It took the Roman Republic five centuries to devolve into a centralized despotism. It may take ours roughly 240 years to get to the same place, but with decidedly less upside.
In his new book, The Human City, Joel Kotkin looks at the ways cities succeed or fail in terms of how their residents are best served. Here’s a tour of some past models.
Throughout history, urban areas have taken on many functions, which have often changed over time. Today, this trend continues as technology, globalization, and information technology both undermine and transform the nature of urban life. Developing a new urban paradigm requires, first and foremost, integrating the traditional roles of cities—religious, political, economic—with the new realities and possibilities of the age. Most importantly, we need to see how we can preserve the best, and most critical, aspects of urbanism. Cities should not be made to serve some ideological or aesthetic principle, but they should make life better for the vast majority of citizens.
In an election year in which the top likely candidates come from New York, big cities arguably dominate American politics more than at any time since New Deal. The dynamics of urban politics, which are characterized by high levels of inequality and racial tensions—may be pushing Democrats ever further to the left and Republicans toward the inchoate resentment of Donald Trump.
The real winners in election 2016 are going to be the new-economy oligarchs who are among Clinton’s biggest donors.
This presidential election may have been driven by populist fever in both parties, but at the end, the campaign has left the nation’s oligarchs in better position than ever. As Bernie Sanders now marches to his own inevitable defeat, leaving the real winners those oligarchs—notably in tech, media, urban real estate and on Wall Street—who are among Hillary Clinton’s most reliable supporters.
With her massive win last month in New York, followed up with several other triumphal processions through the Northeast, Hillary Clinton has, for all intents and purposes, captured the Democratic nomination. And given the abject weaknesses of her two most likely opponents, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, she seems likely to capture the White House this fall as well.
In this oligarchic era, dominated as never before in modern history by the ultra-rich, their movements are far more than grist for gossip columns. They are critical to the health of city economies around the world.
For the better part of a century, Southern California has been seen as the land of surfers, hipsters and youthful innovators. Yet the land of sun and sea is becoming, like its East Coast counterpart Florida, increasingly geriatric.
This, of course, is a global and national phenomenon. From 2015-25, the number of senior-headed U.S. households, according to the Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University, will grow by 10.7 million, compared with 2.5 million households headed by people ages 35-44.
New Yorkers like to think of themselves as ahead of the curve but, this year, they seem to be embracing the most regressive politics. The overwhelming favorite in Tuesday’s primary among Republican candidates – with more than 50 percent support, according to RealClearPolitics – is Donald Trump, the brash New Yorker whose campaign vows to “make America great again.” On the Democratic side, New Yorkers appear to prefer Hillary Clinton, their former U.S. senator and quintessential avatar of the gentry liberals, rather than feeling “the Bern.”
Where is America’s tech and software industry thriving? In a new study conducted for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., researchers took an interesting stab at that question, assessing which metro areas have the strongest concentrations of software developers, spread across a broad array of industries, as well as the best compensation and job growth, and access to venture capital funding.
“What do we do with this worthless area, the region of savages and wild beasts, of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts and these endless mountain ranges?”
– U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster, on the American West, 1852
In principle, there is solid moral ground for the recent drive to boost the minimum wage to $15, with California and New York State taking dramatic steps Monday toward that goal. Low-wage workers have been losing ground for decades, as stagnant incomes have been eroded by higher living costs.
Yes, wealth concentration is insane. But the ways in which wealth is shifting are surprising—and give reason for a little optimism.
In an age of oligarchy, one should try to know one’s overlords—how they made their money, and where they want to take the country. By looking at the progress of the super-rich --- in contrast with most of us --- one can see the emerging and changing dynamics of American wealth.
Lee Kwan Yew, one of the great political architects of our time, died a year ago, but the regime he established in Singapore remains entrenched in power. In fact, the parliamentary elections last year—to the surprise and consternation of Lee’s critics—enlarged his People’s Action Party (PAP) majority in Parliament from a record low of 60 percent to close to 70 percent. Despite talk of a “new normal” defined by more competitive politics, the city-state’s norms remain very much as they have been for the better part of a half century.
From 2009-11, Americans seemed to be clustering again in dense cities, to the great excitement urban boosters. The recently released 2015 Census population estimates confirm that was an anomaly. Americans have strongly returned to their decades long pattern of greater suburbanization and migration to lower-density, lower-cost metropolitan areas, largely in the South, Intermountain West and, most of all, in Texas.
America’s baby boomers, even as they increasingly enter retirement, continue to dominate our political economy in ways no previous group of elderly has done. Sadly, their impact has also proven toxic, presenting our beleaguered electorate a likely Hobbesian presidential choice between a disliked, and distrusted, political veteran and a billionaire agitator most Americans find scary.
Throughout the campaign, boomers have provided the bedrock of support for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders may have devastated Clinton among millennial voters, by almost 3-1, but she has more than offset that gap by winning overwhelming support from older voters.