In our system of government, the public sector is, well, supposed to serve the public. But increasingly the bureaucracies at the state and local level increasingly seek to tell the public how to live, even if the result is to make life worse.
This week, the troubled state of American democracy was on display in the reactions to the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. To the establishment Left, led by the New York Times, the El Paso shooter operated as if he were a white nationalist acting on orders from Donald Trump. Some on the right, meantime, linked the Dayton shooter’s actions to Antifa. In a healthy political environment, Americans, regardless of political views, would consider these tragedies the heinous actions of disturbed people, motivated mostly by a dangerous combination of madness and ideology. But in our warped political climate, everyone assumes that their enemies want to kill them.
If there’s anything productive to come from his recent Twitter storm, President Trump’s recent crude attacks on Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings have succeeded in bring necessary attention to the increasingly tragic state of our cities. Baltimore’s continued woes, after numerous attempts to position itself as a “comeback city,” illustrates all too poignantly the deep-seated decay in many of our great urban areas.
Baltimore represents an extreme case, but sadly it is not alone. Last year our three largest urban centers — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — lost people while millennial migration accelerated both to the suburbs and smaller, generally less dense cities. These demographic trends, as well as growing blight, poor schools, decaying infrastructure and, worst of all, expanding homelessness are not merely the result of “racism” or Donald Trump, but have all been exacerbated by policy agendas that are turning many great cities into loony towns. Read more
Single-family homes are the backbone of American aspiration—so why do so many people oppose them?
A critical component in the rise of market-oriented democracy in the modern era has been the dispersion of property ownership among middle-income households—not just in the United States but also in countries like Holland, Canada, and Australia, where it was closely linked with greater civil and economic freedom. In its early days, this dispersion was largely rural, but after the Second World War, it took on a largely suburban emphasis in the U.S., including within the extended metro regions of traditional cities like New York and Los Angeles. American homeownership soared between 1940 and 1962, from 44 percent to 63 percent.
In the past, the right, notably the segment affiliated with religious belief, was closely associated with censorship and control of thought. Today, enforced orthodoxy derives primarily from the left, emboldened by near total control of the media, university curricula and cultural products.
China stands as the primary exhibit of twenty-first-century urbanism. At a time when elite cities in the West barely manage to grow in population, Chinese cities have emerged out of virtually nothing, as hundreds of millions of people have moved from farm to city. The nation’s urbanization rate has exploded from 19 percent in 1979 to nearly 60 percent today; it is expected to hit 80 percent by 2050. In 1980, China, still laboring under the antiurban Maoist regime, was home to none of the world’s megacities; today, it is home to six. By 2035, ten of the world’s 50-plus megacities (urban areas with more than 10 million people) will be located in the Middle Kingdom. Read more
There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific
dictatorship should ever be overthrown.
~Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited
The recent movement to investigate, and even break up, the current tech oligarchy has gained support on both sides of the Atlantic, and even leapt across the gaping divide in American politics. The immediate concerns relate to such things as the control of key markets by one or two firms, the huge concentration of wealth accruing to the tech elite and, increasingly, the oligarchy’s control over and manipulation of information pipelines. Read more
A metropolitan economy, if it is working well, is constantly transforming many poor people into middle-class people, many illiterates into skilled people, many greenhorns into competent citizens. . . . Cities don’t lure the middle class. They create it.
Perhaps no song has been belted out more often than the one that claims that America is moving “back to the city.” Newspapers, notably the New York Times, devote enormous space to this notion. It gained even more currency when the Obama administration secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, proclaimed that the suburbs were “over” as people were “voting with their feet” and moving to dense, transit-oriented urban centers.
This celebration perhaps reached its crescendo when Amazon initially announced its move to Crystal City, Virginia, and Queens, New York. “Big cities won Amazon and everything else,” Neil Irwin of the Times predictably enthused. “We’re living in a world where a small number of superstar companies choose to locate in a handful of superstar cities where they have the best chance of recruiting superstar employees.”
In fact, however, these views are more aspirational, or even delusional, than reflective of reality. Overall, data suggests that we are not seeing a great “return to the city” but, with few exceptions, a continued movement out to the suburbs and less dense cities, notably in the sunbelt. The spurt of urban core growth that occurred immediately after the housing bust turned out to be remarkably short lived, with the preponderance of metropolitan growth—roughly 80 percent—returning, as has been the case since at least the late 1940s, to the suburbs and exurbs. Indeed, at no point did Census Bureau estimates show net domestic migration from suburbs to core cities, only a reduced rate of migration in the opposite direction.
Even the country’s most influential urbanist, scholar Richard Florida, now suggests that the great urban revival is “over.” Rather than the usual belief that density leads to productivity and innovation, a new Harvard study demonstrates that, between 1970 and 2010, suburban areas have overall steadily increased their economic advantages: the share of suburbs making up the top ranks of all urban and suburban neighborhoods (measured as the top quartile) went from roughly two-thirds in 1970 to almost three-quarters by 2010.
Shifting Demographics: Exaggerating the Urban Renaissance
Even at the peak of the urban “renaissance,” most of the population and job growth continued to occur in the suburban periphery. Cities achieved some parity in growth rates in the period between 2009 and 2011, as presidents Bush and Obama provided “a covert bailout” to banks, universities, and government bureaucracies concentrated heavily in and around urban cores.
Yet as the rest of the economy improved, and urban land prices rose, population movement again shifted away from the dense inner city to less compact, more affordable locales. Analysis of census data by demographer Wendell Cox found that the core counties of the metropolitan areas with populations of more than one million, after losing only ten thousand net domestic migrants in 2012, experienced an outflow of nearly 440,000 by 2017.
Read the entire article on American Affairs.
Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He authored The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, published in 2016 by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA.
The fiasco surrounding Amazon’s recent escape from New York reflects a broader, potentially devastating trend. By driving the Seattle-based behemoth out of the Big Apple, New York’s increasingly militant progressives have created a political paradigm that could resonate in cities across the country.
The French nobility, observed Tocqueville in The Ancien Regime and The Revolution, supported many of the writers whose essays and observations ended up threatening “their own rights and even their existence.” Today we see much the same farce repeated, as the world’s richest people line up behind causes that, in the end, could relieve them of their fortunes, if not their heads. In this sense, they could end up serving, in Lenin’s words, as “useful idiots” in their own destruction.
- Transit Planners Want to Make Your Life WorseSeptember 16, 2019 - 7:20 am
- The Real Conflict is Not Racial or Sexual, It’s Between the Ascendant Rich Elites and the Rest Of UsSeptember 12, 2019 - 7:15 pm
- NASA, CC 2.0 LicenseCommon Sense versus Climate HysteriaSeptember 9, 2019 - 8:10 am
- The Politics of ProcreationSeptember 5, 2019 - 2:41 pm