Restaurant Revolution

Nokmaniphone Sayavong started her business, Nok’s Kitchen, during the worst of times—the Covid pandemic—and in a state that often treats small businesses with the delicacy of a cat torturing a mouse. Yet she has found a way to thrive. Read more

The Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Will Hurt Joe Biden

The rescue of Silicon Valley Bank and its large depositors has drawn together unlikely bedfellows. Both the Right-wing Free Beacon and the Leftist Stranger magazine, to give two examples, have denounced this federal largesse as “socialism for the rich”.

Read more

The Rich Are Eating Themselves

Beware of plutocrats bearing gifts. The annual clown show at Davos epitomises how today, the global elites have embraced an unholy trinity of ‘progressive’ doctrines: climate-change apocalypticism, a belief in systemic racism and racial ‘equity’, and radical gender ideology. The super-rich hope that by genuflecting to these causes, they can buy themselves political protection and fend off the activists lurking in the ranks of their own companies. Yet, in the long run, this could end up fueling their demise.

Read more

The SVB Collapse Marks the End of the Silicon Valley Era

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the second largest in US history, is raising concerns about a “contagion” that could trigger a financial panic. 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 joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

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

Energy Colonialism Will Worsen the Urban-Rural Divide

In his drive to conquer China, Mao Zedong and his most famous general, Lin Biao, stoked “a peasant revolution” that eventually overwhelmed the cities. In those days, most Chinese toiled on the land, a vast manpower reservoir for the Communist insurgency. Today, in a world where a majority lives in urban settlements, such a strategy would be doomed to failure.

The small percentage of rural and small-town residents in most advanced countries — generally under 20 percent — lack the numbers to overwhelm the rest of society. Political and economic elites feel free to ignore the countryside, but they may find they do so at their peril. Although now a mere slice of the population, rural areas remain critical suppliers of food, fiber (like cotton), and energy to the rest of the economy.

Residents in agricultural areas have good reason to feel put upon. Their industries are often targeted by regulators and disdained by the metropolitan cognoscenti. They may not be hiding in the caves of Yan’an, but farming communities from the Netherlands to North America are rebelling against extreme government regulations, such as banning or restricting critical fertilizers or the enforced culling of herds. Meat and dairy producers are assaulted in a hysterical article in the New York Times that predicts imminent “mass extinction” caused by humans and suggests that to keep the planet from “frying” we will need to reduce meat and dairy consumption in short order.

This is occurring at a time — following decades of remarkable boosts in agricultural productivity — when food insecurity and high prices are again plaguing even wealthy countries but particularly the poorer countries in Africa. This shortfall has worsened, in part due to the Russia–Ukraine conflict, which has reduced the reliability of food exports from the Ukrainian bread basket, making Western production more critical.

Regardless, the inhabitants of the periphery — the vast area from the metropolitan fringe to the deepest countryside — and the farming that flourishes there will face an extraordinarily well-funded green movement that is now depicting “industrial farming” as one of the principal villains in their ever-expanding climate melodrama. Although greens may support the notion of small farmers using artisanal methods, and the wealthy certainly can afford the much higher food prices, niche farming cannot support most farming communities or provide ordinary consumers with reasonably priced groceries.

The regulatory tsunami reflects attitudes in the media, the academy, and the bureaucracy that generally disparage the periphery, too often regarded as depopulating, depressed places without a future. Rural residents are seen as primitives, driven by “rural rage.” They tend to be more skeptical about climate-change policies and a promised “just transition,” which only makes them even more deplorable.

Read the rest of this piece at National Review.


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: Drenaline via Wikimedia under CC 3.0 License.

A Neo-Feudal War on the People

An author should be pleased to see his thesis bolstered by events. Yet since writing The Coming of Neo-Feudalism in 2020, I have not found any joy in the continued growth of the West’s class divides, as wealth becomes increasingly concentrated in ever fewer hands. The good news is that the working and middle classes are not yet out for the count, and are showing welcome signs of pushback against both state and corporate power.

Read more

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 joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

California’s Budget Deficit Spells Trouble

Just a year ago California Governor Gavin Newsom could, and did, brag about the state’s estimated $100 billion surplus. Flush with cash, the preening presidential hopeful was able to hand out thousands of dollars of goodies to households while financing an elaborate multi-billion dollar climate change agenda. Read more

Mysteries of the Labor Force

One of the enduring mysteries of contemporary society centers on the seeming disassociation of so much of the labor force from the economy. This became particularly evident during the pandemic Read more