Australia’s Grattan Institute has included former World Bank principal planner’s Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities on its annual “Prime Minister’s Summer Reading List” (Summer starts in just a couple of weeks there). It is a good recommendation. We reviewed the book earlier this year.
Some excerpts from that review follow:
“Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities (MIT Press), is particularly timely, because of the rising concern about the challenges facing middle-income households. The broad based affluence that followed World War II brought unprecedented affluence to many millions of people, principally in the high income nations. This also raised the standard of living for people living in or near poverty. The progress has been well documented by economists, such as Diedre McClosky and Robert Gordon.”
Bertaud says that “current planning practices place “constraints put on the supply of urban land and floor space by restrictive regulations” that “are causing severe urban dysfunctions.” According to Bertaud, urban planners pay insufficient heed to urban economics:
‘I think that, worldwide, the unfamiliarity with basic urban economic concepts by those in charge of managing cities is one of the major problems of our time.’”
“Poorly conceived urban strategies are not just innocent utopias. They misdirect scarce urban investments toward locations where they are the least needed and, in doing so, greatly reduce the welfare of urban households. These failed strategies make housing less affordable and increase the time spent commuting.”
Finally, Bertaud offers advice that is “spot on” for leaders interested in preserving the middle class:
“The main objective of the planner should be to maintain mobility and housing affordability as a city’s population increases and it diversifies its activities (emphasis added).”
Many more state and provincial leaders need to read this volume than Prime Minister Morrison.
Wendell Cox is a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy with expertise in housing affordability and municipal policy.