April 20, 2024

Economix: N.Y.U. Lands Top Economist for Cities Project

New York University has landed a star economist: Paul Romer, a leading expert on economic growth, who has been at Stanford for the last 15 years. Mr. Romer has been a visiting professor at N.Y.U. this year.

Perhaps most interesting, Mr. Romer will run a new project — the Urban System Project, based at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business. As Mr. Romer recently wrote:

In the last 10,000 years, humans built cities to house 3 billion people. In this century, we will make room for another 3 to 6 billion. Because both the worldwide and urban population will stabilize this century, humans will never again have this chance to remake our system of cities.

Many of the people who will shape this process — national policy makers, mayors, corporate strategists, and managers of sovereign and private wealth — now see the city as a fundamental unit of social analysis. To use an analogy from software, cities are the modules of the modern world. Externally, they connect via such standardized interfaces as the shipping container, the airplane, the Internet. Internally, they can be diverse, experimental, and innovative. As they respond to technological and environmental change, new and restructured cities will be our most important source of social progress.

Mr. Romer is known as one of the developers of “new growth theory,” which emphasizes the role of technology in economic growth. (David Warsh, the former Boston Globe columnist, wrote a book about new growth theory in 2006, and Paul Krugman reviewed it for The Times.)

Recently, Mr. Romer has been been an advocate of a concept he calls “charter cities,” in which a poor country would turn over a piece of land to be managed by a more affluent country or countries. One model is Hong Kong. Sebastian Mallaby had a delightful article about the concept in The Atlantic last year, which included this description:

Rather than betting that aid dollars can beat poverty, Romer is peddling a radical vision: that dysfunctional nations can kick-start their own development by creating new cities with new rules… By building urban oases of technocratic sanity, struggling nations could attract investment and jobs; private capital would flood in and foreign aid would not be needed.

Honduras has shown significant interest in the concept, as David Wessel explained in a recent column in The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Romer notes that the N.Y.U. faculty includes two former Stanford economists who have helped shape his thinking about cities: Peter Henry, dean of the business school, and Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fadde75edb4223e3610d2b51c9879cf5

Speak Your Mind