October 05, 2012

Horse 1371 - Designing the "Perfect" City

Take note of the above diagram for we shall refer to it frequently.

In designing the perfect city we shall use the principle of segregation. I don't really care for race, nationality or religion, so we'll just ignore those things altogether. We will however be employing a very robust system to segregate the population which we shall deal with later.

We shall draw inspiration for our perfect city from Frederich Engels. Now, you may have heard of the name before and that's because as the son of an immensely rich German factory owner, he saw extreme poverty and sponsored his friend Karl Marx from the profits of his father's business.

"(The City) contains at its heart, a rather extended commercial district, perhaps half a mile long and about as broad and consisting almost wholly of offices and warehouses. Nearly the whole district is abandoned by dwellers and is peaceful and deserted at night.
This district is cut through by main thoroughfares upon which the vast traffic concentrated, and in which ground level is lined with brilliant shops."
- Frederich Engels, 1848.

Victorian England had many many people who wanted to see the world change for the better. When Charles Dickens wrote of the amazing poverty of London in Oliver Twist in 1838, not even he could have imagined the city by the end of Victoria's reign with the Underground extending into the suburbs and the beginning of electricity in people's homes.
Even before the Underground was even started, Engels envisioned a city in which people did not live right next to where they worked. He speaks of the city being quiet at night; this usually means less crime as well.

The question of how to arrange people is an interesting one. Obviously you can not eliminate inequality in society as communism showed with its hideous brutality and as Occupy has showed with its abject failure to achieve anything of lasting value.
If it is largely pointless to change the level of equality in society, the best course is therefore to try to  ameliorate society's physical ills.

The biggest component cause of crime at its core revolves around the concept of jealousy. Someone has what I don't have; I want it; so I'll take it. It stands to reason then if you want to soften the biggest component cause, that you need to find a way of lessening jealousy.
Fortunately there is a way to do this and that is via segregation of the classes in society (not in an absolute or physical sense with something like walls though); this is where our coupon system comes into effect.

In the space above the line marked "1", we put all the people who have the most coupons. In between 3 and 1 we put the next group, and we keep on going until the people with the fewest coupons and they can have their houses outside the ring marked "9".
Of course how people choose to establish themselves is entirely their own business, but in general the people in greatest deviation according to the number of coupons they possess will almost never come into contact.
Engels wrote of an "unspoken implicit social contract" and an "unconscious tacit agreement" that societies naturally segregate themselves. It makes logical sense that people living within the line marked "1" have no real need to visit the zone outside of about "5"; seemingly nor would they want to, for the city itself with its brilliant shops has all that they may choose to purchase.

Likewise, the people living beyond the line marked "5" will generally not venture into the zone beyond the line marked "1", for although they might feel a sense of grievence, the 5 line would be placed sufficiently far away enough so that they'd just not bother to express their disappointment with violence.
Intriguingly, the City of Paris sort of already does this, with the 40 eme of the city. The lower classes tend to live outside of the centre of Paris and apart from religious struggles, Paris has on the whole, the lowest rate of violent crime of all the 'World Cities".

If you could move the people with the fewest coupons in the system, to beyond the boundary marked "9" and then manipulated the media outlets such that it openly referred to them as the "scum class" whilst at the same time extolling the virtues and material benefits of those people living within the "1" line, then the people living outside of "9" might be encouraged to pull themselves out of their predicament.

If all of the above-mentioned things were achieved, then society would pretty well much organise itself and there would be very little need for social engineering.


That's where the little fantasy ends but not where the story does. There actually is a city in the world that runs according to such principles; that city is called "Sydney".

All you need to do is turn the diagram through 90 degrees.

Subconsciously Sydney already has this plan in full swing.
1 is marked by the Pacific and Princes Highways.
3 is marked by Mona Vale Rd, Ryde Rd, Homebush Bay Dr, Centenary Rd, King Georges Rd.
5 is marked by Pennant Hills Rd, Woodville Rd and Henry Lawson Dr.
7 is marked by the M7.
9 is marked by The Northern Rd.
The media already does a pretty good job at promoting the benefits that come with more coupons.
Most people already do not associate with people too far from their own socio-economic group. I have seen people both rise and fall between classes and suburbs and treat their former communities with utter contempt. Actually when I tell people who live within zone 1 where I live, most of them have no idea where it is; presumably because they've never been, have no intention and no need of travelling outside the zone.

If you properly think about it, Sydney is actually more segregated and well defined in this respect than London, New York or even cities in South Africa under Apartheid, and yet it does this under a purely voluntary and self selecting process.
What prompted this was an article in a newspaper claiming that Australia and Sydney in particular was a "classless" society, yet I just can't find evidence for this in the real world.

Addenda: Engels wrote his piece about the City of Manchester in 1848. What's really interesting is that in more than a century and a half, the geographical divisions which define the classes have more or less remained fixed.

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