Tall buildings and the social order

To make and keep the upper stories of a tall building habitable requires routine high technology.  The lifts have to work, the water needs to be pumped, the toilets have let the poop down one hundred stories without shattering violence.  It is not all that expensive.  Current office space costs in the centers of major cities are so high that very tall buildings are immensely profitable.  It is simply difficult to do, requires able people working together, both initially to build the systems, and subsequently to keep them going.

It is habitable floors that are hard to do, and habitable floors are what generates the rental income.  So, to assess a society’s technological level, count habitable floors.

By and large, the taller the building, the more the profit.  Doubtless there is a limit, but in the center of most major cities, most tall buildings are below that limit.  If people could build taller, they would.  At our present technological level, settling space seems likely to be fatally unprofitable, but building upwards, building the city of tomorrow, is highly profitable.

In South Africa the upper parts of tall buildings built by whites have become uninhabitable.  That the upper part of the skyline has gone dark is the most visible symptom of social decay.

Mark Steyn makes fun of the South African government’s incapacity to govern, for which National Review will surely purge him, if it has not done so already.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, the lovable laugh-a-minute sign-language fraud who stood alongside President Obama gesticulating meaninglessly to the delight of all, was exposed in the days that followed as a far darker character. A violent schizophrenic charged over the years with burglary, rape, kidnapping, and murder, he was also a member of a “necklacing” gang — necklacing being the practice of placing a gasoline-filled tire over the head of the victim and setting it alight.

… a lot of things in South Africa simply don’t function anymore. As revealing as Mr. Jantjie’s extensive and violent criminal background is the fact that the National Prosecuting Authority cannot reliably state which offenses he has been convicted of, and, for the one crime for which he seems definitively to have been sentenced, whether in fact he served the sentence.

The twin towers had one hundred and ten habitable stories.

The top habitable floor of Freedom Tower, the replacement to the Twin Towers is labeled floor 104, but that is fraud, to disguise the fact that we cannot do this thing any more.  It is actually the ninety fourth habitable floor.

A slower pace of decay than South Africa, but decay nonetheless. Seems to me that the pace of decay has accelerated lately, but to draw definitive conclusions, will need a few more years.

The Soviet Union fell in part because they could not keep the lights on, and the elite got sick of the darkness.

I expect that by the second term of Bill de Blasio, the New York night skyline will be showing some dark spots, like the missing teeth of an aging homeless alcoholic.  This will be proudly depicted as huge progress in reducing carbon emissions.

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35 Responses to “Tall buildings and the social order”

  1. eeuuah says:

    Jim, wasn’t the building with most habitable floors (~160) built rather recently, engineered by the same american firm that did the sears tower?

    The reasons we don’t build tall anymore are primarily social and legal now, not technical.

    • jim says:

      And if you read the Feynman report on the challenger disaster, you might well say that the reasons the Challenger blew up are social and legal not technical, the social problem being idiots in charge.

      • eeuuah says:

        That’s true. It would still mean we’re unlikely to see current tall buildings go unused in that near of the future, though.

  2. […] –Jim Penman […]

  3. Christopher says:

    “for which National Review will surely purge him, if it has not done so already”

    Mark Steyn has not written for National Review since December 24:


    Which was two days after:


  4. Toddy Cat says:

    There are quite a number of roads in the area where I live (a fairly prosperous midwestern state) that once were paved, 50-60 years ago, that are now gravel. I’m not sure what this indicates, but it surely is a sign of something, and not something good.

    • peppermint says:

      …gravel roads that can only be navigated with a 4WD gas-guzzler.

      I used to support public transit everywhere, because it’s efficient and quite frankly I like trains. Problem is, public amenities are paid for by Whites, but aren’t used by Whites.

      15-story public housing complexes would be great for poor White families.

      • Red says:

        Where I live we have a decent train system that’s quite expensive(14 bucks for a single 60 mile round trip). For a long time that kept the trash off the trains, but at some point they stopped enforcing ticket collection and arrest against black and Mexicans and now the trains are empty of whites and full of non paying blacks and Mexicans on their way to rob and harass people in safe areas.

        • jim says:

          Making oppressed people pay for tickets is racist!

          How did it happen. Did one day the people trying to collect tickets say “I am not going to get killed over this” and just quietly stop, or did orders from on high come down that ticket collectors were being horribly racist and should stop being so racist, hence should avoid confronting NAMs over tickets?

          Is this a bottom up policy, resulting from successful black violence that our society is reluctant to confront?

          (“I don’t wanna die for fourteen dollar ticket”)

          Or a top down policy to avoid embarrassing disparate impact?

          (“I notice that one hundred percent of arrests for riding without a ticket are black. That is racist. You can only arrest one black for every seven whites”)

          • red says:

            The change was never offically announced. All I know is they went from having groups of sheriff’s dupties coming on board to haul people off from time to time to ticket collectors not even coming up to gettho blacks to collect tickets.

  5. Dan says:

    “In South Africa the upper parts of tall buildings built by whites have become uninhabitable. That the upper part of the skyline has gone dark is the most visible symptom of social decay.”

    Evidence? Links?

    I can’t finding anything supporting the idea that tall buildings in S.A. are failing. The fact is there are few skyscrapers on that continent to begin with. Skyscrapers there are not built for economic reasons, since land tends to be cheap there.

    South Africa has only one skyscaper (not including transmission towers and smokestacks) that rises above 600 feet.

    New York by contrast has 98 such skyscrapers.

  6. peppermint says:

    Fixing the roads requires that taxes be reallocated from “social programs” to roads.

    My first impulse was to say that really tall buildings are different because a corporation builds one and it would produce more tax money for cities to give to “schools”. The government can’t be trusted to do something that’s in it’s interest.

  7. Peter Blood says:

    It’s interesting to look at habitable floors as one indicator. Where I live, the increasingly decrepit roads are an obvious indicator to everyone.

    We know what it would take to fix things, but technical know-how isn’t all it takes. It requires confidence and will, and our ruling elite do not have those any more. I hope it’s a good sign that it is on its way out.

  8. I don’t know about this. I think New Yorkers, even liberal New Yorkers, will slip De Blasio a poisoned cocktail before they let him do anything that really does reduce inequality.

    I have to think anybody with his height and IQ who nevertheless marries an ugly, black lesbian is pretty well neutered and ineffective.

    • Red says:

      There’s not going to be enough white people left to vote him out. Whites are already starting to leave and it will just increase as De Blasio program of anarcho-tyranny kicks into high gear.

      • Not quite true.
        Whites are still a plurality with 44%. Only need to chip away 10-15% of non-black groups to sustain a majority.

        • jim says:

          A majority of whites is insufficient. Sluts have the same characteristics as blacks, and identify with blacks, because they live on welfare and state sponsored transfers from white males. Even if they are nominally working, their jobs are commonly affirmative action jobs, which have the same psychological and political effect as living on welfare and child support payments with nine children by nine different thugs.

          Need a majority of white males and married women.

          For a majority of whites to suffice, need to stigmatize bastardy and stop subsidizing fatherlessness in order to force women to get married, and/or disenfranchise women.

          I hate to sound PC, but the problem is not majority non white, but majority underclass – and the cat lady with the PhD in advanced puppetry, or the completely phony degree in computer science, is as underclass as any of them, for the housewife is working for her husband and her children, but the cat lady with the fake degree in computer science is not really working for anyone.

          White women on welfare and child support vote like blacks on welfare and child support. White women with affirmative action jobs vote like blacks with affirmative action jobs.

          It is not the nonwhite voting block, it is the nonwhite plus white slut voting block.

      • Caleo says:

        You have no idea what you’re talking about. The Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations ushered in large scale demographic changes. I should know, I’ve lived in NYC since 1988. Black Americans are still leaving the city and have been for 20 years. Gentrification in most of Manhattan and an ever larger swath of Brooklyn and Queens has seen once largely black neighborhoods turn stone cold white. Puerto Ricans have also been leaving the city in ever increasing numbers, primarily heading to Florida and Pennsylvania. Blacks and Puerto Ricans are being replaced by Chinese, Koreans and Indians, as well as Mexicans doing a lot of the construction and maintenance work, overseen by the traditional Italian and Irish domination of those sectors. Many other ethnic blocks are also staking their claim, like Albanians, Russians, Poles and very wealthy expat Euros from Italy, France and Spain. On the NAM side you see alot of Dominicans and West and East Africans from various locales.
        DiBlasio knows who owns NYC and what will happen to him should he screw up like Dinkins did. One and done.

        • jim says:

          Gentrification only happens when there is “racist” law enforcement – which de Blasio promises to end. He was elected on the votes of NAMs and sluts, and promises a major transfer of wealth from white males, who mostly voted against him, to NAMs and sluts, who voted for him. Democracy is simply working.

          • He nominated Bill Bratton for NYPD chief.
            What more would it take to convince you?

            • jim says:

              Keep Ray Kelly.

              Bratton’s plan seems to be to get tough on non criminals, so that he can be tough on criminals without being “racist”, which program results in black cops beating up non black non criminals. This moves the problem around, but does not necessarily fix it.

              If you have a race problem, any genuinely effective solution is going to be “racist”. Bratton and de Blasio want a non racist solution.

              The broken window theory works because it is a non racial rationale for getting tough in areas that, by an amazing coincidence, happen to be full of NAMs. But if people see through it, and say “apply broken window theory without getting tough on NAMs”, not going to work.

          • Caleo says:

            Di Blasio can “promise” all kinds of nonsense, none of which will pass.
            I know 3rd generation Irish cops, and Bratton will keep most of the effective policies in place. He was the one who instituted them in the first place under Giuliani. And DiBlasio was elected with one of the lowest voter turnouts in NY state history, probably the lowest in city history.
            He won with little more than a third of eligible voters turning out to vote.
            Not exactly a landslide.
            The streets have been safe for 20 plus years, allowing an unprecedented influx of wealth to inundate and transform the city. The demographic changes alone will insure that the “bad old days” can’t return, at least not in any way similar to what was seen in the 70’s through the early 90’s.
            Again, DiBlasio talks a good game, but developers and real estate interests have reclaimed NYC, and they aren’t going to flush all their investments down the toilet and run away like little puppies. Di Blasio knows this, and the overclass that owns this city knows he knows it.
            Dubai on the Hudson is too precious and important to be thrown away. Bloomberg rezoned the majority of Manhattan for high rise luxury development, and there isn’t anyway DiBlasio can put the brakes on that, no matter what he claims.

            • jim says:

              De Blasio can hire enough black cops to make sure that whites have equal outcomes to blacks in getting the crap beaten out of them.

            • jim says:

              I know 3rd generation Irish cops, and Bratton will keep most of the effective policies in place. He was the one who instituted them in the first place under Giuliani.

              I know, you know, the cop on the beat knew, and Mayor Giuliani knows that broken window theory is a cover story for kicking black ass. If Bratton does not know it, he is going to be a problem.

        • Red says:

          De Blasio plan is to take all the police tactics that worked to reduce crime through the oppression of the under class and apply these tactics to middle and upper class whites along with any well functioning minority group.

          I don’t know exactly how the man thinks, but my guess is he knows that these tactics will drive out intelligent and productive people and bring in more underclass thus giving him as many terms in office as he wants.

          • Caleo says:

            Nice theory, but it has no foundation in reality, at least not in NYC.
            DiBlasio couldn’t chase away the productive class if he tried.
            Dubai on the Hudson is not going back to the 70’s.

          • nydwracu says:

            Isn’t there some major problem with the unions that’s guaranteed to blow up in De Blasio’s term? Hopefully he’ll crash and burn from that, and if the Republicans can pull it off (Lhota’s campaign was so phoned in that I wouldn’t be surprised if that was intentional) they’ll be able to keep the commies locked out of power.

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