The Limits of Libertarianism

Over the past half-century, libertarians have played a critical role in the ever-growing war against governmental nonsense. If you want to read the best critiques of wasteful transit policy, sports stadia, government pensions or cancel culture, you can find it among liberty-minded outlets like Reason magazine, the Cato Institute and numerous free-market think tanks. They have provided a strong and necessary voice for free-market capitalism at a time when it faces serious challenges, notably from China and other state-directed systems.

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You Can’t Fix Housing with New Houses. We Need New Cities

Housing is rapidly becoming the key economic issue facing America’s beleaguered middle class. Even as interest rates rise, rents are on a wild binge, up near 20 percent in the past year or more in some cities. Meanwhile, home prices have hit a high and appear to be climbing further still. Higher prices are emerging even in what have long been relative bargain communities in the southeast, as refugees from the high-priced Northeast pour in with their greater resources.

The property gold rush has been made more problematic by the growing role of professional, well-funded investors and speculators, to whom the housing market is more attractive than a sometimes unsteady stock market. Read more

Webinar: The Case for Suburbia

When: March 8, 2022 at 12PM (CT)
Where: Join on Zoom

The seeming success of compact cities and the supposed dangers of sprawl to the climate have led to pushback against sprawling, car-dominated cities. Join us as we discuss the environmental case for suburbia.

Webinar: The Case for Suburbia

Fresno Business Council Meeting

Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky join a Fresno Business Council Board Meeting to discuss unaffordable housing and solutions to housing costs.

Report: Restoring the California Dream

This newly released report examines how the California dream can be restored for California’s middle- and working-class families. An excerpt follows:

What is happening to the California dream? For some it still comes true, but for many, and perhaps most Californians, the state increasingly fails to provide ample opportunities to start a business, buy a home or move up to the middle class. The state’s performance on these issues is the ultimate test of the ‘California model’ and its validity for the rest of the nation. Read more

California is a Bastion of Innovation Marred by Deep Inequality. Is That America’s Future?

Everyone seems to be California dreaming these days. Much of America, particularly its red parts, see California as a hopeless dystopia best understood as everything the nation should avoid. Meanwhile, for the progressive Left and many around Joe Biden, California is the Mecca, a great role model being attacked by jealous reactionaries.

As in so many cases, both sides have a piece of the truth.

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The New Dark Ages

If ignorance is bliss, the Western world should be ecstatic. Even as colleges churn out degrees and collect fees, and technology makes information instantly accessible, the basic level of literacy, as measured by such things as reading books and acquainting oneself with the past, is in a precipitous decline. Rather than building a vital world with our technological culture, we are repeating the memes of feudal times, driven by illiteracy, bias and a rejection of the West’s past.

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We Need More Families

Families, and the lack of them, are emerging as one of the great political dividing lines in America, and much of the high-income world. The familial ideal was once embraced by all political factions, except on the extremes, but that is no longer the case.

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California Dreamin’

“I just took [my son] to our local Walgreens to buy him a toy. While there, a man shoved past me so firmly that he sent me into the shelving. Then he proceeded to fill a brown paper bag with Halloween candy and waltzed out of the store. This is one of five Walgreens stores in SF that will be closing in the next two months, in part because of rampant theft. And our city leaders all keep insisting crime is down.”   San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities, by Michael Schellenberger

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The New Face of Autocracy

A former Facebook employee hailed by the media as a whistleblower testified this week on Capitol Hill about the social media giant’s algorithm, and how it harms children and democracy. Frances Haugen told the the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security that Facebook routinely chooses profit over safety, creating an addictive product that puts children—and American democracy—at risk by failing to adequately police its product.

But though Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is no doubt embarrassed by the brouhaha, he and his fellow big tech founders ultimately may have very little to worry about. At the end of the day, Haugen’s testimony was less an exposé and more a distraction from the far more urgent issue of big tech’s expanding monopolistic reach, and its growing political and cultural power. The real question when it comes to big tech is not the one posed by Haugen’s testimony—whether Facebook and the other tech platforms allow “misinformation” or “hate speech” on their platforms; her testimony instead conveniently missed the real problem: that a handful of mega-firms are now controlling content for much of the population.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults now get their news through social media sites like Facebook or from Google.This is even more true among millennials, soon to be the nation’s largest voting bloc. And tech oligarchs have further expanded their domain by purchasing much of what is left of the mainstream media, including the New Republic, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and the long-distressed Time Magazine .

And contrary to what Haugen and the Senate seem to believe, the biggest problem with having the flow of information so tightly concentrated in the hands of so few is not that it allows posts from hate groups or divisive political operatives or skinny teenagers. It’s that a tiny handful of oligarchs are dictating what is knowable, or what views are valid.

Attempts to shape or control thought by the tech giants are proceeding with astonishing speed. Staffers at Google, Facebook and Twitter increasingly “curate” the content on their sites. Often this means eliminating conservative views, according to former employees; companies increasingly use algorithms intended to screen out “hate groups.” But as reporting has shown, the e-programmers put in charge of this work often have trouble distinguishing between “hate groups” and those who might simply express dissenting if legitimate supported views.

If once we thought the IT revolution would foster a more democratic era in communications, what happened was the opposite: The media became more concentrated, with just a few companies controlling all the information pipelines.The steady erosion in anti-trust enforcement under both parties has left firms like Facebook and Google with almost unlimited power to acquire or crush competitors and ideological opponents. And these firms are near-absolute monopolies; they hold market shares that exceed eighty percent in key markets like search, social media, and book sales, as well as phone and PC operating systems.

And unlike for companies in a competitive economy, customer resistance and record low levels of trust mean very little to the profits of big tech firms. With their quasi- monopoly status, Facebook and Google don’t have to worry about giving offense the way a conventional firm might.

In fact, attempts to “regulate” the tech oligopolies may just make them stronger. Mark Zuckerberg routinely agrees with the censure against him, and when the federal strictures do come down, there’s every sign he will accept them, gaining even more allies in government and consolidating his monopoly and political influence.

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.