Sunday, January 11, 2009

Power of Cities - UChannel Podcast review

Our Urban Future: The death of distance and the rise of cities, was the title of a recent podcast delivered by UChannel podcast which was a recording of a lecture by Professor Edward Glaeser at the London School of Economics. The title seemed paradoxical. The death of distance would entail the fall of cities. Alternately it would turn an entire territorial unit into one city.

My thinking was not far off. Indeed, in the historic part of the lecture, Glaeser explains why cities emerged and continued to exist over the long time of human history, despite a number of serious disadvantages for people to live in a city: it is crammed, expensive and usually not safe and not healthy. The forces that keep them in, explained by the Harvard economics professor, are proximity and numbers. Or in other words, the city itself.

With many people near, there is more productivity, more innovation. It attracts both the wealthy and the poor. Cities make for a powerful economic potion, however, with the modern technology, distance to the outlying territories are becoming less and less important. Proximity and numbers are one in the cyber-age, yet Glaeser observes in his studies, cities are still the centers of economic advancement. In addition to explaining this, he draws conclusions for city governments as to what are the right policies to stay ahead.

That last part of the lecture was less to my interest, but the analysis of the economic strengths and weaknesses of cities and the adaptation to the history of cities was very interesting and refreshing.

More UChannel:
Gaza (Tony Blair),
Whither the Middle East,
Kafka comes to America,
Lord Lawson and the alarmists,
Terror and Consent>.

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