The economics of city mayors

As some English cities vote for whether or not they want to have elected mayors, and London votes in its mayoral contest, I pulled Ed Glaeser’s┬áTriumph of the City off the shelf again. He writes:

“Much of the world suffers under awful governments, and that provides an edge for those cities that are administered well.” (p227)

His two examples of well-managed cities are Singapore and Gaborone. Can London or other English cities live up to the standard set by Botswana’s capital or the minuscule island state of Singapore? The UK as a whole has been a highly centralised economy – one of the most centralised if you look at William Nordhaus’s globe – and decentralisation would be healthy for major cities other than London and for the economy as a whole. It would for example make for an economy less dependent on financial services. Still, to have a mayor or not doesn’t seem to me to be the issue, so much as what decision-making powers are decentralised, and the quality of governance applied to decisions at the city region level.

Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier

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3 thoughts on “The economics of city mayors

  1. Good pt, Diane. Not clear that mayors will increase decentralisation or better run city. Ignoring special case of London there are already a dozen cities/boroughs with mayors. So have they performed better than those without? Where’s the evidence in the debate?

    • And we are in good company – Prof Henry Overman of LSE’s SERC agrees with us! This was his tweet:

      Agree with @diane1859. Quality plus decentralised powers more important than whether cities have a mayor

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