The New World Order


Tribal ties—race, ethnicity, and religion—are becoming more important than borders.

For centuries we have used maps to delineate borders that have been defined by politics. But it may be time to chuck many of our notions about how humanity organizes itself. Across the world a resurgence of tribal ties is creating more complex global alliances. Where once diplomacy defined borders, now history, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture are dividing humanity into dynamic new groupings.  read more »

Vancouver: Planner’s Dream, Middle Class Nightmare


Vancouver is consistently rated among the most desirable places to live in the Economist’s annual ranking of cities. In fact, this year it topped the list. Of course, it also topped another list. Vancouver was ranked as the city with the most unaffordable housing in the English speaking world by Demographia’s annual survey. According to the survey criteria, housing prices in an affordable market should have an “median multiple” of no higher than 3.0 (meaning that median housing price should cost no more than 3 times the median annual gross household income). Vancouver came in at a staggering 9.3. The second most expensive major Canadian city, Toronto, has an index of only 5.2. Even legendarily unaffordable London and New York were significantly lower, coming in at 7.1 and 7.0 respectively. While there are many factors that make Vancouver a naturally expensive market, there are a number of land use regulations that contribute to the high housing costs.  read more »

The Forty-Fifth Parallel


When I was a kid growing up in Oregon, we'd occasionally drive north on I-5 to Portland. Just north of Salem we'd pass a sign that read (if memory serves) "The 45th Parallel: Halfway between the equator and the north pole."

I wish I'd stopped and taken a picture of myself straddling the parallel. It would go with a collection of similar straddles: across the equator in Uganda, across the Arctic Circle in Finland, and across the 42nd parallel.  read more »

Fighting Spirit Lives On In Northern Montana


On a hot July day in 1923 northern Montana served as the unlikely backdrop for a boxing extravaganza on the international stage. There on the plains right outside the City of Shelby, Jack Dempsey defended his World Heavyweight Boxing Championship against the hard-hitting Tommy Gibbons – the only world championship fight that Jack Dempsey ever fought that went the full fifteen rounds.  read more »

A Canadian Autobahn


Canada is the largest high-income nation in the world without a comprehensive national freeway (autobahn, expressway or autoroute) system. Motorways are entirely grade separated roadways (no cross traffic), with four or more lanes (two or more in each direction) allowing travel that is unimpeded by traffic signals or stop signs.  read more »

Lost City


We agreed, last time, to meet at the corner of Yonge & Bloor – Toronto's busiest subway stop.  read more »

Let Freedom Ring: Democracy and Prosperity are Inextricably Linked


With autocratic states like China and Russia looking poised for economic recovery, it's often hard to make the case for ideals such as democracy and rule of law. To some, like Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules, autocrats seem destined to rule the world economy.  read more »

The Compromise by the Lake


Toronto is a nice city.

If that seems like faint praise, then so be it; I'm not a great Toronto fan. Don't get me wrong. It is a wonderful city for the tourist, and temporary residents I know swear by the place. But it's not my kind of town.

I spent much time in Toronto in the 1980s and 90s. My first visit must have been in 1970 or so, and I was last there on a very cold, January day in 2003.  read more »

Rating World Metropolitan Areas: When Money is an Object


American metropolitan areas have been the subject of considerable derision. Often characterized as inferior to those of Australia, Canada, Europe and even of Japan by planners and politicians who travel abroad, there has long been a desire to reshape American cities along the lines of foreign models. Yet, despite this, American metropolitan areas generally provide a standard of living to their residents unmatched anywhere in the world. This is based upon the latest comparative economic data for the world’s most affluent metropolitan areas.  read more »

Borderline Reality


For years, economic and social observers have taken to redrawing our borders to better define our situation and to attempt to predict the future. Maybe you thought the global financial meltdown has raised anxiety levels in the United States quite enough. But a Russian professor’s decade old prediction of national disintegration suggests much worse on the way.  read more »