econ of cities

econ of cities.png

by Jane Jacobs (one i read from library – navy cover 1969)


reading/intro’d because of David here:

David Wengrow (@davidwengrow) tweeted at 2:34 PM on Sat, Apr 06, 2019:
Re-reading this ’60s gem. Imagine, she says, a pre-agricultural city of foragers, whose growth is already based on its monopoly of some key commodity. Can’t help wonder what Jane Jacobs would have made of the later findings from Poverty Point, Dolní Věstonice, or Sannai Maruyama.

@davidwengrow Jacobs includes intangibles (like esoteric knowledge) as the kind of values a centre might seek to control for exchange. So we wouldn’t necessarily expect to see much going out in the archaeological record, as seems to be the case with Poverty Point. Stuff goes in, knowledge out.

@TheDurtyTrowelYep…that has to be what Poverty Point is about. The Burning Man of the Archaic Deep South…

@davidwengrow Bingo.

econ of cities – on request via prospector

David Wengrow (@davidwengrow) tweeted at 7:26 AM on Sun, Apr 07, 2019:
In my 1990s undergrad classes, A. Sherratt used Jacobs’ forager town of ‘New Obsidian’ as a thought experiment, to get us over the stereotype of hunter-gatherer economies as “mere subsistence.” Value and commerce were key drivers of human history long before farming or cities.

value? commerce?



1 – cities first – rural development later


it seemed to run counter to common sense and yet there it was: work that we usually consider rural has originated not in the countryside, but in cities..


if my observations and reasoning are correct, the reverse is true: that is, rural economies, including agri work, are directly built upon city economies and city work

we are all well aware from the history of science that ideas universally believed are not necessarily true. we are also aware that it is only after the untruth of such ideas has been exposed that it becomes apparent how pervasive and insidious their influence has been.. t


rather, my purpose now is to show that cities are also primary econ organs

focus on econ ..rather than flourishing of humanity/ undisturbed ecosystem

she points out good things .. but focus is off center .. it’s like white right guy – pardheep  – wanting to beat someone up yet wondering how other’s can have anger/rage.. (this written after finished reading)


it can readily be seen in the world today that agri is to even tolerably productive unless it incorporates many good as and services produced in cities or transplanted from cities. the most thoroughly rural countries exhibit the most unproductive agri.. the most thoroughly urbanized counties, on the other hand, are precisely those that produce food most abundantly

agri et al


japanese agri rapidly achieved a degree of productivity that had been though unattainable. in 1960, although the population was 25% larger than it had been before the war, and total consumption of rice had soared, japanese farms were supplying all of japan’s rice; none was any longer imported..


there are numbers of instances which show how rural people by themselves are helpless to meet even their own food crises.. ireland affords a gruesome illustration.. 1840s potato blight – had no resources to combat the famine, even thought they were an agri people.. .. no ports to receive food, no mills for grinding.. no tools to build mills.. no ovens for baking.. no ways to spread info about how to grow crops other than potatoes.. no way to distribute seeds of other crops..

? – so not that people are helpless.. it’s that we’ve (ie: agri surplus et al) made them/us that way  ie: became whales in sea world. . and need to get back to our indigenous ness


because we are so used to thinking of farming as  rural activity, we are esp apt to overlook the fact that new kinds of farming come out of cities.. the growing of hybrid corn was revolutionary change in american agri it amounted to new kind of corn culture..  method not developed on corn farms by farmers, but by scientists in plant labs in new haven..



some of the grain of the little cities was probably gotten from the rural world. but much of it, likely most of it, the city people grew for themselves in the fields both w/in and w/o the walls; throughout europe, such fields were standard facilities of early medieval cities..


the idea that agri itself may have originated in cities, the thought to which i have been leading, may seem radical and disturbing..  and yet even in our own time, agri practices do emerge from cities..

yeah.. is that good.. is that agri ness good?

meat packing plants themselves are in process of moving from city to countryside.. to our descendants, it may seem almost incredible that the ‘country industry’ of slaughtering and packing meat for city consumers, of saving pituitaries for labs, and of manufacturing toilet soap form animal fats were all formerly city work – as strange as it seems to us that growing alfalfa was once city work



both in the past and today, then, the separation commonly made, dividing city commerce and industry form rural agri, is artificial and imaginary

well.. commerce and industry themselves are artificial.. and cancerous..

the two do not come down to diff lines of descent. rural work – whether that work is manufacturing brassieres or growing food – is city work transplanted..

whales in sea world


in the barter space, the two worlds meet. the square is thus the only ‘open space’ in the city itself, left open originally because what has since become a busy meeting and trading spot was at first a space of separation, deliberately kept empty. the barter space, or city square as it has become, is on the side of the city that faces toward the volcanoes..


the stewards are intelligent men, and are fully capable of solving problems and of catching insights form experience. but experience has not provided them yet w any idea that can be called ‘trying to domesticate animal’. they are simply trying to manage the city’s wild food imports to the best of their abilities



he conjectures that the obviously well organized trade may ‘explain the community’s almost explosive development in arts and crafts’.. and he suggest that ‘the trade in obsidian was at the heart of this extensive commerce’.. but this too, it seems to me is an oversimplification


when those village lost some part of their own economic life, they would have no way to retrieve or reformulate it. i suspect this explains the origin of nomadic herding peoples


just as no real separation exists in the actual world between city created work and rural work, so there is no real separation between ‘city consumption’ and rural production’..  rural production is literally the creation of city consumption. that is to say, city economies invent the things that are to become city imports form the rural world, and then they reinvent the rural world so it can supply those imports..  this, as afar as i can see, is the only way in which rural economies develop at all, the dogma of agri primacy notwithstanding

? who says rural econ is needed/humane?


the old idea that permanent settlements were impossible until after agri was invented is contradicted by so much hard evidence that many archeologists no longer subscribe to this idea, although few scholars in other fields seem, as yet, to be aware of this reassessment. the world is dotted w various kinds of paleolithic leavings which indicate that hunters had permanent settlements..


i would suggest that permanent settlements w/in hunting territories were ordinary feature of pre agri life..  they would have been as natural for men as burrows are for foxes or nests for eagles..  almost all activities would have been carried on in the settlement and it would also have served as the base for work carried out in the field – hunting, foraging, defending the territory, and raiding adjoining territories..

not is there reason to suppose that the permanent settlement of pre agri people were necessarily populated only be a few families: ..


in sum, the assumption behind the dogma of agri primacy are at odds w much direct and indirect evidence


adam smith thus converted biblical history into econ doctrine. this seems to have been accepted as satisfactory by his contemporaries.. two generations later, it was also accepted by karl marx..


a sentence from a history of the rockefeller foundation philanthropies, published in 1964, is illustrative: ‘when man learned to cultivate plants and to domesticate animal society for the first time was able to plan ahead and organize itself thru the division of labor.. the thought is pure adam smith prehistory, adapted ever so slightly to acknowledge that mankind was not born w knowledge of farming

and/or .. with a nature of planning ahead..

it is clear that pre agri men were much besides hunters: they were manufacturers, builders, traders, and artists..  they made large quantities and many varieties of weapons, clothing, bowls, buildings, necklaces, murals and sculptures.. used stone,, bone, wood, leather, fur…


how do cities really grow? if they create and re create rural development, then the question to ask is, what can it be that creates and re creates city economies

2 – how new work begins


how adding new work multiples divisions of labor

seems main purpose of new work that multiplies division of labor..  is for profit/money/efficiency.. rather than for ie: eudaimonia


ford’s firs significant innovation of any kind – and one of the most important he was ever to make – was to promise customers that they could get a complete stock of repair parts for ford cars


it is ironic that division of labor gets no credit for its genuinely bountiful effect. it prepares the way , it provides the special footholds, for adding new good s and services to econ life.. ants, no matter how efficiently they divide their tasks, do nothing so terrifying and wonderful. seen as a source of new work, division of labor becomes something infinitely more useful than adam smith suggested when he limited its function to eh efficient rationalization of work


3 – the valuable inefficiencies and impracticalities of cities


but i propose to argue that these grave and real deficiencies are necessary to econ devel and thus are exactly what make cities uniquely valuable to econ life

again with the focus on econ life rather than on ie: eudaimoniative surplus

by this i do not mean that cities are economically valuable in spite of their inefficiency and impracticality but rather because they are inefficient and impractical.. now that we understand how new work arises upon older work, we are in a position to understand this paradox

great point.. but focus is still on econ/value


was manchester, then, really efficient? it was indeed efficient and birmingham was not. manchester had acquired the efficiency of a company town. birmingham had retained something diff: a high rate of development work

efficiency as it is commonly defined – and i do not propose to change its defn, which is clear and useful – is the ratio of work accomplished to energy supplied

efficiency ness


but these particular measurements are not relevant when development work is wanted..

the inefficiency is built into the aim itself; it is in escapable.. there is no systematic way to evade it


what was going on in birmingham at a great rate, as opposed to manchester, was much trial and error, sometimes leading to successful new activities and sometimes not.. in effect, the city contained a great collection of mundane development labs.. this fact as not obvious because the ‘labs’ were also doing production work..

we need as the day..ness.. [aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


if we were to measure the econ devel rate of a city, we could not do so must by measuring its output in a year or any group of years. we would have to measure rather, the additions of new work to its older output, over a period of time, and the ration of the new work to the older work.

but since life is not all about jobs.. measuring..  this is all irrelevant.. wasting energy/people


but for a city to devel new work at a high rate means that its enterprises must have access to much inefficiently dispensed capital: many many small loans and investments, a high proportion of them out of the routine; still other relatively large, loans for swift expansion of goods or services that seem to be working out experimentally but which must go into large scale production to become practicable – although it is not a certainty they will be..

free art ists ness.. and today.. since we have the means to ground that chaos.. (or dance with it .. whatever words you like)..  no need for the productivity part/side of it


but from the pov of econ devel, a man/woman trained to specific work is most valuable if he adds something new to that work, if he changes what he does. of course he may fail

rather..  we all need to be free enough to be changing .. everyday.. focus on eudaimonia.. rather than on econ devel


the solution of course, is new goods/services..


mufleh humanity law


in the past, when acute city practical problems have been solved, the solutions have not been an econ burden upon their societies. on the contrary, solutions have increased true econ abundance, true wealth. of course more workers have been needed to do the previously undone work, but the costs of doing undone work have not been at all analogous to adding unproductive bureaucracies, not the cost of maintain idle people on welfare

which past would that be..?

too much ness – every since we started measuring.. goes way back.. all the way


earlier in this century, it was conventionally supposed by american philanthropists that poverty is cause by disease.. healthy people, it was reasoned, would be more productive, have more initiative, be more capable of helping themselves, than people in ill health..poverty was analyzed as vision circle..


to see ’causes’ of poverty in this way is to enter an intellectual dead end because poverty has no causes. only prosperity has causes..

prosperity (for some and now all) is a cause.. of a deeper problem..

just so, the great cold of poverty and econ stagnation is merely the absence of econ devel.. it can be overcome only if the relevant econ processes are in motion.. these processes are all rooted, if i am correct, in the devel work that goes on in impractical cities where one kind of work leads inefficiently to another

rather.. in impractical cities.. where no one is measuring/b-ing everything..

4 – how cities start growing

5 – explosive city growth

irrelevant if econ devel not our heart’s desire


the opps of course are not necessarily put to use wisely or productively. they can be frittered away and often have been. perhaps the biblical tower of babel is a good a symbol as any: once upon a time a city achieved an immense opp for extraordinary work in its local econ, but misused it only on sterile vainglory..

perhaps tower of babel (idio-jargon style).. sans money

6 – how large cities generate exports


the relevant local work consists of pre existing division of labor

wha tif ‘work’ isn’t the relevant thing


there is one exception to the rule that it is more difficult to export work than to provide something for the local market: it is not more difficult when customers take the initiative by importing.

because has to com from within.. everyday.. to matter.. none of this is that.. ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work.. for whales in sea world


the real world is full of evidence that tells us exactly this: nothing serves but the generating of new exporting organizations, and plenty of them. pittsburgh is a good illustration because so man y irrelevant things have been tried there, so ambitiously


7 – capital for econ devel


as has often been observed, war has spectacularly stimulate d advances in metallurgy, mechanics, civil engineering, chem, physic,s transportation, footgear and other clothing, communications, literacy, surgery, epidemiology and sanitation. new work produced to wage war or to prepare for it is often later applied to more merciful and constructive purposes.. but war is plainly not the ‘secret’ of econ devel.. societies that have concentrated furiously upon military strength and conquest, an very successfully too have nevertheless often stagnated economically and collapse behind their legions. furthermore, economically stagnant countries have as much difficulty developing military goods and services as they do in developing other kinds of goods and services, no matter how much their rulers or their people may want to be militarily strong. . war depend o ‘peace work’ directly and literally. the bicycle shop of the wright brother twas not a war plant..



they wanted to know why that office was putting so much (90%) of its resources into development of war goods and war related research and so little in to devel of solutions to city transportation, housing , and pollution problems.. dr hornig said his office could not find promising proposals in their fields to invest in ‘we cannot buy and create progress in a field which is not ready to progress’.. it is likely that dr hornig and his colleagues did not know what to look for. nevertheless, in principle, he was quite right. capital, by itself, can create nothing; and there is nothing in which to invest devel capital of any magnitude until there are already in existence various starting points. however small

again.. wrong problem.. for humanity/earth..

war ministries seem to do rather little to create these vital starting point that, after the fact, become so important to them..

war – money – all wrong focus


this observation (between war and econ devel) does not ‘explain’ war any more than the large local economies of great cities ‘explain ‘the artists who find places in those economies, but i do think it casts light on how war work is responsible for so many innovations..

? both are cancerous to artists..

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

much of the creative effort that goes into war work, perhaps even most of it, has little to do w the passions of war

any creativity/curiosity.. et al.. not only has little to do w ie: war/econ.. they are both cancer ized by them..


at first thought, it is difficult to understand how intelligent and humane people can devote themselves, as many do nowadays, to creating not only missiles and bombers, but gas and poisons, and even to breeding mutated bacteria that can be loosed on plants, animals and people. certainly neither patriotic fervor nor bellicosity seems to have much to do w people’s participation in such evil

we’re all intoxicated – and yes.. by patriotism et al (marsh label law et al)

ie: white right ness

they say the uses to which their work is put are not their responsibility.

it is hard to work w/o purposefulness. it is agonizing to be capable of solving problems and have no opps to do so

rather.. to be capable of doing the thing you can’t not do.. but no time/space/freedom for it..

if we just focused on that.. most of our ‘supposed problems’ wouldn’t even exist


it may be that many people prefer involvement in bad purposes and wicked creations to aimlessness and boredom in their occupation..t

bs jobs ness..  and again .. white right ness

as paul goodman has pointed out, people can find that most kinds of work open to them have become absurd..t



a country’s basic wealth is its productive capacity, created by the practical opps people have had to add new work to older work

norton productivity law.. et al


no form of financing , however lavish, can help an econ devel if people w/in its own cities are not adding new kinds of work to old, and if orgs are not being created there to finance the process..

again .. wrong problem.. but we could maybe.. today.. finance a way out of this.. ie: money to help people not think about money.. till they are detoxed.. ie: short bp


people who are economically submerged are shut off in two ways from access to devel capital. first,..

one way of breaking thru this obstacle has been to develop sources of capital other than banks and the various other orgs selling fin goods/services. but alt sources have frequently been either illegal or disreputable..

we need a way to make money (as it should be).. irrelevant.


one could argue that if immigrants had derived no capital form these sources – organized crime, machine politics and systematic slum exploitation.. the econ devel of the us would have halted..



but the situation is worse than even this pic suggests. for if whites in the us really were to ignore what black do, if they really were unaware of what goes on in black communities in american cities, black would in fact, actually have a chance to develop work and add new work to old.. but black people in their ghettos are regulated absolutely by whites..

this is huge.. but .. for everybody.. begs: gershenfeld something else law

and again.. outcome of eudaimoniative surplus.. not econ devel

this is why we haven’t yet gotten to global equity.. we can’t let go enough to trust people (has to be everyone)

‘get out of our way, and let us try something’..t

huge.. for everyone..

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

graeber min/max law


people who are prevented from solving their own problems cannot solve problems for their cities either..

not to mention.. in our intoxicate state.. we’re focusing on irrelevant problems..

one of the most expensive things an econ can buy is econ trial, error and devel.. ‘expensive’ of course does not mean wasteful’

8 – some patterns of future devel


should the creativity of such people be allowed to flourish, it must change things as they are, upset the status quo, make some well established activities obsolete and reduce the relative importance of others..

like money/measuring.. what we keep calling – econ

that the change may be to the benefit of children, and might result in significant devel of ed, is beside the point to those threatened.. to be sure, when almost no workers in an econ believe they are becoming better off, and almost all are coming to hate the status quo, they may join in an attack upon it. but an econ must already have become profoundly flawed before this occurs, esp if the assault is to succeed..

like now..?

but no assault needed.. there’s

a nother way

for (blank)’s sake


the important question however (from beings from outer space), would be something quite diff: what kinds of govts had they invented which had succeeded in keeping open the opps for econ and tech devel instead of closing them off? w/o helpful advice from outer space, this remains one of the most pressing and least regarded problems

no.. not so..  that’s just a perpetuation of not-us ness.. ie: mufleh humanity law


the bureaucratized, simplified cities, so dear to present day city planners and urban designers, and familiar also to readers of sci fiction and utopian proposals, run counter to the processes of city growth and econ devel

huge.. but growth and econ devel .. not the point

conformity and monotony, even when they are embellished w a froth of novelty, are not attributes of developing and economically vigorus cities..

as developing and economically vigorous cities.. are not the attributes of what 7b souls really crave.. ie: eudaimoniative surplus.. aka: the energy of 7bn alive people.. who have gotten back/to an undisturbed ecosystem.. antifragility.. et al

in *highly developed future economies, there will be more kinds of work to do than today, not fewer, and many people in great, growing cities of the future will be engaged in *the unroutine business of econ trial and error. they will be faced w ***acute practical problems which we cannot now imagine. they will add new work to older work

rather..  in *free/dom we all crave.. (of an undisturbed ecosystem) they (has to be everyone or it won’t work).. will see most ***’problems’ as irrelevant .. because we are all focusing instead on listening to and facilitating.. **daily curiosity  ie: cure ios city


mostly frustrating.. because so close to change we need.. (and so listened to).. but missing deeper problem.. so perpetuating the spinning of our wheels..