Re: ECON: Jane Jacobs Epiphany
Sun, 17 Aug 1997 03:07:42 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 8/16/97 10:36:43 PM, (The Low
Golden Willow) wrote:

(re claims of Jane Jacobs)

> a belief that
>high population densities were synonomous with slums and overcrowding
>was belied by the collapse of tracts of low-income houses while many
>well-off people (the "people with choice', as she reiterates over and
>over) choose to live in crowded and dynamic neighborhoods such as
>Greenwich Village or much of San Francisco; etc.

>The strength of cities is in diversity of uses, as closely intertwined
>as possible, which attract and draw along the streets strangers who
>visit the various shops and keep, by virtue of numbers, the streets and
>parks safe.

Of course one must remember that many of the well-off choose to live in the
suburbs. My cynical take on this is that such people primarily do so in
order to restrict their children's ability to learn of alternate ways of life
and thought. For someone without a car, the modern homogenous suburbs
borders on being a prison, although a pleasant one.

>Now I've begun _Cities and the Wealth of Nations_ (1982), wherein she
>boldly challenges every macro-economisc theory I've heard of. Here her
>damning evidence is the existence of stagflation (high inflation and
>unemployment, common in the 1970s), the possibility of which was denied
>by each and every theory, whether demand-side, supply-side, monetarist,
>Keynesian, Marxist, etc.

I haven't read that book of hers, but either she's wrong or you misunderstood
her. Monetarist theory predicts stagflation as a typical result of sustained
inflation. So did supply-side, but supply-side as we know it today was
cooked up after the stagflation of the '70s, so it doesn't really count as a

>She posits the city as the basic unit of economic expansion,
>especially through the route of import-replacement, namely the
>development of local industries to make what had formerly been imported
>from other cities. I haven't read any further in the book yet, but it's
>been very exciting so far. I hope I've conveyed a bit of that.

An interesting supporting point to her claim - I don't know if she makes it
in that book - is that many countries are almost just one giant city-state
and its hinterland. Examples: London/England, Paris/France,
Berlin/Prepartition Germany, Tokyo/Japan, Moscow/Soviet Union, Madrid/Spain,
Lisbon/Portugal, Athens/Greece, Mexico City/Mexico, Buenos Aires/Argentina,
Sydney/Australia. The city-state is typically 1/6 or so of the population,
more of the economy, and overwhelmingly dominant cultually. Even the US has
been such, with New York City playing the role from about the Irish Potato
Famine to WWII. Naturally not all countries are like this, but it's
surprisingly common.