Jun 11 2009

Local food movement: Come and get it!

by at 3:45 pm

Every other weekend, I look forward to visiting the local farmer’s market. Bright red tomatoes, farm-fresh eggs, and the waft of spice-scented apples – it’s a veritable feast for the senses. I not only feel that I benefit from the visual feast and “local” nature of the food, I know I am supporting families and farms that care deeply about their produce and their standard of living. It’s a luxury that I can (mostly) afford; I continue to frequent farmers markets because my bounded rationality is low – I know almost everything about the products and the people.

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

This led me to wonder: Continue Reading »

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Jun 09 2009

sand castles

by at 7:11 pm

I imagine that before even beginning a discussion of Qatari prospects, Jane Jacobs would first insist that the proper unit of analysis is not, in fact, Qatar as a whole, but rather its chief city, Doha/Ad-Dawha, even if the Qatari riyal remains pegged to the US dollar. Then, I think Jacobs would quote herself, and call Doha and its surrounding region a “cathedral in the desert”, because of its geographically unlikely rise. And, while it is true that there are economic opportunities for and in Doha and Qatar, Jacobs might remind us that these opportunities are leveraged against the oil-wealth which gives the Qatari ruling family its power. For this discussion, we should consider how Doha and Qatar fit the model for cities and economic agglomeration outlined by Jacobs, in order to think of the future of this city-region. Continue Reading »

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Jun 09 2009

Qatar: is there hope for a country building cities in the sand?

by at 3:35 pm

As I child I made several trips to the beach to build sand castles. Those castles would always be swept away with the changing of the tide. As the water rose, my sand developments crumbled.

Sand Castle by JP Morgan

Sand Castle by JP Morgan

That said I’m familiar with the process of development and infrastructure as well as how plans can look really good at the beginning but fail for one reason or another. Plans, resources and motivation are necessary—you can’t create something from nothing. Everything has to come from some where, even dirt. Perhaps this is a good way to look at the creation of cities in Qatar. Continue Reading »

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Jun 09 2009

Qatarization – a Genius Idea

by at 2:47 pm

Qatar is an interesting country to consider through Jane Jacobs’ lens because it epitomizes a nation whose capital city was born and rebuilt through innovation – but Doha’s vibrancy spun off of its colonial past. In some ways, Doha does fly in the face of some of Jacobs’ arguments, but the city’s constant reinvention and innovation follow Jacobs’ sequencing to create a successful city. I think Jacobs would be a big fan of Doha. Continue Reading »

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Jun 09 2009

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

by at 2:05 pm

Vintage thriller movie aside, what would Jane Jacobs have to say about the situation in Qatar? Focusing on the various components of the network such as links through trade, export and import cycles, and diversification and reinvestment in the city region, I aim to divulge some pros and cons about the state of Qatar today. Specifically, I want to examine the architecture of the city, as well as the underlying balance between social capital and reliance on natural resources, which has primed the nation for a profitable leap into the networked economy.

What does the region look like in terms of cities and agglomeration effects?

Doha, the capital city, holds over 400,000 people, with 80% of the nation’s population residing in the city or in surrounding suburbs (Wikipedia). Continue Reading »

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Jun 08 2009

“Greif” Lessons for the United States Economy

by at 3:51 pm

Sitting around and mourning the great American economy will get you no where. I’ve learned no one can get out of the way of the financial crisis—it is beyond a snowball or an avalanche.

//nsidc.org/pubs/notes/24/avalanche.gif

Avalanche, http://nsidc.org/pubs/notes/24/avalanche.gif

The economic crisis has affected every American. Perhaps current disparities in economic, political, and social outcomes reflect distinct institutions as discussed by Anver Greif in several of his works.  That’s why I purpose, the United States could take some pointers from Greif on International Development and public policy.

The main problems with the United States economy are that in the past two decades economic growth has mostly been financed by high levels of consumer spending, US house prices have fallen by 10 percent in the past 12 months, there is a low savings ration linked the current deficit and while prices are rising there is a lack of economic growth.

There are several lessons which the United States could learn from Greif’s analysis of history and economic development as well as relationships that helped to build that economic structure. While Greif uses the relationships and exchanges conducted during medieval trade as his main lens for examination, one might see similarities between the coalitions formed in medieval times and those formed in modern times. Coalitions often form bonds of trust—trust in your investors or the value of an investment between two parties. Continue Reading »

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Jun 08 2009

City-regions that struggle together, gain together

by at 3:28 pm

 Avner Greif’s article, “Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society…” (1994), presents an important look at how cultural beliefs systems have an impact on trade and markets within societies. When looking at the impact of collectivist societies against individualistic societies, Greif notes that cultural beliefs impact social interactions but can have varying effects on wealth distribution (Greif, 19). The horizontal relationships within collectivism are often very beneficial for individuals in small closed regional economies as they provides the informal institutions of protection and feedback loops, but they do little to grow the market for the overall wealth of the people. It can also have devastating results when groups and their cultural beliefs clash with nearby regions. Continue Reading »

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