Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Club: The Triumph of the CIty

On Friday June 22nd at 2pm we will be having another virtual book club. This time, the book is 'The Triumph of the City" by Harvard Economist Ed Glaeser. I will post up questions for the discussion tomorrow. 

For those who haven't read the book, there are two excerpts available online:

The first is at The Atlantic, and discusses the benefits of skyscrapers.
The second is from The Scientific American, and it gives a good overview of the main points in the book.

Questions for Book Club:

1.  Best thing for a city is to attract smart people & leave them alone to do what they want. 
What you need for a successful city:
Thriving cities have a mix of educated, wealthy people, and also those who are striving.
Public services like schools/transport
Amenities like restaurants also attract people.
Low prices & sensible planning
2.    People make the city, not places. Following on from this- policy should help poor people not poor places; spending capital on vast capital projects to revitalise a city is unwise.
3.    Low prices are necessary to attract residents. Benefits of unregulated development: they have reduced prices in places like Houston, but have increased sprawl considerably.
3.     Urban Poverty as a least worst option?
4.     Progress and innovation are universally good? Is there ever a case where innovation is a negative & should be reigned in?
5.     Is it fair, if America can’t or won’t stop using cars & reduce their carbon emissions, to ask developing countries like India and China to do so?
6.      “Shrinking to greatness”: Glaeser recommends that the money spent regenerating New Orleans could have been better spent, even by giving a lump sum to survivors to help them to move elsewhere. This may be cost effective, but what do you lose? Do people have a right to have their homes restored after natural disasters?
7.    The city is good for the environment compared to suburuban level. Not all preservation should be encouraged. NIMBYism has costs: results in building in “browner” areas. Influence of climate on growth.
8.     Government policy drives people to the suburbs. Is it right that government policy encourages a particular way of life- suburban living? When should government intervene?
10. Does the book minimise the role of luck or employ retroactive justification? Would Dublin have been featured as an exemplar 5 years ago?

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