Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ed Glaeser's "Triumph of the City" is Published!

Congratulations Ed!  His book is now available on Amazon.   As usual, I learned that I'm not a VIP. I haven't been sent a free copy by the publisher and nobody asked me to write a blurb for the back cover.  So, I will rent this space to comment on a book that I haven't yet read.

In this age of specialization,  Glaeser stands out as a guy with broad intellectual interests. He has fascinating things to say in almost every branch of economics.  This summer in Seattle, he will give a keynote address to the environmental economists.  Talk about absolute advantage!   He and Daron Acemoglu stand out as the only two people in the profession who are able to contribute at the frontier in so many different subfields of the discipline.

I have known Ed for 23 years.   He hasn't changed.  Each April, the University of Chicago's Economics Department has a recruiting day to attract students to enroll in its Ph.D. program.  As you might imagine, in April 1989 Ed stood out.  He was dressed in a business suit.  I was dressed as a bum.  My first impression was; "who is this Princeton guy?"  He immediately told me about his Princeton thesis on the Federal Reserve Bank and Paul Volcker's policies. It sounded a lot better than my senior thesis on the Lucas Curve.   Over the last 20 years, he has always been generous with his time --- reading my papers and debating countless ideas with me.  He is always honest and direct in the true style of a Chicago economist. We have written 6 very good papers together.  These papers have focused on suburban sprawl, center city poverty, and the carbon footprint of cities in the United States and China.

At the University of Chicago, he began his work on the economics of cities.  His 1992 JPE paper on learning in cities is a classic.  With some excellent co-authors he tests the Jane Jacobs theory of learning vs. the Marshall theory of specialization.  Intuitively, what types of environments foster productivity for firms and industries?  This remains a crucial issue today.

Over the last 20 years, he has written many classic papers on the benefits and costs of urban living.  His Triumph of the City takes the insights from these roughly 100 papers and boils them down for a general audience.  I am highly optimistic that this book will be of great general interest. It won't be "sexy, freaky and fun" but it will be fascinating.   I look forward to buying and reading my copy.