As regular readers know, I'm a big fan of Harvard economist Ed Glaeser. He's the preeminent urban economist of our time, which may not sound like much if you haven't studied urban economics, but which I assure you is a big deal. I've been extremely interested in urban economics since grad school (I even published an urban economics paper while I was in law school), so it was quite satisfying to see the Wall Street Journal describe the field of urban economics as "red-hot." Not surprisingly, I thought the WSJ's interview with Glaeser included a few genuine nuggets of wisdom. For example, on the effects of higher gas prices on urban development:
I would be very surprised to see a wholesale change in the nature of American urban development.(My thoughts exactly.) And:
I think the relatively laissez-faire approach of Houston may be workable when you've got ungodly amounts of land you can use, but the more you squeeze in an area, the more policies you need—and the great hope is those policies don't limit growth.How dense cities can consistently thread this needle—more land use regulations, but without limiting growth—is one of the great unanswered questions in urban economics. Ultimately, I think the correct strategy will involve many of a narrow set of necessary and proven land use regulations. True Believers used to accuse me of being a little too favorable to regulation in grad school (though I steered pretty close to the center), but I can't be accused of being insufficiently laissez-faire on the issue of land use regulations. Laissez-faire is absolutely the correct guiding philosophy on land use regulations, at least relative to other fields, like domestic corporate law or development economics. It's not inconsistent for an economist to be considered "pro-regulation" on domestic corporate issues, but laissez-faire on land use regulation. They're entirely different worlds. Finally, Glaeser sums up New York City nicely:
New York City is a great place to be really rich and not a terrible place to be really poor, but it's a pretty hard place to live on $60,000 a year. You don't experience anywhere near the basic standard of living you would in Houston on the same income.Read the whole interview.