My New Book “Surprising Design of Market Economies” Just Out

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You can get my latest book, The Surprising Design of Market Economies, at your local bookstore or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play etc. In it, I describe the ways that government builds our economy and culture, and argue that these deep structures should be a more explicit part of our public, political conversations. You can read Op-Eds I have written that draw upon the book in The New York Times [How To Get Business To Pay Its Fair Share], and two from Bloomberg View [Capitalism & Government Are Friends and Health Care Will Become a Right, Just Like Water].

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Government Make Markets – Word is Getting Around

Nice to be named specifically in this great essay by  about the central thesis of my last book. Here’s the key quote: “For a journalistic work aimed at a popular audience that thoroughly presents the idea of markets as creatures of government, see Alex Marshall, The Surprising Design of Market Economies (2012). Marshall notes that “[t]ypically in public discourse, we talk about markets as if the only choices are to submit to them, to regulate them, or to run from them.” Id. at 2. He later quotes approvingly from a political commentator: “’In actual fact, there is no such thing as a “free market.” Markets are the creation of government.’” Id. at 21 (quoting Thom Hartmann). Appropriately, Marshall developed his ideas in part while attending lectures at Harvard Law School—including lectures by Roberto Unger. See id. at 21–22.”

Anne with An E is Great TV!

While I know television is not a frequent subject of this blog, I though do have forays into it professional such as this one.

But today I want to write about something not related to transit and TV. There is so much good television on, that even great shows can easily get overlooked. I bet that’s what happening with this show, Anne with an E, that I happened to come across. Thank God I have a child, and so I gave it a chance. It’s amazingly well done. Textured, layered, both in the depth of the characters, and the depiction of life in those times. I never read the book, Anne of the Green Gables, so I’m not burdened with knowing how much it is departing from the original text. I can see this is a great show. And although safe for children, it’s not childish in its depiction of life and people. And frankly, it’s nice to have a show where you are not bumping into boobs, extreme violence and seamy plot lines. You have to work harder as a show maker, I bet, when you don’t get to use those things to grab viewers’ attention. Anyway, I suggest checking it out.

Glass Walls Make Sense on the Subway. Let’s Do it.

From Today’s New York Daily News. “It’s called platform screen doors. London has them on some lines. So does Paris. Seoul has them, and Shanghai has them. In fact, they are common now in metro systems all over the world.

Platform screen doors are glass walls between you and the dangerous tracks in the open pit. When a train enters the station, it lines up with the glass doors, which open to let the passengers in and out.”

Transit Makes Traffic Worse: And That’s Okay!

Nathaniel Rich had an interesting review of two recent books about the urbanist Jane Jacobs in the November issue of The Atlantic. It was fascinating, particularly where he shows how as a young writer Jacobs praised praised urban renewal and tall towers with that same voice of certainty that a few years late she would use to condemn those same practices. But he gets it wrong when in summarizing Jacobs’ impact, he states that “no one questions anymore . . . that investment in public transportation reduces traffic.”

Actually, many question this, including me. The evidence is pretty overwhelming that it makes car traffic worse, not better. Subways, buses and so forth, when successful, promote more people living and working in smaller areas, which means there is less room for cars, whether on the streets or parked. This is a bad thing only if you view public transit through the myopic lens of its effect on driving. If you view public transit as making it possible to live without a car, or fewer cars, or to live in a place with more stuff around you, than the equation changes. My Brooklyn neighborhood is a terrible place to own or drive a car, but it’s precisely because of that that it is great in a lot of other ways. And it’s the extensive network of public transportation, from subways to buses to public bikes, that makes it the way it is.

Batista Is A Name That Should Have Been Used More During Obama’s Visit To Cuba

This story by Jim Rutenberg in today’s New York Times introduced a welcome bit of perspective into press coverage of Obama’s visit to Cuba that has been noticeably too rah-rah and lacking in well, perspective, particularly historical. And even Rutenberg did not say the name that should have been in many a Obama-goes-to-cuba story: Batista. Fulgencio Batista, to be exact. The reason why Cuba has a left-wing dictator now, is that it used to have a right-wing dictator, one supported quite firmly for decades by the United States. Support that took the form of money, weapons, advice and policy. That’s why it’s ahistorical and bad journalism for the press to focus so intently on the political prisoners held by Cuba under Fidel and Raul Castro, in a sanctimonious and supercilious way. There should be some mention that the United States had little problem with political prisoners – as well as torture and murder – back when they were being held by a right-wing dictator. Some might say this is ancient history, but it’s not so ancient. It has led directly to the state of affairs in Cuba today.