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Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier Hardcover – February 10, 2011
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The book is pacted with factoids, most of the post hoc ergo propter hoc type, but, for me at least, it doesn't really gel as a convincing, connected argument. There are points made that make sense - some cities have a lot of poverty because they attract poor people seeking opportunity, cities with diverse economic bases are less susceptible to an economic shock linked to the decline of single industry, it's good for cities to have strong educational institutions, that London is a fun place helps make it attractive as a place to live for skilled professionals, skyscrapers are an efficient way to house businesses and people, there are still advantages to be had in close physical proximity. Some of these points are old hat; some are relatively fresh and even against the received wisdom.
For an awful lot of these points, though, the ultimate response is: So What? The whole seemed like a lot less than the sum of the parts. The experience was less like reading a focused essay than browsing through Google news or an RSS feed on cities - a lot of information, somewhat organized, but nothing like an actionable vision. At times the data triumphantly trotted out was inconsistent (Silicon Valley succeeds as a kind of city, dispersed into office parks thought it be; Route 128 failed because being dispersed into office parks as it is it lacked the physical connections of a true city). At times, it fails to grapple with the implications of the obvious (yes, the theater in London or New York is great, but the seats are often filled with tourists because the locals are too busy working to make it).Read more ›
Much of Glaeser's work is refuting conventional wisdom against cities: we learn urban life can be green, skyscrapers need not destroy local character, congestion ills can be solved, and inner-city education need not be dreadful. Glaeser does not have all the answers to the problems he addresses, and occasionally his arguments are weak. But what fun is reading about a subject with nothing left to debate?
Glaeser is most convincing on one central policy theme: inept government makes urban living less accessible than it should be. These policies include overzealous historical preservation and height limits, subsidization of home ownership and auto travel, oversupply of public infrastructure, various forms of NIMBYism, and the more complex failures surrounding urban education. These issues touched Glaeser deeply as the tilted landscape led him to pick suburban life for his own children.
The book's subtitle could use clarification. Glaeser is not arguing that everyone will be happier in cities.Read more ›
The first book, which is terrific, is a brisk and accessible tour through a series of real-life experiments deeply grounded in data: "A study of corruption in Indonesia found that the stock prices of companies whose leaders stood closest to that country's dictator in photographs suffered most when the leader fell ill."
More: "When American cities have built new rapid-transit stops over the last thirty years, poverty rates have generally increased near those stops." It's not that transit stops cause poverty, he explains; rather, poor people value being able to get to work without the expense of owning a car.
That insight, like many of those mentioned by Professor Glaeser, bears on the main topic of his book, the economics of cities. The author proves useful as a guide to the research of others as well as in conveying his own thoughts. "Nathaniel Baum-Snow, a Brown University economist, has calculated that each new highway passing through a central city reduces its population by about 18 percent." And, "Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote found that children displaced from New Orleans by Katrina had a significant improvement in their test scores. He found the biggest beneficiaries of the exodus were children from poorly performing schools who left the New Orleans area altogether." It's the counterintuitive nature of these insights that makes them particularly delicious -- that expensive highway project that the local congressman fought to get funded turns out to be bad for his city, and Hurricane Katrina turns out to have been a good thing for the education of its "victims.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A rational and profound analysis on the nature of the most important invention of mankind.Published 9 hours ago by brolix
The audiobook is very well read. The book itself is really good, it makes us realize how important cities are to our civilization and the continuance of technological innovation... Read morePublished 10 days ago by A. Mcpherson
It's a good book on the importance of cities in the world. It includes many facts about real cases which support the ideas exposed.Published 12 days ago by David Santiago Flechas Garcia
As a Mayor of a small urban city (population 62,000) I like to think of myself as an urban planner. One of the most difficult things in running a city is the tremendous prejudice... Read morePublished 1 month ago by JAMES FIORENTINI
Cities drive growth and prosperity by bringing people and their ideas together in close proximity. However this proximity also causes some problems. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Adnan A. Khan
This book offers some interesting narrative on the history of cities, but Glaeser's arguments about the importance of cities in the modern world fall a little flat. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Heather L. Westerberg
I bought this book for my Urban Sociology class. It was an easy read and relatively short. If you like Freakanomics, you'll probably enjoy this too.Published 2 months ago by Jenise