Is planning for America anathema to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Is it true, as ideologues like Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand have claimed, that planning leads to dictatorship, that the state is wholly destructive, and that prosperity is owed entirely to the workings of a free market? To answer these questions Ian Wray’s book goes in search of an America shaped by government, plans and bureaucrats, not by businesses, bankers and shareholders. He demonstrates that government plans did not damage American wealth. On the contrary, they built it, and in the most profound ways.

In three parts, the book is an intellectual roller coaster. Part I takes the reader downhill, examining the rise and fall of rational planning, and looks at the converging bands of planning critics, led on the right by the Chicago School of Economics, on the left by the rise of conservation and the ‘counterculture’, and two brilliantly iconoclastic writers – Jane Jacobs and Rachel Carson.

In Part II, eight case studies take us from the trans-continental railroads through the national parks, the Federal dams and hydropower schemes, the wartime arsenal of democracy, to the postwar interstate highways, planning for New York, the moon shot and the creation of the internet. These are stories of immense government achievement.

Part III looks at what might lie ahead, reflecting on a huge irony: the ideology which underpins the economic and political rise of Asia (by which America now feels so threatened) echoes the pragmatic plans and actions which once secured America’s rise to globalism.

chapter 1|6 pages


part Part 1|43 pages

American Retreat

chapter 2|21 pages

The Crucible of ’68

The Rise and Fall of Rational Planning in America

chapter 3|20 pages

The Fraying of America

The Symptoms, Causes and Consequences of National Fragmentation

part Part 2|141 pages

American Advance

chapter 4|17 pages

The Great and Roads

Planning and Building the American Railroads 1

chapter 5|18 pages

The Worthless Lands

Creating the World’s First National Parks

chapter 6|18 pages

Deals and Dams

Hydroelectric Power and Water for a Continent

chapter 7|13 pages

Engines and Octanes

Wartime Plans and the Evolution of the Military Industrial Complex

chapter 8|18 pages

On the Road

Engineering the Interstate Highways

chapter 9|22 pages

No Little Plans

Power Brokers, Business Elites, and the of New York

chapter 10|19 pages

The Moon and the Computer

Apollo 11 and the Shaping of the American Economy

chapter 11|15 pages

Frontiers of the Mind

How Government Created the Internet

part Part 3|22 pages

American Dilemma

chapter 12|20 pages

The Road from Serfdom

American Missions, Asian Plans, and the Future