!” I thought, “Sean will be so pleased.” But then I thought, well, it might not be in exactly the format he’s looking for and, anyway, why don’t I publish the thing myself - at least that way it’ll get out there. So, here goes...
Town Planning versus the Plans Of The People
A few years later he removes the bales. The government demands the building's demolition. Bastards(2). He may get away with it. Let's hope he does.
1. Actually, I don't have to wonder as there's a photo of the straw-bale castle accompanying the article.
2. As far as I am concerned they shouldn't be able to. See Against Planning. Also see the Filing Cabinet page on Planning.
A McC ponders housing policy. He thinks the tower blocks of the 1960s were dreadful but he has doubts about both the affordability, suitability and durability of the “luxury” appartments that seem to be going up all over the place. He thinks there will come a time when people once again want spacious houses.
- like most people I agree with him that the tower blocks of the 1960s were, in the main, dreadful
- they were dreadful because, in the main, they were built and funded by the state
- I rather like “luxury” apartments
- The affordability argument is a red herring
- I really don’t know if it is true that lots of things are being built to a poor standard these days or indeed to a poorer standard than in the past. It would be interesting to find out
- Apartments do not have to be rabbit hutches
- I don’t know whether people want to live in spacious houses or not (I suspect they do)
- The way to find out is to abolish planning
So, it’s all the fault of the state?
There are plenty of perfectly nice privately-owned and customer-financed high-rise blocks in the world. Perhaps not so many in London (I wonder what the status of the Barbican is?) but plenty in North America. There are also plenty of rotten low-rise estates owned or funded by the state
So, why is state housing so bad?
For much the same reason that most state enterprises are bad
So, why is the “affordability” argument in respect of luxury apartments a red herring?
Because although few can afford luxury apartments by increasing supply they help to reduce prices.
So, apartments do not have to be rabbit hutches?
No, according to a friend, in Singapore the average appartment is the same size as a 3-bed semi over here. Probably doesn’t have a garden, though. Even so, Singaporeans seem to find them perfectly adequate for bringing up families
How would abolishing planning help to find out what people want?
Because the abolition of planning would create a market in housing. Developers would be free to experiment with all types of building in all kinds of places. The varying profitability of these developments would tell them what was the best compromise between what people want and what they can produce
Why would profitability tell us what people want?
Because profit is good
The Independent says: “Creeping urbanisation ‘could destroy rural England in 30 years’ “
To which Stephen Pollard replies: “At least there’s some good news around.”
Now, I suspect that Stephen doesn’t really mean this. I think what he actually means to say is that he doesn’t like planning. I don’t either. I also suspect he has doubts about the “concreting over” propaganda (me too) but just finds it easier to be offensive than to list out the whole counter-argument in all its complexity.
The government’s announcement that it is thinking of introducing satellite-based road charging, oh, sometime in the next decade or so (how often have we heard that announcement?) has certainly stirred things up in the blogosphere. Both Andy Wood and the ASI have pointed out the dangers inherent in the state having so much information at its disposal. Snafu rejects the idea entirely and thinks we should all get used to jams. VOTF thinks that fuel tax is all you need.
I think jams are bad and charging the cure. One way of achieving this is to wait in the hope that the state, which owns the road gets its act together. Another is privatisation. We already have one private road in this country: the M6 Toll. It charges and traffic flows freely. And you don’t have to have your details recorded by the state.
Our main routes, the motorways and A-roads could probably be privatised very quickly. While some might find that they are priced off the road others might well find that new bus and coach services price them right back on and others might well find that employers are willing for them to change their working hours so that they can get in when rates are lower.
However, this is dealing with a situation where there is a finite quantity of main routes. Why should that be? Whoever owns the M25 is likely to make a bomb. But why shouldn’t they suffer a little competition? Of course, if we were to allow people to build new roads we would have to relax the planning laws.
That’s the main routes. Urban routes, alas, are a different matter. Try as I might I have never been able to imagine how you could privatise urban roads without recreating something very similar to the state which is precisely what I am trying to avoid.
Urban areas are built with the right level of road space for their time. I bet riding down Fleet Street was a pleasure in the 17th Century. Unfortunately, no one predicted the rise of car ownership. One answer to this is congestion charging. We are trying this in London but is far from clear whether traffic speeds are picking up.
The other alternative is, if the old urban areas are found wanting, to build new ones. This is the big idea of South California academic, Peter Gordon. As he points out: people like sprawl (to use the pejorative term). They like it domestically and, as jobs move out of city centres, they like it economically. And because they are new developments they tend to have the right amount of road space. Only today he points out that the cities that have grown the fastest in recent years tend to be those with relatively insignificant centres.
But if we were to do it in Britain we would, once again, have to relax the planning laws.