Two Views of West’s Decline


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


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 readers.  read more »


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


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 »

California for Whom?


“Old in error,” writes historian Kevin Starr, “California remains an American hope.” Historically, our state has been a beacon to outsiders seeking a main chance: from gold miners and former Confederates to Midwesterners displaced by hardship, Jews seeking opportunity denied elsewhere, African Americans escaping southern apartheid, Asians fleeing communism and societal repression, Mexicans looking for a way out of poverty, counter-culture émigrés looking for a place where creation can overcome repression.  read more »

Today’s Tech Oligarchs Are Worse Than the Robber Barons


Yes, Jay Gould was a bad guy. But at least he helped build societal wealth. Not so our Silicon Valley overlords. And they have our politicians in their pockets.  read more »

A Partnership-Driven Process to Promote Entrepreneurship in Ghana


In Ghana, about 80 percent of the working-age population is self-employed in an economy of improvisation and self-reliance where the quest to make a living is played out daily. The complexity of operating in the business environment — characterized sometimes as fetching water with a basket — has deterred many entrepreneurs from upgrading their business skills, raising capital and taking risks to grow.  read more »

California: The Economics of Delusion


In Sacramento, and much of the media, California is enjoying a “comeback” that puts a lie to the argument that regulations and high taxes actually matter. The hero of this recovery, Gov. Jerry Brown, in Bill Maher’s assessment, “took a broken state and fixed it.”  read more »

A Window Into the World of Working Class Collapse


Some time back my brother recommended I watch the documentary film Medora, about a high school basketball team from rural Southern Indiana. I finally got around to doing it.

Someone described this film as an “inverse Hoosiers“, which is an apt description. Hoosiers is a fictional retelling of the Milan Miracle, the legendary story of how tiny Milan High School (enrollment 161) won the state’s then single-class basketball championship in 1954.  read more »

Why Clinton Could Lose the Working Class in Ohio


In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied in battleground Ohio. This suggests a very close race in Ohio in the fall. Economic issues, especially trade, led many former Democrats to cross party lines to support Trump in the Republican primaries. Many who hadn’t voted in recent elections joined them. We’re likely to see a repeat of this in November unless Democrats change their trade policies.  read more »

The U.S. Cities Creating The Most White-Collar Jobs, 2016


The information sector may have glamour and manufacturing, nostalgia appeal, but the real action in high-wage job growth in the United States is in the vast realm of professional and business services. This is not only the largest high-wage part of the economy, employing just under 20 million people at an average salary of $30 an hour, it’s also one the few high-wage sectors in which employment has expanded steadily since 2010, at more than 3% a year, adding nearly 3 million white-collar jobs.  read more »