Economics

When Detroit Stood Tall and Shaped the World

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My recent post about how urban planning decisions helped lead to the Motown sound in Detroit was inspired by David Maraniss’ new book Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story.

The book takes a deep dive into Detroit 1963, a city that was, although in some ways already in decline, in others near its zenith.

It’s a great read, in particularly for the depth of characterization. Too often Detroit writing is a story of heroes, villains, and victims. Maraniss rejects that approach and provides mostly nuanced portrayals of Detroiters that allows them to be the actual real, red-blooded human beings that they are.  read more »

Are We Heading for An Economic Civil War?

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When we speak about the ever-expanding chasm that defines modern American politics, we usually focus on cultural issues such as gay marriage, race, or religion. But as often has been the case throughout our history, the biggest source of division may be largely economic.

Today we see a growing conflict between the economy that produces consumable, tangible goods and another economy, now ascendant, that deals largely in the intangible world of media, software, and entertainment. Like the old divide between the agrarian South and the industrial North before the Civil War, this threatens to become what President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, defined as an “irrepressible conflict.”  read more »

Is California’s Bubble Bursting?

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California has a long history of boom and bust cycles, but over the past 25 years or so, California’s cycles appear to be becoming more volatile, with increasing frequency, higher highs, and lower lows.  The fast-moving business cycle may not provide the time necessary for many people to recover from previous busts, and may be too limited in its impact. Even now, 22 of California’s 58 counties have unemployment rates of 7.5 percent or higher. Eleven California counties have unemployment rates of at least nine percent.  And these, we are told, are the best of times.  read more »

How Big Government and Big Business Stick It to Small U.S. Businesses

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From the inception of the Soviet Union, transformation was built, quite consciously, on eliminating those forces that could impede radical change. In many ways, the true enemy was not the large foreign capitalists (some of whom were welcomed from abroad to aid modernization) but the small firm, the independent property owner.  read more »

Conferences and Progress

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Californians attend innumerable conferences on housing and economic growth.  Year after year, in counties across California, the same people show up to say and hear the same things.  Mostly what they say and hear is naive, and nothing ever changes.

I was reminded of this when I saw a report on what appears to have been a typical conference at the Harris Ranch on Growing the Central Valley Economy.  read more »

Rural Industrialization: Asia’s 21st Century Growth Frontier

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A World Bank report released earlier this year featured a jarring statistic: 200 million people moved to East Asia’s cities between 2000 and 2010. That figure is greater than the populations of all but five of the world’s countries.  read more »

Oil Bust? Bah -- North Dakota Is Still Poised To Thrive

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Oil and gas companies have the worst public image of any industry in the United States, according to Gallup. But it’s well-loved in a swathe of the U.S. from the northern Plains to the Gulf Coast, where the boom in unconventional energy production has transformed economies, enlivened cities and reversed negative demographic trends.  read more »

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No Wiggle Room in Housing Market

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The salary gap – where top-end incomes are rising faster than middle- and lower-end salaries – plays a large role in the affordability of middle-class housing along with interest rates and prices. Which factor has more influence depends on where you live and how you make your living.  read more »

The Energy Election

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Blessed by Pope Francis, the drive to wipe out fossil fuels, notes activist Bill McKibben, now has “the wind in its sails.” Setting aside the bizarre alliance of the Roman Catholic Church with secularists such as McKibben, who favor severe limits of family size as an environmental imperative, this  read more »

China Catches Cold: What That Means For The Rest Of Us

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For the last century, one enduring cliché has been that when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. But now the big power with the sniffles is China.

China’s rise has been the most profound development of the past half century, turning a moribund, rural country into a highly urbanized economic superpower. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, and markets around the world reshaped. China alone accounted for a whopping 24.1% of global economic growth from 2003 to 2013. according to the IMF.  read more »

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