Iowa's Agro-Metro Future


When Brent Richardson, a field rep for Cadillac, was told he'd been transferred to Des Moines, he assumed he'd be spending the next year in a small town environment. Des Moines turned out to have much more bustle than he expected. The city had a robust insurance sector among its diverse industries. And the lifestyle was very similar to what he was able to live in big city suburbs like Naperville, Illinois or Bellingham, Massachusetts. Steeped in a decade of Farm Aid concerts, he also expected the surrounding rural areas to be populated with hardscrabble homesteaders struggling to hang on. Instead, he discovered that farming was big business – and, these days in particular, reasonably profitable. And some of those Iowa farmers turned out to be Cadillac buyers.  read more »

Why Housing Will Come Back


Few icons of the American way of life have suffered more in recent years than  homeownership. Since the bursting of the housing bubble, there has been a steady drumbeat from the factories of futurist punditry that the notion of owning a home will, and, more importantly, should become out of reach for most Americans.  read more »

Unmanageable Jakarta Soon To Lose National Capital?


Jakarta is the world's third largest urban area with 22 million people (Note 1) and the second largest metropolitan area with 26.6 million people (Note 2). Jakarta is the capital of the world's fourth most populous country, the Republic of Indonesia, which has 240 million people (following China, India and the United States). Jakarta is located on the island of Java, which covers slightly more land area than the state of New York and has 8 times the people (135 million).  read more »

Urban Plight: Vanishing Upward Mobility


Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century, represented “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

What characterized great cities such as Amsterdam—and, later, places such as London, New York , Chicago, and Tokyo—was the size of their property-owning middle class. This was a class whose roots, for the most part, lay in the peasantry or artisan class, and later among industrial workers. Their ascension into the ranks of the bourgeoisie, petit or haute, epitomized the opportunities for social advancement created uniquely by cities.  read more »

Fortress Australia: Groundhog Day


A decade ago, politics in Australia lurched to embrace all things rural, happily demonizing urban interests. This happened in response to a renegade Politician – Pauline Hanson – who for a time captured public sympathy with populist anti-immigration sentiments, threatening to unseat entire governments in the process.  read more »

The Livable Communities Act: A Report Card


With much fanfare, the Banking Committee of the United States Senate approved the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619, introduced by Democratic Senator Dodd of Connecticut). A purpose of the act is expressed as: make the combined costs of housing and transportation more affordable to families.

The Livable Communities Act would provide financial incentives for metropolitan areas to adopt "livability" policies, which are otherwise known as "smart growth," "growth management" or "compact city" polices.  read more »

The Suburbanization of Religious Diversity


You can see the changes. A drive through suburban Lake County, IN, an hour from downtown Chicago makes you feel like you are somewhere between the set of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story and the movie Hoosiers. Cultural and religious diversity would probably be the last two things on your mind in a region known more for its steel industry than its sacred space.  read more »

America's 21st-Century Business Model


Current attitudes aren't too kind to the old American way of doing business. In our globalized economy, the most enthusiastically touted approaches are those adopted by centralized, state-dominated economies such as China, Brazil and Russia as well as--somewhat less oppressively--those of the major E.U. states.

Yet the U.S. may well be constructing the best sustainable business model for the 21st Century. It is an approach built on the country's greatest enduring strength--an innovative business culture driven increasingly by a diverse pool of immigrants.  read more »

The Housing Bubble: The Economists Should Have Known


Paul Krugman got it right. But it should not have taken a Nobel Laureate to note that the emperor's nakedness with respect to the connection between the housing bubble and more restrictive land use regulation.  read more »

The China Syndrome


China's ascension to the world's second-largest economy, surpassing Japan, has led to predictions that it will inevitably snatch the No. 1 spot from the United States. Nomura Securities envisions China surpassing the U.S.' total GDP in little more than a decade. And economist Robert Fogel predicts that by 2050 China's economy will account for 40% of the world's GDP, with the U.S.' share shrinking to a measly 14%.

Americans indeed should worry about the prospect of slipping status, but the idée fixe about China's inevitable hegemony--like Japan's two decades ago--could prove greatly exaggerated. Countries generally do not experience hyper-growth--the starting point for many predictions--for long. Eventually costs rise, internal pressures grow and natural limitations brake and can even throw the economy into reverse.  read more »