When I first became interested in cities, it wasn’t long before I realized just how much crummy content there was out there. Many of the “essential” thinkers and books on the subject make elementary mistakes in their discussions about cities, defending urbanism by invoking peak oil or immanent ecological collapse (James Howard Kunstler, meet Julian Simon).

Thankfully, I had the EconTalk podcast. Hoping to learn more about the intersection of free markets and urbanism, I decided to go back and listen to anything and everything the series has produced on cities. Since the EconTalk website doesn’t organize podcasts by an “urban issues” category, I’ve put together my own list of podcasts. In the interest of brevity, I have focused on those podcasts that explicitly discuss cities and transportation issues. If I left out your favorite episode, please let me know in the comments below. Enjoy!


1. Glaeser on Cities (4/22/2013) In his 2011 book Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, economist Edward Glaeser explores the many benefits of cities. This is the book to start with if you’re interested in cities from a market perspective, and this podcast will introduce you to some of Glaeser’s essential insights.

2. Alex Tabarrok on Private Cities (1/26/2015) When it comes to private cities, what works? What doesn’t work? Economist Alex Tabarrok draws lessons from cities like Gurgaon, India to find the right balance between government planning and market activity. If you’re interested in more from Tabrarrok, you should also be sure to check out the Marginal Revolution blog.

3. Romer on Charter Cities (4/26/2010) With the right institutions, cities offer incredible opportunities for wealth creation. So why not build new cities in parts of the world most in need of growth? Economist Paul Romer discusses the idea of charter cities.

4. Paul Romer on Urban Growth (3/16/2015) Cities offer incredible opportunities for prosperity in developing and developed countries alike. So how do we create policies that get the most benefit out of urbanization? Economist Paul Romer discusses, and reflects on the progress of the charter cities movement.

5. Charles Marohn on Strong Towns, Urban Development, and the Future of American Cities (5/12/2014) The post-World War ll approach to urban governance has resulted in ballooning municipal debt, wasteful infrastructure investments, and dispirited suburbs. Charles Marohn describes the fiscally conservative, localized alternative offered by the Strong Towns group.

6. Avent on Cities, Urban Regulations, and Growth (10/31/2011) Discussing his 2011 book The Gated City, Ryan Avent explains how strict controls on urban land raise housing costs, limit the labor supply, and ultimately slow down the greater economy.

7. Epstein on Property Rights, Zoning, and Kelo (9/17/2007) Between zoning and eminent domain, governments possess enormous power over urban land use. Legal scholar Richard Epstein discusses their combined impact on property rights and economic growth.

8. Moretti on Jobs, Cities, and Innovation (7/25/2012) In their role as hives of economic, intellectual, and social innovation, cities benefit enormously from the serendipitous interaction of individuals working on the same issues. Enrico Moretti argues that this process could be strengthened by greater funding for education and research.


9. Winston on Transportation (10/14/2013) The U.S. transportation system is good, but it could be better. Cliff Winston of the Brookings Institute discusses how technological innovation, greater privatization, and smarter funding could improve transportation while saving money.

10. Frank and Roberts on Infrastructure (9/24/2012) Is more spending the answer? In a discussion hosted by NPR’s Planet Money, Robert Frank and Russ Roberts debate the merits of infrastructure-related stimulus spending, digging into the causes of, and solutions for, poor infrastructure in the U.S.

11. Munger on the Political Economy of Public Transportation (7/7/2008) After decades of privately owned busses, the Chilean government opted to reinstitute state ownership over bus transit. Economist Mike Munger discusses how the system has declined, and the political factors that perpetuate this decline.

M. Nolan Gray (07/18/2015)

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