Monday, July 12, 2010

The Puzzle Of Industry

Here's one I call "The Puzzle of Industry." The thoughts I have are like a thousand separate pieces on a table, each one not necessarily oriented the way it needs to be to form a coherent whole when attached.

Is there any better illustration of chaos than the un-put-together puzzle? There's not. Maybe the raging, roaring sea. That would be a good illustration of it. But if you're like me, you have a hard time picturing the raging, roaring sea; I live inland, and even though I've seen an ocean, it was from the shore and I couldn't comprehend the size. So it's a toss up of those two things, the sea and a puzzle. I'll take the puzzle since we actually have puzzles around the house.

I'll run and get one right now. OK, here it is. Jiggle the box and hear the pieces, already chaotic, becoming more chaotic the more I shake it. They have no orientation except a random, crazy, nutty one, oriented to one another in no reliable way.

The same thing is true of industry, not strictly but sort of. Like I was pointing out some months ago, there does appear to be some relation of industry and the railroads. And of course industry has traditionally been relegated to the edge of town, which then, because of growth, eventually puts it closer to downtown. There's the spatial elements of industry that goes along with the puzzle illustration.

Then there's the idea of having the various industries relate to each other. The way it's worked ever since we came up with transportation more advanced than the burro is that one thing doesn't have to be next to the other, except obviously the tracks or road. The place that makes steel girders can be far away from the skyscraper construction site. Or in terms of one industry relating to another, the steel girder place can be clear across town from the rivet manufacturer.

My own sense is that the whole thing is a hodgepodge, again like the puzzle in the box. With the big difference being that you can easily pick up the puzzle pieces and move them around on the table. But when a steel girder factory puts down roots, it's tough to move it. If they see it's got a bad location, they just have to deal with it. The rivet guy learns to live with it too. We all do.

It'd be better if we could've had a super mind with clairvoyance, Einstein in a sweat house, look down the corridors of time and see precisely what needed to go where, then sketch it out on a sheet of paper which could've been fed into a super computer to coordinate the whole thing. The problem with that is that the corridors of time never end, so it's tough to foresee what industry will be like a thousand years or a million years from now. So we're left with a hodge podge. Although some of the kids I saw on Jeopardy's "Kid's Week" shows might be about smart enough to come up with something. Except by now it's too late.

The same thing has essentially happened with the Residential Industrial Movement. Instead of taking it slow and sketching out a master plan -- which would be a lot harder when the industry you have is of your own choosing and necessarily is located on the land you already own -- everyone just dove right in and started manufacturing.

The puzzle piece jiggling goes on, a chaos, as it always has and always will. 

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