Many of America's large cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas are among the most interesting, dynamic, and economically favorable places to live. Some of them, like the San Francisco Bay Area, can also boast unparalleled natural beauty and extremely favorable climate. And yet, these places are experiencing demographic downturns and loss of population, oftentimes to much less attractive locations. This is an unfortunate state of affairs for almost everyone involved: more and more people don't live in their preferred locations, the attractive cities lose a lot of the most energetic and mobile workforce, the destination cities have to deal with an increased urban sprawl, and the national economy overall loses billions of dollars in potential productivity.
In "The Gated City" Ryan Avent tries to get to the bottom of the problem of ever more inaccessible large US cities. He argues fairly persuasively that the current situation has major economic consequences, although I am not so sure that it's in fact one of the main causes of the present economic recession. Avent also seeks to find out the root cause of this problem and contends that it's mostly due to the bad case of NIMBY: the "not in my back yard" attitude of many residents in the major urban areas. These residents through the political process exercise an influence on the building permits and the zoning laws that far exceeds their economic clout. Avent provides a few interesting studies that support his main claims, and many of those are very informative and revealing. Avent also attempts to provide a solution for this problem, and suggests a few policies that may force large cities to be more accessible to middle class residents. Some of those policies seem reasonable, but a few (such as an increased gasoline tax) are a bit unreasonable in the present political and economic climate.
I only have a couple of issues with this short single. At the equivalent of ninety printed pages this is the longest of these singles that I have thus far come across. The writing is for the most part pretty good, but the book is too drawn out. Many points are belabored and repeated several times. A single that is half as long, or even a third of its length, would have gotten all the main points equally across. Another thing that I was less than enthusiastic about is the fact that many statements, observations, and explanations are insufficiently buttressed by empirical evidence. I am largely sympathetic to most of the points that were raised in this single, but would have liked to see them more substantiated.
Overall, this single is very well written and researched, with numerous references at the end. Well worth the read despite a few shortcoming.