Tribes And Trust

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Only Tribes held together by a group feeling can survive in a desert.
–Ibn Khaldun, 14th century Arab historian

Time to chuck into the dustbin the cosmopolitan notions so celebrated at global conferences: a world run by wise men of the United Nations, science-driven socialists or their ostensibly more pragmatic twins, global free marketers. We are leaving the age of abstractions and entering one dominated by deep-seated ethnic, religious and cultural loyalties, some with roots from centuries and millennia ago. Read more

We Trust Family First

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Americans, with good reason, increasingly distrust the big, impersonal forces that loom over their lives: Wall Street, federal bureaucracy, Congress and big corporations. But the one thing they still trust is that most basic expression of our mammalian essence: the family.

Family ties dominate our economic life far more than commonly believed. Despite the power of public companies, family businesses control roughly 50% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the research firm Gaebler.com. Some 35% of the Fortune 500 are family businesses, but so too are the vast majority of smaller firms. Family companies represent 60% of the nation’s employment and almost 80% of all new jobs.

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The Democrats’ Middle-Class Problem

Appearing in:

Politico

Class, the Industrial Revolution’s great political dividing line, is enjoying Information Age resurgence. It now threatens the political future of presidents, prime ministers and even Politburo chiefs.

As in the Industrial Age, new technology is displacing whole groups of people — blue- and white-collar workers — as it boosts productivity and creates opportunities for others. Inequality is on the rise — from the developing world to historically egalitarian Scandinavia and Britain.

Divisions are evident here in the United States. Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama lagged in appealing to white middle- and working-class voters who supported Hillary — and former President Bill — Clinton. Read more

Singapore’s Demographic Winter

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Over the past half century arguably no place on earth has progressed more than the tiny island state of Singapore. A once impoverished, tropical powder keg packed into 268 square miles at the foot of the Malay Peninsula, the Mandarin-led republic has ascended from its difficult founding in 1965 to one of the richest economies on the planet. Today, in terms of purchasing power, its per capita income stands higher than most European countries’ or Japan’s and is roughly equal to that of the U.S.

But a catastrophic plunge in the country’s birthrate–a problem plaguing many of the world’s affluent economies–could undermine Singapore’s success. In 1965 Singapore’s leaders feared it could not survive an unsustainable fertility rate above 3.5 and embarked on a campaign encouraging citizens to have smaller families. Today the country’s fertility rate–the number of children per female–has sunk to roughly 1.2 , a rate lower than all but a handful of countries and well below replacement level.

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The Myth of the Back-to-the-City Migration

Appearing in:

Wall Street Journal

Pundits, planners and urban visionaries—citing everything from changing demographics, soaring energy prices, the rise of the so-called “creative class,” and the need to battle global warming—have been predicting for years that America’s love affair with the suburbs will soon be over. Their voices have grown louder since the onset of the housing crisis. Suburban neighborhoods, as the Atlantic magazine put it in March 2008, would morph into “the new slums” as people trek back to dense urban spaces.

But the great migration back to the city hasn’t occurred. Over the past decade the percentage of Americans living in suburbs and single-family homes has increased. Meanwhile, demographer Wendell Cox’s analysis of census figures show that a much-celebrated rise in the percentage of multifamily housing peaked at 40% of all new housing permits in 2008, and it has since fallen to below 20% of the total, slightly lower than in 2000. Read more

Why the Great Plains are Great Once Again

Appearing in:

Newsweek

On a drizzly, warm June night, the bars, galleries, and restaurants along Broadway are packed with young revelers. Traffic moves slowly, as drivers look for parking. The bar at the Donaldson, a boutique hotel, is so packed with stylish patrons that I can’t get a drink. My friend, a local, and I head over to Monte’s, a trendy Italian place down the street. We watch a group of attractive 30-something blondes share a table and gossip. They look like the cast of the latest Housewives series. Read more

The Changing Demographics of America

Appearing in:

Smithsonian Online

Estimates of the United states population at the middle of the 21st century vary, from the U.N.’s 404 million to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 422 to 458 million. To develop a snapshot of the nation at 2050, particularly its astonishing diversity and youthfulness, I use the nice round number of 400 million people, or roughly 100 million more than we have today.

The United States is also expected to grow somewhat older. The portion of the population that is currently at least 65 years old—13 percent—is expected to reach about 20 percent by 2050. This “graying of America” has helped convince some commentators of the nation’s declining eminence. For example, an essay by international relations expert Parag Khanna envisions a “shrunken America” lucky to eke out a meager existence between a “triumphant China” and a “retooled Europe.” Morris Berman, a cultural historian, says America “is running on empty.” Read more

Millennial Surprise

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The boomer’s long domination of American politics, culture and economics will one day come to an end. A new generation–the so-called millennials–will be shaping the outlines of our society, but the shape of their coming reign could prove more complex than many have imagined.

Conventional wisdom, particularly among boomer “progressives,” paints millennials–those born after 1983–as the instruments for fulfilling the promise of the 1960s cultural revolt. In 2008 the left-leaning Center for American Progress dubbed them “The Progressive Generation.”
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The Future Of America’s Working Class

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube’s Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country’s deep, persistent recession.

As you walk through Watford, midday drinkers linger outside the One Bell pub near the center of town. Many of these might be considered “yobs,” a term applied to youthful, largely white, working-class youths, many of whom work only occasionally or not at all. In the British press yobs are frequently linked to petty crime and violent behavior–including a recent stabbing outside another Watford pub, and soccer-related hooliganism.

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Immigration Is U.S.

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

You can sing about sea to shining sea or amber waves of grain, but it’s immigration that provides America’s basic rhythm. Nothing distinguishes the American experience from that of other nations more than the mass migration of people from elsewhere to here. We are truly a nation of immigrants: Close to 90% of the population–excluding Native Americans and those who were forced here in shackles–moved here out of their own volition.

Not that this has made things any easier for immigrants. In the 1850s the nativist Native American Party–reacting to a wave of Irish Catholic and German immigrants–declared that America faced “an imminent peril” from immigrants “of an ignorant and immoral character.” California in the late 19th century tried to ban Asian immigration and land ownership. In 1924 immigration from everywhere outside northern Europe was severely restricted.

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