Since German socialist architects Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and others were welcomed to US universities in the 1930s, collectivist methods like centralized planning have dominated architectural education. In the 1950s and beyond one commonly finds “Planning” prominently displayed on a business card in addition to architecture. Today, government planning departments invade long-established city neighborhoods with ever-changing rules regarding acceptable density, diversity and low-income housing. The Soviet Union is now long gone, but its gift to America remains.
A Soviet Gift to America
“There was another aspect of the Soviet Union that attracted American collectivist liberals. The Soviet Union was a “planned economy,” indeed even a “planned society.” At a time when the United States was suffering from unemployment, the Soviet Union was portrayed as “the land without unemployment.”
This great accomplishment was alleged to be the result of central planning; this was contrasted with the chaos of a “laissez-faire economic system,” with all its unhappy accompaniments. The New Deal was seen as a step, faltering and insufficient, in the right direction.
“Planning” was held forth as an ideal toward which the United States should move. After the Second World War, the idea of comprehensive planning diminished in the publicly expressed affection of collectivist liberals, but a strong subterranean attachment remained. There is still a clandestine love of planning. It is after all a logical necessity.
If one believes in the powers of reason and of scientific knowledge, in progress toward ever higher targets or “goals,” in collective self-determination, as well as in the limitless competence of government which proceeds in accordance with rationality and scientific knowledge, then one must be in favor of planning.
However tarnished the image of the Soviet Union has become, it still retains the credit of being “planned.”
(The Virtue of Civility: Selected Essays on Liberalism, Tradition and Civil Society. Edward Shils. Liberty Fund, 1997. Excerpt, pg. 146)