Alain Bertaud has a great new book on urban planning out; but urban planners aren’t reading it. Economists- incuding our own Russ Roberts- are, and it’s the subject of this episode.

Bertaud, an architect, is critical of planning, yet he’s not anti-regulation, either. He’s lived and worked in many different places, and his passion for cities and city living is evident throughout the conversation. The conversation begins with Bertaud describing his formative experience approving housing permits in Algeria, what he learned through this process, and how it has continued to affect his approach.

The two main tasks of an urban planner, he says, are affordability and mobility. To Bertaud, cities are essentially  “large, dense labor markets,” and their workers need to be able to get to their jobs within thirty minutes. Does your city allow for this?


1- How do the perspectives of urban planners and economists compare? How do each describe minimum housing needs, for example?


2- Bertaud insists that some regulations that are necessary in urban settings. What kinds of regulations does he favor, and why? What kinds does he argue against, and why?


3- Bertaud insists that cities’ productivity is dependent on ease of mobility within them. How  are cities to maintain easy mobility, according to Bertaud? What is the role of government in this process?


4- What does Bertaud mean when he says that planners don’t understand the relationship between the price of land and rent? How do ‘minimum standards’ affect the quantity of housing available?


5- The conversation ends with Roberts asking Bertaud why he is so positive and enthusiastic about markets’ effectiveness in providing housing? How does he respond? How does this compare to the view of Glen Weyl, the guest in this 2018 episode?