Forgot about this when writing my review.  Glaeser has a way of making a point by assertion— e.g. he just asserts that Jane Jacobs was wrong about the value of low-height neighborhoods, and that Bloomberg was bold and businesslike to create open-plan offices both for his financial firm and at City Hall.   He doesn’t bother to make a case for either proposition.

As it happens I agree with him on the first point and not the second.  High-density construction is the best for the environment, encourages economic growth, and best leverages infrastructure.  (Though about the worst plan in the world is the high-rise-in-a-concrete-slab that architects used to create for public housing, which very likely is what Jacobs was trying to address.)

Open-plan workplaces— i.e. cubicles— are however just horrible.  They’re noisy, distracting, dehumanizing, and surprisingly expensive.  They offer the illusion of flexibility… come on, how often do people ever re-arrange the cubes? I think the only people who really like them are authoritarian managers who imagine that they can keep track of everything their underlings are doing at a glance.  I suspect Glaeser, a university professor, has never worked in one.

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