Belated Plug

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I'm two months late in noticing it, but Gene Callahan and Sanford Ikeda have written a nice appreciation of Jane Jacobs for the Mises Institute.

(For Reason's interview with Jacobs, go here. To see me praising her work, go here.)

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  1. Five formerly independent towns consolidated into one giant city, with no county government? Sounds pretty megalopolitan to me.

  2. Back in about 1979 or 1980, I heard lectures on the radio by Jane Jacobs,on the issue of how Quebec could peacefully separate from Canada.
    Her lectures did not advocate separation or oppose, but dealt with the practical issues involved.
    The most important practical issue, she made clear, is the issue of fiat currency. Quebec would face the issue of creating a new fiat currency to replace the Canadian dollar, or continuing to accept the Canadian dollar, and being dependent still on Canada’s financial policy.
    She clearly implied that a gold standard world-wide would make separation and self-determination of regions much easier. It was refreshing to hear this on the radio.

  3. Ah, but they did’t merge while they were, functionally, five different towns. They were already a city. “Megalopolis” and “regional government” generally refers to incorporating the central city(ies) and its (their) suburbs into one entity. Los Angeles is a better example of a megalopolis. For NYC to be one, you’d have to add in a few counties in Conn, Jersey, and New York State.

    But the point is, just as the merging of the 5 boroughs politically took place after they had already begun to function as one city, much of the country is already divided by once meaningful, now arbitrary municipal boundaries. What were once different sized towns or cities have become a suburb of a city; which is to say, a residential neighborhood around the periphery of an inner city. The boundaries, once drawn in the middle of a wilderness between two settlements, are now just as likely to split streets, or even individual lots, in built out neighborhoods.

  4. Frankly, I no longer remember why, when I wrote that article five years ago, I chose New York as my example. Probably the city had come up in the context of the Toronto debate, and thus was bobbing closest to the surface of my mind. But I can’t say that for sure. Obviously it would have made more sense to cite Nashville or Miami.

    At any rate, on pp. 425-429 of *The Death and Life of Great American Cities* Jacobs makes as concise a case against regional or metropolitan government as I’ve ever seen. The quote I cited gets to the heart of her case, but the whole section is worth reading.

    Hell, the whole book’s worth reading. I’d put Jacobs on my Great Thinkers list, too.

  5. You picked New York as your example of a regional megalopolis? NYC and its suburbs are a collection of local governments. There is no regional government; that’s why the Mayor of New York City is still such a powerful position.

    Your assumptions about planners always favoring big projects over small and government action over private action are prejudices stemming from 1) a conflation of the term “planning” as it’s used in the US and “central planning” as it was used in the Soviet Union, or during the FDR administration, and 2) an outdated notion of urban planning, based on the state of the profession thirty years ago.

    I’d put Jacobs in the top 10 thinkerks of the past century.

  6. What about Lewis Mumford’s “The City in History?” 🙂

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