Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Great Bureaucrats, Robert Moses Revisited

Robert Caro did a great biography of Robert Moses, a man who held a number of public offices in New York City and New York state, and did much building (roads, parks, housing projects) from the New Deal to the 60's. In Caro's book Moses comes across as a very talented bureaucrat, who becomes obsessed with building and building ultimately to the detriment of New York. Jane Jacobs was the critic who articulated the case against him in "The Life and Death of Great American Cities.

This LA Times article discusses a revisionist look at Moses mounted as art exhibitions in NYC. The two people, Moses and Jacobs, are at the ends of a continuum--the difference between the person, the expert, who knows best and the romanticized evolution from the roots, which also glamorizes the past. I tend to lean towards the first and away from the second, but in reality they're two halves of the human personality and both are needed.

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