Economics

Los Angeles: City Of Losers?

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When I arrived in Los Angeles four decades ago, it was clearly a city on the rise, practicing its lines on the way to becoming the dominant metropolis in North America. Today, the City of Angels and much of Southern California lag behind not only a resurgent New York City, but also L.A.’s longtime regional rival, San Francisco, both demographically and economically.  read more »

How Oklahoma City Decided to Change Its Image

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I was in Oklahoma City for the first time earlier this year. I got to see a lot of the things I’d heard about, such as the in-progress Project 180, a $175 million plan to rethink and rebuild every downtown street.  read more »

Deindustrialization, Depopulation, and the Refugee Crisis

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The refugee crisis facing Western nations has begun to peak both demographically and politically.  The United Nations has reported that more than 6.5 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and Europe, and even nations that until recently welcomed refugees are frantically trying to change immigration policy or protect borders.  read more »

The Cities Where Your Salary Will Stretch The Furthest 2015

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Average pay varies widely among U.S. cities, but those chasing work opportunities would do well to keep an eye on costs as well. Salaries may be higher on the East and West coasts, but for the most part, equally high prices there mean that the fatter paychecks aren’t necessarily getting the locals ahead.  read more »

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 »