Japan's recent election, which overthrew the decades-long hegemony of the Liberal Democratic Party, was remarkable in its own right. But perhaps its most intriguing aspect was not the dawning of a new era but the emergence of the country's low birthrate as a major political concern.
Many Japanese recognize that their birth dearth contributes to the country's long-standing economic torpor. The kid issue was prominent in the campaign of newly elected Democratic Party Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised to increase the current $100 a month subsidy per child to $280 and make public high school free. The Liberal Democrats also proposed their own pro-natalist program with a scheme for free child day care. read more »
Earlier this month the Alaska state legislature, in a special session, voted 44-14 to accept $28.6 million in stimulus funds that Sarah Palin had rejected in May. Sean Parnell, Alaska’s governor since Palin's resignation, says the money will be used primarily for energy efficiency improvements in public buildings.
The tale of the showdown between Palin, the state legislature, and the federal Department of Energy may ultimately reveal as much about state sovereignty under the current administration in Washington as it does about Alaska's internal politics. read more »
Changsha, Hunan (China): Over the past 30 years, China has eradicated more poverty than any nation in the world’s history. The reforms instituted by Deng Xiaopeng have not only created a large, new middle class in China, but have also produced some of the largest and architecturally most impressive urban areas in the world. There is still poverty in China, but the most extreme poverty is in the rural areas. The expansive shanty-town poverty found in Manila, Jakarta, Mexico City, Sao Paulo or Mumbai is absent in the large Chinese urban areas. read more »
For most of those which were great once are small today; And those that used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike
–Herodotus, Fifth Century B.C.
If the great Greek chronicler and "father of history" Herodotus were alive today, he would have whiplash. In less than a lifetime, we have seen the rapid rise of a host of dynamic new global cities – and the relative decline of many others. With a majority of the world's population now living in cities, what these places do with their new wealth ultimately will shape this first truly urban century. read more »
“What the Western fantasy of a China undergoing identity erasure reveals is a deep identity crisis within the Western world when confronted by this huge, closed, red alien rising. There is a sense that world order is sliding away from what has been, since the outset of industrialization, an essentially Anglo-Saxon hegemony, and a terrible anxiety gathers as it goes.” – Adrian Hornsby, “The Chinese Dream: A Society Under Construction”. read more »
Late this spring, when voters in California emphatically rejected tax increases to close the state budget gap, they sent a clear message to state policymakers. They were tired of California’s high taxes, which according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, consumed 10.5 percent of state per capita income last year. This compared with a national average of 9.7 percent, making California the sixth most heavily taxed state in the nation.
But if Californians were tired of paying an additional 0.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, what would they make of research by economists at the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis that estimated that the cost of living in California, based on 2006 data, was a whopping 29.1 percent above the national average? read more »
Urban politicians have widely embraced the current concentration of power in Washington, but they may soon regret the trend they now so actively champion. The great protean tradition of American urbanism – with scores of competing economic centers – is giving way to a new Romanism, in which all power and decisions devolve down to the imperial core.
This is big stuff, perhaps even more important than the health care debate. The consequence could be a loss of local control, weakening the ability of cities to respond to new challenges in the coming decades. read more »
By Richard Reep
Regions have a bad habit of getting into ruts. This is true of any place that focuses exclusively on one industry – with the possible exception of the federal government, which keeps expanding no matter what. This reality is most evident in places like Detroit, but it also applies to one like Orlando, whose tourist-based economy has been held up as a post-industrial model. read more »
With the home building industry in peril, you would think that legislators would come up with immediate solutions to help foster new home construction. And there are now two well known Federal programs regarding housing: one is the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers, and the other is the 30% energy tax credit for a select few components of home remodeling. read more »
When the British troops laid down their arms at Yorktown, Virginia, a colonial band played "The World Turned Upside Down," a popular air marking the absurdity of the occasion. Now the American economy is turned upside down, and the small businesses that once fortified it have exchanged places with Asian manufacturers that America once sought to protect. No man’s enlightenment is complete without the deepening amazement that comes with having seen such a reversal. read more »