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Culture, Circumstance, and Agency: Reflections on Hillbilly Elegy

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The intractability of poverty has been recognized since at least the time the Deuteronomist wrote, “The poor will never cease to be in the land.” Explanations vary: ill favor of the gods, deficient natural endowments, personal defects, the culture of the poor, external circumstances such as a lack of economic opportunity, some type of oppression—all have been popular options.  read more »

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The Perils of Public Capital

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Most discussions of our slow economic growth includes a seemingly compulsory demand for increased public capital spending, so-called infrastructure spending or simply “roads and bridges.”  Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton promise increased public capital spending on their websites.   Larry Summers made perhaps the best case for public spending when he claimed that our failure to invest in public capital creates the “worst and most toxic debts.”  read more »

Trump’s Pitch to Blacks

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After Trump made a recent speech in Milwaukee in which he directly asked for black votes, I was asked to write a about it. My piece is now online in City Journal and is called “Trump’s Pitch to Blacks.”  read more »

Geographies of Inequality

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Joel Kotkin’s new report, “Geographies of Inequality,” is the latest in a series of ahead-of-the-curve, groundbreaking pieces published through Third Way’s NEXT initiative. NEXT is made up of in-depth, commissioned academic research papers that look at trends that will shape policy over the coming decades. In particular, we are aiming to unpack some of the prevailing assumptions that routinely define, and often constrain, Democratic and progressive economic and social policy debates.

Dowload the .pdf report or read it on the web here.  read more »

Two Views of West’s Decline

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Summer is usually a time for light reading, and for the most part, I indulged the usual array of historical novels, science fiction as well as my passion for ancient history. But two compelling books out this year led me to more somber thoughts about the prospects for the decline and devolution of western society.  read more »

Robert Gordon's Notable History of Economics and Living Standards

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Professor Robert J. Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War is a magisterial volume that will benefit any serious student of economics, demographics or history. I took the opportunity of the 28 hours of sunlight on a round trip from Detroit to Shanghai to read it, which was a productive and delightful way to make the time go faster.

Gordon is the Stanley G. Harris Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. This review will summarize the basic thesis of the nearly 800 page book, and refers to Gordon's comments on urbanization and transport, which are of particular interest to newgeography.com readers.  read more »

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Why Most Cities Will Never Be All They Used to Be

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Recently I published a piece on my Forbes site that discusses the disparate impact that demographic and social shifts had on larger, older U.S. cities over the second half of the 20th century.  Basically, the smaller American household size, generated by later marriages, rising divorce rates, lower fertility rates and rising life expectancy, among other things, has meant that unless cities were adding housing, they simply weren't growing.  read more »

Eastern Europe Heads For A Brave Old World

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Will a unified Europe survive Britain’s vote on Brexit? The referendum of last June pointed the country out of the European Union. Will France or Italy follow suit? If so, it could doom the structure that began in the 1950s as a customs union, if not an uneasy economic alliance to keep Germany from rearming and dominating central Europe. And will a consequence of Brexit be the re-emergence of Russia as the dominant power in Eastern Europe? Or will the European Union last long enough to bring prosperity to the forgotten countries of Eastern Europe?  read more »

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Welcome To Y'all Street: The Cities Challenging New York For Financial Supremacy

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From the earliest days of the Republic, banking and finance has largely been the purview of what one historian calls the “Yankee Empire.” Based largely in New York and Boston, later on financial centers grew along the main route of Yankee migration to Chicago and San Francisco.

Yet, if you look at where financial jobs are now headed, perhaps it’s time, as the Dallas Morning News cheekily suggested recently, to substitute Y’all Street for Wall Street. Finance, increasingly conducted electronically, is no longer tethered to its traditional centers. Large global financial companies like UBSDeutsche Bank Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are all committed to relocating operations to less expensive locations.  read more »

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