No Little Plans: How Government Built America’s Wealth and Infrastructure, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

No Little Plans

How Government Built America’s Wealth and Infrastructure, 1st Edition

By Ian Wray


226 pages | 48 B/W Illus.

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Is planning for America anathema to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Is it true, as ideologues like Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand have claimed, that planning leads to dictatorship, that the state is wholly destructive, and that prosperity is owed entirely to the workings of a free market? To answer these questions Ian Wray’s book goes in search of an America shaped by government, plans and bureaucrats, not by businesses, bankers and shareholders. He demonstrates that government plans did not damage American wealth. On the contrary, they built it, and in the most profound ways.

In three parts, the book is an intellectual roller coaster. Part I takes the reader downhill, examining the rise and fall of rational planning, and looks at the converging bands of planning critics, led on the right by the 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.

In Part II, eight case studies take us from the trans-continental railroads through the national parks, the Federal dams and hydropower schemes, the wartime arsenal of democracy, to the postwar interstate highways, planning for New York, the moon shot and the creation of the internet. These are stories of immense government achievement.

Part III looks at what might lie ahead, reflecting on a huge irony: the ideology which underpins the economic and political rise of Asia (by which America now feels so threatened) echoes the pragmatic plans and actions which once secured America’s rise to globalism.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements List of Illustrations and Sources 1. Introduction PART I: AMERICAN RETREAT 2. The Crucible of ’68: The Rise and Fall of Rational Planning in America 3. The Fraying of America: The Symptoms, Causes and Consequences of National Fragmentation PART II: AMERICAN ADVANCE 4. The Great and Shining Roads: Planning and Building the American Railroads 5. The Worthless Lands: Creating the World’s First National Parks 6. Deals and Dams 86: Hydroelectric Power and Water for a Continent 7. Engines and Octanes: Wartime Plans and the Evolution of the Military Industrial Complex 8. On the Road : Engineering the Interstate Highways 9. No Little Plans: Power Brokers, Business Elites, and the Making of New York 10. The Moon and the Computer: Apollo 11 and the Shaping of the American Economy 11. Frontiers of the Mind: How Government Created the Internet PART III: AMERICAN DILEMMA 12. The Road from Serfdom: American Missions, Asian Plans, and the Future Index

About the Author

Ian Wray is Visiting Professor in Civic Design and Heseltine Institute Fellow at the University of Liverpool. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and Vice Chair of World Heritage UK. He was Chief Planner, Northwest Development Agency, 2000–2010. He has written for the Architects Journal and Management Today and is the author of Great British Plans: Who Made Them and How They Worked.

About the Series

Planning, History and Environment Series

This series offers a unique window on the creation of the modern environment. Designed for an international readership, the emphasis is on:

  • urban and regional planning
  • recent as well as longer-term history
  • what the past can tell us about the present
  • local as well as global and comparative topics

Within this framework the books address three themes:

  • regional, continental and comparative studies
  • planning histories of key cities
  • changing planning ideologies and policies


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Urban & Land Use Planning