“Town and country must be married and out of this joyous union will spring a new hope, a new life, a new civilization.”
— Ebenezer Howard, 1898”

All cities must evolve over time. Those that fail to do so end up, at best, like Venice, Vienna, or Florence: lifestyle and tourist hubs. Read more

Canada and the U.S. are Not Systemically Racist — and the Numbers Prove It

As we talk about the future, we also need to confront the past. History, with all its complexities, defines our civilization, creating both cautionary tales and forging a common identity, which is particularly critical for relatively young and highly diverse countries.

Yet this common narrative, something that unites rather than divides, is slowly slipping away, a victim of a relentless, unbalanced, often ahistorical assault on the heritage that shaped our national destinies. Both the United States and Canada have much to feel guilty about, for sure, but on balance, the totality of our national experiences should justifiably invoke a sense of pride that can help forge a better future.

In the United States, not surprisingly, the assault on the past focuses increasingly on genuine crimes, notably the eviction of Native-Americans, something we share with Canadians, and the enslavement of Africans. These outrages were discussed extensively even when I was in high school more than a half century ago and should be part of any curriculum, as even Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledge.

Yet increasingly, these awful blemishes blot out all other narratives. The new common notion focuses not on how our countries provided home to millions of oppressed and impoverished people from around the world, but instead insist that the whole national experience was based on racism and oppression. This thesis, which is pushed by many academics, as well as the originator of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose views are widely admired on college campuses, where Jones has received speaking fees of over US$500,000

Sadly, her history is more like a good shtick. Indeed, leading historians of the time have said her project presented an “unbalanced, one-sided account” that “left most of the history out,” as Princeton’s James McPherson put it. Much of the push-back came from more traditional leftists like Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, an outspoken socialist, and James Oakes.

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 joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Charles Fred via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

The Ghost of Ancient Rome Haunts America

The death of Ancient Rome wasn’t so much a collapse as a slow, interminable decay: between the second and sixth centuries AD, its population declined from a million people to just 30,000. Since then, 15 centuries have passed and thousands of cities have been built. And yet, as Rome’s greatest chronicler Edward Gibbon warned in 1776, a similar fate awaits our modern metropolises. This time, however, their decline will radically alter our perception of what “urbanism” really means.

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The Future of Cities: Recalibrating Expectations: Lessons From Youngstown, Ohio

As Youngstown, Ohio lost its industrial base, it faced long-term effects from disinvestment and globalization – and a need for economic renewal. What lessons did the city learn, and can they be applied elsewhere?

Are Asians the New Jews?

In countries where Asians and Jews immigrated in large numbers, they have long followed a common path. Both groups occupy a dual position: discriminated against for standing out, while at the same time held up as models of success.

But increasingly, that success has itself become a liability. Jews and Asians outperform the overall population in such critical areas as education and income, not only in the U.S., but in Canada, Australia, and the U.K., and as a result are collectively held a party to supposedly oppressive power structures in those countries. According to progressive ideas being taught by public schools and diversity departments, Jews are bearers of “white privilege,” no better and sometimes worse than the white Protestant descendants of slaveholders. Similarly, Asians are said to be “white adjacent,” a clever way of making them complicit with white racism despite their visible nonwhiteness.

In one essential respect, however, the two groups are heading in opposite directions. While the Jewish population in the U.S. is at best stagnant, Asians are now the fastest growing minority group in the country, with their numbers projected to increase from almost 12 million in 2000 to more than three times that by midcentury. This raises two critical questions: Is a new group of Americans, whose families have come to the U.S. from countries like China and India decades after the waves of mass Jewish immigration, taking the place of American Jews whose greatest successes are now in the past? Furthermore, is such a thing even possible in a culture that now fetishizes failure and victimhood? Jews sometimes had to force the country to be fairer and more meritocratic but were able to make the most of America’s openness. Today, that door may be slamming shut on the next generation of Asian American aspirants as values like hard work, thrift, and sacrifice are deemed inherently “reflective of white racism.”

Asian Americans, notes author Kenny Xu, have the highest per capita income, lowest per capita crime rates and highest rates of college education in the U.S. Asians are now easily the best educated racial group in the country. Although there is poverty and increasing inequality, particularly among elderly and recent immigrants, median household income among Asians stands at over $100,000, compared to $71,000 for whites and $45,000 for African Americans. This follows the Jewish script. Jews are already the highest earning religious group, followed by Hindus. In terms of education levels, they rank third, behind Hindus and Unitarians.

But a record of achievement does not seem to be making these groups more secure. The assault from the nativist right—one just has to listen to Trump’s openly racist attacks on prominent Asians—has grown while antisemitic memes remain de rigeur in white and Christian nationalist circles. The other, potentially more damaging assault, comes from the progressive left, which views ethnic success as socially regressive rather than a validation of societal openness.

In this new world view, Asians use “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead,’” as former San Francisco school board member Alison Collins tweeted, before comparing Asian Americans to a “house n****r.” Similarly, despite millennia of persecution, progressives increasingly claim the children of Abraham are just another group enjoying “white privilege.”

The rising social status of Jews paralleled the rise of capitalism. Jews took advantage of their higher rates of literacy, global ties, and knowledge of the cash economy. Long suppressed under medieval feudalism, Jews developed habits which turned out to be highly advantageous. Most individual Jews remained poor, but as a group Jews made up the vast majority of Eastern Europe’s factory owners, bankers, lawyers, and physicians. They also dominated the professions and the stock exchanges. A handful rose to global banking families, most obviously the Rothschilds, who played a preeminent role in the rise of the modern European, and later North American, economies.

A similar process took place in the Chinese diaspora. Poor Chinese immigrants, largely from the southern provinces of the country, started migrating to Southeast Asia during the Ming Dynasty. Like the Jews, they found their niche in an environment rich in natural resources but poor in educated human capital. As early as the 17th century European observers described the local Chinese as “Jew-like,” “gleaning here and there” to make a living.

Read the rest of this piece at Tablet.

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: originals in public domain Library of Congress; New York Public Library

The Future of Cities: Africa’s Urban Future

The urban future in the coming decades will be largely an African one. Now home to 12 of the world’s largest cities and four megacities; Africa has the world’s fastest-growing urban population.

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 Future of Cities: The Future of Chinese Cities

China represents the cutting edge of 21st century urbanism. The successes and failures of Chinese cities will shape global perceptions of city life, not only in that country but around the world.

The Philanthropy Threat

Throughout history, excess wealth has been used to salve society’s problems, funding hospitals, food banks, and building libraries to develop minds and cathedrals to lift the spirits. But increasingly, the charitable urge has shifted away from such worthy causes and, increasingly, reflects a distinct progressive agenda that seeks, ultimately, to transform lives through the expansion of state power. Read more

The Future of Cities: The Future of the Big American City Is Not Bright

As COVID-19 begins to wane and become endemic, the question for policymakers, theorists, and Americans at large is: What is in store for our nation’s big cities? Please return weekly to read each chapter as it is published.