Time to Dismantle the American Dream?


For some time, theorists have been suggesting that it is time to redefine the American Dream of home ownership. Households, we are told, should live in smaller houses, in more crowded neighborhoods and more should rent. This thinking has been heightened by the mortgage crisis in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices rose most extravagantly in the past decade. And to be sure, many of the irrational attempts – many of them government sponsored – to expand ownership to those not financially prepared to bear the costs need to curbed.  read more »

L.A.'s Economy Is Not Dead Yet


"This is the city," ran the famous introduction to the popular crime drama Dragnet. "Los Angeles, Calif. I work here." Of course, unlike Det. Sgt. Joe Friday, who spoke those words every episode, I am not a cop, but Los Angeles has been my home for over 35 years.

To Sgt. Friday, L.A. was a place full of opportunities to solve crimes, but for me Los Angeles has been an ideal barometer for the city of the future. For the better part of the last century, Los Angeles has been, as one architect once put it, "the original in the Xerox machine." It largely invented the blueprint of the modern American city: the car-oriented suburban way of life, the multi-polar metropolis around a largely unremarkable downtown, the sprawling jumble of ethnic and cultural enclaves of a Latin- and Asian-flavored mestizo society.  read more »

The Declining Human Footprint


There are few more bankrupt arguments against suburbanization than the claim that it consumes too much agricultural land. The data is so compelling that even the United States Department of Agriculture says that "our Nation's ability to produce food and fiber is not threatened" by urbanization. There is no doubt that agricultural production takes up less of the country's land than it did before. But urban “sprawl” is not the primary cause. The real reason lies in the growing productivity of American farms.

Since 1950, an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma (or an area almost as large as France plus Great Britain) has been taken out of agricultural production in the United States, not including any agricultural land taken by new urbanization (Note 1). That is enough land to house all of the world's urban population at the urban density level of the United Kingdom.  read more »

It is Time to Plant


It is springtime in Kentucky – think foals and mares in the pristine meticulously fenced pastures. But, in another part of the state – the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky – it is time to plant on those rocky hillsides. As my 90 year old father puts it, you plant your corn when tree buds are the size of squirrel ears. I confess to not having given a thought to whether squirrels even have ears or not ... but my father knows. He was born and raised in a part of the world where they know things like that, typical of the mostly Scots-Irish who settled there.  read more »

Can Europe’s Economy Turn Around If Its Great Cities Continue To Wither?


Europe's Greece crisis has turned the world's attention to the continent's fundamental flaw: burgeoning public spending and sluggish growth in some of its national economies.

To the extent that Europe's more economically fragile countries cannot fix this flaw, Europe poses a global financial risk as toppling EU countries cannot meet their obligations and those left standing cannot prop them up. Only fiscal discipline and boosting growth can save Europe in the long-run.  read more »

The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?


For many years, critics of the suburban lifestyles that most Americans (not to mention Europeans, Japanese, Canadians and Australians) prefer have claimed that high-density housing is under-supplied by the market. This based on an implication that the people increasingly seek to abandon detached suburban housing for higher density multi-family housing.

The Suburbs: Slums of the Future?  read more »

The Future Of America's Working Class


Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession.  read more »

An American History Post 2010: The Great Deconstruction


There is a great battle brewing – the proverbial paradox of the immovable object versus an irresistible force. The battle lines are drawn. On one side is the Greatest Generation, Americans over 60, middle class and mostly white. Mainstream media calls them The Tea Party and worse.

On the other side is President Barack Obama and a younger generation of progressive Democrats who see the need for an ever more expansive government. The battlefield is spending and debt.  read more »

The Hong Kong Model for National Identity Cards


“May I see some identification, please?” asked a retail clerk in my home town Seattle taking my check. I said certainly and handed the sales woman my Hong Kong identity card. She looked at it blankly for a moment then said, “Can I see some other kind of identification?”

Sometimes when I’m feeling cranky or mischievous, I hand over my Hong Kong ID card when I need to produce some kind of identification. Why not? It is a perfectly valid document. It has my photograph on it. I know of no law that specifies that my state driver’s license has become a national ID card. At least not yet.  read more »

Racing China: The Australia Housing Bubble


"The writing is on the wall for the Australian dream," according to Professor Joe Flood at the Flinders University Institute for Housing, Urban and Regional Research. That was before recent predictions that Australia's overheated housing market may be headed for even higher prices. Real estate experts have recently predicted a doubling of house prices in all five of the largest metropolitan areas over the next decade.  read more »