« Freakonomics Radio

162. “If Mayors Ruled the World”

2014-04-10 | 🔗
Unlike certain elected officials in Washington, mayors all over the country actually get stuff done. So maybe we should ask them to do more?
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Chris Smith writes about politics for New York magazine you've been in New York magazine how many years, one thousand nine hundred and eighty eight who would you say, is the most influential mayor in New York City history who easily. Guardia both because of the time he was mayor and the fact that so many mayors notches New York City tried a model himself, We are going to try and demonstrate but a nun, none political clean government, if possible in our sitting Fiorello. The Guardia was New York's mare from nineteen. Thirty, four to nineteen forty five long, an eventful carry the great depression. Second World war
lift the spirit of the citizen Reign. The Guardia would sing to them. He'd read them the funny pages faintly is doing now all the dice society of nice panic and paid children. What does it all mean? A mean thirty money now brings any luck. How about another iconic New York, city people, so many different backgrounds. Somebody different points of view, religions, cultures, joined together in one place giuliani- makes good case in terms of saving the city of arriving at a pivotal time in the cities, history inheriting a terrible crime statistics and making the city govern. A ball again in a law and order sense and a lot of at being imitated the data analysis, the data driven approach to crime that he and Bill
Breton, then, and now the police commissioner introduced has. mutated all over the world. We began with crime. We began with crime because it was the most basic rights. When we had to solve, because Christmas know so much about New York City politics. I want to see if I could stump him. I want to know He could name another of New York's, most accomplished: mares Let me read to you a list of accomplishments from one of our past mares, this person built grand central terminal still stands it over the opening of the subway, still runs licence. The first taxicab there's still going built ten new fire houses? A hundred ten school buildings, including eleven new high schools built Thirty five miles of new wharfage quitting fifty one new peers me idea who that master building was John High London set,
well, I guess it anymore, anymore: guesses, Vincent in Pelletier, you know I'd hazard, colorful names, but bad guesses. So who is the man who did all that and who also secured two hundred and seventy seven acres of park? Space finished construction than Europe Public Library open? the queen's burrow in Manhattan, bridges and and All the world's first high pressure water service to fight fires- George Mc Clellan, You have him in your baseball cards, collection of great New York, city, Maris, George MAC. I call it ok, some most people haven't heard of mere George Mc Clellan. His father also George Mc Clellan. Was a civil war general, the younger When was mayor of New York from nineteen o four to nineteen o nine, just one term, and look at everything. Got done in one term granted. Many of those projects were indeed
aided by his predecessors, and so what a closer the sky was. George Mc Clellan fingerprints are all over the city, and yet he is largely forgotten. today. programme is about mares, how they get stuff done out of necessity, and yet, unlike certain, more visible. Chief executives there often overlooked Christmas tells us that people even underestimate the power of New York cities, Mare short of declaring war nurse. is mayor, has a greater direct influence on more lives than even a president and today, show your here from mares from all over the country The real ran runs right through our produce. We got the river, we get the longest urban stretcher, Rusizi six in the country or not
a vibe. Here we have another: one airport, for regulation and destination, the top port in the three the largest now you're jealous alien us off here. I think the results are going to win the division. I do hope the egg is a better the share out as much fun winning the World series when the aim is so bad and we ask whether cities are a good template for the way government should city is where you come face to face with all of the possibilities and the problems that are presented in our country. I think, perhaps most dramatically about five years ago, we crossed the threshold. Fifty percent of humanity now listen city. If you're down, if you're feeling dispirited you feeling nothing would have a second look at cities I'm happy
from the w and my see this is free economics, radio, the package that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host, Stephen Dublin, three show, is about ok, so we happened to be in New York, city and I've heard of in we believe her who had thank you and I've heard of yours Eric. Our city is the mayor of LOS Angeles, EL. I see you are a jazz pianist, a photographer. You are lieutenant U S! Neighbours I mean I read your qualifications acted! Please don't take this the wrong way. Aren't you deeply overqualified to be a mere. You know
I think a mayor has to be ready, for almost anything I mean only thing: that's predictable in this job is its unpredictability. Now you might be talking to him a resident of your city, somebody who's living on the streets and then meet the crown prince of Spain made afterwards. So you have to, I think, have a pretty wide range of experiences, so I still think I'm under qualified. We talk to Benjamin Barber, whose an academic, a political theorist wrote a book called if mares ruled the world. I understand you may have read the book or now you know how to sleep with her right next to me to inspire a fact that I have mentioned and well he's coming, visited me out here, Benjamin Barber, I'm a senior research scholar, the city, diversity of New York, Professor Emeritus Rutgers University, a political thirst and an author of eighteen books, the most recent of which is if mayors ruled the world dysfunctional nations, rising cities
in the book, barber argues that cities are paragons of good governance, potentially at least and at least compared to nation states and is largely due to their mares mares. Barber says, are inherently bipartisan. They can afford not to be, and, above all else, there focused on solving actual problems. Mayors of key I love this book. You no more wars. The first day in office, this picture on the front of the Boston Globe. He sitting with a copy of that book right right, front of him, and mere garcetti has merit applause. Your hasn't mayors are reading integrate thing. What is it that Benjamin barber so admires. the modern mare, a great story. Tell of Teddy Collar the long time mayor of Jerusalem, whose Zionist in quite one sided use, but had to deal with the city full of Jews, Muslims and Christians, and he tells the story himself of the Dame nineteen eighties in which jewish rabbis, muslim immigrants and christian relates,
when his office arguing, as they often did about access to the holy sites in Jerusalem and they were ranting at each other in going on and on, and he finally interrupted the many said. Gentlemen. Gentle spare me your sermons and I will fix your sewers, and that is a telling you no point about what mayors do they fix sewers? They keep the trains running, they get the snow ploughed, they pick up the garbage and that is their jobs or pragmatism is essential. Ok, Mr Mer, yes, hey Stephen Debonair Harry'Ll, Stephen Elio Marty, Walsh became Boston Mare this past January. I talked to him shortly after his first day in office, so first our congratulations, how'd, you like me Mary so far,
My five weeks in one day have been great before he was Mare, Walsh served in the Massachusetts State Legislature for sixteen years. Tell me something you ve learned so far about the reach of the mayor's power that you hadn't quite anticipated, very different than being a state legislature, legislator. We kind of process things we work forward, the ultimate goal and by Tommy get your a vote, it's quite a bit as a mare you can make impact immediately in all of this will once more thing, I was driving down the street and those of big potholes street non, partly down the street and made a phone call and five minutes later was filled. It's kind of where the river hits. Around twenty harp is the new mare of New Haven, Connecticut Marty, while she spent many years in the state legislature also like Walsh, she appreciates her new job. We and I think that the difference is that in the sea
You set policy, you can even write a budget, but you actually don't do implementation, help didn't like not being able implement. She said. She'd often spend a lot of time and effort on a project getting it funded, for instance, only to watch it fizzle out whence it got out of her hands. Well, it is free whenever you kind of have an idea how you see it rolling out, he's working and then to find out later that for one reason or another, Sometimes the money doesn't even get it had all the same goes for Richard Bury Mare of Albuquerque. He too was a state just later, as legislators must more deliberative results, our policy discussions in the mayor. You have the ability to be more agile and you can make things happen quicker, for example, a recently. We were able to craft and put forward a a bill to private they'll of cigarettes to minors and Albuquerque. We were able to that done much quicker, because we don't have to wait for the legislator session and
in the process? That goes with that. So I think, guilty is, is a big part of it can bring initiatives to play in and get them implemented quicker more effectively we can do. A lot of all things is reason the mayor's love their job and there's a reason. I think people turn into mayors to get things done before Mayors have shown the propensity to get things done, now. One reason that mares look so good to Benjamin Barber is that our federal government looks so mired in gridlock, outdated in his book. He rates at the very idea of a nation. It is a mechanism. It argues that nation states, even where they work well, even where there are not frozen in time, even where they're, not polarized and incapable of taking action, were born
in an era of national societies where the problems the world faced were mostly contained by national jurisdiction, As we have argued before on this programme, the President of the United States is not nearly as powerful as many people might imagine to be, but it goes beyond the street comparison of president to mayor as barber points out. City governments are more nimble, even when dealing with complicated issues Eric girls, he always mare, says he's seen this first hand with climate change policy C40 is actually before cities in the world that are combating climate change, and doing it probably more effectively than in the G20. I do think that there is the increasingly robust space for cities to talk to each other. I would like the same errors are just like a band of thieves, we'd like to steal the very best from one another. I will. what a mayor in London is doing and say that be great here you know we stop smoking, I lay in a New York: did it in others
I share in New York role, steal that do annihilate. So these things, I think, really argue cities are much more nimble, the ready to act, and they have the platforms to do it in a way that national governments can coming up on economics, radio, if mares for such greek hands on executives. Why have so few of them made to the way. You make a lot of enemies as New York City mayor, even if you're very successful, you tend to piss alot of people off, and what? If mayors, the world I support the idea of communication across So I think, sharing ideas certainly is a good idea. A parliament is by definition
century a legislator branch, and I think the beauty of mayors is that they are deeply executive, so not particularly eager to transform these wonderfully focused executives into into parliamentarians. Economics, radio sponsored by wonder is business movers podcast when Coca COLA changed their recipe to what they called new Coke in nineteen. Eighty five: the backlash was swift and severe, and yet the man who drove the change Chairman Robert, always wetter, pulled nuke from the shelves in a matter of months, wondering Business movers, explores boys what is controversial decision and the public response, but the real story. New Coke, is far more human and complex
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must be eighteen or older? Please play responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians. Every day, from W and Y see. This is free economics, radio, here's, your host Stephen governor ok, here's a quiz how many you s president's started out as mares fifteen twelve about three Andrew Johnson Grover Cleveland Calvin. Why so few years Psmith again, the political writer from New York magazine probably a couple reasons that mayors, because they have to pick up the trash and run these departments and do a lot of that teddy an important things tend to be more focused on that cereal quality is then grand visions, the kind of things that play where
in presidential campaigns. Is I can't answer? Yes, sir? Second, I particularly in the case of New York City mayors, you make a lot enemies as New York City mayor. Even if you're very successful you attend epistle, a people off and that baggage, you know when you take it to a democratic party or a republican party in rarer instances. Just in political terms. I think held back wasn't using mayors is easier to not take people off as the governor of the state whether to New York or elsewhere mean obviously governors been yeah. Yeah Asia, both because you're, interacting less in the day to day lives of your constituents, because you, Also, generally, you no end in major northeastern state certainly have to balance a lot of different, both political and practical
Irish you know, abstain, your very different, the New York City, that's interesting! Just the idea of the a character sick of a mere whether successful mirror, not as someone who, in but a bully will do things that will upset people because that's the job nurses now, but when you think It's also a harder job to succeed. I you know, I think that, even if the because measurable or more measurable and away exactly ass, you think that the trade that make someone success was a mere would be incredibly valuable. However, at a state or federal level being an executive getting Things done understanding that you're gonna kick off certain constituencies in order to serve the greater good and yet it seems like when we look at this moment in time, at least in the EU, Wes at state and federal governance.
We see. On the one hand, people who love the shout at their enemies across the aisle, but it's not like there shouting in service of great accomplishment are. They seems like an hour if yet measure what's getting done on a daily basis. I'd think that most members are getting a whole lot done more done, then most governors and end, Madam federal officials, yeah yeah that, but this is oh you, another reason why mayors, particularly New York City, haven't got on Tyre office historically. Is that the conditions allow them to be autocratic, here, don't exist, the national level, very much more at the national level about building is some hope. Sensitive of compromise. You know you ve got to work with the Senate and the house in a way that doesn't exist at the local level, and so did Obama's prostration. Obviously, he'd like to operate more like
fire morcerf review laterally and maybe that's the quality that doesn't demands were terribly ok. So to be fair, if I were to force you to answer the question, would you prefer that the system works? The way it does, which is that measures are fairly autocratic and the higher you go, the less you become so gazettes aware governing system was built Or would you say you know it would be kind of great has Benjamin Barber, argues that marriage should rule the world, because these are the people who are trained. an experienced in executing getting sick, done in balancing different likes and dislikes and constituencies Is it necessarily a good thing that the president, for instance, is a figure of compromise, or do you think from your purchase, a political observers that it would be kind of great if marrow autocracy could be imported a little bit into the White House, yet be great. If you now or an autocrat I agreed with, but yes, certain
the blocking and tackling of government the ability to make your ogresses work is a quality that you would love to see taken from a city hall to the White House. Ideally, I guess, if you could come up with a bunch of cabinet officials who had those my oral qualities while had a president who was a consensus builder, who enabled those people to do their jobs. That would be the ideal set So what is the ideal set up at Glaser, is an economist at Harvard. We ve talked him before in this programme. Is a great talker full paragraphs to leap from his mouth fully. formed enunciated, like a nineteenth century, debating champion, he's also author of a book called triumph of the city, notably the title of this book is not triumph of the knee
state. The remarkable thing about city leadership is the problems are very very tangible. The scope of powers tends to be fairly limited and its limited, both by long and by the ability of firms and people to leave by the small geographic size of these areas? And that means running a city is very different from running a country. On top of that, I may or tend to be very constrained and what they can do. They don't set their own tax rates, not even with the aid of city council. Cities are always and everywhere in the: U Dot s creatures. Ultimately, a state government and in some cases the feds also exercise some form of oversight You say that term, and we understand this, that the powers and the duties of the mare are constrained, especially compared to someone like the president, but that would seemingly can
for its own set of advantages as well as disadvantaged, and I understand that comparing even five measures to one president is entirely and apples to oranges comparison, but the argument that we want to discussed today is whether a mare by nature of his or her job description and limits, is in some way in a position to govern better more efficiently more rationally, then the head of state or a federal What's he do? I certainly consider myself friendly to that proposition, but I think is far as actually thinking about what we mean in terms of time, forming a president, be more mayor like we would essentially mean would, foregoing all this contentious things that Brok Obama, the Republicans in there sir arguing over righted mean we be foregoing the possibility of the President trying to act on the minimum wage or foregoing the possibility of the president trying to create radical new health. their legislation. All of these things would be impossible if we suddenly
that we wanted our presence to be like may, as there is how however, of course, a beauty to what measures do. They are very clear, deliverable slight, clear snow likes clean streets like public safety, and they have a clear set of tools for achieving those those goals. That means that they are relatively easy degrade the end of the day relative to relative to the president, and they can stay focused on making sure that, commutes into work are human cells, and I think one piece of evidence which I think is a very nice one. That corroborate this view is the work of fanatics rare on Joe Turco at the University of Pennsylvania, who find that. really doesn't matter. This is a paper that I added it when I was still the court regional economics. it doesn't matter with another republican or a democratically elected mayor? They seem to do more or less the same thing, and this is of course done by
with a regression discontinuity approach would just means were basically comparing cities where fifty one percent of the voters voted republican with cities, in which fifty one percent of the voters voted for Democrats, so that otherwise pretty identical and having republican our democratic office makes very little difference at the local level. Of course, it does at the state level, and even more so at at the federal government level, and that's precisely because there's no democratic, a Republican waited to clean the streets. As the old saying goes so the book that Belgium barbarous written if mares ruled the world, and I know how familiar with the book, or at least some of it certainly have it. I read smacks ourselves, so I think the attraction of this idea that we're talking the marriage should rule the world whether we mean that you know metaphorically are in some tiny way? Literally, is you know that here that measures have to be responsible to voters if for no other reason than that, their potential losses are so much more tangible than a federal or state official, so so
get that and I think it resonates with anyone. We all want the people that we lack door. You know choose higher even to be accountable, so that's the cat. Why is there such a disconnect between? municipal and state and federal levels. Is it just the way the system was built a few hundred years ago and its evolved kind of stochastic cleanly? deal with it or there are some you know, is there some Greater or lesser reason for why we need this real accountability and satisfaction on the local level, and yet don't on the federal state level right. So, if we think about the history of this right, the local governments really came first in the local and and state governments, but even though they are polluted
beholden to the states that the rise of large scale municipal spending preceded the rise March Gal state spending, which then both proceeded the rise and large scale federal spending? Any one fact that I've repeated often is that at the start of the twentieth century, cities and towns are spending as much on water. Is the federal government spending on everything, except for the Post office in the army rights. This is just water expenditures at the city in town level, at which tells you just how big city governments were, and they were big and taxpayers signed off on their It is precisely because they were delivering something that was very, very tangible. Then you have the rise of the federal government. We can say this is nineteen hundred to nineteen sixty, which is associated with at least two things right, one of which is the increase the role of the? U S in the world, two world wars and a cold war, both of which were large scale increases in the size of the federal government and then the second of which was first under Teddy rose. often under which a Wilson and then under fifty are this increasing road. The federal government played in being an
and against recession in an agent for fairness at the national level and fighting inequality, nation trying to create a social security system. So if you think of those two things as being the fundamental reasons why the feds came about and and perhaps to a lesser extent, doing a little bit around transportation in the eyes and how we use, but really the big things were deserted redistribution and he recessionary thing and though, though, the wars in diplomacy thing both of those things while they can be unbelievably expensive and potential incredibly important right there, just not a meaningful to the same degree of precise accounting that we have for these things, which came first for these absolutely necessary things this that cities do so. I guess I have trouble imagining how you're ever gonna go either put diplomacy or debates over redistribution debates over social security. Debates over Medicare in the same you know league, is you can and in terms of cities
Benjamin Barber, in his book, if mares ruled the world argues that we should create a global parliament of measures to help solve problems, National governments are so good at solving Ed Glaser is so enthusiasm. I support the idea of communication across cities. So I think, sharing ideas, certainly is a good idea of parliament is by its debts mission, essentially a legislator branch, and I think the beauty of mayors is that they are deeply executive. So I'm not particularly eager Transform these, you know wonderfully focused executives into into parliamentarians, but this parade of having more discussions across cities to take me to share ideas about and improve the basic city governor's, certainly a good one. In a way, though, this global parliament of mayors is already happening as well, Phyllis Mare, Aircars Seti tells US mares. Already get together regularly to swap ideas. Car Seti, like Ed Glaser CS cities leading the way, and he thinks
that Washington sees that too, Garcetti recently visited the White House with sixteen other new mares? I was one a few that have been sworn in, but then in coming. As from past in New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, so on and so forth, and I said to the president, then we're looking for a partner if this was the seventys and Sixtys in the Urban centres of America were burning. We probably would have come to Washington and said Washington, please save America cities. Today we come as America cities seeking to save Washington, because things are so broken at the national level, you know we can afford to be partisan at the local level. People want their snow plowed the trash picked up. the street safe. They want to have a chance at a job decent place to live, and it's not thousand miles away or a few hundred miles away the state Capitol it's here. It's now so in that sense mayors have to rule the world they have to make that change not you get tossed out of office and at the end of it,
it's more about being a chief executive then and of a commander in chief, but guess listeners. Remember our new book think like a freak, is out and made twelve if you pre order in any format for many book store. You get the first chapter now just visit for economics, dot, com slashed, meat peak. Also, we will be doing an episode of frequently asked questions about the new so send us your very best questions at radio at free Economic, stop come and next week on the pod gas. Imagine the world, just as it is today: computers, cars even beyond, say, except for two things there,
no alcohol and no marijuana and then suddenly, on the same day, both of them are discovered. What happens next, I suspect would be banned within ten years of became available today, If marijuana was discovered today, I think people would probably set it that's our thought experiment for the week. If you were starting with a clean slate, how would outcome all an marijuana, be ready bladed sold taxed and ingested. That's next time for economic freedom for Economics, radio is produced by W and Y see and governor productions. Our staff includes David Herman Gregg resolves ski gretta, cone, borri, Lamb, shrewdly Pinon Monotony, Susie, Luxembourg and Chris Bannon, with engineering help. Jim brakes, if you want more
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-13.