Skills and Stimulus in Europe

As a former newspaper reporter myself, I like to think I have an eye for what goes on a newspaper story, particularly a really good one like the one this morning in the Times on Europe’s contrasting approach to a stagnant economy.

The reporter obviously knows a lot and has done a lot of work. Less obviously, he has a strong point of view, probably gained from all that work. He weaves it into the story without being too obvious about it. The subtext of this story is the reporter practically screaming,”Jees, these guys system is working a lot better and with more subtlety than ours.”

This point of view comes out a bit more obviously in paragraphs like this:

Puerto Rico builds a train in the sky

Metropolis Magazine
October 2001

The startling truth about San Juan, a metropolitan area of 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico, is that most of it looks like New Jersey. It is a landscape of ugly roadways lined with strip malls, American franchise restaurants, and glass office towers overlooking impenetrable limited-access highways. Sure, there is Old San Juan, the sixteenth-century fortified city with its tiny cobblestone streets. But that citadel of the picturesque, which sits on a point of land in the harbor, is a tiny speck in San Juan’s overall breadth. The bulk of the city was developed after World War II, when tax breaks and other incentive programs brought in industry. And in good postwar fashion, American and Puerto Rican engineers and urban planners heavily promoted the highway as the proper spine for development.

In Paris, Hubris and Humility. Both Have Their Merits

When it comes to urban design, the French have a unique ability to use heavy-handed state authority to produce systems that are technologically and aesthetically advanced. When successful, their state-trained engineers and civil servants produce stunning urban systems, like the TGV high-speed train network, that combine high technology, artistic elegance and coordinated efficiency. This can be seen not only in the TGV system, which has helped keep Paris a center of Europe and thus economically vital, but also in the country’s state-run nuclear power system, and its phone and electrical systems. Even the arching brick tunnels of the city’s 19th century sewer system are elegant.