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
Over five millennia, urban centers have been drivers of civilization and progress, and have adapted in ways that have changed their form and function but assured their survival. Today, they are about to undergo another critical transition that will determine their relative position in the decades ahead.
Glenn Ellmers’s analysis of COVID and Trump represents a classic, and effective, account of the situation from the perspective of declining liberty and adherence to traditional values. But though it is important and necessary to hold onto our highest ideals, I would like to emphasize what is actually taking place on the ground and its likely long-term implication.
Statistics show that COVID accelerated economic, demographic, and geographic trends which were already existent, but rarely acknowledged. These trends include large-scale migration to the south, the west, and the suburbs. COVID also, as Ellmers suggests, sharpened the conflict between many Americans and the ruling “expert” class, who, unlike most Americans, actually flourished under COVID.
It’s been a week since a mentally ill racist murdered 10 people, most of them Black Americans, in a Buffalo supermarket. In the intervening days since this horrific tragedy, many have noted how often liberal journalists and politicians have tried to pin the blame for the mass shooting not just on the shooter and his far-right racist ideology, but anyone outside their progressive circles. In what was perhaps the most extreme example of this widespread trend, the cultural warriors of Rolling Stone insisted that the isolated and largely unhinged shooter was no outlier but “a mainstream Republican.”
“Young people do not degenerate; this occurs only after grown men have already become corrupt.” – Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, 1748.
The great test of a generation is whether it leaves better prospects for its descendants. Yet by virtually every indication, the baby boomers, and even the Gen Xers, are leaving a heritage of economic carnage – as well as a growing social and cultural dissipation that could shape our future and the fate of democratic self-rule, and not for the better. This legacy comes not from outside forces, but the investment bankers, tech oligarchs and their partners in the clerisy who have weakened their national economies and undermined the chances of upward mobility for most young people.
Even the New York Times has to admit unpleasant realities, like the departure of people from California and other deep blue states. But one thing the paper, and other similarly-minded reporters based here, will never admit: the connection between the California economy and regulation and the rising out-migrations.
The future shape of post-Covid America is beginning to emerge. As demographic trends and surveys indicate, the pandemic has helped accelerate large, epochal changes in the nation’s geography.
It has reinforced the already existent trend of population dispersion, with people moving both to suburbs and smaller cities in ever greater numbers. The ascendency of sprawling Sun Belt metropolitan areas, like Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix, has become increasingly clear and undeniable. The 2020 United States Census notes that four of the five counties gaining at least 300,000 people since 2010 were in Texas, Arizona or Nevada. Houston and Dallas acquired far more people than New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or even the Bay Area over the same period.
David Goldman’s remarks on America’s challenges against China are, for the most part, spot-on. He is particularly on-target about two realities that may displease traditional conservatives: the failure of Trump’s China policy, and the need for some form of industrial policy.
Goldman may have voted twice for Trump (I did not), but he is no MAGA die-hard. He can read the numbers, which show growing dependence on China and an ever-widening trade deficit: imports from China rose over 30% more starting in January 2018, when Trump imposed tariffs. This 19th-century strategy simply did not work in the 21st.
In 1946, the American author John Gunther described Houston as “mostly ugly and barren, without a single good restaurant and hotels with cockroaches”. The only reasons to live in the city, he claimed, were financial; it was a place “where few people think about anything but money”.
This view was widespread at the time, and has lingered well into the 21st century. Forget Houston. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are the cities most frequently associated with the urban American dream.
Fast forward to today, however, and a new urban renaissance is taking shape — and this time, it’s in the heart of Texas. Never before in American history have two metros in one state — Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth — been in the nation’s five largest. So much for its cockroaches; at its current rate of growth, Houston could replace Chicago as the nation’s third largest municipality by 2030.
What’s driving this Texan resurgence? Traditionally, American cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis all tried to copy the model set by New York and, to a lesser extent, Chicago, with high-rise offices crowded into central business districts. But Texas urbanism is different. They may wear cowboy boots, drive pickup trucks, and attend rodeos, but Texans have created a new model of American urbanity rooted in the demands of the consumer market — an idea deeply offensive to many planners and retro-urbanists.
Some observers lament the fact that the vast majority of Texas’s metropolitan growth — nearly 100% — has taken place in the suburbs and exurbs. But this has its benefits, not least the fact that its cities haven’t been turned into rabbit warrens that only provide high living standards to the rich. Over the past decade, Texas has built three times as much housing as California. This has allowed its cities, despite massive demographic and economic growth, to keep housing prices significantly lower than in coastal Californian cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles.
But while affordability has been the secret sauce for Texan cities, its urbanism also thrives by embracing the realities of the marketplace. Over the past decade, Austin and Dallas have created jobs two to three times faster than New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. And this growth is not all at the low end of the job market, as some like the New York Times’s Paul Krugman suggest. Over the past five years, for instance, Austin has displaced San Francisco as the fastest growing tech market. Indeed, Austin is now arguably the strongest rival to Silicon Valley, home to the headquarters of Tesla, and Oracle, as well as Apple’s engineering division and Meta’s latest expansion, 33 floors downtown.
But the most significant expansion has been in professional and business services, the core of the new urban economy. Over the past five years, Austin and Dallas-Ft. Worth have created more than twice as many new business service jobs as San Jose; all four big Texas cities have grown this sector many times the rate of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. The Dallas metroplex is now home to 24 Fortune 500 company headquarters, trailing only New York and Chicago by a small number; 40 years ago, the region had fewer than five.
Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.
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.