Ohio and the Battle for Populist America

This midterm year, in which many states have to choose between non-entities and the certifiably insane, Ohio is blessed by a real political dogfight. The Senate battle between representative Tim Ryan and Hillbilly Elegy author, JD Vance, is becoming one for the ages.

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Our Mad Aristos

In the past, ruling classes sought to protect the system that secured their coveted positions. But sometimes, as in the era before the French or Russian Revolutions, some in the ruling circles stopped believing in their religion, their traditions, and their state, only to be exiled, executed, or turned into what the Soviets called “former persons.”

Like our current elites, many French aristocrats lived dissolute lives but also supported revolutionary ideas which threatened “their own rights and even their existence,” as Alexis de Tocqueville noted. Today a large, even dominant portion of the wealthiest and most privileged parts of our society—including the heirs of nasty capitalist titans such as Henry Ford or John D. Rockefeller—are key funders of an increasingly anti-capitalist left. Others are still young tech billionaires and—increasingly—their discarded or former spouses.

This elite has arisen at a time when, as in France before 1789, inheritance is becoming ever more important as a vehicle for upward mobility, which is otherwise increasingly remote for most of the population. Home ownership among middle income Americans, for example, the primary means for asset accumulation for the non-rich, has dropped by over 8 percent in the past decade, while the wealthy have garnered the greatest gain from increased housing prices. American millennials are three times as likely as boomers to count on inheritance for their retirement. Among the youngest cohort, those ages 18 to 22, over 60 percent see inheritance as their primary source of sustenance as they age.

To be sure there will be a lot of wealth channeled to the offspring of the affluent. The consulting firm Accenture projects that the Silent Generation and baby boomers will gift their heirs up to $30 trillion by 2030, and up to $75 trillion by 2060. But this will benefit only a relatively small group, given the intense concentration of assets in ever fewer hands, with the top 1 percent in the U.S. increasing their share by roughly 50 percent since 2002. The class implications of this process are profound. There are over 70 million millennials in the U.S., and fewer than 1 percent of them are millionaires, while the median millennial household earns around $40,500, 20 percent less than boomers at the same stage of life.

The Great Disconnect

Given this vast wealth, we might expect a ruling class with a strong desire to protect capitalist accumulation. But instead, we have one that almost invariably, and perhaps suicidally, adopts progressive positions. Figuring out the psychological personal motivations of this impulse is way above my pay grade, but the economic underpinnings are fairly clear. The elites on Wall Street, and even more so in Silicon Valley, emerged from a highly competitive economy that impressed even leftists. At the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, anti-capitalist demonstrators held moments of silence and prayer for the memory of Steve Jobs, a particularly aggressive capitalist. One progressive writer, David Callahan, portrays the tech oligarchs, along with their allies in the financial sector, as a kind of “benign plutocracy” in contrast to those who built their fortunes on resource extraction, manufacturing, and material consumption.

Yet the tech elite today, as well as their Wall Street allies, no longer resemble the entrepreneurs of the past. The masters of our increasingly “woke” corporate elites are, for the most part, now second-generation bureaucrats presiding over the wealthiest, most pervasive monopolies on the plant. Controlling 90 percent of a market like search (Google), operating system software (Microsoft), dominating the cloud and on-line retail (Amazon) or 90 percent of phones (Google and Apple) does not turn executives into-risk takers but acquirers. Three tech firms now account as well for two-thirds of all on-line advertising revenues, which now represent the vast majority of all ad sales. Once paragons of entrepreneurial vigor, these firms, as Mike Lind has noted, have morphed into exemplars of “tollbooth capitalism,” which receive revenues on transactions that far exceed anything they lose in failed ventures and acquisitions.

Read the rest of this piece at American Mind.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: America’s New Aristocracy by Alan, via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

The Fall of Los Angeles

For much of the 20th century, Los Angeles symbolised the future. Over the course of the century, the population grew 40-fold to nearly four million people.

But now, for the first time in its history, the population of Los Angeles is in decline, falling by 204,000 between July 2020 and July 2021. LA was once a magnet for investors. But recently many of the area’s corporate linchpins – including aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Hilton Hotels – have left, taking with them high-paying jobs and philanthropic resources. Read more

Class Homicide

There’s much talk today, from left and right, about threats to democracy, yet little focus on the social dynamic critical to its survival. In this respect, we may see the current, and troubling, escalation of violent political rhetoric, and even political violence, not so much as the cause of polarization but the result of changing class dynamics, most notably the increasingly perilous state of the yeoman middle class.

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There Are Dark Days Ahead for the Jewish Diaspora

Jews around the world, particularly outside the fortress of Israel, are threatened in a way not seen since the 1940s. A fundamentally unstable world, with rising class and racial animus, creates a perilous environment for history’s favourite target, as seen previously in such periods as the fall of Rome, the Crusades, the Black Death and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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The Unexpected Future

We are entering an unanticipated reality—an era of slow population growth and, increasingly, demographic decline that will shape our future in profound and unpredictable ways. Globally, last year’s total population growth was the smallest in a half-century, and by 2050, some 61 countries are expected to see population declines while the world’s population is due to peak sometime later this century.

Slowing population growth creates an unexpected future

Chart credit: Our World In Data under CC 4.0 License.

This kind of long-term global demographic stagnation has not been seen since the Middle Ages. World population has been growing for centuries, but the last century has dwarfed previous rises. About 75 percent of the world’s population growth has occurred in the last hundred years, more than 50 percent since 1970. But now, population growth rates are dropping, especially in more developed nations, according to the United Nations (all subsequent references to UN research in this essay are drawn from these data).

It’s not a matter of if but when global populations will start to decline. Under the UN’s medium variant projection, the world’s population will peak in 2086, while under the low variant, the peak will occur in 2053, and by 2100, the population will be about a billion below today’s level. Demographer Wolfgang Lutz and colleagues project a global population of between 8.8 and 9.0 billion by 2050 falling to between 8.2 and 8.7 billion by 2100. The projected declines are concentrated in countries with high fertility rates, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In the process, we will inhabit a rapidly aging planet. In 1970, the median world age was 21.5 years. By 2020, it had increased to 30.9 years, and the UN projects that it will be 41.9 years in 2100.

We are well past the time when we need to concern ourselves with Paul Ehrlich’s long-standing prophecy that humanity will “breed ourselves to extinction.” On the contrary, we need to worry about the potential ill-effects of depopulation, including a declining workforce, torpid economic growth, and brewing generational conflict between a generally prosperous older generation and their more hard-pressed successors. The preponderance of low fertility in wealthier countries also presages a growing conflict between the child-poor wealthy countries and the child-rich poor countries.

The shrinking of the rich world

Europe’s population shrank by 744,000 in 2020 and by 1.4 million last year—the largest fall on any continent since records began in 1950. Although worsened by the pandemic, this was largely an acceleration of a longstanding pattern. The EU’s population growth has been tapering for a generation, with fertility rates well below the 2.1 rate required to simply replace population The largest EU country, Germany, is forecast to drop five percent by 2050 while Italy is projected to lose 10 percent of its population. Overall, the 27-nation European Union projects that its population will drop from its 2022 figure of 447 million to 416 million by the century’s end.

European fertility has largely declined since the 1960s and the birth rate has slumped to “a 60-year low of 4 million births.” Compared to 1970, when 16.4 babies were born for every 1,000 persons, the crude birth rate dropped to 9.1 in 2020. Last year, the birth rate in England and Wales also hit a record low, with fertility rates for women under 30 at their lowest levels since records began in 1938. A fifth of all British women are childless by mid-life.

The lowest fertility rates are found in the countries of Eastern Europe, which have long been exporters of their shrinking youth populations. According to UN projections, Ukraine’s population will fall 18 percent from 2022 to 2050, even without accounting for the impact of the Russian invasion. Poland will be down 13 percent. Arch-rival Russia also faces inexorable depopulation: during 2019 (pre-pandemic), deaths were running about 50 percent higher than births there. With a 2022 population of 145 million, Russia is expected to drop to 133 million by 2050, according to the UN.

Plummeting fertility rates

Europe was the trailblazer of these new demographic trends but it is no longer an outlier. Over the past few decades, fertility has dropped precipitously in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Today, all are saddled with birth rates well below replacement rates. South Korea’s birth rates have fallen for so long that the country plans to reduce its armed services to about half their current size within 20 years.

Read the rest of this piece at Quillette.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Why Suburbia Will Decide the Future

Welcome to the future of American politics. The US population is changing in major ways that will likely alter the balance in politics and economics to the advantage of Republican-leaning red states, as well as suburbs and exurbs across the country.

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Why Millennials Are Dropping Out

With inflation soaring, trust in governments plummeting, and the global economy teetering on the brink of collapse, one might expect to see the masses out in the streets, calling for the heads of their rulers. But instead of rage and rebellion, we mostly see apathy. Rather than getting radicalised, people are dropping out.

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The Cost of Biden’s Racialism

Joe Biden may have once bragged about his cooperative relations with segregationists, but he still arguably owes more to African-American leadership and voters than any politician in recent history. After all, it was black voters who bequeathed him the two critical victories in South Carolina and Georgia that led to his nomination in 2020. Perhaps that’s why he promised in his inaugural address to focus on the “sting of systemic racism” and fight encroaching “white supremacy.”

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Heartland Manufacturing Renaissance

Out in the rolling country just east of Columbus, Ohio, a new—and potentially brighter—American future is emerging. New factories are springing up, and, amid a severe labor shortage, companies are recruiting in the inner city and among communities of new immigrants and high schoolers to keep their plants running. Read more