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Old Mar 28th 2014, 11:58 AM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Btw, I do find it odd that no one is willing to defend Haussmann on the basis of the result gained for Paris. Many, many people generally do say that Paris is one of, if not the most beautiful city in the world - and it Haussmann's work that they are inadvertently praising when they do that.
Alright, I enjoy a good debate just for the sake of debating To use terminology from my debate team days: I'll take the affirmative.

Keep in mind though, in actuality I find the "ends justify the means" argument to be highly objectionable.

Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Haussmannization: good or evil?

Boulevard Haussmann in Paris - one of several created by Baron Haussmann in the 1850's and 1860's.

For those of you unfamiliar, the term in the thread title comes from the name of Georges-Eugene Haussmann, commonly known as Baron Haussmann. He was appointed Prefect of the Seine in 1853, by the French Emperor Napoleon III. This nephew of the first Napoleon ordered Haussmann to make Paris "more healthy, less congested and more grand".

Baron Haussmann created numerous long and straight tree-lined boulevards cutting across Paris as well as opening up large open spaces and public squares. As part of this process, strict rules were laid down for common building height, set-backs, roof pitch, floor alignments with neighboring buildings and facades. The result of which has made Paris famous for being one of the most beautiful [big] cities in the world.

Of course, Haussmann's city rennovation project required a massive amount of authoritarian state legal power to do it and involved a large-scale demolition of the heart of medieval Paris destroying over 20,000 houses and relocating as many as 100,000+ people.

Here's some links to the applicable Wiki entries:

Rennovation of Paris

Baron Haussmann

So the question is, is it okay to bulldoze over the legal rights and properties of the citizenry, in effect, destroying history itself, in order to attempt a major improvement in both the beauty and efficiency of the city? These long straight boulevards cutting through the old medieval maze of city streets made for general improvements in traffic flow, public health, policing, fire-fighting as well as law and order (they were called 'anti-riot roads').

It is also to be noted that this enterprise was imposed upon Paris by the Emperor, whether the citizens of Paris liked it or not. The owners of property affected had it expropriated by the state and that was it.

This is just another variation on the old 'does the end justify the means?' type questions, but I think it is a particularly good example of the issue since both sides of the debate are attractive.

So what do you think? Should the state have the authority to impose its will upon the fabric of a city, expropriating property and building whatever it wants in order to 'improve' things?
Absolutely the state should have this authority. The efficiency of state imposed city planning is hard to argue with. Specifically, the grid street system that has been handed down since the Roman Empire is a clear example of a state imposed system being more efficient then "natural" city growth and planning. In this particular example, the overall health and wellbeing of the city was clearly improved by these moves. Certainly "housing projects" and similar state renovation programs have proven to be a disaster, but not because of the authority that is granted to the state or because government is completely incapable. Instead, housing projects fail because they use that authority in an bumbling and poorly executed manner.

That leads into the second point: that the "danger" or "damages" here are largely theoretical. Yes, houses were demolished and "history" was destroyed, but the city has been truly improved by these moves (as the article points out). French society has not descended into authoritarianism because of this power. At some point we have to acknowledge the practical gains that have been made over the theoretical fears

Finally, the question is not "should the state have the authority" because the state already has this authority and (historically speaking) always has. Large infrastructure projects have always been predicated on the State's authority to claim land for the greater good. From the time of Roman emperors, when they kicked people out of their homes to renovate Rome, to today, when railroad and highway projects are only built because of that same authority, the state has consistently possessed this authority.
And now I must beg forgiveness from the ghost of Edmund Burke...
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