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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why 'Free Market' Foreclosures Destroy Communities As Effectively As Any Central Planner

While central planners reshaped communities in their own image, mortgage servicers tear them apart to maximize their profits.

Today is National Day of Action on Foreclosures. Occupy Our Homes has created a list events at their site. Here’s a great video on what is going on in Brooklyn, which shows the devastation happening there:

Between 1853 and 1869, Baron Haussmann tore down and rebuilt major parts of Paris according to principles of hygiene and circulation. He installed roads, sewers, and other public works and demolished neighborhoods, rebuilding them alongside modern technology. These neighborhoods became more stratified by class and function and more easily controlled by state forces.

A general critique of city planners like Haussman is that they rebuilt their cities in order to make it, in James Scott’s phrase, seeable by the state. This reconstruction of Paris was focused on simplification, legibility, and centralized, managerial control, regardless of the local knowledge and practices destroyed in the recreation. Critiques like this extend across modernity, especially to those Americans like Robert Moses who built highways through major metropolitan areas.

Though Scott was looking towards models of embeddedness developed by those like Karl Polyani, most people who develop these critiques invoke Hayek and the price system of the market as the superior way of planning. The profit-motive of the price system coordinates information across a vast network of agents who will never know each other. This allows for the most efficient use of society’s resources. By seeking out profit opportunities, individuals will coordinate the whole.

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