Jane Jacobs Roundup

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We've already noted the death of Jane Jacobs, but I thought I'd point to some of the other online commentary about her that has surfaced since she passed away.

In City Journal, Howard Husock considers the ways that "Jacobs was almost universally misunderstood."

At the other end of the spectrum, Robin Philpot explores Jacobs' rarely-remembered writings on separatism and Quebec.

Don Boudreaux reminds us that Jacobs was a lucid foe of mercantilism.

And David Sucher argues, contra some of her obituaries, that "Jacobs has been widely-discussed and praised but her ideas, even the most basic, are only hesitantly being implemented. Her approach is more extolled than followed."

That just scratches the surface. No Land Grab and 2blowhards have posted a ton of interesting links. Dive in and keep clicking.

NEXT: With Andy Garcia as a Janjaweed Strongman?

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  1. All very fine stuff, Jesse, and thanks for the links. But I like this one also and hope you will add it to your list…

    http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2006/04/jane-jacobs-1916-2006.html

    George Pieler

  2. Thanks, George. I’ll check it out.

    Stop trolling, Bob. Anyone who’s read The Economy of Cities or Cities and the Wealth of Nations knows that Jacobs was a strong defender of entrepreneurship and private enterprise.

  3. The City Journal article was very good.

    Must… ignore… the troll…

  4. Okay, I just read the Husock article. Pretty compelling. I apologize for the troll, which was an admitedly stupid attempt to stir debate.

  5. Sinility?

    I might buy the typo argument if the keys were closer together or a homonym were involved.

  6. “Anyone who’s read The Economy of Cities or Cities and the Wealth of Nations knows that Jacobs was a strong defender of entrepreneurship and private enterprise.”

    Or, more precisely, of the dynamic, diverse, intricately woven outcomes that individual entrepreneurship and private enterprise can produce in a healthy environment. She looked at a commercial street in and urban neighborhood and said, “What a great street!” not “What great capitalism,” though she certainly appreciated and understood the important role the latter played in creating the former.

    Her vision was always far too particularist and localized to buy into any ideology that claimed to be universal.

  7. “Anyone who’s read The Economy of Cities or Cities and the Wealth of Nations knows that Jacobs was a strong defender of entrepreneurship and private enterprise.”

    “Cities and the Wealth of Nations” was the first Jane Jacobs book I ever read, and, about a quarter century later, I can say honestly, after due reflection, that it was one of the few books that changed my thinking and thus my life, developing and strengthening my early ideas of libertarianism, a full decade before I ever read anything by Ayn Rand, Rothbard, Friedman, Mises, etc. (Two other life-changing books that I encountered during this same period were Kirkpatrick Sale’s “Human Scale” and Elias Canetti’s “Crowds and Power”.)

    I was studying economics at college when I found C&WoN. I don’t know if it was the textbook, the professor, or the sunshine streaming through window, during the warm part of the afternoon when the class was held, but it is hard to describe how boring that class and its subject seemed to me. Under those circumstances, why I would open an economics book to read for “pleasure” is beyond me. But open it I did, and I soon discovered that economics, taken as an interdisciplinary examination of the satisfaction of human needs over time and across geography, was simply fascinating. The birth, growth, and death of cities and city regions, and the criticl nature of local currencies in those processes, were things I never really stopped to consider before. Unlike the dry, technically detailed prose of my college textbooks, Jacobs’ powers of expression and explanation brought her topics to vivid life. The enthusiasm for the subject that Jane Jacobs transmitted to me through this one book saw me through my hated economics classes of the time, as well as many other, deadly dull books and articles over the years. I don’t think I had another similarly nourishing “aha” experience in the areas of public policy and economics until I read Milton Friedman’s essay, “How to Cure Healthcare,” many years later.

    I’m sorry she’s gone, but while she was here, she sure put ripples in the pond, didn’t she? Thanks, Jane Jacobs, from someone whose life was changed by one of those ripples.

  8. Also kicking the bucket: John-boy Walton, ahem, I mean Keynes, fuck-no, it’s Galbraith, man, John Kenneth Galbraith, who finally had to hand in his chips. The old farth made it to his 97th birthday, no shit — really a tough old frump, wasn’t he?

  9. The Sunday NYT has a bit contrasting Jacobs with Robert Moses, urging a reconsideration of the latter. Moses, wrotes Nicolai Ouroussoff, “represented an America that still believed a healthy government would provide the infrastructure — roads, parks, bridges — that binds us into a nation.”

    When I read “healthy govenment” I think of a line in Prince Paul’s “Steady Slobbin'”:

    She overgrown, I think she kinda big
    As I pass, yo she’s sort of healthy
    (What that mean, a healthy appetite?)

    A healthy government, apparently, would prevent cute urban neighborhoods like SoHo from becoming “open-air malls” full of “homogenous crowds of lemming-like shoppers.” There they go again, those homogenous shoppers, messing with the aesthetic purity of *my* neighborhood. In Austin, where I live, you hear a lot of this sort of thing, too.

  10. ‘Moses, wrotes Nicolai Ouroussoff, “represented an America that still believed a healthy government would provide the infrastructure — roads, parks, bridges — that binds us into a nation.”‘

    The irony is, Jacobs believed in the government providing the roads, parks, and bridges, too. That wasn’t the difference between Jacobs and Moses. Shame on the Times.

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