Posts Tagged ‘Arnold Kling’

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Feb 22nd 2009 at 9:42am UTC

If I Were a Betting Man

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Arnold Kling challenges me to a $50 dollar bet.

For me, this is more of an emotional bet than an economic one. Florida and I both share the premise that Wall Street will not come back. Florida’s economic case is that the New York economy may actually be less dependent on financial services than Columbus, Ohio or Hartford, Connecticut…

I hate the Mets. I find the heavy-handed sensory overload of New York tiring and ultimately unpleasant, in the same way that I find Las Vegas or Disney World unpleasant. Although I can actually enjoy New York in short stretches, and I cannot say the same for Vegas or Disney…

I don’t think that the arts are all that important. To me, creative innovation that matters is somebody in a lab at MIT coming up with a more efficient battery or solar cell. It is somebody at Stanford coming up with a way to make computers smarter or cancer more preventable. I just can’t get excited about some frou-frou fashion designers and the magazines that feature their creations.

Ryan Avent responds:

Kling seems to want us to live in some bleak, technophilic dystopia, where we work to enable ourselves to work. But that would be a poor society indeed. Cultural goods aren’t just a nice by-product of a modern economy. They’re the very justification for it.

I’m not a betting man. But because I think very highly of Kling… and, well, because I’m pretty confident on this one – I’ll take it.

A quick disclaimer: As a boy growing up in New Jersey I was a huge fan of the 1960s Mets – Tom Seaver, Jerry Koozman, Nolan Ryan, Tug McGraw, Tommy Agee, Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda – I can name more players from that team than the current one. I was also a huge fan of the NY Jets – Namath, Snell, Boozer, and company…

My point is that New York is a diverse open economy with a fast metabolism which will keep it attracting people and generating new businesses, industries, and modes of consumption – that will likely range from management and technology to arts, culture, entertainment, and media, and, yes, even finance – and in many cases capitalizing on the intersection and convergence of these. Can you say Bloomberg?

And while we’re at it: D.C.’s success (which I’d also bet on) is based not just on the fact that it’s a government town with highly educated people and a growing tech sector, it’s in effect become a suburb of New York, as the whole Bos-Wash corridor has become a more integrated economic unit – which can be seen most visibly in the relocation of major chunks of broadcast and print media – due to greater D.C.’s proximity, affordability, and quality of life.

I’ll also take San Francisco (from Napa to the Silicon Valley), Seattle, all of Cascadia, Chicago (which has roiled up many of the management functions of the old Midwest), and my very own Toronto – which to my mind may well have the biggest upside of any city in North America. I could go on…

So, how do you wager?

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Jan 23rd 2009 at 8:33am UTC

Where Do Cities Come From?

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Arnold Kling asks:

Today, we think of cities as places where people come to thrive. Wealth is higher in cities than in small towns and rural areas. Richard Florida tells us that the creative class is to be found in cities.

On the other hand, reading accounts of cities as of 1850 or earlier, they sound like death traps. People are less healthy in cities. Life spans are shorter. Poverty is Dickensian. I picture pre-modern cities the way I picture Russia today: people living off government assistance or criminal enterprise or sale of personal belongings; death at an early age; etc.

I wonder: who came to cities? Was it people without land? Were cities like an awful lottery that people would play when they had no other choice? A bunch of landless people gathered together to prey on one another, with the winners thriving (moving to the country as soon as they could afford it) and the losers enduring a Hobbesian existence, where life was nasty, brutish and short?

Did that make America in the eighteenth century seem like paradise, with its endless supply of land? Why were there cities in America? Was Jefferson’s preference for yeoman farmers a natural reflection of the relative state of urban vs. rural existence?

What would Jane Jacobs say?

In a series of famous passages, Jacobs argued that cities actually grew up alongside, and even before, advanced agriculture. It was cities – locations with dense, trading populations – that encouraged the transformation and modernization of agriculture. However difficult life might have been inside them, it was cities, according to Jacobs, that were the spur for modern economic growth and development.

Here’s a nice summary:

Jacobs contends that both animal husbandry and agriculture were most likely to have originated in the earliest urban settlements. Further, those settlements were the result of Paleolithic trade, and it was the intensification of trade in those early cities that paved the way for the development of agriculture and animal husbandry.

And another:

But don’t cities arise from and depend on agriculture? No: all economic progress originates in cities, Jacobs tells us; and cheekily adds that all agricultural progress originates in cities. Great advances, such as mechanical reapers and electricity, were invented and adopted in or near cities before being applied to agricultural regions farther out. Productivity improvements in agriculture always begin near the cities and spread out.

What we think of as purely rural activities often began in the cities. In premodern Europe, the quintessential cottage industry was weaving; but before cloth was woven in cottages the art was rediscovered and practiced in cities. Dark Ages peasants lived on gruel; the art of breadmaking was recovered first in cities (and based on city-grown bread; a medieval city had its own fields). In our own rural areas there are vast ranches where animals are fattened before slaughter; they are transplants from the city stockyards of Kansas City and Chicago.

Your thoughts?