In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith explored the cultural milieu that produces our sense of right and wrong. In this work, which laid the groundwork for The Wealth of Nations, Smith notes that it’s human nature to seek praise and praise-worthiness. This basic tendency, he supposes, forms a social glue that keeps our societies ticking along.
I was quite excited to see Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau list The Gardens of Democracy as one of his two favorite nonfiction titles. This under-sung little book has deeply influenced how Brian and I think about urban development, using a concept called “Gardenbrain”. Here’s hoping that a big shout-out from Canada’s “little potato” will help get the word out.
The book has helped us frame the importance of exploring the culture of real estate development. In other words, it’s more than markets and regulation that influence developers. Think to your own work: are you just a puppet of money and laws? You might concede that you’re also a bundle of feelings and dreams, deeply influenced by the people around you.
The thrust of the book is that most ideologies today view our jobs as citizens to be the task of voting on the “machine” that will output the best possible society. This notion applies whether we support free-market libertarianism or careful government regulations. In urban development, we focus heavily on regulators, code, and financing to create the cities that we want to live in. The authors call this form of thinking “Machinebrain”. Continue reading “Machinebrain & Gardenbrain”