Chapter 36 – The Meat Axe
The history of road building and urban development through the ages has been one of immense constructions through relatively unpopulated areas, such as the Silk Road bringing goods from the Far East to Europe. But the developments carried out by Moses could only be compared to the reconstruction of Paris carried out by Baron Haussman, in that they were constructed in a heavily populated urban environment. This involved not only a substantial engineering effort, but the management of multiple disruptions in a busy city. In order to construct the new highways which criss-crossed the city, Moses’s engineers had to hack their way through whole communities. In terms of size, Moses’s development was comparable to anything in history. In terms of complexity, it would dwarf them all.
As impressive as the engineering feats were, Moses’s ability to raise the funds for these developments were equally impressive. To Moses, wars were mere inconveniences. Even during the height of the Second World War, Moses was still able to obtain the necessary funds and materials.
Moses manipulated the city like a player moving buildings around on a Monopoly board. He was never happier than when he was developing plans that would totally transform communities as if they were blocks on a child’s game. This also involved complex political manoeuvring. It took the mind of a dictator to carry out these plans, when the persuasion of a specific mind is sufficient. In a democracy, the scale of the public works carried out by Moses was unprecedented. This was carried out, in effect, by ignoring democracy. Moses just laughed at the protests against the highways he built. He said, “You can indulge your every whim on a clean slate…but when you operate in an overbuilt metropolis, you have to hack your way with a meat axe.”
Analysis & Key Takeaways
- He loves the public but hated the people, especially the poor anyone who intervened in his vision was a threat, in a democracy, there would always be a significant group willing to block progress in exchange for rents;
- A Man For All Seasons; “I would rip down all the laws to get at the devil, but the problem is what if the devil were to turn on you what tools would be left to defend yourself with?”