The New Great Game

The Western response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is widely seen as a sign of a reinvigorated alliance of democracies against authoritarianism. Even historically anti-war publications like the Guardian speak volubly about the West’s heroic “defense of liberty.” Read more

Environmentalists Are China’s Useful Idiots

In his drive to achieve absolute power, Vladimir Lenin could count on Western progressives and opportunist executives to serve as “useful idiots.” Today’s most prominent Communist, China’s Xi Jinping, can count on similar help, this time from the West’s environmentalist, corporate elites.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the alliance of green non-profits and their oligarchic backers, whose demands for a quick evolution toward “net zero” emissions are quickly undermining the last vestiges of Western competitiveness. And the winner in this “energy transition” is China, which, oddly enough, produces more greenhouse gases than the entire developed world put together.

Of course, China plays lip service to climate goals. But it’s building scores of new coal plants and plans to expand natural gas and nuclear power, both anathema to America’s hardline greens. Not content to spew greenhouse gases at home, China is also building coal plants around the world as coal consumption hits a historic high.

China has maneuvered itself into an enviable position of doing as it pleases while its biggest competitors unilaterally disarm. Green groups have long taken money from Chinese interests as well from Russia, which has cynically backed efforts to curb the West’s production of natural gas. As Robert Bryce has demonstrated, green non-profits—what he scathingly dubbed “the anti-industry industry”—received well over four times as much as those advocating for the use of nuclear or fossil fuels in 2021.

Nor do they lack for influence. The big names behind the green agenda include a who’s who of oligarchs and inheritors: billionaires like Tom Steyer, Bill Gates and Richard Branson, as well as powerful foundations like Rockefeller, Doris Duke, Walton, MacArthur, Hewlett, and George Soros‘ Open Society, which have sent  hundreds of millions to leading environmental  groups. Jeff Bezos in 2020 alone announced $10 billion in gifts, mostly to green non-profits.

And all this money is being spent to aid China in its existential struggle with the West—much more than to aid the environment.

China already enjoys a growing market share in manufactured exports roughly equal to the U.S., Germany and Japan combined, and green policies seem poised to push China’s industrial supremacy even further, making energy both more expensive and unreliable. This is accelerating the de-industrialization of Germany, including its natural-gas dependent, world leading chemical industry.

With the adoption of electric vehicle mandates including a ban on gas cars, Europe seems determined to destroy one of its last areas of excellence in favor of technology that is almost entirely controlled by China and other east Asian countries. As for the U.S., the majority of the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan is based around green infrastructure rather than manufacturing itself, with the big winners shell companies who sell things like wind turbines exclusively made in China.

The truth is obvious to anyone paying attention: The electric future embraced by the Biden Administration and the EU will be a China-dominated one.

Read the rest of this piece at Newsweek.

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 and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: John Englart via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Beyond Davos

Few annual events produce more paranoid commentary than the World Economic Forum’s recently completed Davos conference. The WEF, founded in 1971, has not only become the favored target of lunatic spinmeisters like Alex Jones and right-wing zealots like Glenn Beck but also of Fox News and many conservative activists. It is widely regarded as the place where a terrifying “Great Reset” has been plotted by the mighty—a plan hatched behind closed doors between sips of champagne and forays onto the slopes. The South African reporter Lara Logan even claimed (falsely) that the new Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, was selected at Davos.

“WEF is a sitting target (of misinformation)—very expensive to attend, invitation only,” said Claire Wardle, co-director of the Information Futures Lab at Brown University. “It’s playing out the foundation of every conspiracy theory, which is that the world is being controlled by a secret elite and you’re not part of it.” But suspicions like these misunderstand the problem. A transformation of the world economy is occurring, but not because a bunch of elite business, political, and media folk preen on stage while enjoying Swiss comforts. Rather, the world is changing because the tectonic plates governing economics and politics have moved, and they are likely to continue moving.

The establishment avatar

The populist conspiracy theorists mistake showmanship for reality. Cambridge legal professor Antara Haldar notes that Davos is not really a place where important decisions are taken. It represents a symbolic “avatar” for the elites. If the Davos crowd has demonstrated anything, it is the futility of their posturing. They lack the ability to influence the leaders of countries like India and China, much less places like Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Some of the leaders of these countries may speak and consort with the Davos crowd, but they clearly do not listen to them. Nor do the West’s middle classes, who are proving reluctant to embrace an environmental agenda that threatens immiseration.

The WEF is unable to affect the global future outside the narrow confines of their own gilded circles. “On its face, Davos appears to be a meeting out of touch with the times, focused more on privilege than social change, economic displacement, or cross-cutting global challenges,” noted the Brookings Institution in 2020. Rather than an expression of real power, Davos reflects the continued rise of the publicity-mad business leader, first identified by Daniel Bell a half-century ago. Prior generations of business had embraced Western culture and national identity and placed some priority on addressing the needs of larger society. The new corporate elite, however, is unmoored from religion and family and this is transforming the foundations of middle-class culture.

More than anything, Davos demonstrates not power—it has no legislative or regulatory power—but the relentless search for prestige and recognition. It is no more real in its effects than a Kabuki play.

Aristocracy redux

The elites gathered at Davos may spout progressive ideas, but they actually represent something more like a return to the kind of hierarchy associated with feudalism. After nearly a half-century of expanded social mobility, Western economies have become increasingly stratified, with economic power concentrated in ever fewer hands. In the past decade, the proportion of US real estate wealth held by middle- and working-class owners fell substantially. “In 2010,” reports the Wall Street Journal, “high-income homeowners held 28% of all U.S. housing wealth. By 2020, that figure rose to 42.6%.” In the last decade, “about 71% of the increase in housing wealth was gained by high-income households, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.”

This is a global phenomenon. Housing prices have risen “three times faster than household median income over the last two decades,” according to the OECD. And housing, it finds, “has been the main driver of rising middle-class expenditure.” In the next generation, those who purchase houses will be doing so through what one writer calls “the funnel of privilege.” Millennials who received bequests inherited more money than many workers make in a lifetime. “Inherited wealth will make a comeback,” predicts the economist Thomas Piketty in Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Inheritance as a share of GDP in France, he writes, grew from roughly four percent in 1950 to 15 percent in 2010. The growing importance of inherited assets is even more pronounced in Germany, Britain, and the United States.

These trends were evident long before anyone had ever heard of Klaus Schwab. What Davos does—for both the conspiracy nuts and the general public—is provide a garish stage for a bifurcated class structure. In the United States, in recent decades, wealth gains have been concentrated among the top 0.1 percent—roughly 150,000 people. Since the mid-1980s, the share of national wealth held by those below the top 10 percent has fallen by 12 percentage points, the same proportion that the top 0.1 percent gained. A British parliamentary study projects that, by 2030, the top one percent will expand their share to two-thirds of the world’s wealth, with the biggest gains overwhelmingly concentrated in the top 0.01 percent.

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 and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

The Fall of the Jewish Gangster

Antisemitism has always partly been driven by envy; Jews attract a unique resentment for their disproportionate intellectual achievements in literature, science, education and, particularly, finance. At the same time, however, this success can be inverted. Historian Fred Siegel calls this “the flip side of cleverness”, a tendency among some to apply their minds to illegal activities.

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The Rural Revolution a Welcome Counter to the Liberal Green Agenda

The current deceleration of globalism can herald either a greater period of nationalism, with its tendency towards authoritarianism and xenophobia, or we could return to a more decentralized political system that comports with both American and Canadian traditions and popular preferences.

For some, the nationalist call is irresistible, even if it tramples on local rights and promotes autocratic power from Ottawa or Washington. This was seen particularly during COVID, notably in Canada, with centrally directed assaults on the rights of pandemic dissenters, ranging from the forced cutoff of private bank accounts in Canada, or in the American censorship regimes designed by a partnership of the Washington bureaucracy and the tech oligarchy.

The abating of the pandemic seems unlikely to curb the centralist fever. In Canada, the federal government continues to seek more control over everything from the Ontario Greenbelt to basic energy policy. This all sets the stage for an expanding conflict between the provinces and Ottawa, as the distinct priorities of various regions sometimes conflict with priorities set out by national elites, sometimes with the connivance of large corporate interests.

Much the same is occurring in the United States. In an almost evenly divided legislative branch, U.S. President Joe Biden has managed to expand federal power to unprecedented levels. Some of this has been done through the Stalinist-style bloc voting by Democrats in Congress, or simply by executive fiat. With the GOP in a slight majority in the House, Biden will almost inevitably expand his rule by executive order in the next two years.

But the situation is far from helpless. In Canada, there is growing resentment towards federal power. Energy and agricultural policies that follow the globalist green script may appeal to denizens of Toronto’s towers and swankier neighbourhoods, but can be regarded with horror by farmers in Manitoba or oil-riggers in Alberta. Suburban and exurban residents may be less than thrilled by Ottawa rumbling to force densification — hardly a natural fit for a country with an enormous surplus of land.

Some may see these localist attitudes as defending dying ways of life, but the demographic story tells us something very different. In Canada, people are dispersing, with most growth, even before the pandemic lockdowns, in the outer exurbs and smaller metropolitan areas, particularly in Ontario. After decades of moving to larger cities, data shows that while the population continues to urbanize, people are often moving to smaller communities.

As demographer Wendell Cox has demonstrated, Canadians are moving primarily to exurbs and suburbs, some closer to the big cities, but some quite distant. This was driven largely by high housing prices, and the increase in remote work by Canadians, which sparked a move away from the largest metropolitan areas, particularly ultra-expensive cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Even the Maritimes, long losers in the demographic sweepstakes, has reversed its long negative internal migration, attracting migrants from denser, more urbanized centres.

Read the rest of this piece at National Post.

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 and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: composite with photo by Tom Corser via Wikimedia under CC 3.0 License

The Retreat from Globalism

In the wake of liberal globalism’s failings, a nationalist tide is rising today, not only in China and Russia but also throughout the West. It is a dynamic eerily similar to 100 years ago, when war, pandemic and economic insecurity brought national tensions to the surface. Yet today’s undoubted turn against globalism need not herald a return to the dark days of aggressive nationalism. Instead, we are seeing the rise of a new community-based and self-governing model of localism.

This new localism counteracts some of the worst aspects of globalism – homogeneity, deindustrialisation and ever-growing class divides – while eschewing the authoritarian tendencies often associated with nationalistic fervour. It essentially seeks to replace, where possible, mass institutions and production with local entrepreneurship and competition.

This approach has demonstrated remarkable appeal. The promising evolution of technologies like remote work and 3D printing is already creating opportunities to enhance local economies. In the US, strong majorities trust local governments, compared to the more than half who lack trust in Washington, notes Gallup. Big companies, banks and media receive low marks from the public, but small businesses continue to enjoy widespread support across party lines.

This is not merely an American phenomenon. In France there have been consistent protests against globalisation for decades. Poland and the rest of eastern Europe, recovering from decades of central control and imperial edicts from Moscow, have also favoured localism. There is also pushback against federal encroachment in Canada, while the UK’s turn against globalism was best exemplified by its withdrawal from the EU.

The movement against globalism constitutes an alternative to increasingly intrusive government: such as in Europe, where the unelected EU bureaucracy seeks ever-expanding powers, and in North America and Australia, where national bureaucracies work to undermine traditionally vibrant local communities. It also has strong connections to populism, particularly in Europe. Its base, small business, tends to tilt to the right in most countries, including the US.

Yet the new localism is not fundamentally a question of left vs right. It is about sustaining local economies and self-governing institutions. According to Kevin Albertson, professor of economics at Manchester University, in politics today it often seems that the only choice on offer is between ‘big state or big business’. Faced with this unenviable dilemma, he argues, the ‘only viable alternative’ is localism – that is, ‘small state and small business’.

Essentially, localism looks to humanise the economy. Whereas global or national conglomerates respond largely to capital flows, local businesses rely heavily on networks of customers and suppliers. In the food industry, many start off as home-based businesses, and then become food trucks. Some evolve into modest restaurants, and occasionally open numerous locations, usually in the same region. These offer an alternative to the sameness of chain stores, at a time when many once ubiquitous traditional venues – pubs in London, bistros in Paris, as well as kosher delicatessens and Greek diners in places like New York – have declined.

Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.

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 and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Famartin via Wikimedia under CC 4.0 License

How America’s ‘Big Sort’ Will Upend Politics

The world may not be turning upside down, but it’s certainly tilting. In the long shadow of the pandemic, with war on the European continent and the West and China entering a new cold war, the “new economy” of bits and bytes that was supposed to connect and shape the world has hit a rough patch. Meanwhile, the much disdained “old” economy of manufacturing, agriculture and energy is thriving.

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The Great Train Robbery

We will soon be leaving the first quarter of the 21st century behind us. But in the minds of our transportation planners, the punditry, and some real estate interests, the way forward is actually to step back to the glories of the 19th century. Read more

How the California Dream Became a Nightmare

For Americans, California once looked like the future. It was a state defined by risk-taking and utopian dreaming. Yet for most Californians today, the upward mobility so central to the state’s ethos is rapidly disappearing. For decades, California was the primary destination for both other Americans and for foreign immigrants. Now, this trend has gone into reverse Read more

The Rise of the Single Woke Female

Unmarried women without children have been moving toward the Democratic Party for several years, but the 2022 midterms may have been their electoral coming out party as they proved the chief break on the predicted Republican wave. While married men and women as well as unmarried men broke for the GOP, CNN exit polls found that 68% of unmarried women voted for Democrats.

The Supreme Court’s August decision overturning Roe v. Wade was certainly a special factor in the midterms, but longer-term trends show that single, childless women are joining African Americans as the Democrats’ most reliable supporters.

Their power is growing thanks to the demographic winds. The number of never married women has grown from about 20% in 1950 to over 30% in 2022, while the percentage of married women has declined from almost 70% in 1950 to under 50% today. Overall, the percentage of married households with children has declined from 37% in 1976 to 21% today.

The Single Wave

The Pew Research Center notes that since 1960, single-person households in the United States have grown from 13% to 27% (2019). Many, particularly women, are not all that keen on finding a partner. Pew recently found that “men are far more likely than women to be on the dating market: 61% of single men say they are currently looking for a relationship or dates, compared with 38% of single women.”

There’s clearly far less stigma attached to being single and unpartnered. Single women today have many impressive role models of unattached, childless women who have succeeded on their own – like Taylor Swift and much of the U.S. women’s soccer team. This phenomenon is not confined to the United States. Marriage and birthrates have fallen in much of the world, including Europe and Japan. Writing in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, columnist Emma John observed that, “Singleness is no longer to be sneered at. Never marrying or taking a long-term partner is increasingly seen as a valid choice.”

Rise of Identity Politics

The rise of SWFs – a twist on the personal ad abbreviation for single white female – is one of the great untold stories of American politics. Distinct from divorced women or widows, these largely Gen Z and Millennial voters share a sense of collective identity and progressive ideology that sets them apart from older women. More likely to live in urban centers and to support progressive policies, they are a driving force in the Democratic party’s and the nation’s shift to the left. One paradox, however: Democrats depend ever more on women defined in the strict biological sense while much of the party’s progressive wing embraces the blurred and flexible gender boundaries of its identity politics.

Attitudes are what most distinguish single women from other voters. An American Enterprise Institute survey shows that married men and women are far more likely than unmarried females to think women are well treated or equally treated. As they grow in numbers, these discontented younger single women are developing something of a group consciousness. Nearly two thirds of women under 30, for example, see what happens to other women as critical to their own lives; among women over 50, this mindset shrinks to less than half.

Read the rest of this piece at Real Clear Investigations.

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 and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Photo: Michael Hicks via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.