Saturday, August 20, 2011

Translating NPR

This morning NPR had a segment about the effects of closing Borders stores around the country.  Borders (that competed not very well with Barnes and Noble and Amazon) is closing its stores which in many places were anchor tenants in shopping centers.  This piece had a guy supposedly trying to explain the effects of these stores closing.  But it got bound up so badly in jargon, I was not sure what I was supposed to learn.  The best that I could discover was that some Borders closings were good and others were not as good.

The piece trotted out one Christopher Leinberger who was described as a "scholar at Brookings."   One need only look a bit to find out that he has been a professor at Michigan and a founding partner of Arcadia Land Company, "a New Urbanism/transit-oriented development and consulting firm dedicated to land stewardship and building a sense of community."   He holds a BA from Swarthmore and a Harvard MBA.   From my point of view it was interesting that his role as a land developer was left out of his bio.  Evidently this big time "thinker" is also in it to make a buck touting his ideas about development.  I do not begrudge him that but "scholar" is a bit of a stretch.  I also wonder whether his commercial ties would be an issue if he did not mouth the party line on NPR about development.

Mr. Leinberger seems to be somewhat of a vochongista.  In a spot that lasted a couple of minutes he used two terms incessantly - "driveable" (which evidently is bad) and "walkable" which evidently is good.  He prattled on about how "big box" (evidently in the "enlightened" view of NPR and Mr. Leinberger Big Boxes can be either good or bad depending on whether the big box is driveable (bad) or walkable(good).   He also seems to be willing to make other twists in NPR orthodoxy.  For example, he clucked approvingly that Reston, VA(even though it was developed "surprisingly" by an evil oil company/Mobil had "walkable" features.)

Schumpeter described creative destruction in a much clearer way.  When some entities in the economy lose their utility, they are gobbled up by ones that will take their place.  The creative destruction does not matter whether the entities are "walkable" or "drivable."

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