What a city needs

Ed Glaeser asks us to reconsider two of the great adversaries in 20th century urban planning–grassroots activist Jane Jacobs and infrastructure czar Robert Moses–in The New Republic:

Jacobs’s greatest insight was that cities succeed by enabling people to connect with one another. Humans are a social species, and our greatest gift is our ability to learn from others. Many of the finest achievements of human civilization occurred because smart people learned from one another in cities. As Jacobs understood better than anyone else, the chance encounters facilitated by cities are the stuff of human progress.

But Moses was also right that cities need infrastructure. People cannot just argue forever on an unpaved street corner. They need homes to live in and streets to travel along and parks for relaxation. Jacobs underestimated the value of new construction—of building up.

Jacobs’ books, especially Death and Life of Great American Cities and Cities and the Wealth of Nations, were among the first to spur my young self’s interest in social science. They are still classics today. As Glaser writes:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities may still be the most indispensible volume in any urbanist’s library. I do not quite recall where I put my Mumford or my Corbu, but my Jacobs is always close at hand.

Read the full article here. Hat tip to Ezra Klein.

On a related note, see what Holland would look like with its population as dense as L.A. versus Manhattan.