Heartland

Fighting Spirit Lives On In Northern Montana

Shelby.jpg

On a hot July day in 1923 northern Montana served as the unlikely backdrop for a boxing extravaganza on the international stage. There on the plains right outside the City of Shelby, Jack Dempsey defended his World Heavyweight Boxing Championship against the hard-hitting Tommy Gibbons – the only world championship fight that Jack Dempsey ever fought that went the full fifteen rounds.  read more »

Reducing Carbon Should Not Distort Regional Economies

iStock_000004780848XSmall.jpg

A pending bill in Congress to reduce carbon emissions via a “cap and trade” regime would have significant distorting effects on America's regional economies. This is because the cost of compliance varies widely from region to region and metro to metro. This is all the more important since such legislation may do very little to reduce overall carbon emission according to two of the EPA's own San Francisco lawyers.  read more »

Obama Still Can Save His Presidency

obama-haircut.png

A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as "Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine." This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president's charismatic talent – and the lack of such among his opposition – may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate.  read more »

Stimulate Yourself!

DowntownBowlingGreen.JPG

Beltway politicians and economists can argue themselves silly about the impact of the Obama administration's stimulus program, but outside the beltway the discussion is largely over. On the local level--particularly outside the heavily politicized big cities--the consensus seems to be that the stimulus has changed little--if anything.

Recently, I met with a couple of dozen mayors and city officials in Kentucky to discuss economic growth. The mayors spoke of their initiatives and ideas, yet hardly anyone mentioned the stimulus.  read more »

American Agriculture’s Cornucopia of Opportunity and Responsibility

iStock_000006406418XSmall.jpg

A complex agriculture, along with urban culture, is one of the fundamental pillars of human civilization, and one of the fundamental bulkwarks of American prosperity. For families and communities involved in farming and ranching it’s also a way of life that is cherished, oftentimes passed on through generations, taking on reverential if not religious overtones.

At the same time in today’s overwhelmingly urban culture, cooking has become prime time entertainment, dining a social event, and what a person eats is increasingly associated with a healthy body and mind – sometimes a sort of spiritual well being. This elevates agriculture to an important issue even among those who have never spent a day on a farm.  read more »

Obama's Home Town

Harper_Midway_Chicago.jpg

Hyde Park, in Chicago, is where President Obama called home before moving to Pennsylvania Avenue.

I once called 5118 S. Dorchester home.

Hyde Park is a college town surrounded by – but not really part of – a big city. The University of Chicago, founded in 1890, is the heart of the community. The campus was built of Indiana limestone, fake Gothic, and made to look old from its very inception. Some people like it.  read more »

When Thanatos Beat Eros, Mapping Natural Population Decreases

morrillnatdecrinset.png

For an advanced capitalist society, the United States has a quite high birth rate, and substantial natural increase. Yet despite this, almost a third experienced natural decrease, an excess of deaths over births, over the recent 2000-2007 period. Some counties with natural decrease still grow in population because of sufficient in-migration, but more typically, natural decrease is associated with high levels of out-migration and with long term population decline.  read more »

Vertical Urban Farming? Pull Your Head from the Clouds

iStock_000009650823XSmall.jpg

Dickson D. Desposmmier, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, argues that the world, faced with increasing billions of mouths to feed, will soon run out of land. According to Mr. Despommier, “the traditional soil-based farming model developed over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.”

Despommier’s answer to this ‘problem’: “move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings.” Such vertical farms, argues Despommier, would “revolutionize and improve urban life,” while also addressing issues such as agricultural runoff, air pollution, and carbon emissions.

To sophisticated urbanites with little or no exposure to agriculture, vertical farming may seem to present a sort of utopian panacea. But first one must look at the underlying problem Mr. Despommier claims to address: land shortages.  read more »

The New Industrial City

iStock_000005179532XSmall.jpg

Most American urban economic development and revitalization initiatives seek to position communities to attract high wage jobs in the knowledge economy. This usually involves programs to attract and retain the college educated, and efforts to lure corporate headquarters or target industries such as life sciences, high tech, or cutting edge green industries. Almost everything, whether it be recreational trails, public art programs, stadiums and convention centers, or corporate incentives, is justified by reference to this goal, often with phrases like “stopping brain drain” and “luring the creative class”.

The future vision underpinning this is a decidedly post-industrial one. This city of tomorrow is made up of people living upscale in town condos, riding a light rail line to work at a smartly designed modern office, and spending enormous sums – with the requisite sales tax benefits – entertaining themselves in cafes, restaurants, swanky shops, or artistic events.  read more »

Farmland Prices: The Cost of Growing A Suburb

subdivision construction, Minnesota iStock_000000167877XSmall.jpg

Summer in Minnesota – land of 10,000 lakes — is, for many families, about boating, with the Harley the preferred mode of ground transportation. In winter, snow mobiles are popular. Hunting and fishing replace the corner coffee shops as hangouts. Three car garages are considered a minimum – four even better!

So how did it come to pass that out-of-control land prices would destroy the economics of housing in this small-town region? And why was the pattern repeated in markets like Las Vegas and Phoenix?  read more »