James Buchanan RIP

Amity Shlaes on Nobel prize winning economist James Buchanan:

"Buchanan earned his doctorate in 1948, about the time the politicians and other civic leaders promised that bulldozing large swaths of the neighborhood and creating new public-private projects would yield a better Hyde Park, prettier and more racially integrated.

But the result felt wrong, especially to residents. The new apartment buildings, in the minimalist international style, themselves felt as cold as winter. Instead of bringing people together, they separated them: One complex quickly became known as Monoxide Island. With the stores gone, there was less life on the streets. Yet Hyde Park locals lacked the vocabulary to criticize the transformation we had been told was progress or reform. Who wants to be construed as “pro-slum”?

Buchanan supplied that vocabulary. Instead of calling urban renewal “reform,” as the officials did, he called it “politics.” It was important, he said, that all such projects, whether urban renewal in Chicago or elsewhere, be viewed honestly, that we look at “politics without romance.”

The housing redevelopment in Hyde Park worked to the advantage of certain interest groups, political or business."


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