Edward Glaeser on Why the Tea Party Movement Should Embrace Cities

by Reihan Salam

It is so obvious that I agree with everything Glaeser has to say in this Economix post that I won’t bother belaboring the point. 

There is only one wrinkle I’ll offer. After a devastating indictment of the madness of subsidizing homeownership, a subtle argument on how to think about public investment in transportation, a call for bringing private entrepreneurship and competition to education, and a reminder of how steeply progressive income taxes impact the most productive regions, Glaeser writes:


Urbanites are not natural libertarians. New Yorkers should like government more than Montanans, because New Yorkers have more need for an effective local government.

Crowding thousands of people into a tiny spot of land creates a risk of crime and contagious disease and congestion, and those downsides of density need public management. America’s cities became healthy only when local government spent vast sums on clean water; they became safe only through massive local policing efforts.

While urbanites do need strong local governments, they can make common cause with libertarians opposed to a larger federal government, especially because national largess often goes to low-density states with more senators per capita.

That is, a reconciliation between Tea Party activists and urbanites has to be a two-way street. People on the right need to understand that a freer economy — in which we don’t subsidize rural and suburban living quite so heavily — will tend to deliver more density, and that density will tend to deliver more entrepreneurial growth. Urbanities need to understand that activism at the local level and at the federal level are very different in character, and that there is a strong case for real institutional diversity of the kind that is undermined by a powerful and intrusive federal government. My worry is that it will be easier to sell the right on cities than urbanites on economic freedom and federalism.