Cities And The Wealth Of Nations

book by Jane Jacobs ISBN:0394729110

this 1983 lecture covers a lot of the same ground and uses some of the same examples. Jacobs addresses economics on a regional scale, defining City Region in the sense of a specific area that gives rise to the dynamic exchange of goods, services, and people. She examines the factors essential to establish a sustainable economic entity. The five forces that shape and reshape all regional economies—city markets, city jobs, city technology, transplanted city work, and city capital—interact to create a pattern of exchange between city and hinterland that is complex and diverse. The key to an ongoing healthy economy is the ability of the city to replace imports from beyond the region with local production.

her basic argument

lesson of the Marshall Plan for International Development: the success of varying economies differed significantly, ergo we should have learned that just throwing in money isn't going to turn a stagnant economy into a vibrant one.

Stag Flation (high prices and low work) is the normal and ordinary condition to be found in poor and backward economies the world over. (We from the First World don't notice it that way because prices seem low to us.)

  • it is a normal consequence of economic stagnation

  • so seeing it in the First World should be scary

Cities succeeding at Import Substitution are replacing not only FinishedGoods but also Producers Good (and services). (First you replace some finished good, still having to import many of the need components, but then over time local supplies of those components are developed to meet your demand.)

Import Substitution is a city-driven process because

  • you have to have a settlement that is already versatile at production

  • city markets are at once diverse (Diversity) and concentrated (Critical Mass)

Economic life

Imports play 3 roles:

  • they get used/consumed

  • they represent previous exports (to pay for them)

  • serve as candidates for Import Replacement

Expansion comes from 5 forms of growth:

  • enlarged city markets for new and different imports

  • increased number and kinds of jobs

  • increased transplants of city work into non-urban areas as older enterprises are crowded out

  • new uses for technology, esp to increase Rural production/productivity

  • growth of city capital

Only in a City Region do the 5 forms come to bear simultaneously, and in some sort of balance. The border of a City Region is the geographic limit at which that occurs.

  • attempts at Economic Development (esp Rural Development) typically push on 1 force without the others being available, and thus dissipate (or cause nasty Side Effect-s - Prime Directive)

    • example: agricultural labor-saving technologies just increase yield/productivity so much that huge portions of the population are driven out of work, and because of the lack of economic vitality, there's no possibility of creating new work (e.g. there are no markets for new goods/services).

Bad types of economies:

  • Supply Economy: makes typically a single good for distant consumption. May be successful for some period, but demand changes or new competition emerges, or supply (e.g. of fish, Cheap Oil) gets used up. Monoculture-s are fragile.

    • these are often Colony-s of Empire-s.
  • Transplant Economy: where organization takes capital earned in a City Region and invests it in another place (e.g. building a car factory in Tennessee). Typically has to import everything to build the factory and supplies of components. So, other than relatively small number of direct new employment, there is little effect on the economy.

  • economies fed by OCW-s (Overseas Contract Worker-s). They send money home, but there's no way to use it other than for consumption so nothing changes.

One structural problem for City Region-s is that they don't get clean FeedBack from other regions in the same country because they share a single Currency, and thus have no Currency Market/Exchange Rate. (Example: someone buys a Taxi, uses it to Make A Living for awhile, but when it breaks down there are no parts and no mechanical expertise to repair it because the local economy hasn't developed enough to support the Whole Product...)

When Robert McNamara changed the approach of the World Bank in 1968 (from building infrastructure like dams/roads to trying to improve Rural life), he just poured it into things which had no chance of returning investment, ergo just created debt burdens. There is no decent way to overcoming rural Poverty where people have no access to productive city jobs.

Instead of thinking of backward places as "natural", it is probably more realistic to think of them as the end-product of a long process of Decline. (At some point they were integrated into a city economy, but that integration went away at some point, and they slid downhill. Shades of Joseph Tainter.)

Negative examples:

Positive examples:

If you wanted to define Economic Development in a single word, that word would be "ImprovisatIon".

Transactions Of Decline rob a City Region of "energy"

A city should try to do significant portions of its trade with other cities at similar stages of development.

Her core point seems to be that ongoing Sustainable economic health has to handle change, and that only happens through a robust EcoSystem.


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