Economic Development in Days Gone By

In the late 18th century, Virginia was the most populous and most powerful of the 13 colonies. So dominant was the Old Dominion in the affairs of the young United States that it contributed four of the first five presidents of the new republic. But a half century after the nation’s founding, Virginia had not only lost its preeminence but fallen dramatically behind the northern states in population growth and wealth creation. In her book, “Dominion of Memories,” Williams College professor Susan Dunn asks why.

Dunn’s thesis is that the Tidewater slave-holding aristocracy, hewing to the agrarian, small-government ideals of Thomas Jefferson, held back the state’s progress. While northern states embarked upon internal improvements, encouraged manufacturing and educated its citizens, Virginia’s aristocracy restricted the franchise, dominated the political system, and thwarted the entrepreneurial vitality that threatened to overturn the state’s agrarian society.

There is much to recommend Dunn’s book, especially for those who, like me, have only the foggiest notion of Virginia history between the American Revolution and the Civil War. It makes fascinating reading, and I recommend it to the readers of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog. While the slave-holding aristocracy undoubtedly did hamper Virginia’s evolution to an industrial economy, it strikes me, based upon information that Dunn herself provides, that there was more to the story.

What most intrigued me was Dunn’s chapter, “Roads, Canals and Railroads: Moving in Place,” which chronicled Virginia’s “transportation policy” of the early 19th century. Although Virginia lacked the economic vitality of the northern states, it was not entirely devoid of entrepreneurial energy. The Old Dominion took part in the canal-building mania that gripped the nation around the turn of the century. Business interests launched canals along the James River and the Potomac River with the goal of breaching the barrier of the Blue Ridge the Alleghenies to link up with the fast-developing Ohio River Valley.

Neither enterprise succeeded in its goals. (Dunn doesn’t explain why, although I suspect it was a matter of geography – the distances involved and the challenges entailed with crossing mountain chains required far too much capital.) But the canals did form a potent constituency that lobbied effectively against the competitive threat of the railroad. Writes Dunn:

The investors in the James and Potomac canals, along with Tidewater planters, were among the first in the 1820s to oppose the development of railroads in Virginia, especially lines leading into the interior of the state that might have competed with the canals. Even into the 1850s, their influence held sway in the General Assembly, where legislators killed proposals for the expansion of railroads in some parts of Virginia…

The canal interests ultimately hampered the economic growth of the entire state. A vital line, only 15 miles long, from the Midlothian coal district to Richmond was delayed again and again.

(Ah, the power of special interests – plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.)

But the economic case for building railroads was so compelling that the canals could not halt construction forever. In 1816, the General Assembly created a state-controlled “Board of Public Works” to mobilize capital and invest in internal improvements. The board would invest in private companies if entrepreneurs supplied three-fifths of the capital; the board would supply the rest. (The first public-private partnerships!)

Dunn argues that the Board was a half-hearted effort, lacking sufficient capital to carry out its task. But it could be equally argued that the institution was flawed from its inception by allowing political considerations to supplant economic ones.
The problem, noted Dunn, is that the Board of Public Works had no overarching vision for conceiving, planning or coordinating projects, much less to build a unified transportation system. Instead of cooperating, cities competed with one another to gain commercial advantage. Furthermore, the Board spread its resources so thinly – among 11 navigation companies, seven railroads and 38 turnpikes – that it accomplished little. Writes Dunn: “The projects were unprofitable, the quality of work poor.”

It’s not clear to me how this represents a failure of the Jeffersonian vision of limited government. Rather, it looks like a classic case of a failed government program, in which Virginia’s scarce investment capital was misallocated by a government board driven by political considerations rather than economic ones.

By the 1850s, Virginia had built 2,000 miles of railroads. Nineteen different companies operated rail lines. But the lines were often unconnected and had incompatible gauges; Richmond was served by six different rail lines, but there was no central depot for the transfer of cargo or passengers. While Virginia was busy launching under-funded enterprises in response to special-interest lobbying, it failed in a crucial legitimate role that government could have played: creating a blueprint that would have allowed private companies to integrate into a unified system.

By the 1850s, Virginia could boast almost 5,000 manufacturing establishments, writes Dunn. That may have been an impressive number by the standards of the slave-holding states, but it lagged industry and commerce in the North. Dunn argues that “if the state government had energetically supported a network of internal improvements, Virginia might have developed large, vital cities that could have attracted skilled labor, capital and consumers.” Virginia possessed coal and iron deposits – it potentially could have been a leader in the industrial revolution.

Dunn has captured elements of the full picture, but I sense that her analysis is incomplete. While Virginia’s entrepreneurial vitality lagged that of the north, it exceeded that of other slave-holding states. Where did that industrializing impulse come from? Who were Virginia’s ante-bellum entrepreneurs and where did they get their capital? What role did the tariff (the subject of a different chapter) play in transferring wealth to Northern states and inhibiting capital formation in Virginia? To what extent did the Board of Public Works misallocate the limited supply of capital that was available?

“Dominion of Memories” may not have all the answers, but Virginia public policy junkies will find Dunn’s account of the great economic development issues of Virginia’s early 19th century to be fascinating nonetheless.


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38 responses to “Economic Development in Days Gone By”

  1. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    “While Virginia’s entrepreneurial vitality lagged that of the north, it exceeded that of other slave-holding states. Where did that industrializing impulse come from? “

    How did nova get to be NoVa? Did a bunch of hicks get together and decide to become an economic giant? Dang Yankees!

  2. charlie Avatar

    Yeah, you left out the failure of Washington, DC to become a city and a commercial center — which was the basis of all those canal plans to the West. The Erie canal demonstrated you could make money that way, but the profits went to New York City.

    The B&O railroad showed that steam power more effective and made Baltimore in a major commercial center, but the B&O was just too overbuilt and expensive to really dominate the markets.

  3. How did nova get to be NoVa? Did a bunch of hicks get together and decide to become an economic giant? Dang Yankees!

    Gee I thought it had something to do with the massive growth of the Federal government and all the government contractors there.

  4. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    And who grew that Federal government and contractors? It wasn’t the boys in Richmond. Nope, Yankees grew it. That’s why there are no Acela’s running to Richmond. Why three of the last four governors are ‘come here’s’, and why Nova is turning blue. Heck, even the beloved Hogs were born in Boston.

    Face the facts. The RoVa GOBs sit in their little hideaways, trying to figure out how to maintain their families pre-reconstruction lineage, while the same factors that created WV in 1863 are being played out today. Much like NoVA, the mountain state wasn’t populated by Ole Virginny but by Yankees, from Pa.

  5. not your father's economic developer Avatar
    not your father’s economic developer

    Looks like a good read. I’m reminded of other missed opportunities. Cyrus McCormick and had to take his Reaper to Chicago to make it to market. And didn’t Col. Ginter sell the Duke’s the rights to the rolling machine that set their business on fire?

  6. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “Dunn argues that the Board was a half-hearted effort, lacking sufficient capital to carry out its task. But it could be equally argued that the institution was flawed from its inception by allowing political considerations to supplant economic ones.”

    And not a darn thing has changed. We have a no-bid contract with Bechtel to build Dulles Rail. Gerry Connolly and many of his cronies on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors support granting as much as 220 M square feet at Tysons Corner. In fairness, Supervisors Foust, Herrity, Smyth and Frey have each raised public interest questions about the Tysons proposal.

    Nothing has changed, except some of the good old boys are now good old girls.

    TMT

  7. Larry G Avatar

    I had a couple of thoughts.

    The first would be to ask – that in a Democracy – do we, the people, have the right to decide just how “free” a free market that we want (or not)?

    For instance, does a free market that seeks to outflank competitors …and the end result means essentially denying citizens the benefit of a useful technology like rail… not only from special interests derailing it (pun intended) so that their canal investments prevail but even after rail get’s built – it gets built by so many different players that a citizen wanting to transport goods has to go three 8 different rail companies to do so.. and/or probably will get held hostage for higher fees by one or more of them knowing that he must use their rail connection?

    The second thought follows on – which is – what should be the role of government in infrastructure?

    For instance, with roads, we started out with the same problem that we had with the rails which is different owners… building and maintaining roads with different standards and tolls subject to change at the whim of the owner.

    so… the government got involved in roads … to assure some level of benefit to citizens but they left rail alone..

    and now.. we have this foolish dicotomy with respect to roads vs rail.. repleat with the idea that government roads are not subsidized and we can’t do anything about rail because 1. – it’s privately owned and that includes the tracks and 2. if we actually did such a thing – it would be a wasteful “subsidy”.

    So… for instance, if someone who works in NoVa has a meeting in Roanoke or Newport News – they DO NOT hop on a high-speed rail to get there in 2-3 hours (with internet access en-route) but instead must devote the whole day to fun and games on I-64 or I-81.

    and yet we bleat on… at least until recently … “let the “free-market” ‘work’…

    ha ha ha ha ha…

    oh.., and if that isn’t rich enough.., the bail-out was caused by the pro-regulation Dems …because they did not “properly” regulate Fannie and Freddie…

    yes, indeed.. let the free markets work…

    from way back when it was canals vs rail – it was clear – let the folks who ran the canals figure out how to best “protect” their investment – after all the folks who paid to use them … had no right to rail service to start with but only to whatever the “free market” provided to them,.

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Larry, When it comes to “internal improvements,” I don’t think you’ll find many people who say that a pure “free market” is the way to go. The question is what role does government play?

    Based on what I read in Dunn’s book, I would suggest that Virginia picked the wrong role for government. Ideally, the Board for Public Works should have laid out a blueprint for connecting the state, stating, here are the projects we see as having value and projects that we will help fund. And it would have set standards for connectivity, to ensure that all the pieces fit together.

    Instead, 19th century Virginia has no master plan, established no priorities and set no standards. Competing commercial interests submitted projects, and the Board funded them on what I suspect were mainly political considerations — although it would be interesting to read the details of the contracts, if they still exist today.

    There is a role for government in transportation. But it has to be good government, not sloppy government that caters to special interests looking for boodle.

  9. Larry G Avatar

    re: …”nstead, 19th century Virginia has no master plan, established no priorities and set no standards. Competing commercial interests submitted projects, and the Board funded them on what I suspect were mainly political considerations..”

    Jim… what is your opinion of the relevancy of your statement about 19th century transportation policy – with respect to current policy?

    example (complete the sentence):

    the reason that we do not have a dedicated 3rd rail for high speed rail between Richmond and Washington is… (fill in the blank).

  10. Groveton Avatar

    Close … but no cigar.

    Aristocracies never work and they have failed for the last 300 years in Virginia. The First Families of Virginia (FFV) have failed the people of Virginia in much the same way that the House of Saud has failed the people of Saudi Arabia. Jefferson, Mason, Madison and Washington were never part of the Torrie – leaning FFVs. They were the rebels from the hinterland of Charlottesville, Fairfax and Orange. They were not from Norfolk, Richmond and Williamsburg.

    Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.

    Obey God – resist the First Families of Virginia and their proxy organization – the General Assembly. Tear down Dillon’s Rule and send America’s version of the house of Saud packing.

    Virginia has failed because a small group of self-centered, self-appointed pseudo royalty has ruined the commonwealth pursuing their personal intersts for 300 years.

    It is time to throw them on the ash heap of history – where they belong.

  11. Groveton Avatar

    We should also move the state capital. Enough is enough. The experiment that is Richmond has failed. How about Charlottesville? Combine the state capital with a top notch university and build a community where the creative class wants to live. Think Austin, TX.

  12. Larry G Avatar

    speaking of “plugs” for books and such… here’s an editorial in this mornings Free Lance Start by our esteemed host:

    “GOP MUST PITCH PLAYBOOK, RETURN TO IDEAS”

    by Jim Bacon

    http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2008/102008/10052008/412938

  13. Groveton Avatar

    Jim Bacon:

    Great Op Ed piece. Exactly right. Now, how have other states performed the in-depth analysis of the problems that you espouse?

  14. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Wrong role of government? The whole reason there was a Board in the first place is because Virginians followed the letter of the Constitution. During the time of Madison, there was no role for federal funding of internal projects. That was the state’s responsibility. When it was attempted, he shut it down. Then along came the Whigs and Clay’s American system, another great plan that failed to anticipate unintended consequences. Those tariffs you mentioned beat the crap out of southern states, while the benefits of federal largesse went to those dang Yankees in NYC. This created a rift between those who followed the principles of Jefferson and Madison versus the Alexander Hamilton big business/general welfare crowd. We know where that ended up.

    And this very minute Americans are once again fighting among themselves over those same principles. Only now the American System is known as globalization. The national economy has evolved beyond what Madison could oppose with his pen, to a world where foreign interests can veto the Republic itself.

  15. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Interesting post and comments:

    Some InterRegional Geographic Illiteracy:

    Anyone who thinks that there was ever the potential for a canal from any Atlantic port between Hoboken and Savannah to have the impact that Clinton’s Ditch / The Erie Canal / The New York State Barge Canal has had on the New Your New Urban Region and its predecessors never did a topographic profile of the Hudson, Mohawk and Ontario Plains from Rome to Tonawanda. It is called the Appalachians – including the Blue Ridge, Catskills, Alleghenys. Why did they build Ft. Stanwick in the French and Indian War? Because there had been a way west laid out by the Iroquois Nation centuries before.

    It was not an issue of Agency structure or Enterprise freedom, it was topography.

    The VFF did what they though was best for themselves but even if they had done the opposite – or anything else – until there were IntraRegional railways, roadways and airways the Mid Atlantic was isolated from resources and opportunity presented by the new west.

    A “plan” would have been nice to guide the actions of the Board of Public Works but then a plan would be nice today too.

    There is a bigger point:

    Trying to retrofit a late 20th century theory of Agency / Enterprise relationship into the 1800 to 1850 time frame is pointless. That fifty years period was only the first quarter of the 200 year Agrarian to Urban Transformation.

    One might as well harangue the Neanderthals for not having the foresight to develop Neolithic Trading Villages as a way to jump start the Transformation for hunter / gatherer tribes and clans to agrarian city states, empires and nation states.

    EMR

  16. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ed, You’re absolutely right, the Potomac and James River canals were doomed to failure from the beginning. Geography was against them.

    You made another, more interesting point: “Trying to retrofit a late 20th century theory of Agency / Enterprise relationship into the 1800 to 1850 time frame is pointless. That fifty years period was only the first quarter of the 200 year Agrarian to Urban Transformation.”

    I agree and disagree. I nearly concluded the post with a paragraph drawing lessons for today but decided against it because the post was getting too long. That is: In undergoing the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society, special interests (most notoriously the slave-holding planter class) inhibited creation of the kinds of institutions needed for a functioning industrial society. The northern states, which had no planter class, successfully invented those institutions.

    The moral of the story for today is that Virginia is undergoing a transition (to borrow the Tofflers’ terminology) an industrial wealth-creation system to a knowledge wealth-creation system. Just as Virginia’s planter class and canal stockholders supported the status quo, 21st Virginia has an array of special interests that we label “Business As Usual” that also fight to maintain the status quo and thwart Fundamantal Change.

  17. Groveton Avatar

    As I have often commented – the establishment of the capital of the US national government on a swamp between Virginia and Maryland was the single greatest example of regional economic development ever. The state of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia would be forever enriched by this decision – pushed by Virginia’s founding fathers.

    However, let’s take a moment and ask how things would look if the US Capital were in New York or Philadelphia or Pittsburgh instead of Washington, DC. How would a DC-less Virginia compare with other states? Rather poorly, I’d say. And this is my point – people on this blog want to attribute all of Virginia’s woes to historical events that affected all of the South. By that standard, Virginia is no better off and no worse off than other states in the South. I disagree. I believe that Virginia has suffered from a huge leadership vacuum since the 1820s. This is not the case in North Carolina, Tennesee, Florida or any number of other southern states.

    For example:

    1. Only Virginia saw the necessity of being the capital of the confederacy. This act of marshal hubris rendered its most promising city useless.

    2. Virginia institutionalized racism more deeply and far longer than many other southern states. Massive Resistance only really ended in 1986 with the final resolution of the federal government’s series of lawsuits against the Richmond public schools. While Virginia clung to to the immoral policies of the past some other southern states moved past this abomination and empowered all their citizens.

    3. Virginia has failed to see any of the systematic changes occuring within its borders. Whereas North Carolina saw the impending fall of the tobacco industry and established Research Triangle Park, Virginia watched tobacco fade without a plan and without effective action.

    4. Virginia continues to fail to see the future. From its part time legislature to its insistance on the antiquated Dillon’s Rule to its deformed and increasingly ineffective public university system – Virginia is moving through through the 21st century with the same glassy eyed indifference that characterized its “progress” through the 20th century (and most of the 19th century for that matter).

    All Virginians should utter a pledge of thanks at political gatherings, baseball and football games:

    Thank you Mr. Washington,
    Thank you Mr. Jefferson,
    Thank you for putting DC where it is,
    Otherwise, we’d be totally lost and hopeless,
    Instead of mostly lost and hopeless

  18. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “repleat with the idea that government roads are not subsidized and we can’t do anything about rail “

    Government roads are not subsidized, or not very much anyway: they are paid for by the 98+% of people who use and depend on them. We can argue about whether the distribution of payments is fair, but not about the overall source of the funds.

    The reason you cannot hop on a high speed train is because the market worked: it won’t pay. To have high speed rail will require huge operating subsidies – paid by those who do not use or benefit (very much) from the system.

    I love traveling by rail when it is convenient, but it is still a boondoggle.

    RH

  19. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Now, the situation with differing rail guages, and price gouging due to choke points represented a market failure. In retrospect, that was something government should have and could have prevented with appropriate regulations and taxes.

    But in point of fact, that condition developed over time, and could not have been foreseen by ordinary government practitioners.

    Afterwords, when the condition was already “allowed” to exist, the operators had investments in the system (bad as it was) and attendant property rights which needed to be protected.

    RH

  20. Larry G Avatar

    just a note about geography and rivers and canals.

    It's true that mountain ranges are barriers – but it's also true that major rivers cut through those ranges.

    The Susquehanna cuts through most of Pennsylvania …well west of the Applachians..

    Also true of the New River that flows to the north thence west of Roanoke – all the way to the Ohio River.

    Also.., in NC – the French Broad river flows from Ashville north and then west to the Tennessee River then to the Mississippi.

    Remember also.. the Potomac River.. the C&O canal that flows all the way to Cumberland Md

    What killed the canals was not so much due to geography as to technology.

    To this day – barge and even ship canal traffic still comprise a major part of the transport network for bulk goods.

    and this is yet another aspect of settlement patterns – which seems to be ignored…

    from two perspectives

    1. the first is geography.. which ALSO plays a role in settlement patterns.

    You just cannot plop down a "balanced community" or New Urban Region just anywhere.

    There IS a reason why most New Urban Regions exist where they do exist and that is…

    2. – the transportation and trade network that evolved over time.. and the reason why that a balanced community/NUR has.. raisins … wheat… 2×4 lumber, steel beams, etc….

    The transportation network and settlement patterns are inextricably linked and integrated…

    no NUR could exist without the transportation network and, in fact, most vibrant, large, NURs are themselves transportation hubs…

    .. and most second tier.. towns/cities.. that never grew up to mega status were limited in that regard by geography and transportation.

    We did not build the transportation network – initially to serve the automobile.

    It,in fact, existed obviously long before the Automobile.

    The industrial revolution probably would never have occurred without transport and trade.

    The paradigm for transportation and trade was a grandaddy in concept before the auto was ever borne.

    Wagon trains rather than horses alone – are what initially opened up the west.

    People can ride horses but wagons are needed for heavier goods and manufactured products.

    California .., and the west coast came to be.. in spite of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra's …,again.. long before anyone new that an automobile would ever exist – because of ships and trade routes.

    I know all this this sounds like so much obvious blather… but .. here lately.. we've been talking about settlement patterns as if .. transportation is an evil obstacle to settlement pattern nirvana…

    We will ALWAYS need roads.

    We will NEVER not need roads.

    As long as roads exist to bring in goods and materials necessary to sustain NURs – those roads can and will be used by people in automobiles who will use them for the things that benefit them.

    If we ever go forward to a world where we cannot afford the fuel necessary for mobility – of not only people in cars – but goods in trucks – NURs and "balanced communities" will no longer exist either.

    NURs are, in fact,m the evolutionary result of trade and transport.

    They exist and prosper because of trade and transport – not in spite of it.

    I think when we discuss settlement patterns .. and "efficient" land use and development – that we need to keep in mind that trade and transport are as necessary for ALL settlement patterns no matter how efficient they are (or are not) … and that the struggle to deal with auto-centric aspects that views roads as obstacles to sustainability are wrongheaded.

    ANY thesis about sustainable settlement patterns, needs to not only accommodate the concept of trade and transport but acknowledge the absolute necessity of the transportation network integral to any sustainable settlement pattern.

  21. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Larry:

    Do your homework. Draft a topo profile of the routes that you point. Then compare the distance and elevation differece between navigable waterways with the Hudson (navigable) / Mohawk / Ontario Plain.

    The New York Barge Canal to this day is hauling freight. I have not noticed any water borne freight on the other routes above the first falls from the Atlantic or the Mississippi / Missouri / Ohio.

    Jim:

    One quibble about …

    Vocabulary.

    The Industrial Revolution was great but,

    The vast majority of our economy is not “industrial” it is service and consumption aka, “urban.”

    Using “industrial” masks the importance of the Agrarian to Urban Transformation. The Agrarian society included industrial activity since before the Bronze Age.

    You have a good point but I would reword your paras as follows:

    “I nearly concluded the post with a paragraph drawing lessons for today but decided against it because the post was getting too long.

    “That is: In undergoing the transition from an Agrarian to an Urban society, special interests (most notoriously the slave-holding planter class) inhibited creation of the kinds of Agencies, Enterprises and Institutions needed for a functioning Urban society.

    “Some northern states and states in the new Northwest, which had no planter class, were somewhat more successfully in evolving those Organizations but still have a long way to go.

    “The moral of the story for today is that, just as Virginia’s planter class and canal stockholders supported the status quo, 21st Virginia has an array of special interests that we label “Business As Usual” that also fight to maintain the status quo and thwart Fundamantal Change.”

    EMR

  22. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Oops forgot:

    Larry:

    Check out the agricultural and idustrial productivity all along the Mohawk and Ontario Plain. Nearly every lock and every wide-water was a source of revenue freight.

    Compare that with what might be produced in the area within an easy wagon trip of the other canal allignments. They white water down New River, right? No white water on the Mohawk.

    How many locks up the Susquehanna to get to Lake Otsego? And then where are you?

    Also the straw-persons of scattering Balanced Communities or New Urban Regions willie nillie are not worth responding to.

    EMR

  23. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Refusing to engage doesn’t make you right, Ed.

    ——————–

    Even though the canals were soon superceded by rail, they were immensely profitable while they lasted. I think some of them paid for themselves within a couple of years. Amazing, considering they were dug mainly with manual labor and shovels. They lowered the cost of grain delivered to eastern markets by a factor of ten.

    The New york barge canal does still carry freight, but barely. Most traffic travels through the longer, but faster, St. Lawrence seaway, or by truck.

    The intracoastal waterway does still carry substantial barge traffic.

    RH

  24. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ed, I would be comfortable with your rewording of the “moral” of the post.

  25. Larry G Avatar

    just FYI –

    “The Main Line of Public Works was a railroad and canal system built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the 19th century. It ran from Philadelphia west through Harrisburg and across the state to Pittsburgh and connected with other divisions of the Pennsylvania Canal.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Line_of_Public_Works

    EMR – do you realize the Appalachians go from Georgia to Maine which means they also go through New York State and the Erie Canal System?

    EMR – do you realize that in terms of whitewater on Rivers that the Niagara River in terms of whitewater is quite a bit more than that on the New – and they have an extensive canal and lock system that connects the great lakes to the St Lawrence River thus to the ocean.

    Most canal systems built dams on the whitewater sections – which in turn fed the locks to raise/lower boats.

    Rail came along in the middle of the canal era and preempted those efforts much the same way that technology has preempted other existing ways and methods of doing things.

    EMR – I bet you still have a betamax and a cassette walkman and cannot bring yourself to throw it away…. right?

    🙂

    the major point that I am trying to make is that trade and transport are fundamental to settlement patterns…

    no matter what technology that trade and transport employ…

    the function itself is vital to sustainability….

    Functional Settlement Patterns are not stand-alone places with clear edges.

    all of them must have transportation ..wheel and spoke hubs…

    .. the problem is that when you have transportation infrastructure.. to support trade and transport – it can also be used by people for mobility between home and work…

    and while that causes a whole host of problems with sprawl and sub-optimal settlement patterns – the solution is not to remove the transport infrastructure…or to predict that some day.. the fuel used to power the vehicles that use the transport infrastructure will run out and force “fundamental transformation”.

    The “fuel” will change – no doubt.

    We know right now that cars can run on electricity and that we can produce electricity from a variety of sustainable technologies…

    ergo.. transportation is at least as sustainable as food and fiber …

    As long as someone has the ability to use a personal vehicle for mobility – they will.

    and unless you can figure out a way to outlaw the use of electricity to power such vehicles… Fundamental Transportation will not occur as a result of the exhaustion of oil resources….

    think back EMR – what were the original ships that explored the world and started (and sustained) new settlements powered by?

    they were powered .. indirectly.., by the SUN – that produced wind….

    Now.. we can use the SUN directly to power vehicles even if we run out of oil.. or even coal…

    expensive? yes? technologically feasible and practical? yes.

    when coal and oil and other fuels get expensive enough, wind and solar power will compete directly against them.

    As long as sun and winds are sustainable – transportation will also be….and thus the personal mobility of individuals who will continue to use the transportation facilities that are also necessary for trade and transport.

  26. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “As long as sun and winds are sustainable -“

    How many wind enerators can you put up before the energy they absorb and transmit to the foundation starts to slow the rotation of the earth, or interfere with heat distribution in the atmosphere?

    🙂

    RH

  27. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Jim Bacon:

    Thank you. I realized the post was a little presumptous.

    The Industrial Revolution “revolutionized” “industrial processes” but it did not invent it.

    The conversion from “craft” to “industry” happened at about the same time urban development started to agglomerate.

    The first example that comes to mind is the craft one family building a canoe vis the industry of building the boats for the Trojan War. One sector forged the nails, another harvested the timbers…

    As we note in SotF, the Industrial Revolution urbanized civilization but the overarching result of the Agrarian to Urban Transformaiton was Urban life for 95% of the population, not just a “knowledge economy” or a global economy not in chaos — more on that later.

    Larry:

    “just FYI -“

    Thank you for the information, see notes.

    “The Main Line of Public Works was a railroad and canal system built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the 19th century. It ran from Philadelphia west through Harrisburg and across the state to Pittsburgh and connected with other divisions of the Pennsylvania Canal.”

    The 19th Centruy was from 1800 to 1899 and the sections where a canal would not work were filled with steam rail.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Line_of_Public_Works

    “EMR – do you realize the Appalachians go from Georgia to Maine which means they also go through New York State and the Erie Canal System?”

    Larry, just do the profile.

    The high point where the canal went “over” the Appalacians was a short portage at Rome, NY.

    “EMR – do you realize that in terms of whitewater on Rivers that the Niagara River in terms of whitewater is quite a bit more than that on the New – and they have an extensive canal and lock system that connects the great lakes to the St Lawrence River thus to the ocean.”

    Actually, I have taken boats through the locks on the Canadian side of the St. lawrence and designed a cart that was used to portage from lakes not on the Canadian system to lakes that were…

    “Most canal systems built dams on the whitewater sections – which in turn fed the locks to raise/lower boats.”

    Gosh this is news!!!

    “Rail came along in the middle of the canal era and preempted those efforts much the same way that technology has preempted other existing ways and methods of doing things.”

    So? See notes on the the PA Main Line.

    “EMR – I bet you still have a betamax and a cassette walkman and cannot bring yourself to throw it away…. right?”

    Actually, my wife has a BluRay system. I am too busy with my own work to go beyond the DVD drivers on my computers.

    🙂

    “the major point that I am trying to make is that trade and transport are fundamental to settlement patterns…”

    Where would you find a statement by EMR that would dispute that?

    The core problem is you still do not understand the first Natural Law of Human Settlement Patterns — A = PiRsq. Citizens need far less land for urban land uses than is already developed.

    “no matter what technology that trade and transport employ…

    “the function itself is vital to sustainability….”

    “Functional Settlement Patterns are not stand-alone places with clear edges.”

    EMR has never suggested they were, you are building straw persons again.

    “all of them must have transportation ..wheel and spoke hubs…”

    I am not sure that is so. On a Regional Basis the Erie Canal was a liniar system with a few feeder spurs like the

    It was the Villages along the canal in the Mohawk that first gave us the idea for crateing sustainable Regions from Balanced Components.

    ” .. the problem is that when you have transportation infrastructure.. to support trade and transport – it can also be used by people for mobility between home and work…”

    You are lost in scale again. I have tried but there seems not to be anything I can do to help you find your way.

    “and while that causes a whole host of problems with sprawl and sub-optimal settlement patterns – the solution is not to remove the transport infrastructure…or to predict that some day.. the fuel used to power the vehicles that use the transport infrastructure will run out and force “fundamental transformation”.

    “The “fuel” will change – no doubt.

    “We know right now that cars can run on electricity and that we can produce electricity from a variety of sustainable technologies…

    “ergo.. transportation is at least as sustainable as food and fiber …

    “As long as someone has the ability to use a personal vehicle for mobility – they will.

    “and unless you can figure out a way to outlaw the use of electricity to power such vehicles… Fundamental Transportation will not occur as a result of the exhaustion of oil resources….

    “think back EMR – what were the original ships that explored the world and started (and sustained) new settlements powered by?

    “they were powered .. indirectly.., by the SUN – that produced wind….

    “Now.. we can use the SUN directly to power vehicles even if we run out of oil.. or even coal…

    “expensive? yes? technologically feasible and practical? yes.

    “when coal and oil and other fuels get expensive enough, wind and solar power will compete directly against them.

    “As long as sun and winds are sustainable – transportation will also be….and thus the personal mobility of individuals who will continue to use the transportation facilities that are also necessary for trade and transport.

    Sorry, there are too many assumptions here to address in this format.

    EMR

  28. Larry G Avatar

    re: “On a Regional Basis the Erie Canal was a liniar system with a few feeder spurs”

    EMR – whether it is a river or a canal or a wagon road or a rail line or a road for automobiles – they were/are explicitly designed for trade and transport.

    You say “feeder lines”.

    think about what the FUNCTION of those feeder lines were/are.

    they are, in fact, transportation HUBS where food/fiber/manufactured goods are distributed – like points on a spoke.

    urban areas needed food.

    farmers needed a way to get that good to them. and the most efficient way – was hub and spoke hubs that sat on mainline transportation corridors.

    If trains had not been invented for another one hundred years – what would have happened – and actually did – was …

    they used the rivers… they built canals where the river was too rocky.,.. and when they ran out of river – they established wagon portage trails.

    the point being.. that there was a reason why transportation corridors were developed.

    It did not really matter.. if that corridor used wagons, or canal barges or rail or 18-wheelers.

    that’s only an evolutionary technology issue…

    the original reason why the transportation corridor was developed in the first place is what is important.

    and the main point… is that once you have a transportation corridor to move goods… that people.. will then picky-back on the existing lines to take them to other places along those lines where they can homestead and build their own homes…. away from the urban hubs.

    the only “cost” to the transportation corridor was more boats .. so that more stops could be added…

    and then once enough people located a new community – they would also then need goods and probably produced food and fiber to be transported also.

    What’s to be understood here is that there never was a “clear edge” as long as their existed transportation hubs that went from one place to another.

    those transportation corridors “pierced” whatever “clear edge” existed.. in terms of functionality…

    the only real reason why you might have a ‘clear edge” had nothing to do with efficiency but more to do with arbitrary and artificial reasons – jurisdictional governance.

    settlement patterns and transportation links/hubs/infrastructure are inextricably part of each other.

    Essentially the essence of the functional settlement pattern argument is what someone feels ..constitutes “efficient” verses “inefficient”.

    I don’t dispute at all that there are efficient and inefficient distributions but I’ve not yet seen much in the way to evidence to show that a particular density … inside of a clear edge.. whether it be “near” transit stations or not – is …. optimal.

    The numbers about which densities are optimal .. strike me as … arbitrary assertions…in some respects.

  29. Larry G Avatar

    A question (that will be repeated until answered):

    Is it Sprawl/dysfunctional if someone commutes from outside the clear edge to a job inside the clear edge but they do not do it in a large private vehicle but instead on a large multi-passenger vehicle?

    If you commute but you ride-share… is it still dysfunctional?

  30. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    NOTE TO LARRY GROSS

    At 10/9/08 6:46 AM, Larry Gross said:

    “A question (that will be repeated until answered):”

    Why do you bother to ask questions, the answer to which you already know?

    “Is it Sprawl …”

    A Core Confusing Word

    “… / dysfunctional..”

    Do you mean ‘dysfunctional human settlement patterns’? If you do and if you had used that phrase you would have answered you own question. Dysfunctional human settlement patterns concerns “patterns,” not the actions of an individual.

    “… if someone commutes…”

    There have always been commuters. Org Big Nose lived in a cave on the other side of the mountain but liked to hunt with Urg Big Ears and his brothers so Org Big Nose would walk 2 miles to join them to hunt Mastodons.

    There were several who lived in the Fauquier County hamlets of Marshall and Remington in the 1920s who would walk to the station in Marshall or Remington and take the train to Alexandria. The issue is not if someone commuted. The question is if the settlement pattern was Balanced. Remington and Marshall were both far more Balanced then than now.

    “… outside the clear edge (Clear Edge around the Core of the National Capital Subregion) to a job inside the clear edge (Clear Edge around the Core of the National Capital Subregion) but they do not do it in a large private vehicle (Large, Private Vehicle) but instead on a large multi-passenger vehicle? (shared-vehicle).”

    (Words added to clarify the question since there should be Clear Edges around every urban enclave – even Greater Remington, Greater Marshal and Greater Warrenton – the location of the referenced Clear Edge needs to be tied down. It is also assumed that the bus runs near capacity for most of its journey, otherwise the question is meaningless.)

    The answer depends on the issues of pattern and location:

    On the Job end of the trip, if the shared-vehicle (aka, bus) drops off all the riders at a few locations and they walk to some other shared-vehicle system or to their jobs the bus system in all likelihood contributes to functional settlement patterns within the Clear Edge around the Core.

    On the Housing end of the trip if all the riders live in (or walk / bike / scoot to) a few station-areas then journey to work may well contribute to functional settlement patterns at the Housing end. If, however, most or all drive to one or more parking lots then the chances are great that the “commuting” contributes to settlement pattern dysfunction – scatteration of trip origins.

    “If you …”

    As noted above the actions of one person do not establish the functionality of the settlement pattern”

    “… commute but you ride-share… is it still dysfunctional?”

    See, you knew the answer.

    EMR

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    “Remington and Marshall were both far more Balanced then than now.”

    Idiocy.

    The question is whether the people lived better and longer or were happier.

    You wanna see the books and photos from a farm in Marshall in the 1920’s?

    RH

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    since there should be Clear Edges around every urban enclave – even Greater Remington, Greater Marshal and Greater Warrenton – the location of the referenced Clear Edge needs to be tied down. It is also assumed that the bus runs near capacity for most of its journey, otherwise the question is meaningless.)

    More idiocy. A bus can never run near capacity for most of its journey. it is either going to come back empty, or park for the day with the driver twiddling his thumbs.

    If we ever decide there is a need and a purpose for land beyond the clear edge (which would be the reason for having one) then that land would need to be supported by those inside the clear edge, and not taxed into oblivion under the “10 X rule”.

    RH

  33. if a commuter rail/bus comes from outside the clear edge to jobs within the clear edge….

    how does that action result in dysfunctional settlement patterns?

    Isn’t it true that for much of NYC – the folks who actually work in NYC – get there via bus and rail from outside the clear edge?

    Let’s say that the commuter rail – runs on electricity and not gasoline/diesel…

    How can an arbitrary line known as a clear edge – be drawn – that says that every commute inside of that line – is a legitimate function of a balanced community….

    and every trip that originates outside of the clear edge – is not?

    By what measureable criteria does it make it so?

    You can have two balanced communities both with clear edges – and the commutes INSIDE of the clear edge can actually be LONGER than commutes BETWEEN the two balanced communities.

    How can it be – that a shorter commute and/or a commute that uses LESS energy is classified as contributing to dysfunctionality and other …longer commutes within the clear edge do not?

    You have folks inside the Washington Beltway whose commutes are longer than folks who live outside of the beltway.

    where is the clear edge for the Washington area and why is it where it is?

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR’s answer is going to be that there is no clear edge, but there should be. He will tellyouthat there is a logical location for a clear edge, but the logic behind it is non-existent.

    RH

  35. and my point is this.

    You can draw an arbitrary circle and you can assert that all commuting inside of that circle is acceptable regardless of mode and regardless of distance.

    So.. you can have someone inside of the circle commuting 20 miles – and it is acceptable especially if done on a multi-passenger vehicle.

    My counter challenge is this.

    Why not have someone just outside of the circle – also using a multi-passenger vehicle to commute from outside the circle to inside of it – but only for 5 miles – 1/4 of the commute of the guy inside of the circle?

    Why is that any more (or less) functional or dysfunctional that the guy who commutes wholly within the circle but a longer distance?

    How would one determine of the two – which of them did not adequately pay for his location impact?

  36. E M Risse Avatar

    Larry said:

    “and my point is this.

    “You can draw an arbitrary circle and you can assert that all commuting inside of that circle is acceptable regardless of mode and regardless of distance.”

    Recall that the Clear Edge is never arbitrary and within the Clear Edge around the Core of New Urban Regions the urban fabric must be made up Balanced Communities for the New Urban Region to be sustainable. That is Blance within the Core, Blanace within Alpha Communities within the Core, Balance within the Villages that make up the Communites.

    A shared-vehicle system allows some high value trips to move from Village scale station-area to Village scale station-area.

    So your whole string of questions are unfounded. Just another swarm of strawpersons.

    “So.. you can have someone inside of the circle commuting 20 miles – and it is acceptable especially if done on a multi-passenger vehicle.”

    Another strawperson.

    “My counter challenge is this.

    “Why not have someone just outside of the circle – also using a multi-passenger vehicle to commute from outside the circle to inside of it – but only for 5 miles – 1/4 of the commute of the guy inside of the circle?”

    If you understand the New Urban Regions Conceptual Framework then this question has no meaning.

    “Why is that any more (or less) functional or dysfunctional that the guy who commutes wholly within the circle but a longer distance?”

    Ditto

    “How would one determine of the two – which of them did not adequately pay for his location impact?”

    Ditto

    Larry: “and my point is this”

    You keep flailing around trying to find little problems with the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework and the Five Natural Laws of Human Settlement without ever understanding, or even trying to understand the overarching perspective.

    It will not work, just give it up and go for a long ride in a small boat. You will have a lot more fun.

    What is frightening is how many do not understand the first law: A = PiRsq.

    If they did they would know that when you draw a Clear Edge around the existing areas set aside on municipal “plans” for existing and future urban development there would be enough space for three times the existing population — room for a Billion citizens plus.

    In fact as I recall a grad student once did a first cut and found you could put the population of China east of the Mississippi.

    You should know from looking at the air photo of Waterloo Iowa that where there is a viable Ag community there is a Clear Edge.

    In most places rampant land speculation has resulted in urban land use scatteration — mainly dwellings — due to the fact that the location-variable costs are not fairly allocated.

    Human settlement patterns must be functional inside and outside the Clear Edge and they must be sustainable.

    Until you have your arms around that, I just do not have time to try to respond to your Legions of strawpersons.

    EMR

  37. E M Risse Avatar

    Oh yes, Fauquier County has a plan with Clear Edges, called Service District Borders.

    With sustainable patterns and densites — i.e. Balance driven by the amount of land set aside for Jobs — there is room for over 500,000 citizens. That is approaching 10 times the current population.

  38. re: “If they did they would know that when you draw a Clear Edge around the existing areas set aside on municipal “plans” for existing and future urban development there would be enough space for three times the existing population — room for a Billion citizens plus. “

    I do understand PIR2 – but I’m asking what the “R” is and why that number.

    Is it an arbitrary number?

    does it vary from one place to another?

    what determines the size of a place with clear edges?

    Can a place with clear edges – expand and if so – what would cause it to expand?

    Notice EMR – that these are not strawmen – but questions.

    so far your responses to such questions .. along the lines of “you’ll not find the answers to questions by asking”.. is not reassuring….

    🙂

    EMR – if you cannot sell your vision here – how would you ever expect a larger population of folks to learn and understand enough to advocate change?

    this is your opportunity to win over your skeptics.

    If you can do it here – then you are on your way to winning over a larger audience..

    but if you cannot do it here – and the majority of folks who listen to you here – remain skeptics – how will you win over larger audiences?

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