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Oct 212013

A recent article (https://chomsky.info/articles/20131001.htm; obtained on 10-19-2013) published earlier this month reportedly about some of Noam Chomsky’s viewpoints began the following way: 

“Hidden Power and Built Form: The Politics Behind the Architecture

Noam Chomsky
Architecture_MPS, October 1, 2013

‘ The US-Mexican border, like most borders, was established by violence — and its architecture is the architecture of violence.’

— Noam Chomsky”

The article ended in the following way:

“The Federal Reserve Bank releases its transcripts after a five-year period, and the most recent ones released were those of 2007. They’re worth reading. Here are some of the most prestigious economists in the world, bankers and so on, discussing the economy. The economy was about to collapse around them. It was just at the point when the housing bubble was about to burst — when trillions of dollars of fake money was about to be lost with devastating effects for thousands of working families across the country. You read the transcripts, and they didn’t even see it. The grip of the religion was so strong that they couldn’t see what was in front of their eyes. They were programmed to see something else — the effectiveness of the market.

Primarily the responsibility is with the banks but there was federal government support, there was state government support, and a whole range of other interests were in play as well. You’re right in pointing out Clinton, and then again Bush. [50] Both administrations pushed the housing market and, inevitably, contributed to the explosion of urban sprawl that continued to spread across the country. But, if you look at the detail, it was principally a banking crisis. The banks were responsible for the most obvious and literal ‘criminal’ activity, as they were in Ireland and Spain and a number of other places. It verged on criminal behavior, undoubtedly. Incidentally, those responsible are bigger, richer, stronger than before — thanks to government bailouts — which was another scandal. [51]

The effects on the ground were clearly visible throughout that period — growing suburbs, growing sprawl etc. From the 90s and later on, it was perfectly visible in terms of urban, suburban, and rural land developments, but it was also seen in prices. House prices were going through the roof — far higher than anything based on economic essentials would dictate — but there was that blindness, a kind of euphoria. It was evident in the economics profession, the media, politicians, and others, etc. They were all hailing this as an enormous achievement. It was called ‘the great moderation’ and Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Chair, who was manipulating it all from the top, was hailed as one of the greatest economists of all time.[52] St. Alan he was called. For sure it was visible — but praised. [53]

You can see it on the ground where I live. My wife and I bought our house for $40,000 many years ago. Maybe today that would be $100,000, which is not exorbitant by US standards. It’s the only house on the street that has not either been torn down and replaced by a new, bigger building, or substantially expanded. When they were torn down during that recent period, what went up in their place was a mansion — a building that would that sell for millions of dollars. There was rampant speculation. Homes became an investment, very obviously.

It all added more energy to segregation on the grounds of wealth. The poor are driven out of whole areas when this takes place. All that was just as visible as new suburbs, towns, sprawl etc. Again, of course, as you indicated earlier, it’s an example of your field, architecture, operating as something integrated into a bigger complex of forces. In this case it’s property speculation and an economic system exploiting laws and people’s aspirations.

All of this was happening when this country faced a tremendous infrastructure collapse, which is still very serious. US infrastructure is in a terrible condition. It’s not just evident on our inner cities, where housing for the poor is still often in bad condition, but on our roads, bridges and so on. Driving to work this morning I got caught up in detours of rebuilding that is, in some ways, essential. At least it is essential to the continuation of the current inefficient and failing transport model. It is necessary to reconsider the infrastructure of this country — the way it is set up and financed. It’s not really a question of architecture in the first instance; it is a question of politics and economics of course.”

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Louis DeCola, Jr.  © 2013                                    The Hygiology Post ®