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Sacrificing Architectural Progress In The Name Of Preservation

Progreso, El American

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Readers may have seen and heard on various occasions so many cases in which some complain bitterly about the modifications that they consider aesthetic for the worse in view of more or less abrupt changes in cities with tower apartments replacing elegant mansions, traffic congestion, the replacement of flowers and trees with cement and so on.

In view of this, it is often concluded that these are the damages of progress and that the old school of urban design was better. But it is appropriate to carefully meditate these matters and ask ourselves if we have the right to block the possibility of others to improve their living conditions, which translates into the above. It is not fair to impose in the abstract idyllic descriptions of the cities that some people yearn for.

In fact, it is pertinent to follow the Anglo-Saxon adage “put your money where your mouth is” which, in a somewhat extensive translation to capture the full meaning of the dictum, refers to the convenience of using one’s own resources to do what one says should be done and not simply declaim with the pretension that resources should be taken from third parties to do what one likes to do.

In other words, the advice is that in order to be coherent, we should proceed as we say we would proceed. If you are interested in preserving this or that asset, act accordingly and do not limit yourself to declarations.

So, in this same line of argument, if we think that certain houses should be kept instead of building apartments and equivalents, let us buy the asset to keep it as we like. Otherwise, we insist that the first-person singular is substituted by the third-person plural, with the lamentable idea that others must do what we like by force.

When it is said that the state apparatus must do such and such a thing related to the issue we raise, it inevitably means that the fruit of the work of others is subtracted to maintain or build what others want.

In this context comes another more delicate matter and that is the decrees to assign historical sites. I am aware of the controversy of the subject but in truth we should even consider the injustice of the poorest in the region financing these undertakings if we realize that governments have nothing that they have not previously taken from the pockets of others and it is the most unprotected and vulnerable who pay the most painfully for these activities since, as capitalization rates contract due to the de jure contributors, the salaries and incomes of the poorest are reduced in real terms.

In any case, the maintenance of the Council is not of the same nature as that of a private house, which would have to be supported by donations from the interested parties.

In any case, this last issue of historical places is one that is completely outside the scope of our analysis. The central axis of this journalistic note alludes to the comments with which we opened this text. We consider that the complaints about progress are not at all justified because what we have stated is the improvement of large populations insofar as it operates in a free society.

Of course, if we are dealing with statist regimes the result is diametrically different since the events are not according to the preferences of the people but according to the preferences of the megalomaniacs on duty.

Finally, I would like to remind you that the problem is not overpopulation. The economist Thomas Sowell produced a study in the 1970s in which he showed that the entire population of the planet could be located in the state of Texas in the United States with a space of 640 square meters per family of four people and that Calcutta had the same population density as Manhattan and Somalia the same as the United States.

So it is not the number of people on the globe but rather the number of civilized institutional frameworks, which is why in some places we speak of overcrowding and in others of comfort.

It is true that aesthetic aspects and greater tranquility may be missed, but these memories cannot result in the obstruction of the progress of others that would be commanded by some who from their seats to impose living conditions of lesser quality for their fellow men. As it has been said, if they want to make their dreams come true, they should keep in mind the Anglo-Saxon adage that we transcribe.

Alberto Benegas Lynch (h) is president of the Economic Sciences Section of the National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires.

Alberto Benegas Lynch (h)

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