Re: ECON: Jane Jacobs Epiphany

Anton Sherwood (
Sun, 17 Aug 1997 02:27:34 -0700

Of Jane Jacobs' book _Cities and the Wealth of Nations_, the Willow
: >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.

She uses the term "city region", distinguishing cities with extensive
influence on the hinterland, like Tokyo or Los Angeles, from others
like Rome without such influence; she says (I paraphrase from memory)
that twenty miles from Rome you wouldn't know there's a city nearby.

CurtAdams responds
: 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: [...]
: 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.

To me her most interesting claim is that this dominance by one city
is partly an artifact of a single currency. When a region's exports
lose market share in the world economy, the exchange value of its
currency ought to decline, giving the signal that it's time to cut
imports and begin import-replacement, which is the key step on the
road to developing new exports. But when multiple city-regions share
a currency, the signals to each of them gets muddled in with signals
to the others, the usual result being that the capital gets the right
signals and expands, while other cities (Manchester, Marseille) get the
wrong signals and decline. Her metaphor: an elephant, a monkey and a
hummingbird, all sharing a single heart. The US has largely escaped
the pattern because the role of "capital" is divided between New York,
Washington and now Hollywood.

Anton Sherwood *\\* +1 415 267 0685 *\\*