The most famous cliché of editorial advice -- “write what you know” -- has always served me in good stead. I've often regretted ill-advised ventures outside my areas of expertise. (In 2006 I wrote a screed complaining that critics over-rate Ghostface Killah, based on my deep knowledge of hip-hop circa 1997. And don’t ask me about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ever. Please.) Ed Glaeser, Harvard economist and author of Triumph of the City, has just made such a mistake. While Glaeser knows free-market economics, he clearly knows nothing about the people who live in cities.
In the current issue of City Journal -- house organ of Rudy Giuliani-style neoconservatism -- Glaeser contends that it is time for cities and Republicans to put aside their history of animosity and come together. He makes three arguments, each less true than the next: that Republicans would benefit politically from appealing to urbanites, that urbanites will be receptive to their entreaties, and that Republican policy ideas would substantively benefit cities. Glaeser writes:
The GOP has an urban problem. And it’s partly a self-created one. The party, nationally and even locally, has focused on winning suburban and rural votes and has stopped reaching out to city dwellers.
The cities-as-foreign-territory approach is bad politics for the Republicans: after all, successful cities like New York and Houston surge with ambitious strivers and entrepreneurs, who should instinctively sympathize with the GOP’s faith in private industry. The Republican move away from the cities is also bad for the cities themselves, which have hugely benefited -- and could benefit a lot more -- from right-of-center ideas.
Let’s take these assertions one at a time.