Greetings, friends. I’m in the middle of the marathon of the fall travel season. I’m writing this from a hotel near the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, where I’ll be getting on a flight to Akron, Ohio in a few hours. This evening, I’m delivering the Neighborhoods First presentation in Akron, where we’ve been working, with support from the Knight Foundation, to nurture homegrown conversations about an economically resilient future and to spotlight already-ongoing efforts to build one.
Last week I shared the Strong Towns message in Hutchinson, Kansas and New Orleans. Next week is Nova Scotia. I wish I had some coherent thoughts in my brain—and time to write them—but since I don’t, I’m just going to share a few quick things.
A couple weeks ago, Joel Riggs recommended in the comments on an article I wrote that I read a book called Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. I got it on audio book and I’ve listened to it twice. Very short, but really compelling.
Many of you know that years ago I worked on, but never published, a book I called Moneyhall. The central premise of the book—which was rejected by nearly everyone who proofed it for me—was that “winning” for a city was merely the absence of losing. That was seen as not very satisfying (people want to win, Chuck), which I found annoying. I’m not trying to make people feel satisfied; I’m trying to tell them the truth.
In the terminology of James Carse’s book, a city is an infinite game, and the rules are very different for infinite games. I wish I had had that terminology before I tried to explain it so inelegantly.
Along these same lines, I have also listened to Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed for the second time this month (lots of time in transit for audio books). I avoided reading this book for quite a while, even though it came highly recommended. I was interpreting “liberalism” as in the political left, and I didn’t need a heaping helping of confirmation bias. That’s not what he meant, however. He meant “liberalism” as in the entire concept of the post-enlightenment, liberal order placing the individual at the center of society. What a mind-bender.
It reminded me of a Chinese quote—I think it was Xi Jinping, but I can’t find it. When asked about American democracy, he said something along the lines of, “Give them some time.” I’ve been writing and speaking about the spooky wisdom of the traditional development pattern and, time and again, I’m reminded that other cultures—current and ancient—had so much wisdom that we have casually discarded.
One last thing on ancient wisdom, here’s a recent lecture by my favorite economist, Tomas Sedlacek. His book, The Economics of Good and Evil, is one of the best I’ve ever read and it is packed full of ancient wisdom. This lecture is fantastic.
Last week I wrote about parking issues. I did it in a general way, but my thoughts were very related to an ongoing discussion we are having in my hometown.
Good news. The city is poised to vote on a moratorium on off street parking to give us time to update our codes. Additionally, the school district has announced they are putting on hold their plans to tear down a bunch of buildings for parking. So, the conversation is maturing.
One of the things that Donald Trump said when he ran for president that I agreed with was that the stock market was one huge bubble. Of course, the bubble is even bigger now, but after two years it’s now his bubble, which has obviously changed the rhetoric. I’m going to be interested to see what happens this week as things have been very shaky. I did a podcast earlier this year on investing with a Strong Towns mindset. As to be expected from that episode, I had lost a little bit of money this year, but last week did very well with my antifragile portfolio. Humans are wired to prefer months of modest gains followed by a day of losing it all over months of modest losses followed by a day of massive gain. The former is affirming while the latter has you second-guessing every moment.
Finally, last week I found myself quoting the most important article I’ve ever read, one that influenced me more than any other: Malcolm Gladwell’s Blowing Up, about options traders Nassim Taleb and Victor Niederhoffer. I first read that at a time in my life when I was just getting confident that the emperor had no clothes. Gladwell’s introduction to Taleb set me on a path that brought me down from Mount Stupid, hopefully permanently.
If you’re in the Akron area, I hope to see you tonight at the Rialto Theater.