The Bartlett School of Planning


OMEGA Seminar: How Government Built USA’s Wealth and Infrastructure

12 February 2020, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm

OMEGA Series

How Government Built USA’s Wealth and Infrastructure: Lessons for 21st Century.

Event Information

Open to





Victoria Howard


LG.01 Central House
14 Upper Woburn Place
United Kingdom

Is planning anathema to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, or simply so ineffective that it can be condemned? Those who took control of America in the 1970s would have us believe so. It suited their purpose and fitted the beliefs handed down by Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, and Ronald Reagan. But is it true, as these theorists claimed, that planning leads to dictatorship, that only selfish individuals create wealth, that the state is destructive, and that prosperity is owed entirely to the free market? 

To answer these questions Ian Wray's lecture goes in search of an America built by government, plans and bureaucrats, not businesses, bankers and shareholders. It turns out that Government plans did not damage American wealth. On the contrary, they built it, and in the most profound ways. Whilst entrepreneurs contributed hugely, the state created the bedrock: the infrastructure, the intellectual foundations, the research, as well as direct investment in industry. In concluding, the lecture looks at what might lie ahead. Not least it considers a huge irony: the ideology which has underpinned the rise of Asian power (by which America now feels so threatened) echoes the pragmatic technocracy which once secured America's own rise to globalism.

All are welcome and participation is free. 

Further details about the OMEGA Seminar Programme can be found on the OMEGA Centre’s website (http://www.omegacentre.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/publications/seminars/omega-seminar-series-2019/). For enquiries and to join the mailing list, please contact Helen Chen (sizhe.chen@ucl.ac.uk).

About the Speaker

Ian Wray

Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, University of Liverpool at Visiting Professor

IAN WRAY is a Visiting Professor and Heseltine Institute Fellow at the University of Liverpool. He is Vice Chair of World Heritage UK and was Chief Planner, Northwest Development Agency, 2000-2010. He has written for the Architects Journal and Management Today and is the author of No Little Plans: How Government Built America’s Wealth and Infrastructure (2019) and Great British Plans: Who Made Them and How They Worked (2016).