This could be how our experiment with grassroots democracy finally ends. World leaders—the super-rich, their pet nonprofits, their media boosters, and their allies in the global apparat—gather in Paris to hammer out a deal to transform the planet, and our lives. No one asks much about what the states and the communities, the electorate, or even Congress, thinks of the arrangement. The executive now presumes to rule on these issues.
“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Western culture’s got to go.
– Slogan from 1988 Stanford University protest led by Jesse Jackson.
In the aftermath of San Bernardino and Paris massacres, our cognitive leaders – from President Obama on down – have warned Americans not to engage in what Hillary Clinton has described as “a clash of civilizations.” But you can’t have a real clash when one side – ours – seems compelled to demean its traditions and values.
Every age produces its own brand of oligarchs – feudal lords, banking gnomes, captains of industry. Our age has its own incipient ruling class, the tech oligarchs.
America is suffering from the severest undersupply of housing since the end of the Second World War. Although population growth has slowed significantly since the 1950s and 1960s, production has slowed down even more so. It’s not surprising that homebuilding declined after the housing bubble burst in 2008, but from 2011 to 2015 it continued to fall, dropping almost a quarter.
New York City has prospered since the great recession of 2008, buoyed by an endless supply of free money from Washington that's elevated the stock and real estate markets. But the broader metro region has struggled, in an ominous sign of tougher times to come.
Little acknowledged in the discussion of New York's "tale of two cities" is something beyond the control of Mayor de Blasio: the fading of the city's once-thriving suburbs, even as the city grows more populous and more expensive.
At a recent breakfast in Washington, D.C., a rising young Republican senator explained the divisions in his party in a particularly succinct manner: a conflict between the donor base and the GOP rank-in-file.
“The donor class,” this senator told me, “really cares about one thing: lower taxes. Most in the party don’t see this as the most crucial issue.”
When I arrived in Los Angeles four decades ago, it was clearly a city on the rise, practicing its lines on the way to becoming the dominant metropolis in North America. Today, the City of Angels and much of Southern California lag behind not only a resurgent New York City, but also L.A.’s longtime regional rival, San Francisco, both demographically and economically.
To some, particularly in the green movement, this month’s Paris climate change summit represents something like the great synods of the early Christian era, where truth and policy, for example, on pastoral celibacy, were determined by the princes of the church. Some others, largely marginalized on the fringes of the Right, insist the whole extravaganza is part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to delude people into accepting a world government.
Lost in translation is that the Paris conference is largely a sideshow camouflaging a potentially epic struggle among national, regional and economic interests. This mundane reality is often lost amid the apocalyptic rhetoric, such as employed by Gov. Jerry Brown, that insists draconian action is necessary to avoid the species’ imminent “extinction.”
The Paris Climate Conference, convening this week, takes place in the very place where, arguably, the most dangerous exemplar of hysteria, the Islamic jihadi movement, has left its bloody mark. Yet the think tank mavens, academics, corporate shills and endless processions of bureaucrats gather in the City of Light not to confront the immediate deadly threat, but to ramp up their own grisly scenarios and Draconian solutions.
At the site of real and immediate tragedy, an old man comes, wielding not a sword to protect civilization from ghastly present threats but to preach the sanctity of California’s green religion. The Paris Climate Change Conference offers a moment of triumph for the 77-year-old Jerry Brown, the apogee of his odd public odyssey.
The rising tech oligarchy, having disrupted everything from hotels and taxis to banking, music and travel, is also taking over the content side of the media business. In the process, we might see the future decline of traditional media, including both news and entertainment, and a huge shift in media power away from both Hollywood and New York and toward the Bay Area and Seattle.
Average pay varies widely among U.S. cities, but those chasing work opportunities would do well to keep an eye on costs as well. Salaries may be higher on the East and West coasts, but for the most part, equally high prices there mean that the fatter paychecks aren’t necessarily getting the locals ahead.
The adage “demographics are destiny” is increasingly being replaced by a notion that population trends should actually shape policy. As the power of projection grows, governments around the world find themselves looking to find ways to counteract elaborate and potentially threatening population models before they become reality.
When we speak about the ever-expanding chasm that defines modern American politics, we usually focus on cultural issues such as gay marriage, race, or religion. But as often has been the case throughout our history, the biggest source of division may be largely economic.
Today we see a growing conflict between the economy that produces consumable, tangible goods and another economy, now ascendant, that deals largely in the intangible world of media, software, and entertainment. Like the old divide between the agrarian South and the industrial North before the Civil War, this threatens to become what President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, defined as an “irrepressible conflict.”
It’s time to put an end to the urban legend of the impending death of America’s suburbs. With the aging of the millennial generation, and growing interest from minorities and immigrants, these communities are getting a fresh infusion of residents looking for child-friendly, affordable, lower-density living.