Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A conclusive experiment with a crucial lesson for Christchurch [updated]

Occasionally a situation will appear in the sphere of the social sciences that has all the features of a laboratory experiment. One such “experiment” with direct relevance to Christchurch has just appeared—two American cities torn apart a year ago by tornadoes, one rebuilt by the pursuit of “selfish” profit and the other by planning experts who know what’s best for everyone.

The “experiment” and its results are described by Jerry Kirkpatrick with the help of the Wall Street Journal:

[The first] of these two cities is Tuscaloosa, a “showpiece,” as the city’s recovery plan states, of  “state-of-the-art urban planning,” with “unique neighborhoods that are healthy, safe, accessible, connected, and sustainable,” anchored by “village centers”… The Tuscaloosa plan however (as the WSJ notes) “never mentions protecting property rights.” It’s the monument that counts, the “state-of-the-art” plan.

Sounding familiar? This is exactly what we’ve been hearing from the “experts” in Christchurch, isn’t it—the monuments, the “state-of-the-art” plans, the telling of property owners to go to hell.

[The city of] Joplin, on the other hand, took the free market route by suspending licensing and zoning regulations and allowing home and business owners to make their own decisions as to when and how they were going to rebuild. No monuments were built in Joplin.

This too should be familiar---it’s the Enterprise Zone some of us have been crying out for in Christchurch ever since the first quake.

RESULTS: So with the experiment set up, how did it proceed?

Joplin is thriving, largely revived and rebuilt. Tuscaloosa, on the other hand, still has un-demolished ruins, vacant lots, and businesses awaiting permit approvals to rebuild.

CONCLUSION: The conclusion is dramatic, and is confirmed by the blundering dunderheadedness in Christchurch (which hasn’t even progressed as far as Tuscaloosa—handing a city over to self-declared experts is the best way to kill it. Whereas taking a city off welfare and making it an enterprise zone  allows it to rebuild. And fast.

This is an old story, of course: West vs. East Germany, South vs. North Korea, the US vs. the USSSR. So why is the lesson never learned that capitalism works and socialism—central planning of any kind, including urban planning—does not?

 Kirkpatrick has the answer here too.

UPDATE:  Daniel J. Smith, economics professor at Troy University, studied the rebuilding of Joplin, Missouri in the months following the tornado. Watch as Professor Smith discusses how economic freedom can help areas recover from natural disasters.
"I think one of the key factors in the recovery process in Joplin, from the tornado, is that the government officials allowed the community to start rebuilding itself." -- Daniel J. Smith

[Thanks to reader R.C. for the link]


  1. A good video overview of the Joplin rebuild and reallocation of resources in an open market: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXjrKH4xHMk

  2. Although capitalism works, it's benefits are only focused and appreciated to very few people. It is indeed selfish. I'd rather not be in North Korea or USSR which you mentioned are successful.

  3. @John: I think you've misunderstood, John. In the contest of South vs. North Korea, and the US vs. the USSR. both North Korea and the USSR were openly revealed as basket cases. That was what I was saying.

    The benefits of West over East Germany, South over North Korea, and US over USSR were so self-evident for and to virtually everyone--and not just the few people you suggest--that the reason for so many people evading and continuing to evade that evidence needs to be explained.

    Which is what Jerry Kirkpatrick attempts in the bog post to which I link.

  4. @John

    Surely, the litmus test of the "success" of North Korea or the USSR is how many people to want to move there to live in the socialist utopia.

    The traffic over and under the wall between West and East Berlin was pretty much one way, wouldn't you agree?

  5. if only our supposed superiors who want to foist this crap on us would all fuck off to North Korea or Cuba for good and leave us plebeians to it


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