I sometimes have occasions to write posts arguing that historic preservation laws are too strict in many cases and are putting a much larger economic burden on cities than people are willing to acknowledge. But I don’t want to come across as a crazy person. So I like to reassure people that I don’t think it’s insane or anything to bear some economic cost in pursuit of aesthetic goals. My go-to example for this when talking to people is usually the Grand Canyon. Obviously we wouldn’t want to despoil a unique element of national beauty for some marginal increase in output. But Kate Sheppard reports that there actually is a movement to start using the Grand Canyon as a uranium mining venue, though fortunately the Bureau of Land Management has officially decided that this is a bad idea.
Which it is! By the same token, I note that the construction of grand museums in which to house old artwork is not a very economically sensible thing to do but we shouldn’t demolish the Metropolitan Museum of Art and mine for uranium there either. Natural resource extraction is an almost uniquely bad economic reason to destroy something of aesthetic value, since if you don’t extract the uranium, you’re not only saving the canyon, you’re also saving the uranium. If for some reason getting more uranium becomes more pressing in the future, we can revisit the decision not to mine, but you can’t really do the reverse.