The Nation: . . . And the City's

Agronomists have managed to calculate and predict crop disasters, but when it comes to urban blights, no one has devised a coherent method for measuring them, let alone overcoming them. Poverty, crime, narcotics, pollution and sheer physical decay are the new locusts, as terrifyingly confusing as Egypt's plagues.

Last week in a letter to the New York Times, a reader named Richard Shramko made an engaging if wistful suggestion: the creation of a "Quality of Life Index." Like a weather service temperature-humidity index, the Q.L.I. would take into account "air and water pollution, the...

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