Our web series, Wait Just a Minute, asks experts to answer complex questions about global affairs in 60 seconds. In this episode, urban economist and Harvard professor Edward Glaeser shares ideas about the biggest opportunities and challenges facing cities and what cities can do to ensure economic growth and inspire innovation.
What's one thing cities could do better?
Most of the time, it's true that cities are over-regulating the use of their land. That is really important to build and provide space for people who to come to the city, to provide space for businesses that enable the city to grow.
What's the most functional city?
Singapore is the right answer to this question. Singapore is well-run along any number of dimensions, they've had congestion pricing for 40 years that enables the streets of the second densest country on the planet to move swiftly even during prime hours. They have excellent education, they have excellent safety, all of these things are an example of a city that is unbelievably well-run. Now, personally, I'm a little bit more chaotic, and like a little bit more of a mess in my city.
What are the biggest risks to a city's economy?
They face a risk of becoming an industrial monoculture. Think about the city of Detroit, once probably the most entrepreneurial place on the planet in the 1890s, which got stuck in the rut of a single industry dominated by a big-three set of firms. So, diversity, not monoculture. Entrepreneurship, not a few big industries.
What's the best way to grow a city?
The best economic development strategy is to attract and train smart people, and then get out of their way.