The Zero Unemployment Wonder City of the Golden Anarcho-Capitalist Future

In a TED talk, Stewart Brand pointed out that all over the world, poor villages — the same villages that Jeffrey Sachs seems to want to preserve — are vanishing. The people who lived in them have moved to squatter cities, where, according to Brand, there is zero unemployment and a much better life. Because Jeffrey Sachs’ interest in poor African villages seems to be recent, I am not surprised that he may end up on the wrong side of the helped/didn’t help ledger.

Seth Roberts @ Scientific Blogging | The world's best scientists. The internet's smartest readers

There is "zero unemployment" in Brand's squatter cities because those who do not (or cannot) work, die. It's really got nothing to do with innovation or with economic growth or opportunity. It's got to do with it being a fundamentally unforgiving environment.

He may be right about the demise of experts (at least, if we forget for a moment that Brand et al are setting themselves up as really nothing more than alternative experts). But I don't really think squatter cities have anything much of value to tell us about it one way or another, especially if what we're relying on is the strange argument that they're wonderful places without human problems.

The germs of truth in Brand's arguments (yes, the countryside is depopulating, yes, people in squatter cities are continually innovating in response to the highly challenging survival environment) obscures a deeper truth: People will engage in endlessly inventive rationalizations to justify their activities.

Squatter cities are, more often than not, squalid places that are rife with disease, where the oppressions of tradition are replaced with oppression by the strong/clever/zealous/amoral. Better? Worse? And by what (and whose) criteria?

Are they also rife with innovation? Sure; it's necessary to survive in that kind of environment. Do people experience joy, happiness, wonder, and live full and rewarding lives there? Absolutely; people will tend to make a world where they can do that, wherever they live. This reactionary defense of "squatter cities", though, smacks of free-marketism at its silliest: That is good which provokes the most change. Amen.

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