Heseltine Institute fellow launches new book on the history of planning in America

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The University’s Heseltine Institute launched Ian Wray’s latest book, No Little Plans: How Government Built America’s Wealth and Infrastructure, at an event in Liverpool University Management School on 3 October 2019. The author is a visiting fellow and visiting professor at the Institute.

In addition to a welcome from Institute Director, Professor Mark Boyle, and an introduction from the author, there were responses to the book from Professor Michael Parkinson CBE, Pro Vice Chancellor for Civic Engagement; Jane Healey Brown, Planning Director, Arup; and Emma Degg, Chief Executive Officer, Northwest Business Leadership Team.

No Little Plans is already attracting critical acclaim. Reviewing  for the US Journal of Urban Affairs, John Walls said: ‘Ian Wray’s book is important because it provides a lucid explanation for the global decline of the United States.  It also helps explain why current politics are increasingly toxic…  No Little Plans is a very readable book.  Wray makes a good case for a new American Government mission to inspire bolder action.  This is a good message’.

Split into three parts, the book is an intellectual roller coaster. Part One takes the reader downhill, examining the rise and fall of rational planning in America, culminating in President Kennedy's 'rule by experts'. It looks at the converging bands of critics, led on the right by Milton Friedman and the neoliberal Chicago School of Economics, on the left by the rise of conservation and the 'counterculture', and two brilliantly iconoclastic writers – Jane Jacobs and Rachel Carson. It surveys the America created after laissez faire was unleashed, finding a sad tale of inequality, division and collapse.

In Part Two, eight case studies take us from the trans-continental railroads through the national parks, the federal dams and hydro power schemes, the wartime arsenal of democracy, to the post war interstate highways, planning for New York, the moon shot and the creation of the internet. It is a story of immense achievement and progress. Part Three looks at what might lie ahead. It considers a huge irony: the ideology which has underpinned the economic and political rise of Asia echoes the pragmatic technocracy which once secured America's own rise to globalism.