Economics, at its best a non-partisan game, or “science,” is not the same thing as capitalism, although the extremely ignorant confuse these terms. Capitalism is an ideology, like socialism or communism. Whereas economics simply tells you, “If you do this, the market will do that,” everything else being equal (which it never is). But even when everything else is unequal, it still gives better results than any ideology.

The world builds skyscrapers, from what it imagines are economic motives. Minarets, pagodas, and campaniles need not pretend to be profane, but the Burj Khalifa or the Shanghai Tower pretend. They are, of course, also impractical, but their designers assume they will make money, which they might do in our spiritual Disneyland.

Across Humber Bay from the High Doganate I have had the dubious pleasure of watching a pseudo-Manhattan rise in formerly smalltown Mimico. It consists exclusively of vertiginous apartment blocks, without businesses, and provides a “sleeper suburb” for Toronto. Aesthetically, it is impressive, the farther away you stand. At the typical reader’s distance, it must be quite beautiful.

When the electricity cuts out, after the next Carrington Event, the latest inmates of Mimico and the office blocks downtown will get good exercise walking up and down from the 40th floor, and across town looking for food. But this may come to seem the least of their troubles. For unlike snails, or cockroaches, blockbuster real estate projects cannot adapt; and their corpses are very large and inconvenient.

This is being discovered in the United States at the moment. Huge skyscrapers are hitting the second-hand market at a reduced price. I was just reading about the 44-storey “AT&T Centre” in St Louis, which sold for more than $200 million when new in 2006. With the AT&T decals removed, it has resold for $3.6 million. That’s more than forty flights down. The Chinese property market has done somehow worse, and I look forward to the prices in the Mimico “clearance sale.”

But why should we expect such sites to be cleared? For what will the land underneath these giants be worth, when the worldlings come to their senses, and decide they don’t want new skyscrapers any more?