HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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specialistonJune 23, 2020

I just read Caro's The Power Broker. People have voiced this criticism for a while now. Change some dates and names, the story could easily be told again today.

tozeuronJune 1, 2019

Very fascinating, thanks. Do you have any reading resources I could peruse about these kinds of topics? I read The Power Broker and thought it was an amazing insight into the nuances of politics and media.

playing_coloursonAug 15, 2017

"The Power Broker" by Robert Caro, great bio of Robert Moses, a man who had a tremendous influence on how NYC looks now, it's a great study of power, politics, and the history of NYC.

TheTrottersonSep 5, 2018

The Power Broker and all volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro. The best books I've ever read. I effectively re-read them all every year or two.

legutierronMay 20, 2016

If you are looking for an excellent book about what Robert Moses did for/to New York, I would recommend the Power Broker by Robert Caro (who is also known for his (ongoing) definitive biography of Lyndon Johnson):


piffeyonMar 8, 2018

"The Power Broker" is also a great read if you want to know more about Robert Moses.

CPLXonMar 2, 2016

"The Power Broker" biography of Robert Moses is a truly exceptional look at the intersection of interpersonal and organizational power.

hkmurakamionMay 29, 2014

I hear that "The Power Broker", a biography of Moses and winner of the Pulitzer in 1974, is a fantastic read :)



JSeymourATLonApr 17, 2015

The Power Broker: Robert Moses And the Fall of New York - originally published in 1975, this fascinating true story still holds up.

cpachonDec 10, 2018

I’m currently reading ”The Power Broker” by Robert Caro, which also makes me think about Aaron, since he wrote about the book. Glad to know that the site is up again.

bobthepandaonMay 23, 2018

I'd recommend The Power Broker, which documents how Robert Moses used a toll authority to broker an unprecedented empire of spoils so that he could ram his highways through any opposition. And that was as late as '68.

ganstylesonJune 9, 2020

The Power Broker

The excellent series on Lyndon Johnson by the same author as The Power Broker

The Three Body Problem series

russnewcomeronMar 20, 2020

I have not read the reviewed book, so I can't say for sure, however, it would be hard for almost any book to be more informationally dense than The Power Broker.

colin353onFeb 4, 2021

I would recommend starting with Master of the Senate, since I think it's his best work. But I started with the first in the LBJ series and it's incredibly gripping as well.

The Power Broker is also excellent and absolutely worth reading, but in my view not quite as good as the LBJ series.

howlingfantodsonJan 24, 2019

If you enjoyed the article, I'd highly suggest "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro (the author). It's the best non-fiction book I've ever read and the only 1300 page book that I felt was too short.

maxiepooonJuly 16, 2020

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro. Enormous and incredibly informative about politics, city planning and public relations.

daltonlponApr 8, 2019

William Manchester is about the only writer who comes near Robert Caro. If you liked The Power Broker, you may want to read his American Caesar, or The Arms of Krupp.

The Private Life of Chairman Mao is another tremendous account of the excesses of power.

yanonSep 1, 2009

OO i love these threads.

I am currently reading "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro and its awesome so far (~150 pgs in). Just finished Zinn's "A people's history". Next up is "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Power of Babel" by John McWhorter.

CPLXonDec 7, 2015

The Prize is my second favorite book of history/non-fiction ever. My favorite is "The Power Broker" which has a similar sort of style and scale. Highly recommended.

ronald_raygunonJuly 26, 2017

I'm reading a few. The Power Broker (really good, but really long). The dictators handbook (good, but repetitive). Deep thinking (easy and enjoyable if you're interested in AI). Investment Science (very good if you're interested in math finance).

pokoleoonNov 6, 2019

If you’re interested in this in much more detail, see The Power Broker (Robert Moses and the Fall of New York) by Robert A. Caro

Nav_PanelonOct 1, 2016

I learned most of my history from a class I took, so unfortunately I don't have any reading recommendations for history of the island. But I would strongly recommend Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses "The Power Broker" for better understanding how New York developed throughout the 20th century.

brianstormsonJuly 1, 2014

This is nothing new. Read Robert Caro's 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning book THE POWER BROKER if you wanna know about roads and highways and freeways and how expanding them only makes traffic worse.

specialistonDec 27, 2020

I agree it's unlikely anything will happen.

This is deeper than partisanship, one party rule, pay for play.

Robert Caro's The Power Broker is one primer for how true power works in our system of government.

I'm still clueless what the remedies are, indeed if there are any.

leafmealonDec 8, 2020

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York earned Robert Caro a Pulitzer prize for biography. I'm reading the first of his 5 part (and counting?) biography of Lyndon Johnson which I also highly recommend.

edanmonMay 22, 2019

I can't recommend The Power Broker more highly. It is one of my favorite books, and one of the books that I believe actually gave me new insights into how the world works.

I actually haven't read his LBJ series yet, and I'm really looking forward to it.

cushychickenonMar 2, 2016

"The Power Broker" is very good, but I've only ever gotten about 200 pages into it. I'll have to try again.

You didn't happen to read Caro's work on LBJ, did you? It's surprising your class would use his work twice, but the guy is pretty fascinated with the sorts of powerful people that this topic of study would focus on as case studies.

mattzitoonJan 8, 2015

As I feel obligated to do whenever there's a related posting, an HN-level-of-detail book about power and the development of NYC, I have to throw a shout-out to the Power Broker:


about Robert Moses, another legendary NYC figure who fundamentally changed the shape of the city.

travmattonApr 14, 2016

I'm currently finishing reading Robert Caro's "The Power Broker", which is about the man who is mostly responsible for New York's choice to embrace the automobile over people, Robert Moses. In short, this choice was extremely conscious and in large part driven by racial and class based segregation.

icebrainingonJuly 16, 2019

I just listen to podcasts in the order they get published. Alternatively, you can pick a podcast that started long ago, and just binge on the archive - Mike Duncan's work alone is enough to fill probably three or four months.

That said, I listened to the Power Broker, and fully recommend it.

yanonJuly 20, 2009

"A People's History of the United Sates" by Howard Zinn. A decent history book, not exactly uplifting.

Reading currently: "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" by Robert Caro. Absolutely loving it.

That, and my usual climbing books.

derrick_jensenonMay 21, 2020

Robert Moses was criticized for doing similar things in New York City (making overpasses too low so buses couldn't go through, etc). Have you read The Power Broker by Robert Caro?

thrownaway2424onDec 1, 2015

Bizarrely, The Power Broker appeared in the Financial Times list of best books of 2015. It seems it was never published in the UK until now. It's one of the finest biographies ever written.

travmattonSep 5, 2017

>I'm in the middle of the biography of Robert Moses, "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro

If you're finding you're learning a lot through that book, I'd also recommend Caro's series on LBJ. It's utterly fascinating and a vivid analysis of political public power.

jgalt212onOct 24, 2016

This book is very long, but a good way to spend a few months for anyone interested in urban planning.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York


specialistonDec 22, 2020

The first suburb was Long Island. Mass transit was prohibited. Commuters had no choice but to drive. They hated it. They still hate it.

The Power Broker, Robert Caro

amsilprotagonAug 21, 2019

From Robert Caro's The Power Broker:

Robert Moses had shifted the parkway south of Otto Kahn's estate, south of Winthrop's and Mills's estates, south of Stimson's and De Forest's. For men of wealth and influence, he had moved it more than three miles south of its original location. But James Roth possessed neither money nor influence. And for James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway south even one tenth of a mile farther. For James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway one foot.

dankohn1onOct 5, 2014

I'm 3/4ths through the audio book of the Power Broker and second your recommendation. I started it while doing the 100 mile NYC Century last month (the only all-urban century), and it has changed the way I think about New York City, democracy, power, and journalism.

heymijoonAug 12, 2019

I wish everyone had the knowledge of The Power Broker by Robert Caro in their heads. It's a mammoth book, mainly talks about early 20th century NYC development, but my god is it enlightening into how infrastructure got built.

mathpersononApr 26, 2017

Fuck yeah bud. Have you read the power broker?

ktamuraonSep 2, 2016

"The Power Broker" by Robert Caro.

At first glance, it's a 1,000-page, detailed biography of a (in)famously effective city planner Robert Moses. At its core, it's a lucid examination of the anatomy of power. It has completely changed how I think about power, where it comes from (whether it's at work or in the greater market/world) and how it is retained and lost.

It's also a great antithesis to junk-food journalism and online reading that we've become addicted to. Caro's research is thorough and his writing is inspiring.

hardwaregeekonFeb 3, 2021

I'm a little less than halfway through The Power Broker. It's a riveting read, especially as a New Yorker (quite possibly living in housing built by him!). I suppose I haven't quite gotten to the part where Moses goes full corrupt. From what I've read so far, he seemed utterly vicious, sneaky and deceptive, but also ridiculously competent. Anybody who's had to sit in committees and meetings spinning their wheels, hearing excuses on why stuff can't be done, will likely find something appealing about Moses' sheer ability to get shit done. It'll be interesting to see how that opinion gets revised as the book goes on.

One area that appears to have come under attack is Caro's accusation that Moses deliberately lowered the bridge heights: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-09/robert-mo...

I found it particularly amusing how Moses—"the best bill drafter in Albany" as Caro dubs him—was able to write bills that gave him far more power than the politicians who passed them expected. Indeed one part where he referenced a niche definition of appropriation in an old 19th century bill felt almost akin to return oriented programming!

madhadrononDec 16, 2019

I've gotten to the point where I just suggest people skip Guns, Germs, and Steel entirely. Diamond is a really excellent writer, but he cherry picks his material to support a thesis and ignores all the prior art that shows that people already tried his thesis a century ago and discarded it.

Jump to 'The Power Broker' instead. Now that's an interesting read.

dankohn1onMar 12, 2015

HPMOR is a wonderfully entertaining book, one of my favorites along with George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and (non-fiction) Robert Caro's The Power Broker. The first ~7 chapters are clunky and then it really gets going. Harry vs. dementors is particularly amazing.

Even his detractors [0] call HPMOR a "cracking good read".

[0] http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Eliezer_Yudkowsky

jnsaff2onJuly 16, 2020

The Origins of Political Order: From prehuman times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama


The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York By Robert Caro


gooonDec 14, 2018

Of the books I've read this year, there are a small handful that I think are beyond good.

Antifragile: This book has informed many decisions I have made recently. It is insightful, entertaining, and in its concern for human choices manages to send a beautiful message about nature and reality.

The Power Broker: I listened to this via audiobook and I highly recommend the experience. It's a large dose of history and a fascinating exploration of city politics and, as its name implies, power. And I learned a lot about New York!

Lonesome Dove: I hadn't read any fictional "westerns" and this came well recommended. I loved it. Listening to it while backpacking and on a road trip was extremely rewarding.

Man's Search For Meaning: Extremely powerful and potentially life changing. It was both cathartic and therapeutic for me, and has affected how I live my life.

The Lathe of Heaven: Incredibly enjoyable dystopian future fiction. It came recommended via the "HN reading list" released some number of months ago, and I liked it a lot.

The Fellowship of the Ring: I had started this book in high school but hadn't finished it for some reason. I picked it up again, and I'm glad I did. It is a gem, and there's good reason that it has become a part of our cultural bedrock. Its exploration of purpose, challenge, and choice is quite moving.

HiroshiSanonNov 16, 2017

For a deep look on designing cities I recommend reading the book the power broker.

Aaron Swartz' review of the book:

"I cannot possibly say enough good things about this book. Go read it. Right now. Yes, I know it’s long, but trust me, you’ll wish it was longer. I think it may be simply the best nonfiction book."

euroclydononMar 5, 2016

Robert Caro's The Power Broker about Robert Moses, the most powerful unelected government official in U.S. history.

Caro, a Pulitzer winning journalist, is a wiz at writing, so you'll enjoy each page. But more importantly, even though Robert Moses was a bad buy, you don't have to be bad to learn to get what you want, in an organization, by ignoring superficial power structures, and focusing on the real ones.

Plus you'll learn a ton about how NYC was built out in the depression.

Spooky23onMay 24, 2019

I read the Power Broker whenever I get promoted or things go really well. That transformation is tale worth reflecting on.

dondawestonApr 8, 2019

THE POWER BROKER is one of the most fulfilling and detailed and well-researched books I have ever read in my life. Caro is the best biographer I have ever encountered on the page. The richness he puts into the history he tells is truly unbelievable. After reading that book I felt like I deeply knew — and hated - Tammany Hall, hahaha

js2onNov 6, 2019

This piece is about the English parks that inspired Olmsted. The Power Broker is about Robert Moses. Does it spend much time on Olmsted and his inspirations for Central Park?

a_bonoboonApr 8, 2019

Aaron Swartz on The Power Broker:

>I cannot possibly say enough good things about this book. Go read it. Right now. Yes, I know it’s long, but trust me, you’ll wish it was longer. I think it may be simply the best nonfiction book.


Also quoted in this longer article on transparency in government: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/transparencybunk

twoodfinonApr 27, 2017

This is as good a thread as any to mention that if the automotive infrastructure of NYC gets you excited, it's but one of many good reasons to pick up Robert Caro's epic The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.

I finished the Audible recording a few months ago, and it lived up to its reputation as perhaps the great modern biography.

ctkrohnonJuly 9, 2008

This summer I've read/am reading/am planning to read:

* The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (Robert Caro)

* Options Volatility & Pricing: Advanced Trading Strategies and Techniques (Sheldon Natenberg)

* Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (Edwin Burrows & Mike Wallace)

* Egil's Saga (anonymous)

* Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino)

If you have any interest in the history of New York City at all, or if you're interested in seeing an incredibly well done character study, read "The Power Broker." Probably the best biography I've ever read... Ron Chernow's biographies of J. P. Morgan, Rockefeller, and Hamilton are all great, but Caro's on Robert Moses blew me away.

schlagetownonSep 2, 2017

Mindstorms, by Seymour Papert - for understanding the relationship of learning and technology; a smart, humanist, empathetic approach to education
[See also: The Children's Machine; Deschooling Society]

Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand - for the concepts of deep time and the long now; appreciating a sense of how we experience time and our place in history
[See also: Time and the Art of Living]

Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott - creative parable that's very helpful for conceptualizing abstract concepts of topology and higher dimensions

Thinking in Systems, A Primer, by Donella Meadows - great introduction to systems thinking, which is a useful lens for appreciating the complexity of all sorts of complex phenomena

A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander - great work of urban design, useful framework for looking at design systems and how pieces fit together on different scales
[See also: Death and Life of Great American Cities]

Oulipo - A Primer of Potential Literature - nice introduction to the Oulipo and ideas of constraint as creative / poetic device
[See also: Exercises in Style; Eunoia]

Impro, by Keith Johnstone - great primer on improvisation, really made me appreciate its impacts beyond just the theater, for example the importance of status in social relations

The Power Broker, by Robert Caro - unbeatably rich and compelling look at how power and politics actually work, for better (power gets things done) and for worse (power blinds and corrupts)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard - beautiful, meticulously observed study of the natural world close at hand; made me appreciate the power of looking deeply and persistently

Le Ton beau de Marot, by Douglas Hofstadter - remarkable exploration of language and translation, in all its magic and complexity…both deeply personal and deeply researched, a must-read for lovers of language

The Library at Night, by Alberto Manguel - turned me on to the various lenses through which we can conceive of and appreciate libraries; their vast power and potential

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville - for really hammering home the grand, powerful potential of great literature and well-wrought language
[ See also: Don Quixote; Infinite Jest]

marcelluspyeonMay 22, 2019

I just read about 70% of The Power Broker before having to return it to the library - what a book. I was surprised at how easy it was to read something so long, with often pretty banal subject matter. Reading it reminded me of that piece of advice often given to college freshmen about finding the best professor on campus and taking their classes: even if you're totally uninterested in the subject at the start, you'll get drawn in by the professor's enthusiasm and ability.

ppipadaonFeb 7, 2021

Today is Sunday, and I am casually browsing through Hackernews and I find this article that seems to be talking about one of my favourite authors, Kurt.

It looks too long, the first question that comes to my mind on this sleepy day is whether this is worth it. A lot of these tend to be self wound articles, but I start reading and interest develops slowly but surely. Before you know it I am through reading and starting to wonder, how did I read this as a whole and how great this was. May be this was even small and some more of it wouldn't have hurt.

Thank you for posting this. This article gives great insight into the thought and the narrative behind these great authors. I would be looking forward to reading The Power Broker and the LBJ series. As always, reading about Kurt or his work is always fascinating.

bokonistonJuly 9, 2008

The Power Broker is awesome. One of the finest books for understanding the 20th century. It's also fascinating to note that today we blame car culture on oil companies and selfish consumers. Turns out that the one of the people most responsible for creating America's car dependent culture was a progressive named Robert Moses ( with a lot of help from the NY Times).

BTW, another great book on urban themes is City: Urbanism and its End, by Doug Rae.

ctchoculaonMay 22, 2019

The Power Broker - the story of how an idealist turned into Darth Vader

The Years of Lyndon Johnson - the story of how LBJ rigged the 1948 election for Senate and rose to power

Here's an excerpt from an interview with the author of both books:

> During all these years I did come to understand stuff about power that I wanted people to know. You read in every textbook that cliché: Power corrupts. In my opinion, I’ve learned that power does not always corrupt. Power can cleanse. When you’re climbing to get power, you have to use whatever methods are necessary, and you have to conceal your aims. Because if people knew your aims, it might make them not want to give you power. Prime example: the southern senators who raised Lyndon Johnson up in the Senate. They did that because he had made them believe that he felt the same way they did about black people and segregation. But then when you get power, you can do what you want. So power reveals. Do I want people to know that? Yes.

jzymbalukonJan 3, 2018

Funny you should mention The Power Broker, I got the audiobook through Audible in December, and I'm about 16 hours in (only about a quarter of the way through!). I think it's interesting how the book wants to portray him as a power-hungry evil emperor type. He was definitely power-hungry, but I don't know if I agree on the evil characterization. It seems like he did a lot of good for the city, and it's tough to imagine what NYC would be like if someone like Robert Moses hadn't been able to relentlessly modernize the way he did.

Thanks for the blog recommendation!

redwoodonApr 26, 2019

I experienced this in my first job... A regulatory decision around approval of a new power line in California... where the consulting and regulatory costs of simply discussing whether the line should be built literally ran over $100 million. Paid for by all California power users in their rates.

The sad thing is the state of affairs can be used by any party that for any reason wants to fight anything it want (with money): just leverage environmental protection laws even when it's intellectually dishonest to do so, and win by miring the process in hundreds of millions of dollars of total waste.

Of course that's just the abuse of law/process side of things. Separately we've seen the loss of expertise in house within governments and the rise of consulting firms required to do everything.

There was a time when cities built their own transit! Now you have to hire expensive Consultants from Europe or Asia because the idea that people could figure this out on their own with their civil engineering degrees and experience in adjascent fields is simply verboten.

If anyone hasn't read The Power Broker about the rise of Robert Moses, it's a great read: You can disagree with much of his methodology/power hunger/abuse of people, and you can certainly disagree with what he built, but what he did demonstrate is that the people with the plans who can execute while everyone else is talking about grand dreams can GET STUFF DONE.

We need more people in government who actually have a plan, that are actually willing to take bets on people, to hire high-quality people, to see hard projects through, not to punt everything off to consulting firms.

Let's be honest, consulting firms never feel ownership. Their deliverable is that beautiful PDF. No PDF ever built any grand infrastructure.

And the Golden Gate Bridge, and the New York subway, never even had the glorious joy of benefiting from either PDF or PowerPoint.

Let's admit it, when it comes to building infrastructure we've completely failed and we need to have a serious wake-up call.

Sadly most people have no idea how bad it has gotten because when they spend a hundred million dollars collectively deciding whether to build a power line in the San Diego desert, they barely notice that they're paying an incremental portion of a penny more for every kilowatt-hour of power.

bgroatonFeb 6, 2019

The Power Broker by Robert Caro, and
The Dictator's Handbook

Practical Primers on Political Power - now I think of EVERYTHING in terms of selectorate theory and cartels

wonder_eronAug 22, 2020

You pointed out exactly why I mentioned it:

> except in that it often points out that authoritarian governments are free to ignore any feedback, feedback of the kind that incentive schemes are usually designed to generate.

A view of the modern state is made more accurate if one views the state as an entity desirous to ignore feedback from citizens, rather than actively responsive to citizen opinion.

Robert Caro has written amazing books. I'm half-way through this two-hour dialog titled "On Power"[0].

He says he essentially stumbled into writing The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York[1] after observing how Robert Moses (an unelected bureaucrat) completely controlled huge "democratic" institutions.

I mention the books because they highlight some of the means and ways in which the state encourages it's people to think it is responsive to them, but this responsiveness is a slight of hand, even as plenty of participants in the system (both as citizens and as representatives of the state) earnestly believe that the state is responsive to public input.

[0]: https://www.audible.com/pd/On-Power-Audiobook/B06XNKVH16

[1]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1111.The_Power_Broker

russnewcomeronMar 20, 2020

I've recently been reading The Power Broker by Robert Caro, about Robert Moses, the Parks Commisioner who drove most of the building of the parks and roadway infrastructure of New York in the 20s-60s. It's a huge book, with a lot of asides into Alfred Smith, Tammany Hall, FDR, etc. (I'm only about halfway in, before Moses runs for Governor).

I can't help but notice parallels with Moses and Hoover, with the 'politicians' they decry, the ones they seem to celebrate, their sympathy for the masses crossed with personal antipathy toward individuals. I can't help but consider lessons this has for our current crisis, I can't help but think about how Truman relatively successfully navigated the assumption of the presidency from Roosevelt after being frozen out and manages to not totally bungle the end of WWII. I can't help but note how some people are who are completely effective in one time requiring action end up totally screwing up in others.

All that to say, I think we can learn lessons from Hoover, from the past, and apply them to our current situation and the future.

1) Sometimes, the egomaniacl jerk gets great things done. Later, they can use the power to screw up massively.
2) History lets us review responses to crisises and point out how they could have been done better, but we probably won't apply any of those lesssons to our own crisis.
3) Demonstrably compentent people can have demonstrably incompetent responses to crisises - demonstrably incompetent people rarely have compentent ones.

Spooky23onApr 8, 2019

The Johnson books are really amazing looks into a uniquely American person. The Power Broker is amazing and overshadows the Johnson books. Robert Moses’s arc is like a real life Darth Vader.

Johnson is...different the books made me uncomfortable, as LBJ is both loathsome and inspired, visionary and corrupt. It’s hard to like someone literally hiring folks to bring suitcases of corrupt money back to his home... but then again he was able to make civil rights a reality, in the face of the racist establishment that controlled the Senate.

specialistonSep 6, 2020

100% free transportation. Buses, highways, rails, subways. Everything free all the time.

Let the travelers decide for themselves how to spend their most precious resource: time.

Read Caro's The Power Broker. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_Broker


Post WWII, NYC's Robert Moses figured out how to exfiltrate money from the public (subways, buses, rail, autos) and leverage that cash flow to finance his major works projects, thereby funneling capital back to bankers, realtors, developers, contractors. Every other jurisdiction followed his lead. Resulting in today's terrible land use and congestion.

Sure, Moses had help. But he was the criminal mastermind. He orchestrated the wholesale theft of our time, our money, our precious open spaces, our health, our homes, our natural resources.

We have no moral obligation to keep paying for his crimes.

spenvoonMar 14, 2014

Thanks - I messed up linking in the post.

On "The Power Broker," Swartz says:

"I cannot possibly say enough good things about this book. Go read it. Right now. Yes, I know it’s long, but trust me, you’ll wish it was longer. I think it may be simply the best nonfiction book."

[0] - https://zolabooks.com/list/aaron-swartz-reading-list/1

jdrossonApr 29, 2018

In NY a lot of the public works from 1930-1960 was driven by Robert Moses, starting with his Jones beach projects.

The Power Broker would be my recommended reading.

pvgonOct 17, 2018

It's a 7k-word piece in the print edition of the Atlantic. You've made the case yourself that titles don't have to be trivially revealing - presumably because 'intellectual curiosity' necessarily involves some actual curiosity.

'Raised on Youtube' might be imperfect on some parameter or another but it's not 'misleading' any more than, I dunno, 'The Power Broker' is a misleading title of a biography. The title it's been replaced with is literalist butchery.

eslaughtonFeb 4, 2021

For those who have read The Power Broker... how do you stand to hold it?

I bought the paper book after reading another one of these threads on HN, but it's so large that it makes my hands sore to hold it (or my neck if I lay it on my lap to read). Since there's no ebook version, I wonder how you all manage to get through a tome like this.

tsunamifuryonAug 10, 2016

I will read The Power Broker, thank you for the reco. Most of my interest with this comes from my responsibility to design architectures for ultra-large ecosystems. It is incredibly difficult, as both of these people found out, to define what "healthy" is. On top of that, its almost impossible to predictably seed the right changes to get there. I take each of these leaders thoughts on human principled design very seriously.

notthemessiahonDec 7, 2020

Ain't a theory, it's by design: Robert Moses was the architect of this suburban vision of America. Not only did they pave the way out of the city, the highways also paved over the homes of millions of existing residents in the city, displacing them further out. Furthermore, highways were often used as barriers between rich and poor neighborhoods. You should read The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.

ibn-pythononAug 27, 2020

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro is a fascinating take on how power and corruption can manifest in modern era.

Things Hidden Since The Foundation Of The World by Rene Girard explores through dialogues his theory of mimesis. Barely have made a dent into it and so am not sure if I’d recommend it yet but it’s had polarizing reviews.

specialistonAug 5, 2021

Highest recommendation for Robert Caro's The Power Broker, biography of Robert Moses. The guy who built NY's parks, bridges, highways, etc. How he acquired and wielded power. The impact he had nationally. It gives some insight into the game Cuomo and so many others are playing.

Politics is nasty. Full stop.

My only TIL that I can offer: Everyone should run for office. Any office. At least once.

Once you decide to play the game -- play to win -- every thing makes perfect sense.

Not to excuse it, in any way. It's just that folk theories aren't even wrong. So people get worked up about the wrong stuff. There will always be devils doing bad stuff.

What should we do about them?

(Haven't started Caro's LBJ biographies yet. I've gleaned that LBJ makes Moses look like a middleweight.)

Spooky23onMar 27, 2017

"The Power Broker" by Robert Caro.

Nobody has ever captured the nature of power on an individual level to the depth and breadth that Caro did on this book. (except perhaps his epic treatment of Lyndon Johnson)

Over something like 1,100 pages you get to track the career of an aspiring reformer as he transitions to skilled and trusted government official, to someone who manages to grow to the point that he is more powerful than the Governor and Mayor of New York during NY's economic peak -- despite never having been elected to anything. Then you get to witness his decline and ultimate fall.

This is probably the best biography ever written. It may take you six months to read, but its time well spent.

spodekonJune 8, 2018

For those who have read Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Power Broker, most of this article tells history you already know.

After that part, it's about applying her principles to today's issues beyond cities to entrepreneurship versus large corporations and red tape and how to serve people and their lives.

The article didn't apply her principles to the environment, where I find a relevant parallel: people in traffic jams felt, "if only this road had another lane, then I wouldn't have to endure this traffic jam" so we built more lanes and roads. After generations, people learned that empty roads helped only temporarily, eventually leading people to use them and create more traffic than before the expansion.

The parallel is that people see pollution today and think, "if only a new technology reduced this pollution, I wouldn't have to breathe this polluted air / endure sea levels rising / etc" so we develop new technologies. We haven't yet learned the parallel with roads that more technologies help only temporarily, eventually leading people to use them and create more pollution.

I've overstated things to simplify, but there are shades of gray. We need some roads, but more isn't necessarily better and short-term solutions often worsen the situation. Same with technology, as Jevon's paradox, among other effects, illustrates.

In complex systems, if you don't address the leverage point of the beliefs and goals of the system, changing elements in it rarely changes the system, no matter how wonderful the new technology seems, be it LED lighting, nuclear power, carbon sequestration, space travel, and so on. In a system based on beliefs that we can expand out of any problem, they'll make the system expand faster. In a system designed to serve people, new technologies would help serve people better, but we don't live in such a system yet.

We could use an environmental Jane Jacobs.

specialistonNov 1, 2020

I'd like a Good Government guidebook for citizens. List some general principles, some case studies, cites for further research.

I tried to read some books on auditing and financial accounting. Way over my head. I need the ELI5 layperson versions.

Am a recovering activist. So much (wasted) effort. I did learn two heuristics.


Talk About Quality

"Fraud" is a convo full stop. Don't talk about fraud, theft, grift.

Mistakes are indistinguishable from fraud. And combatting both has the same remedies.

So only talk about quality, confidence, reducing errors, etc. Nice safe blame-free neutral 90/10 language that gets everyone on board and is less likely to trigger overt opposition. (Covert sabotage will continue, because the grifters won't be fooled by your Aw Schucks demeanor.)


Follow The Money

Per quote from The Wire upthread. I learned from Bev Harris (Black Box Voting) that (mis)appropriations is a huge threat to election integrity. And in many places, that's the sheriff's office. They don't care about machines, voting, elections. For them it's just about the grift.

Twenty years later, I still don't have a clue how to mitigate this. One half-baked notion was to advocate for solutions that both more in line with the public interest and had more potential for grift. Another is, since scandal is evergreen topic, is feed info to opposition. That didn't work at all against Bob Moses (The Power Broker), so probably not a great plan.

edanmonNov 26, 2018

This reminds of an interesting story from Robert Caro's great biography of Robert Moses (The Power Broker). Very paraphrased from memory, but:

Robert Moses built large parts of New York City, including a lot of its roads/infrastructure. When Moses was growing up, cars were very new, and a luxury item. Driving through a scenic route was a very fun experience for most people. Therefore, Moses built the roads to emphasize these scenic routes.

This later became problematic, as he kept doing it well into the age when being in a car was considered a nuisance, rather than an attraction.

Nav_PanelonMar 27, 2017

I adore this book. It also took me 6 months to read. I think about it often while wandering around the city, imagining the areas before and after Moses' steel-and-concrete hand, imagining the old neighborhoods, trying to envision what could be next, what could have been, what could be.

Lately I've been reading Foucault and I find that many pieces of The Power Broker are incredible examples of Foucault's post-modern/post-structuralist theory of power: power relations as a sort-of amorphous "lines of force" that move between people through society, occasionally emergent as structural domination/power, rather than as some sort of antagonistic relationship between rulers and ruled. This conception of power makes sense when you consider Moses operating at an intersection between (and attempting to leverage) many different "fields" of powers: government politicians, wealthy private estates, union high-ups, the news media, etc.

mattzitoonMay 29, 2014

I actually emailed the publisher about this, as the power broker is one of my favorite books (but totally impractical to carry around).

I got a response saying that they would love to do an ebook version of TPB, but Robert Caro won't allow them to do that - he even refuses to submit his writing digitally, instead writing everything by hand, then typing it up with a typewriter, which is then retyped by a typist at the publisher into Word.

atombenderonAug 22, 2018

The Power Broker is a great, huge read.

Another good one that I got recently is Arabia Felix [1], a rather obscure Danish book from 1962 from NYRB. A minor classic.

I'm not a war buff by any stretch, but I can recommend Antony Beevor. Sometimes his books devolve into exhausting, never-ending play-by-plays of tank and troop movements, but both Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin [3] and were fascinating just for his ability to conjure up the time and place. Inside the Third Reich was similarly interesting, even it's known to be a flawed narrative.

I also recently read Bad Blood, about Theranos, which was excellent. Literary-wise not quite on the same level, though.

Got any recommendations?

[1] https://www.npr.org/2017/06/17/531929925/in-the-refrains-of-...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Stalingrad-Fateful-1942-1943-Antony-B...

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Berlin-1945-Antony-Beevor

heymijoonJuly 24, 2019

> Most famously, in New York City the writer and urban visionary Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses, rallying community opposition to his grand plan for the 10-lane Lower Manhattan Expressway that would have destroyed parts of Little Italy and SoHo.

The biographer Robert Caro paints a maddening picture of how Robert Moses decimated communities in NYC with his highways with effects that live on today. Moses did so with a disregard and even callousness for freeway placement, even when it would have made more sense not to have it run through a vibrant community.

The Power Broker is the best book I read last year. It is enlightening, frustrating, and at times enraging. It is 1344 pages. I recommend the audioboook.


dankohn1onApr 29, 2017

The Power Broker is one of my favorite books and I agree that Moses was ultimately a despicable man, who made NYC a much worse place to live to withholding funding for transit while pouring money into road building in a hopeless attempt to deal with the congestion he was causing.

However, I think the tweetstorm misses that it is poor and middle class people who are most hurt today by inadequate transit, and one thing that would have an enormous effect is an order of magnitude drop in tunneling costs.

My other post <https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14225045> links to a look at why the Second Avenue Subway's $2.2 B per km costs are 20x higher than other cities. A technology that drops tunnelling costs will be great for the poor, and thankfully, I do not believe the news media (with all of its flaws) would ever allow someone like Moses (or Musk) to operate the way he did today.

udfalksoonOct 10, 2018


"This summer, as New Yorkers head out to Long Island’s beach towns and parks on the Southern State Parkway, they’ll pass beneath a series of overpass bridges made infamous in Robert A. Caro’s monumental 1974 biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker.

In one of the book's most memorable passages, Caro reveals that Moses ordered his engineers to build the bridges low over the parkway to keep buses from the city away from Jones Beach—buses presumably filled with the poor blacks and Puerto Ricans Moses despised. The story was told to Caro by Sidney M. Shapiro, a close Moses associate and former chief engineer and general manager of the Long Island State Park Commission."

This article says that the story is not necessarily that straightforward, but this does speak directly to your comment.

cwilkesonFeb 16, 2017

Thanks for posting. I loved Caro starting with The Power Broker and then on to the LBJ series.

He gave a talk out here in Seattle a long time ago and tailored it to the audience with stories about Scoop Jackson, a long time senator. People in the audience loved it. I just wish there were younger people there -- the books do look daunting and the subject matter appears to be dry but they are fascinating.

euroclydononAug 19, 2016

I doubt you'll get hired as a manager; you need to get promoted instead. So go get a job at a large company as an engineer and spend at least six months kicking ass. The ideal company is one with some disfunction and churn -- new hires and such. Then you need to go either out or up with a bang.

Find some major problems with the software development and complain about them strongly to upper management and offer a solution.

Learn to communicate with busy people. Use short emails. Lead with the most important point in verbal and written communication. Learn to tailor your communication to your audiance. Gain the trust and respect of everyone you can. People need to look at you and think, "this guy's/gal's got it." Some will like you and others will not. If you haven't been promoted after doing all this, then straight out ask to be a manager. If you don't get it, leave and do it over.

Also, read The Power Broker [1]

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Power-Broker-Robert-Moses-Fall/dp/039...

silvatonNov 21, 2018

I learned about this stuff from the Robert Caro series. After reading these and the Power Broker, I find it hard to believe that it would be any different nowadays.
I don't know what the current methods would be, but why would we assume it's any better?

If it is better, it would be because:

(1) people are 'better' now - probably not true

(2) the preventative measures in place now are better - but we know the lengths that these people will go to perpetuate corruption, so I just assume they've probably found other roundabout ways.

The same goes for elections. LBJ bringing thousands of Mexicans over the border to vote in Texas elections and eventually stealing the his seat in the Senate. Why should we believe that there isn't similar violations happening now? I personally doubt the extent of corruption has changed at all, only that it is more sophisticated. I have no confidence in public elections or the sanctity of government as a result.
I'm completely disillusioned and I have no intention of participating at all.

FWIW, I'm not from the USA, but I believe the same principle holds across the world

mechanical_fishonJan 9, 2009

Maybe what you said applies to bad books.

Yes, that's where the phenomenon becomes obvious. I note that none of your titles are business books, for example. ;)

[Pertinent side question: How do I know that? I haven't read any of the books. Though I probably should, because your reading list sounds awesome.]

Which is not to say that the titles of all those books weren't chosen primarily to enhance sales. It's just that the target customer was a nonfiction reader, a person who is probably more likely to buy a book if it has a descriptive, serious-sounding, nonfiction-type title. Perhaps the median nonfiction reader is much more likely to pick up The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York than Architect: Robert Moses and his Largely Discredited Ideas, or Robert Moses: A Musical Homage to an Architectural Juggernaut. (Though the last one might turn out to be a great farce!)

Have you noticed that every nonfiction book has a colon in the title? Even my fake book titles have that stupid colon -- it's like a tic, I can't get rid of it! Why is that, do you think? I think it's because the titles are designed for marketing: The initial title is short, and memorable, and evocative like a tiny little poem, kind of like a good domain name should be. The part after the colon tells you what the book is actually about, because the first title is so busy being pretty that it doesn't have time to tell you anything.

Spooky23onMar 12, 2016

Good places to start:

- Wikipedia has a good survey https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_New_York_City_(19...

- later chapters of "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro

- Google around about the shift of shipping from Brooklyn/Manhattan to Newark

- Chekc out the Lindsay administration and crippling transit and sanitation strikes

- finance companies fled NYC from the 60s till the 80s. I read a good book in college about the reasons that I'll try to find.

The 1970s were a terrible time for NYC -- over a million people left. If you have ever driven up the Major Deegan expressway in the Bronx towards Yonkers/White Plains, the level of decay was shocking. When I was a kid in the 80s, easily 80% of the buildings were vacant, with broken windows and druggies in plain sight. I watched a car get stripped before my eyes while stopped at a light two blocks from Yankee stadium.

kgrinonJune 7, 2015

"Software engineering estimates and plans often fail to live up to the reality that follows. It seems to be the only engineering discipline in which this is regularly the case."

Is it though? I live in Boston, home of the notorious* Big Dig[1]. While particularly egregious, it's far from the only large-scale civil engineering project that's gone off the rails. In fact, I'd argue that until fairly recently, many more public works projects shared the "surprise factor" of software projects. I'd recommend Caro's "The Power Broker"[2] for a fascinating history of NY-area public works (among other things - great book all around), including how much of that process was about adapting the plan to new things the builders were learning along the way ("oh, turns out that soil is completely different than we planned...")

That's not to say that there aren't particular features that make software engineering its own special snowflake - as there are meaningful differences between how civil, structural, mechanical, etc. engineers operate. But spend some time in another engineering organization and you'll find it's different, but not as different as you think it is.

(And FWIW, even civil engineers sometimes follow "agile" concepts - a company I once worked for was contracted to design a highway, and even after the construction started, engineers were "embedded" with the builders to make on-the-fly adjustments based on the environmental factors they discovered throughout the process... I wish I could find their project write-up, but it was a while ago and the company has long since been gobbled up by a bigger company).

* As a (subjective) kicker, I'd add that the Big Dig, over-time and over-budget as it was, was ultimately quite worth it... much like many software projects!

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dig

[2] http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Broker-Robert-Moses/dp/03947...

AndyMcConachieonJuly 29, 2020

> Many of these massive projects have incurred various costs and challenges. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Fillmore redevelopment targeted a largely black part of town. A 36-block area was torn down including housing, a distinct lifestyle, and a world-famous jazz community. Most of the previous occupants could not afford to return.

> In many cases, these huge, multi-decade redevelopment projects bring new life to part of a city, but sometimes we can't foresee what we're going to lose.

This is disingenuous, and shows how little the author understands about the history of American urban development. In many cases the purpose of redevelopment in US urban environments has been to push out people of color. To say that gentrification was an unforeseen consequence of redevelopment is just wrong. Gentrification is often the entire point of redevelopment by city officials.

They should read The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs or read The Power Broker by Robert Caro.

To be completely serious, this article reads like someone had some ideas about urban development, did absolutely no research, and then talked about those ideas like they were some kind of expert. I don't understand why the ACM would publish something like this.

jamestimminsonDec 19, 2017


1) The Power Broker - About Robert Moses, the most powerful city planner in New York from the 1930s to the 1960s. Great if you're interested in city planning, how people gain and exercise power, and the real politik of government.

2) The Jungle - Remembered as an exposé of meatpacking, but really more than that. Phenomenal story about early 20th immigrants to Chicago trying to take part in the American Dream but struggling to survive. Surprisingly relevant today.

3) The Big Con - Fascinating look at con artists in the first half of the 20th century.

kensonAug 3, 2017

I agree on The Power Broker; it is kind of amazing and changed my view of New York City. To summarize, Robert Moses leveraged a parks commission position to reshape New York City how he wanted it: from bridges and expressways and urban renewal to the Lincoln Center and United Nations buildings. The first key point is how to leverage a minor position into dictatorial power. The second key point is that New York City didn't just end up how it is; many of its good and bad characteristics (including many racial issues) are because Robert Moses made it that way. However, I can't really recommend reading the book since it is very, very long - longer than Infinite Jest.

And yes, Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" is definitely a must-read if you're interested in urban areas.

michaelpintoonJune 5, 2012

I'd highly recommend Caro's The Power Broker -- it manages to be an amazing book on new york city, the 20th century and the automobile which was the high tech dream device of the first part of that century. Too many folks idolize technology in the "name of progress" but never really think how that technology impacts the lives of every day people.

aestetixonApr 8, 2019

The first 100 pages of that book (Master of the Senate) is the best history of the tensions of the US that I've ever read. At this point, if someone wants to discuss some of the more charged topics with me, I insist they read that first.

On a similar note, I'd argue that if you read The Power Broker, you get a whole new level of understand of why New York City is the way it is.

gnubardtonJune 27, 2011

The Power Broker by Robert Caro is a fantastic biography of Robert Moses, the person who set the template for this kind of development. Though in power in New York, the projects he built (highways, parks, bridges, public housing) was at a scale never seem before him. He figured out how to cut through municipal red tape to build at a large scale using public money.

Not that he wasn't a terrible person. But he wrote the rules that allowed a lot of this kind of development to happen.

specialistonAug 26, 2020

That's one version.

Caro's The Power Broker details how Bob Moses was the agent of the powerful forces behind the automobile.

The only stakeholders not represented, or even consulted, were the average taxpaying citizens. Any dissent was ruthlessly squashed.

Urban planners and normal citizens have been critical since the very beginning. The debate really picked up after WWII, with the resumption of peace time economy.

By the 50s, the experts had enough real world data -- more highways creates more congestion, focus on cars to the exclusion of mass transit physically cannot work -- to invalidate the entire premise.

Eighty years later, here we are still clutching at pearls, trying not to faint. As if there's anything left to debate.

I shouldn't be shocked. But somehow I still am. Or maybe just disappointed.

briankellyonJan 25, 2019

Anti-automobile policies need to be careful to accommodate the disabled but it's unfair to label them as "exclusionary" compared to the racist and classist history of automobile adoption and
according public infrastructure support. From Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, America's most influential and prolific public planner and builder, The Power Broker:

“Underlying Moses' strikingly strict policing for cleanliness in his parks was, Frances Perkins realized with "shock," deep distaste for the public that was using them. "He doesn't love the people," she was to say. "It used to shock me because he was doing all these things for the welfare of the people. . . . He'd denounce the common people terribly. To him they were lousy, dirty people, throwing bottles all over Jones Beach. 'I'll get them! I'll teach them!'... [...]

Now he began taking measures to limit use of his parks. He had restricted the use of state parks by poor and lower-middle-class families in the first place, by limiting access to the parks by rapid transit; he had vetoed the Long Island Rail Road's proposed construction of a branch spur to Jones Beach for this reason.

Now he began to limit access by buses; he instructed Shapiro to build the bridges across his new parkways low—too low for buses to pass. Bus trips therefore had to be made on local roads, making the trips discouragingly long and arduous.

For Negroes, whom he considered inherently "dirty," there were further measures. Buses needed permits to enter state parks; buses chartered by Negro groups found it very difficult to obtain permits, particularly to Moses' beloved Jones Beach; most were shunted to parks many miles further out on Long Island. And even in these parks, buses carrying Negro groups were shunted to the furthest reaches of the parking areas.”

Also detailed in this book is destruction of poor and minority neighborhoods and communities by the common policy of appropriating their land for roads and highways. The lasting effects of these practices is plainly obvious in so many US cities and will not go away without active efforts to reverse the damage. In comparison, disabled-friendly infrastructure is frankly more easily solved.

specialistonMay 17, 2020

Nice. Big fan of Andrew Scott, so I'll try this reading for a while. Thank you.

It just occurred to me that my hangup might be fiction vs non-fiction. Fictional readings might bug me in the same way the cartoons of Garfield and Dilbert bug me; their voices don't align with my imagination.

I've powered thru a handful of biographies (eg Robert Caro's The Power Broker) and got a lot out of them. I only cringed when someone affects a different voice for written quotes.

Whereas each time I tried a Mark Twain audio book, I wanted to kick a puppy.

I used to read a lot to my kid (and other relations). But I really didn't like those books on tape. (Maybe because no one ever read to me, sniff.)

Thanks again. I love this (being uncomfortable). Now I'm gonna push myself to finish some fiction audiobooks. See if I can get into the proper frame of mind.

dokeinonSep 10, 2018

A week ago, at the stop nearest me, the E train uptown was re-routed. The C train had an 18 minute wait (the next one after that -- 19 minutes). The station was somewhere north of 100 degrees F and packed. As the trains were one floor below the turnstiles, these issues were only visible AFTER swiping $3(A) to get into the station. The escalator was broken too, which is fine for me but bad for many others.

Meanwhile, I am already paying one of the highest state and local taxes in the nation. But I'm not complaining about the taxes -- rather, I'm complaining that these dollars don't go very far -- it cost 3.5 BILLION per mile of track(B) because of graft and poor city management.

For those in parts of Brooklyn, looks like the L train will take 15 months to fix. Would anyone take a $100 bet that it finishes on schedule (at 1:1 odds)?

The last time I was in a cab, the driver yelled at me for using an iPhone, accusing me of using Chinese children to assemble them. Somewhat confusingly, he also yelled at me for being Chinese and taking away jobs. I looked up how to report this and it involves showing up in person at a hearing during work hours.

Uber isn't perfect, but banning it doesn't magically fix the subway. Even if the ride takes just as long, at least it's quiet and air-conditioned, and I can read or nap. Rather, Uber's major fault seems to be not greasing the politicans' hands like the medallion industry is. The parent article references the book "The Power Broker" when citing traffic. Funny, because it sure seems that Tammany Hall is still around.

(A) The metro card fare is $2.75, but the machine prevents you from putting in exact change -- only $5 increments -- so anyone who visits town usually wastes some fare.

(B) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-...

cheriotonSep 25, 2016

I stopped reading autobiographies for the same reason. No human alive has the self-awareness to write about themselves objectively.

But non-auto-biographies!! So many history books are the high level "this happened in that year caused by whatever-just-trust-me" while biographies dig into how the world actually worked. Especially if they're set in the last few hundred years and not the last 30, there's a tremendous amount of primary sources to base the writing without over politicizing the topic. What kind of history won't have a survivor bias? Is this an excuse to ignore history entirely?

> I also try to read as many anti-biographies, i.e. people who don’t like the subject

That's introducing it's own bias. But you might as well read The Power Broker if you're going that direction. Fascinating story.

sjm-lbmonAug 9, 2016

True, but this doesn't change the fact that the statement in the article is factually untrue.

Moses preferred roads over all other transport mechanisms, and was shockingly effective in his ability to basically make everyone do what he wanted (even if it involved clearly terrible ideas). He was, though, responsible for many New York state and city parks, and really got into road building as a method to get people out to the new parks he was creating.

Now, his definition of "park" as a very developed area with landscaping, sports facilities, playgrounds, etc. with all previous plant life getting killed with a bulldozer is another matter that hasn't really held up over time, but I'm digressing at this point. The Power Broker really is a fascinating read.

SirensOfTitanonOct 23, 2020

Funny, I just started reading Cato's "The Power Broker" a couple weeks ago. Before that point, I had absolutely no idea who Robert Moses was. I picked that book at random, but as "happy little accidents" go, it melded with my current exploration of themes related to urban planning marvelously. I particularly love reading Jane Jacobs's thoughts on the subject, who learned by observation, not through logical analysis.

A lot of my interest in this area comes from a life-long appreciation of (non-pejorative) anarchist philosophical thought. It's a lot harder to build organization from the bottom-up, but top-down organization loses so much implicit knowledge and context that it seems reasonable to investigate the former approach.

I'll check out your newsletter, it seems so interesting, thank you for linking. :)

workthrowaway27onJan 3, 2018

The Power Broker is a great book about Robert Moses, a very influential city planner in NYC. The book shows how much of planning is politics. Just look at how much trouble San Francisco has and you'll see that the problem isn't lack of ideas or lack of money.

This is also a great blog that frequently discusses urban planning themes: https://granolashotgun.com/

hypersoaronFeb 4, 2021

The New York Times had an article last month about his donation of his archives archives to the New York Historical Society:


It was very important to him that they be accessible for further research:

Louise Mirrer, the president of the historical society, made a generous offer and said a few magical words that clinched the deal. At a dinner with the Caros a few nights later, she elaborated: The papers would be processed quickly, made part of a permanent, rotating Caro exhibit and be easily available to future scholars in a dedicated study area — a stipulation dear to a man who had been told too often in his research that so-and-so’s papers were unavailable.

I can't begin to imagine how much treasure there is to be found in there. Each of his mini-biographies (readers will know what I'm talking about)* probably have a book each worth of interviews and research behind them. I read once that he lamented the lack of any good books on Robert Moses's mentor, Belle Moskowitz; he might posthumously bring such a work to light. He had to cut his chapter on Jane Jacobs from the Power Broker. If that didn't make it, I can only imagine what else didn't. He's conducted thousands of interviews in his lifetime. There are large swaths of the history of government in 20th-Century America that will be preserved thanks to him.

* For the record, my personal favorite is Al Smith.

mleventalonAug 14, 2018

mathematics form and function by Mac Lane (sweeping coverage of all of math at about the undergrad math major level by one of the best mathematicians of the 20th) and the power broker by Caro (no clue really - Robert Moses was the most effective public works new York has ever had, brought down Tammany hall but also quite racist - came highly recommended in an r/NYC thread about him)

Nav_PanelonJan 19, 2018

> How can anyone defend a $15 toll?

Lots of downvotes but this is actually a decent question. Why is the toll so high, and why don't east river bridges have tolls at all?

The answer has to do with the bridge construction process and ownership. The George Washington bridge was built by a "public authority": The Port Authority of NY & NJ.

As explained in Robert Caro's The Power Broker, the concept of a public authority was to allow a public entity to issue bonds for and manage the construction of a particular project, such as a bridge, with intent to turn the project over to the city once paid off. Other bridges were constructed via authorities that are now owned by the city, and the city chooses not to toll them.

Robert Moses, master governmental hacker of New York State, manipulated the concept of the authority by "renewing" bond issues the year before they expire, giving a single authority (in his case, the Triborough Bridge Authority) large amounts of money, which he then used to complete more public works projects, which could issue more bonds, and so on. The result is that this authority never dissolved, the works were never handed over to the city, and the tolls remain high, basically subsidizing the authority's other projects. He effectively created a public body with huge amounts of money that he could spend however he pleased, resulting in travesties like the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

The Port Authority of NY & NJ, who collects the extortionate $15 toll on the GW Bridge, runs every bridge between NY and NJ, every airport, the PATH train, the airport Airtrains, and One World Trade Center, among other investments.

Effectively, the extremely high GW bridge tolls are subsidizing the PA of NY/NJ's massive losing bet on 1 WTC. And that's why it costs $15.

Nav_PanelonJuly 11, 2019

> we still strain credulity to think of a public welfare project where "the state" whimsically decides to "plow through what they can" and rebuild "based on a grid."... they just "decide," "while they're at it," to rezone

The reason this is so incredulous is that it used to happen all the time, at least based on Caro's book "The Power Broker" about Robert Moses. Randomly tearing down neighborhoods to build highways, housing projects, etc. In my hometown of Albany, two neighborhoods were entirely torn down in the 70s to build the massive "Rockefeller Plaza."

The only reason planners no longer do this is that the outrage was so immense in the wake of people like Moses. But it's not "unfathomable", it's history.

lucas3677onMay 6, 2017

"The Power Broker" by Robert Caro?

bokonistonJuly 24, 2008

My definition of a progressive is someone who wants to use government to bring about the perfection of society. Unfortunately, the track record of this philosophy is pretty awful. Most of the time, top down planning by people who think they know best for society results in utter disaster. Read "The Power Broker" about Robert Moses in New York, or "Urbanism and its End" about urban renewal in New Haven. "The Triumph of Conservatism" and the "Assault on Parenthood" are also very good books on the subject.

I care about helping others, but I don't think the vehicle for doing so is a mega-sized bureaucracy that sits on a former marshland a half-continent away from me. The proper place for help others is in your own community.

bokonistonJan 21, 2010

You were reading the NY Times before 1935? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Hays_Sulzberger

Jokes aside, NY Times has never been unbiased. Try reading the Power Broker.

euroclydononJuly 22, 2015

If you already got hired, I would just relax. Get some exercise, find a couple good books [1] you can read later when you want to take your mind off work.

Then, when you start work, pour over the source code. Understand it. Ask or research anything you don't understand. Make a list of things that suck about it -- there likely will be a lot of technical debt, but who knows...

If you want to get ahead, combine working harder than anyone else with the concepts you will absorb by reading The Power Broker [2].

[1] I say a book instead of NetFlix or games, because if you read at night, with a red light, you'll become sleepy and get a good night's rest, but watching TV or playing games will keep you up, and you'll go into work tired.

[2] Don't mistake this book for some self help or business genera, it's page-turning biography by one of the best journalists of our time.

daltonlponApr 15, 2012

90347948th. The Power Broker is a book to buy and hold.

keithpeteronApr 26, 2017

Started with The Power Broker as I have an interest in planning and had read Jane Jacobs' book.

I've read all four of the Johnson volumes, and I'm hanging on for the fifth.

For those that are not familiar with Mr Caro's work...



agottereronJuly 2, 2019

If you have the whole summer to read a book, check out The Power Broker by Robert Caro. It’s the story about the rise and fall of Robert Moses. His accumulation of power and how he basically built modern New York and his impact on the 20th century.

I’m in the middle of reading it, it’s very good. It’s long though. Something like 1400 pages or 66 hours of audio. So you'll need the summer to finish it!

sboltonDec 16, 2019

I'm hoping to tackle this list in 2020, I've been wanting to read Caro's LBJ series for a while now.


Robert Caro - Lyndon B. Johnson series & The Power Broker

S.C Gwynne - Empire of the Summer Moon

Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Black Swan & Antifragile

Graham Hancock - America Before

Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs and Steel

Safi Bahcall - Loonshots

RoboTeddyonFeb 5, 2019

'The Power Broker' by Robert Caro is ostensibly a biography, but it's actually about how power works. The protagonist starts out employing idealistic methods, but falls flat on his face, and comes to delight in any means of achievement. I found that once I understood the protagonist's raw goal-seeking, and the dynamics that emerge from it, I started to recognize similar dynamics at many levels of society and government.

Barack Obama read it at 22 and said it was mesmerizing and that it shaped how he thinks about politics.

scott_sonNov 4, 2008

I'm reading "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro. It's about Robert Moses, who was responsible for building much of the road infrastructure around NYC, and many of the bridges into and between the boroughs.

Several of the bridges he built were done so to alleviate traffic, but traffic was always worse after the bridge opened up. There were two main problems: more people wanted to use the "fast" routes, and the total volume of traffic increased.

monkeypizzaonFeb 20, 2013

Thanks for the comment.

I was more thinking about how things worked from say 1500 to 1800 in the US. During that time, a lot of the things that originate with government in simcity would have been done independently. i.e. religious schools would be started by local enclaves (sometimes with organizational help of government, which they controlled due to being dominant in that area, but not originated from it). In the US at least, land use was pretty free for most of that time, no zoning. Look at the institutions within a gold rush town, for example - although there was a government, they couldn't control much, the people came first and built lots of infrastructure before there ever was a sheriff or mayor. Rollicking, fast-developing cities from that era weren't restrained by zoning laws, and they developed in interesting (not always good) ways. It is interesting to realize that most of the current buildings in the US major cities would actually be illegal under the current law for new buildings.

Rather than from libertarianism, my ideas for this came from a couple books about city planning I've read recently, "The Power Broker", and "The Death and Life of Great American Cities". Neither one is really libertarian, but rather look at how government power can be used or misused in cities. The latter one particularly is not at all libertarian, and is a strong advocate of government intervention into neighborhood design - but, lays out a smarter way it should be done, based on the author's understanding of the way cities work.

Simcity seems to be designed by someone influenced by the ideas criticized in "death and life" - i.e. very strong zoning laws, top-down control and predetermination for how things will work in every neighborhood, high value placed on "open space" without consideration of usage patterns etc.

woodruffwonDec 21, 2020

> Isn't this kind of leap?

No. Here are two specific examples:

1. The Cross Bronx Expressway, which basically created the South Bronx[1]. "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro is one of HN's most frequently recommended books, and covers this subject (as well as other racially-motivated planning projects by Robert Moses) extensively.

2. I-65 and I-165 in Mobile, AL cut directly through the historic "Africatown" neighborhood[2]. Residents regularly complain about both automotive and nearby industrial pollution, encouraged by ease of access by the highway[3].

Most of these effects are more visible on the East Coast rather than the West Coast, since the East's older and denser cities had fewer "paths of least resistance" when building the Interstate Highway System during the midcentury. But it wouldn't particularly surprise me if the areas that are now expensive in the cities that you mentioned were originally cleared for highways under "slum clearance" or similar laws.

Edit: This is anecdotal, but I figured I'd mention it anyways: I grew up in Manhattan, and virtually everybody I grew up with has (or had) asthma. Some of that is to be expected from other pollution sources (in particular, NYC used to burn very dirty heating oil), but I also went to public schools that were directly alongside major state and interstate highways.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_Bronx_Expressway#Urban_d...

[2]: https://www.npr.org/2019/06/19/733996699/alabamas-africatown...

[3]: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/26/africatown-s...

specialistonJuly 28, 2020

This history of the Business Roundtable blew my mind. It's among Caro's The Power Broker and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States for clarity and myth busting.

Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA

"Lobbying America" tells the story of the political mobilization of American business in the 1970s and 1980s. Benjamin Waterhouse traces the rise and ultimate fragmentation of a broad-based effort to unify the business community and promote a fiscally conservative, antiregulatory, and market-oriented policy agenda to Congress and the country at large. Arguing that business's political involvement was historically distinctive during this period, Waterhouse illustrates the changing power and goals of America's top corporate leaders.

Examining the rise of the Business Roundtable and the revitalization of older business associations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Waterhouse takes readers inside the mind-set of the powerful CEOs who responded to the crises of inflation, recession, and declining industrial productivity by organizing an effective and disciplined lobbying force. By the mid-1970s, that coalition transformed the economic power of the capitalist class into a broad-reaching political movement with real policy consequences. Ironically, the cohesion that characterized organized business failed to survive the ascent of conservative politics during the 1980s, and many of the coalition's top goals on regulatory and fiscal policies remained unfulfilled. The industrial CEOs who fancied themselves the "voice of business" found themselves one voice among many vying for influence in an increasingly turbulent and unsettled economic landscape.

Complicating assumptions that wealthy business leaders naturally get their way in Washington, "Lobbying America" shows how economic and political powers interact in the American democratic system."

tptacekonApr 28, 2017

Since this is a thread about Elon Musk, transportation infrastructure, public transportation, and urban design, and because HN has a sort of affinity for the Robert Moses story (The Power Broker was one of 'aaronsw's favorite books), this seems like a particularly on-point Twitter thread to read after the video:


You might not agree with all/any of it but I think it's hard to say this isn't thought-provoking.

filiwickersonAug 3, 2017

Me either, and that's exactly the issue. Look at any top books list and it is mostly white males. Either men have an easier time getting published or men are inherently better writers. I believe the former is the case. By seeking out female writers and other diverse voices we can start to tip the balance.

Historically, men were the only ones that had the opportunity to write, so any books from older centuries are going to be by men. But that doesn't have to be the case now.

ps. Love Jane Jacobs! After you read that, if you are interested, you may want to check out The Power Broker to see the other side. It is one of my top nonfiction books. (warning, white male author ;)).

Nav_PanelonJan 3, 2017

Zoning is the issue in some cities, but sometimes it isn't the root problem.

Robert Caro gets into this a little bit in his book "The Power Broker" describing Robert Moses' development of highways in NYC: basically, if you build a highway before you build a subway line, the resulting area will be developed in a low-density pattern (regardless of zoning), as the "last mile" of driving is much less difficult than the "last mile" on foot, coming off a train.

If you look at NYC in particular, this happened in eastern Queens -- the highways were built (with poor public transit coverage) and the properties were developed in a low density pattern.

This cannot be fixed by simply building more high-density housing (despite the massive city-wide demand for housing), because no transit exists. But you cannot build new transit because it's a political nightmare: current residents will complain that you're disrupting their neighborhood, and city residents elsewhere will complain that your new transit development doesn't "go anywhere useful."

From what I saw in LA when I visited a few weeks ago, much of the new systems of transit serve (a) large office campuses (I was regularly taking the metro at Universal City) and (b) non-commuter destinations such as Hollywood (for tourism) and the airport. The result, as pointed out to me by an Uber driver, was a huge explosion of development in Downtown LA. The newest line in LA, the Expo Line to Santa Monica, seems more commuter focused -- perhaps it is serving the new residential population moving into DTLA?

Eastern Queens, unfortunately, doesn't have the luxury of important destinations or office campuses. It's overshadowed by Manhattan in terms of tourism, and Moses built the Long Island-bound highways specifically to prevent the sorts of development that would lead to Long Island becoming a commuter destination rather than a residential community. Thus, Queens is trapped in this residential catch 22, and not even rezoning can fix it. The only solutions I can see involve closing down lanes of highway to obtain right-of-way for transit (the overpasses were intentionally built too low to support bus service, so it'd be a permanent closure), a sure path to political suicide in an area utterly dependent on its highways.

bretthopperonNov 3, 2010

The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro

henrikehonDec 23, 2018

My goal is to slow down to a more manageable pace and allow for more reflection and dreaming. 2018 was a hectic and eventful year and I am absolutely amazed by how much happened, but I can also feel that I completely neglected the importance of winding down.

I recently completed a biography[0] and the subject in question lost all his responsibility, in turn it let him suddenly have the time to pay attention to the small details relating to his former work. Now, I’m not interested in loosing my responsibilities, but I do want to give them the attention they deserve.

[0]: The Power Broker, Robert Caro

Spooky23onAug 10, 2016

Jacobs was right and wrong, just as Moses was. The reality of the situation in NYC, like every other city, was that cheap capital was driving anyone in high density housing with means to the suburbs. Swaths of Brooklyn didn't turn into slum because of Moses -- it was because working class jobs went to Jersey, and ethnic communities of Irish, Italians, Germans and Norweigans went to Jersey and Long Island. The vibrant, connected communities were dead men walking.

The same force that made homes cheap: the Federal government, is what created the monster that Moses became in the latter half of his career. Because Moses knew how to get shit done, NYC got most New Deal money. Because Moses could get shit done, NYC got more housing money than anywhere else. Hell, something like 75% of total east coast concrete production went to the NY metro area due to Moses projects.

You really owe it to yourself to read "The Power Broker", because the transition of Robert Moses from a progressive reformer to an unstoppable weilder of power, guided by a modern, engineering driven agenda, bears a lot of resemblance to the Silicon Valley titans today.

The difference is, Moses was crushed by Nelson Rockefeller, who had a bigger ego, equal political instincts and unlimited money and influence. These guys made Larry Ellison look humble. Not sure what will be able to stop the next Robert Moses like figure.

michaelpintoonNov 13, 2011

I've read quite a few biographies and what i hate about Walter Isaacson is that everything becomes an oversimplified Time magazine article, which makes every character into a flat cartoon caricature. My guess is that Jobs could be a jerk, but then if you were a multimillionaire in your early 20s how could you not be a jerk? Also the tech industry is filled with tons of very bright people who are social cripples. The harsh reality is that to build something like a Macintosh you might have to be quite nasty to pull off the scale of cat herding that may be required.

I also hate to admit this: But I half suspect Jobs picked out Isaacson because he'd draw a cartoon sketch instead of doing a serious biography. I'm still not done reading the book yet, but I almost feel that I know less about Jobs than before I started reading the damn thing. And the other thing that drives up the wall is that you get the feeling that Isaacson doesn't have a clue about technology -- so you half wonder how much he missed. And I suspect Jobs wanted it that way -- instead of burning his papers he just picked a lightweight.

By the way if any of you want to read an amazing biographer look at the work of Robert Caro who is a real writer. His first book "the Power Broker" is an amazing study Robert Moses who is a very flawed hero who really made NYC what it was (for both better and worse). He's also written several books on LBJ who also starts out as a progressive and does both amazing and terrible things in his life. I wish someone like that had done this bio...

riazrizvionFeb 29, 2020

Yes. So is that really the point here, to make it increasingly harder for people to not work in large companies? Perhaps this is another example of progressive legislation that gets hijacked by incumbent big business by some clause agreed to during negotiation where people don’t know what they are agreeing to. I imagine this draft law was negotiated between concerned parties.

I read a fascinating book called The Power Broker by Robert Caro, that showed how lawyers conduct a type of ambush warfare with new laws. What they are really gunning for is not apparent until the law goes into effect, it’s too subtle for people to see from the text.

mmmpoponSep 2, 2017

I'm in the middle of the biography of Robert Moses, "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro and just finished re-reading "A Portrait of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. As a fairly successful yuppie that came from Not A Whole Lot, it's really knocked me down a few pegs and made me realize that being a pompous ass about my exercised social mobility isn't all that special.

pjmorrisonDec 16, 2019

I hilariously overestimate the number of books I can get through when I make these lists, but my current list for 2020 is as follows:

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution

Book of Proof

Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation

Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War (for a friend)

Master and Commander


Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark

Stretch goal: The Power Broker, as a warm-up for Caro's LBJ series

The Bible (perpetual, I don't get through it every year, but I get through much of it, often)

EDIT: I also hilariously underestimate the number of books I want to read. Here's one more I think is vital for my 2020:

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

euroclydononAug 23, 2012

Is there an example of a vote, in the last two decades, for transit projects over roads that has actually led to high density neighborhoods where residents use mass transit to get to their jobs?

The only reason I ask, is because I'm almost finished reading, in The Power Broker, how Robert Moses permanently crippled the NYC metro area and Long Island in particular, forcing them into a lower-density, automobile-centric society, when they would have been better served by mass transit, which he let rot on the vine. I imagine most other metro areas that were expanding at the time followed the same path.

woodruffwonDec 1, 2015

A curious omission in this is Robert Moses [0], who is almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of the South Bronx with his Cross Bronx Expressway [1]. Although waning in power by the mid-1960s, Moses began (and ensured the completion) of a number of public construction projects with disproportionate impacts on poor (and usually non-white) communities.

The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro is one of the best political histories of New York, which I recommend if you're interested in exactly why the city's infrastructure (and lack thereof) is the way it is.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Moses

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_Bronx_Expressway

Spooky23onNov 20, 2017

That ship sailed many years ago.

Public authorities are quasi-government entities controlled by the the bond covenants. You have to line-up the interests of the bond holders with whomever controls the authority and is desiring change.

With something as broad in scope and rich as MTA is such a deep well of political capital, it's incredibly unlikely that anyone would give up any control. It's such a large enterprise there probably isn't one roomful of people who actually understand how the organization works. The current situation was created when the whole NYC transit system was completely insolvent back in the bad old days!

Read "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro. It will open your eyes to why things are the way they are.

akharrisonJan 26, 2012

Cars do not kill cities - urban planning without enough foresight into how cars actually interact with one another, and with cities kill cities.

A large portion of current urban plans date to Robert Moses - he essentially built New York, invented the ring of highways system used in DC and other places, and advised places like LA in constructing their major arteries. Moses was in love with cars, but never experienced traffic as his limo was chauffered with a police escort. He built highways and made them inaccessible to public transportation (see the West Side Highway) so that poor people could not use them. He had no real understanding of capacity utilization/maximization for transport and stopped learning long before he stopped designing. He never updated his understanding of the damages caused by simply adding more highways, but retained the power to keep building them.

The most pernicious impact of Moses's style of urban planning is not, however, gridlock or a lack of walkability. Moses decided that he could put roads wherever he wanted, and used eminent domain to put them right through vibrant communities - which he destroyed. He killed the bronx, parts of Queens, Brooklyn, and almost ran a huge raised highway across 34th street.

In any case, The Power Broker is an amazing book to read if you're curious about these issues and why cities are designed the way they are now.

justicezyxonDec 31, 2020

> public transit is unreliable

I read the Power Broker [1] about Robert Moses' obsession of disallowing public transit in the public lands that under his control. That results miserable comutting for New Yorkers nowadays. Bob mastered the political system in a way that he can do obviously irrational things under public eyes, and without any fallout at the time, until the book was published much later after Bob actually has died.

I haven't researched extensively in US public transit, but I am inclined to believe that the public transit were handicapped intentionally through the market operators, in collaboration of the political apparatus.

I could not see any obvious evidence of this particular event being positive or negative. But, I am more sure that the political system in US is crippled to the point that it's not capable of producing long-term positive policy any more.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Power-Broker-Robert-Moses-Fall/dp/039...

BasHameronApr 16, 2018

A name mentioned twice might have warranted a paragraph. Robert Moses, the subject of "The Power Broker" a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography (worth an audiable credit).

He ran the Triborough and build a lot of bridges, parks, parkways etc. Most of those bridges do not have rail decks, because he also believed the future was cars, and rail would compete with his source of revenue, toll fees.

It is hard to overstate the impact that one person had on the NY infrastructure, but this article very much understates his impact.

pjmorrisonJune 13, 2019

In 'Working' [0], Robert Caro spends pages on how much being able to join a community of writers meant to him when producing 'The Power Broker.' The New York Public Library set aside a room as a workspace explicitly to house writers working on books.

A passage from 'Working':

And these writers provided more for me than merely the glow of their names. In my memory, no one spoke to me for the first few days I was in the room. Then one day, I looked up and James Flexner was standing over me. The expression on his face was friendly, but after he had asked what I was writing about, the next question was the question I had come to dread: “How long have you been working on it?” This time, however, when I replied, “Five years,” the response was not an incredulous stare. “Oh,” Jim Flexner said, “that’s not so long. I’ve been working on my Washington for nine years.” I could have jumped up and kissed him, whiskers and all—as, the next day, I could have jumped up and kissed Joe Lash, big beard and all, when he asked me the same question, and, after hearing my answer, said in his quiet way, “Eleanor and Franklin took me seven years.” In a couple of sentences, these two men—idols of mine—had wiped away five years of doubt.

[0] Caro, Robert A.. Working (p. 76). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

scott_sonJan 9, 2009

Sorry, that doesn't apply to the books I've read in the past year:

- The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

- Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

- Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

- Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

- On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in
War and Society

- The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

- The Yiddish Policeman's Union

Each of those titles tells you the contents of the book. The only one that perhaps does not is "The Yiddish Policeman's Union," but it's clearly fiction, and it is in fact about a Jewish policeman.

Maybe what you said applies to bad books.

georgeecollinsonApr 8, 2019

If you have never read the Power Broker, or say "Master of the Senate" (the 3rd LBJ book) and you have any interest in politics or American history.. well you should! So much of the discussion of the problems of the American city is informed by the Power Broker. Before that people I really don't think many people thought about it.

specialistonMay 4, 2021

My local paper regularly rails against an imaginary phalanx of anti-car jihadists. Any dollar not spent in support of automobiles is sufficient evidence of a nefarious anti-car agenda. Meanwhile, pre-apocalypse, mass transit is chronically under funded and over capacity.

Apparently commuters choosing to not drive is an unforgivable affront to Freedom Markets™.

Cite: The Power Broker, Robert Caro

Spooky23onDec 11, 2012

If real estate development was a free market, and a true commodity, then I would agree with you. The problem is, it isn't either thing.

The tax rules associated with large construction projects, plus that fact that large-scale commercial real estate is a cartel in most US markets means that the actual impact in terms of units doesn't equate to the number of units built. That's one reason why you see economic behavior that doesn't make sense on the surface -- prime urban residental property left vacant or rented out as tenament housing and big commercial properties left vacant for years.

Generally speaking, today, new residential construction in urban areas is pushing affordability out to the periphery of the city, or the aging out ring of suburb outside of the city.

Another issue is that location matters, and we tend to stick to desirable places in a limited area. Few people want to uproot their kids from school every few years or move away from their families and social networks. So the fact that a 3 bedroom ranch in Minneapolis costs 60% less than a 1 bedroom apartment in Queens doesn't really matter.

I'd suggest you read the sections in Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" see how these kinds of shifts impacted millions of people in NYC during the 50s and 60s.

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