Riding in an elevator isn’t usually fascinating or thought-provoking, but it will be for visitors to the observatory atop the new 1 World Trade Centre in New York, which opens soon. In just 47 seconds (see video below) a wonderfully immersive and realistic virtual time-lapse depicts 500 years of the history of Lower Manhattan Island’s progress from a primitive river front settlement to a mega-city of soaring skyscrapers known as New York; the cumulative effect of the countless plans of countless individuals over a few centuries; the result of human action, not human design.
Anything that encourages us to reflect, even just for a moment as we’re being whisked up to the top of a building at 23 miles an hour, upon the fact that the ‘land of the free’ became the land of the most prosperous, and in particular how rapidly that process occurred, is a good thing indeed.
The more often we are prompted to think about the relationship between liberty and prosperity the better. We can never do that enough; especially at times like this when politicians and journalists who speak convincingly, but whose minds are fogged by socialist fantasies and are awash in economic ignorance, tell us that there is such a thing as ‘too much’ economic freedom for individuals.
If we believe this, then we believe that someone else must have the moral and legal right to place constraints upon what property we can acquire and how we dispose of our property, by using threats of violence against us. The end of free and prosperous society begins when people stop desiring the freedom to even do what they wish with their own property because they have been convinced that to possess this absolute freedom is immoral and harms others.
Kudos to the Hettema Group and Blur Studio for producing something rather wonderful and, I suspect, more profound than they realise. What this short CGI sequence shows us more than anything is that when human beings are free to peacefully pursue their own goals the unimaginable, the impossible becomes reality. A few centuries ago no one could in their wildest dreams have imagined or predicted New York city as it is today, no one did. It wasn’t planned.
Sure, it has a grid layout as a result of government planning, but that’s a superficiality. The city as a whole was not decreed into existence by government or made possible by government; it came about through the spontaneous order of capitalism and the virtual absence of government interference in the private economic exchanges of the many generations of individuals who unintentionally contributed to its growth. This is true of every one of the world’s great cities, and is something we must never forget.