As just about everyone in the planning profession now knows, this is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by urbanist icon Jane Jacobs. While Death and Life was itself iconic, Jane Jacobs was also a great public intellectual who continually built on her ideas in subsequent books and articles.
Often, planners and economists seem to be at odds. Actually, a better description would be talking past each other—literally two ships passing in the night.
Planners often think economists are too narrowly focused on dollars, cents, and rational decisionmaking. Economists can’t understand why planners don’t recognize the real world of markets and why incentives matter—a lot.
I first learned of Okham’s Razor in an undergraduate economics class. Also called the Law of Parsimony, the idea states that the simplest of two competing ideas or theories is preferable to the more complicated one.
In spite of my sense that we are heading pell mell into the gloom of global warming, catastrophic conflict and hopeless mediocrity, I’ve noticed a hopeful trend. Beauty and happiness have been rehabilitated from irrelevant to necessary. It may not be an avalanche, but proponents are showing up in unusual places: a book by an environmental conservationist, another by an historian philosopher, and a Mother Jones article about the economy. Can this portend a trend?