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🔢 Key Takeaways

  1. Contrary to popular belief, living in cities can be environmentally friendly due to shorter distances to travel, reliance on public transportation, and smaller homes. Humans are also less likely to harm nature when surrounded by tall urban apartments.
  2. Building high-rises in low-carbon areas can significantly reduce carbon footprint. Thoughtful decisions in urban development will create sustainable environments for future generations.
  3. Economist Ed Glaser advocates for individual choice in building high-rises and opposes government policies that push people towards the suburbs. He challenges misconceptions about cities and offers a different perspective from urbanist Jane Jacobs.
  4. Federal policies such as tax breaks for home ownership and building new infrastructure are encouraging people to move to suburban areas and neglecting the benefits of high-density urban living. To promote urban clustering, we need to invest in high-density housing and urban infrastructure, improve transportation within cities, and reform the schooling system to provide equitable education.
  5. Charter schools offer a solution for education reform by providing competition and innovation. Embracing urban abilities to generate competition and rethinking traditional methods of city development can lead to improved education and city success.

📝 Podcast Notes

The Triumph of the City: How Urban Living Makes us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.

According to Ed Glaeser, the city is our greatest invention because it taps into our ability to learn from one another, a skill that has evolved over six million years. Glaeser's book, Triumph of the City, argues that cities make us richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier. Contrary to popular belief, living in cities can actually be more environmentally friendly, as people tend to emit significantly less carbon. This is due to the shorter distances people drive, greater reliance on public transportation, and smaller homes. In fact, Glaeser argues that people who love nature should stay away from it, as humans are naturally destructive and more likely to harm nature when surrounded by it than in tall urban apartments.

The role of urban development in reducing carbon emissions

Urban development patterns in Asia, especially in countries like China and India, will play a crucial role in reducing future carbon emissions. Dense urban cities like New York can significantly lower electricity and home heating usage, making them greener. Similarly, there are big differences in carbon emissions across metropolitan areas in the USA, with coastal California having the lowest emissions due to its temperate climate and low energy usage. However, stopping development in California and redirecting it to other high-carbon areas is counterproductive. Building new high-rises in low-carbon areas will significantly reduce the overall carbon footprint. So, it's essential to recognize the importance of urban development and make thoughtful decisions to reduce carbon emissions and create sustainable environments for future generations.

The Case for Unleashing Cities and Removing Barriers to Building

In his book, economist Ed Glaser argues for unleashing cities and removing barriers to building that prevent market demand for high-rise apartments. He is not advocating for forcing people out of their preferred living styles and acknowledges the advantages of suburban living. Glaser also challenges the misconception that cities are decaying and corrupt, highlighting the real benefits they offer. He opposes government policies like artificial subsidies for home ownership and highways that push people towards the suburbs. Instead, he encourages individual choice without bias. Glaser's ideas differ from those of urbanist Jane Jacobs, who favored strong limits on building and preservation of older areas.

Federal Policies Drive Suburbanization and Harm Urban Living

Federal policies like home mortgage interest deduction, building infrastructure, and local schooling systems are pushing people away from urban clustering and into suburban areas. The promotion of home ownership through tax breaks is especially problematic as it incentivizes low-density housing ownership and neglects the benefits of high-density urban living. Similarly, building new transportation infrastructure leads to suburbanization and reduced urban population. Lastly, our local schooling system heavily favors suburban districts, creating a strong enticement for families to leave cities. To promote urban clustering and prevent further suburbanization, policies must focus on promoting investment in high-density housing and urban infrastructure, improving transportation within cities, and reforming our schooling system to provide equity in education across all communities.

The Power of Charter Schools and Urban Competition

The current education system has turned off competition and innovation, resulting in a public monopoly that is difficult to fix. Charter schools provide hope for reform as they can fail and succeed based on their performance. In urban areas, charter schools have shown to be particularly effective in delivering great test scores. To improve our cities, we need to harness the urban ability to generate competition and new start-ups, reduce subsidies to home ownership, and rethink our dedication to building highways in lonely places. Ed Glaeser's top three favorite cities in the US are Boston, New York, and Chicago, and worldwide he recommends Barcelona, Hong Kong, and London.