When I sail overseas, be it to the East through the Salish Sea to Vancouver or West through Stuart Channel to Victoria, I am awed by the number of cranes flying high in the sky.
No they are not carrying babies as cranes were doing when today’s “seniors” were too young to be told the things about the birds and the bees. They are not white either, they are mostly red, and they are known as “Hammerhead” cranes. They do carry a person of a certain age, other than infancy, but not in a fabric pouch. Their “passenger” climbs on its own to the Crane’s metal cabin every morning carrying adult versions of pablum and diapers, to last him the flight of the day; and descend at the closing of business, the same gross weight, more or less, as when he ascended in the morning. If by now you have had enough of my “humor”, relax and keep on reading for I am about to start the serious stuff.
The raison d’etre of the Hammerheads is to build tall, beehive-like structures called “apartments” or “condominiums”.
Looking at the Hammerheads piercing the skyline - I have seen up to seven of them from a single street corner – scares me. Not me the Engineer, but me the Economist, of which I am just a bit, I admit.
What scares me is the proliferation of Hammerheads. I am worried about the explosion of the species into our space and specifically I am worried about what happens around the Cranes’ feet and around the “hammer-handle” of these Hammerheads.
Municipal Engineers do not keep logs of Hammerhead Crane flights and this spares me scrutiny of my Hammerhead count. I leave the gauging of the problem to the eyes, mine and yours. Anyway, there is no doubt of the massive scale of construction we are living through, it is a fact beyond dispute.
We all have it burned into our brains that the economy is a forever-growing process, we are convinced about that, despite irrefutable evidence that everything growing, or simply changing, eventually comes to an end. Malthus, a smart British chap, spoke to it, too.
The expectation of economic growth survives as it does because we all, always it seems, wish for more than we have – and because hope springs eternal . We pursue our material desiderata through economic growth, thereby accelerating the Earth to its end.
This rampant spread of Cranes have many implications, of which one I will trace. The industry has grown faster than the market for the product. The market for “residences”, at the price the “‘product” commands is shrinking but the industry expands.
Construction capacity has gone past demand for residences. But the locomotive of growth has no brakes. The runaway industry could not stop or even slow down. They keep on building more clusters of “homes” and market them world-wide to those who do not need a place to live in. These customers “invest” in “empties”, they buy them as investments, not as homes. This keeps the Hammerheads rising and the profits flowing.
Those who fecit quis prodest (Latin for “those who profit do it”, which is a 101 course in Police Academies) are currently scurrying to prevent the politicians from impeding the lucrative construction market of selling “vacancies”.
But do not bet your money on politicians making more than “cosmetic reform” about the problem. The situation is bad, we, the society, are seriously inflicted. And do not think it will not affect you. We all have to pay for the way those who profit have shaped and are “managing” our economy. Willy nilly, the “collective savings of the society”, a great portion of it, has been “invested” in Hammerheads and other pricy construction equipment. If we slow the builders down by interfering with their building and selling of “empties” on the local and international “investors market”, we will all suffer from the ensuing “depression”. There will be unemployment and hardship for those who feed on the Cranes, so to speak. And there will be bankruptcies that will impoverish those generous developers who “buy us democracy”, those who sponsor “our” politicians who work hard to keep the economy growing.