1/04/2006

Classic Kunstler

Kunstler has another great entry at Clusterfuck Nation- excerpt:
You can only introduce so much perversity into an economic system before distortions cripple it. From 2001 through 2005, consumer spending and residential construction had together accounted for 90 percent of the total growth in GDP, while over two-fifths of all private sector jobs created since 2001 were in housing-related sectors, such as construction, real estate and mortgage brokering. Much of the money spent did not really exist except as credit -- incomes as yet unearned, hallucinated liquidity, wished-for wealth, all based on the expectation that house values would continue to rise at 10 to 20 percent a year forever. It became a reckless racket, all predicated on sustaining an economy that had lost its other means for generating wealth -- foremost its infrastructure for making things besides suburban houses.


Get to know Kunstler if you are not familiar. You will probably not agree with everything he says, but you will come away respecting him for saying it.

6 comments:

shrimplate said...

Kunstler lives in the lovely town of Saratoga Springs, New York. I lived there for many years myself, and know some of the people he's blogged about, like the doctors that helped him with his hip problems.

I find it very difficult to counter his arguments, not that I'd want to. I hate suburbs and sprawl more than Kunstler will ever know.

His ideas need to be more widely discussed, and I use these as jumping-off points sometimes with my own blogging here in the sprawling mess of edge-city tragedy called Phoenix.

Lily said...

Thomas Hylton spoke here once, he's another good writer on these matters.
Save Our Land, Save Our Towns
The fact is, sprawl is not necessary and there are many planning models that can meet a variety of needs. I like Hylton too because he links planning with SOCIAL JUSTICE issues. In an integrated plan, there are mixed dwellings. You can have your McMansion but you can also have apartments, senior housing accessible to town, etc. A place for everyone and decreased reliance on the car. He also describes European models, and when you go to some of these cities the arguments become even more compelling. Thanks shrimplate!

chemlawn said...

I am at a lose as to what we are to do about this situation. In one respect we are a capitalist nation, which thrives on the notion that profit will in turn create jobs, that will in furthur turn create more wealth. This cycle continues, although the profit becomes less as you settle lower on the ladder you are required to climb. This is supposed to be at the point at which you are to become inspired to work harder and climb up the ladder, to aquire more wealth, and continue to spin the wheel of capitalism.
In the meantime, the result of such a splendid plan is population growth. There is only so much population that can be controlled through imigration policies, abortion, and relocation. Eventually masses will settle in one or two areas in which vocations are pleantyful. In the United States we know these as California, Texas and New York. There of course are many others, but these three are the prime canvas' for overpopulation.
If one is to aquire property in a major market, of what harm comes of it when such an aspiring ladder climber sells it off for a quick profit? Is there fault on the buyers side as well? of course not. This is called nature adapting to its surroundings, and both parties involved in this activity should be without guilt.
I find that the Japanese have succesfully managed to cope with population growth inside small confines, and perhaps we should learn from our neighbors to the east.

Lew Scannon said...

When ever I bring up peak oil in a discussion, I am always asked (rhetorically, of course) why aren't they doing anything to find new energy sources? Because you still drive your car. You still like to watch NASCAR. You need a power lawn mower in the spring and a snow blower in the winter. We love our jet skis and ATVs and snowmobiles and chainsaws.You'll drive two blocks to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread so you can make it back in time to watch your favorite television show. As long as we find new ways to use up the oil we have, they're not going to really work on any alternative fuel. Why should they?

Lily said...

Well let me start with Chemlawn. Yes, populations are concentrated and the reality of our economy is that many jobs tend to cluster in places that have the 'skilled' workforce to employ, or that have a cultural/metro draw for a transplant. This is one sector. Then there are the sectors like retail and manufacturing that employ many 'small town' Americans. Both demographics can look to planning, but in different ways. You are correct that the hot spots are often considered to be too expensive to preserve. But even in areas of Metro NY there are still efforts to spend money and float bonds for conservation because it makes sense financially long term. The same Republicrats that promote the economic model you described are also the ones who have often undertaken these efforts because the numbers work. I'll give them credit for THAT.
The point is not to say that owning a home in a bustling market is morally wrong. Selling it for a huge profit is not necessarily wrong either, the market is the market. Some people have conservation easements where they get to enjoy their property and keep it in the family but cannot subdivide. This is an awesome approach.
The point is to look at different ways of using land. I won't even get into the behavioral aspects of parking space supply (four for every car)and the unwillingness of people to walk. Beyond all of that, there are compelling reasons to rethink:
-Water quality, and the fact that water cannot permeate back into the ground through concrete
-the lack of 'continuity of habitat' slicing up little green spots in the middle of neighborhoods is absurd. If one had thirty acres and wanted to preserve five, the typical developer could opt to make the entire five acres consecutive instead of in pieces. Same amount of land, different plan. Many states are moving in this direction, and I strongly recommend you check out Hylton's site because he addresses much of what you commented on. And your comments are sincerely appreciated, I just don't know how long I should ramble here...

LIly said...

Now to Lew, The answer is that there are some very good energy strategies but the corporate lobby will not permit them. If the public knew how much fuel and in turn CASH they would save at the pump by raising CAFE standards they might consider that next time they spend for that sixty dollar fill-up. They might pressure their officials, as we have done on numerous occasions, to seek industry technologies versus other options like drilling in ANWR. (We did not succeed on CAFE, but at least ANWR has been spared at least until this point.(ANWR will not solve our problems, nor will that oil be sold necessarily to Americans by the multi-nationals anyway) Why not employ people in the fields of renewable energy, in manufacturing the turbines for wind power, say? Its corpo-propaganda that leads people to conclude that energy efficiency leads to lost jobs or the damned apocalypse. Their strategy is invariably all or nothing. Do little, always in the name of THE ECONOMY. It will haunt us. People in the field know this as fact.
Chemlawn's assessment of capitalism did not consider the unthinkable: that climbing the ladder is not all about materialism to our detriment. Our culture is unlike any other in its consumptive tendencies. The notion that we are driven to climb to better paying jobs at *any* price is unfortunate in my little communist mind.

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