Thursday, February 3, 2011

Edward Glaeser

Edward Glaeser is an economist at Harvard. His new book is Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.

From his 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal's Kelly Evans:

WSJ: What do you think of Beijing's make-over for the Olympics?

MR. GLAESER: It's amazing to see what they're doing -- it's a recognition by the government that big cities are a vital part of their growth. One of the great ironies is that the impact of the flattening world has not been to empower decentralized rural land, but to strengthen the cities in China and India and elsewhere that are gateways between those countries and the West. It's deeply wise for the Chinese to be pro-urban in terms of development. They're creating space for ideas and human capital to be developed.

Obviously, it's a mixed bag and there are huge pollution issues -- though those are more symptomatic of industries than of urbanization.

I think the Chinese model is much better than the Indian one, [which] has enormous restrictions on development. Dubai, meanwhile, is an amazing place, an incredible bet. It's a large-scale metropolis for the oil region of this world -- maybe that will pay off, or maybe we'll all be getting 200 miles to the gallon and they'll have a lot of empty towers.

WSJ: What other global cities are succeeding? Which ones are struggling?

MR. GLAESER: I'm very drawn by the comparison of Mumbai, which is at the nadir of development policies, and Singapore, which appears to work very well.

Singapore has a highly involved government, which is not altogether surprising and not entirely wrong, given that you've got four million people living in 270 square miles.

They've embraced things like congestion pricing and it's a city that has remarkably uncongested streets -- for 30 years they've pioneered the use of congestion pricing to moderate traffic flows.

There's a lot that's less than ideal about the Singapore government, but on land-use planning the city looks like it's doing a remarkable job, given the problems it faces with having so little land per capita.

I think the relatively laissez-faire approach of Houston...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue