Title: Free Enterprise City
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication Date: 1988
Book Condition: Good
Creasing along spine, minor wear and creasing to cover; 8.90 X 5.90 X 1 inches; 344 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 104887
Synopsis: The mission of this book is to attack the idea that Houston is a conservative role model, a city that succeeds due to its boundless devotion to free enterprise.
In this mission, Feagin fails more than he succeeds- partially because to get to his substantive argument a reader has to get through a chapter or two of sociological jargon, and another chapter or two of mind-numbing factual detail about every business leader who has ever lived in Houston. This book would have been better had it been about half its size.
When he gets to substance, his attack on Houston fails because he shows nothing more than that Houston has problems just like other cities- pollution, congestion, poverty, sprawl. So Houston isn't utopia. So what?
Feagin fails because he makes little effort to compare Houston to other cities, except for a stray remark here and there. So he really didn't persuade me that Houston's problems were due to its allegedly small government, or that more socialistic policies would be more successful.
Moreover, Feagin is utterly blind to the unintended consequences of government action. For example, he praises Houston for enacting minimum parking requirements and setback regulations, overlooking the possibility that such regulations contribute to the ills that he complains about by forcing pedestrians to walk through seas of parking to get to buildings. He complains that Houston has less public housing than other cities- but how many Cabrini-Greens and similar fiascoes does a city need? He praises Minneapolis as a role model- overlooking the small fact that Minneapolis has lost a fourth of its 1950 population, while Houston keeps growing.
One thing Feagin does right: he points out that Houston is hardly a laissez-faire paradise, in that government has consistently subsidized its business elite through spending on roads, port facilities, convention centers, etc.
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