Capitalism and state planning have a complicated relationship. Capitalist ideology insists that markets are the best mechanism for economic, social, and environmental decision-making, and that consumer choice is the fairest and most efficient arbiter of public will. Deregulation has been the byword of the business class for decades, and diminished government has been the goal of conservative politicians at all levels.Grover Norquist of the right-wing Americans for Tax Reform
famously claimed he wanted to shrink government “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”That’s what capitalists say; it’s not really what they do. Capitalists and political conservatives are quick to call for an expansion of the state when it comes to its carceral capacities or its military might, and those expressions of state power have been ballooning budgets at the local, state, and federal levels. Big businesses love the kinds of complex regulations that keep smaller firms from competing with them; they can hire armies of lawyers to whack through the weeds, while their competitors get mired in the muck. They herald expansions of state power that increase inequalities and suppress insurgencies as government doing its job.On the level of city planning and land use policy, the rhetoric and the reality are similarly mismatched. Capitalists have serious and specific demands of the state, without which they are unlikely to function in the long term, or even on a day-to-day basis. They want the state to make big, fixed-capital investments in infrastructures that enable their own profit-making. They also want government to ensure some degree of support for people’s social reproduction, in order to assure they have a living, breathing workforce to exploit in the first place. Without these investments — planned, paid for and coordinated by the state — they have little basis on which to operate.