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


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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“Shades of Grey” Just Another Bodice Ripper – In Part

Men who are tough, handsome, and rich, with a hint of violence. Men who shower their women with expensive gifts. Men who put up with caprice and childish behavior by their women. Such are the men of romance novels, as I said in an essay written way back in the 1994 in The Virginian-Pilot.

Reading Fifty Shades of Grey by the woman writer E.L. James, what’s immediately obvious is that this is essentially a romance novel. It fits the genre exactly. (In case anyone has been asleep for the last six months, Fifty Shades of Grey and its companion books have sold a zillion copies and attracted a lot of attention.) Besides the attributes I mention above, Shades of Grey also unspools at a monotonously slow pace, stretching out the moments before the protagonists actually get into bed. Another classic Romance novel technique. Women really do like foreplay, it seems.

Michael Lind’s New Book, The Good and The Bad, So Far

I’ve been reading Michael Lind’s new book, Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, which has been getting a lot of press, including a front page review in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review section. (Yes, I’m envious.) I can see there is a lot of overlap with my own upcoming book, The Surprising Design of Market Economies. My book is also basically a work of economic history. I can see so far that Lind and I basically agree that a collaboration of government with business is not to be feared, that in fact, it’s essential.

The Golden Flame Flickers Most Brightly In Cities


BOOK FACTS: Cities in Civilization, by Sir Peter Hall. Pantheon Books, New York, 1998. (Pantheon is a division of Random House). First published in Great Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. 1,169 pages.

Thanks to Peter Hall, I know a lot more about theater, music and the formation of democracy. I know a lot more about shipbuilding, computers, car-making, movie-making and the birth of rock and roll. I know a lot more about electronics, painting, cotton-spinning and the printing press.

I also know a lot more about cities, although at first I wasn’t sure. Was studying the fusion of blues and country music in Memphis in the 1930s studying cities? But Hall has changed my definitions.

Book review by the Austin Chronicle’s Penny Van Horn

May 4, 2001:
by Penny Van Horn

BOOK REVIEW: How Cities Work Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken
by Alex Marshall
University of Texas Press, 216 pp., $50; $24.95 (paper)

Does this ring a bell? “The standard choice today of lacing a metropolitan area with big freeways for purely internal travel means we will have a sprawling, formless environment.” Uh-huh.

Now more than ever, Austin could use accessible writing that addresses the challenges of urban sprawl. Journalist Alex Marshall (, The Washington Post, among others) offers a clear-headed approach to the urban issues that so deeply affect Austin and other overgrown cities in his jargon-free new book How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken. He cuts right to the chase by spelling out the basic interaction of the three great controlling forces of urban growth — transportation, economics, and politics. The topics are overwhelming, but Marshall makes them understandable in the context of four case studies that form the backbone of the book.

Book review by Robert Behre

From Charleston Neighborhood Post & Courier
By Robert Behre
BOOK REVIEW: How Cities Work, By Alex Marshall

Journalist Alex Marshall shows how to end sprawl; the only question is, do we want to listen?

Are we bothered enough to make the tough decisions needed to change things? Make no mistake – they are tough decisions. Take the automobile (please!). Marshall notes that cities always developed according to the transportation of the day. Older downtowns feel different because they were built for pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages; Wal-Marts and post-World War II subdivisions were built for the car.

Marshall cites three steps needed to change the growth patterns found in most U.S. cities, including larger Charleston: recognition that residents have the right to direct growth.

Book review by John-Henry Doucette

Published: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2001
Section: COMMENTARY , page J1

For a book that isn’t about Norfolk, there’s a lot of Norfolk in ”How Cities Work” by Alex Marshall.

And for a book that isn’t per se a criticism of New Urbanism, a design movement that attempts to incorporate urban ideals into suburban development, it misses no opportunity to knock the movement.

Marshall’s opinions of New Urbanism have been stingingly vocal, and among Hampton Roads planning and city officials his notoriety lives on.

A Virginian-Pilot reporter from 1988 to 1997, Marshall comes from a long line of Norfolkians. His great-grandfather, Albert Grandy, was the first publisher of The Virginian-Pilot.

Book review by Joanna Mareth

The American Prospect
June 18, 2001

Book Review:
How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Road Not Taken, by Alex Marshall.
University of Texas Press, 243 pages, $ 24.95.

Celebration, Florida, is a picturesque town built from the ground up by the Walt Disney Corporation and planners Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, pioneers of New Urbanism. By some measures, Celebration is a success. It has a thriving downtown retail district and homes that sell for seven times what similarly sized houses in neighboring towns go for. What it doesn’t have, according to Alex Marshall in How Cities Work, is any real claim to urbanism, new or old.

Book review by Alan Ehrenhalt


The 20th century produced a pantheon of brilliant urban thinkers and planners. Some built, some mostly wrote, some did both. Some did better than others at translating their ideas into reality. But one way or another, we are living with the consequences of their vision: Ebenezer Howard’s “garden cities,” Le Corbusier’s “radiant city,” Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” — even Lewis Mumford’s unrealized dream of regional planning — all of them represent the baseline for anyone who wants to create a modern urban revival.