Monday, 15 September 2008

"Yikes!" Says Krugman: Disaster Capitalism and The Walkable City

One of the things that I found hard to do as we worked down to the wire on The Walkable City a couple of weeks ago was hedge my bets in discussions about what is going to happen next on the world stage.

A large part of the book talks about how the guaranteed mortgage system set up in Canada and the US after World War II and the desire of ordinary folks all over the world to own a place they can call their own affects the way our cities are structured. That is easy to see, and we’re going to have to live with what we’ve got for a long time.

But what wasn't clear and still isn’t clear is the impact of the continuing fall-out from very bad decisions made to open up the financial system during the last 15 years or so. Paul Krugman in The New York Times today ends his column about the collapse of Lehmann and the faltering of Merrill Lynch with “yikes!” I can think of several other epithets.

The Texas gulf coast is currently surveying the damage of Hurricane Ike which reminds me of Naomi Klein’s eloquent warning about “disaster capitalism” in The Shock Doctrine. In times like these when so much seems to be foundering, the doctrine right—what Krugman calls “movement conservatives”—are ready with quick answers that we may accept, because we have no others handy. Now is the time to think a bit, not act rashly. Among other things, this means not being taken in by the bling surrounding Sarah Pallin, or the carefully selected actions of Stephen Harper which are aimed at wooing just enough swing voters to give him a majority.

And it means not being able to be categorical in providing a formula for the future our cities. I think The Walkable City as it stands now—just about ready to come off the presses—provides enough substance to help us make the decisions we must make, and offers good suggestions for what we must do.

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