The Three Ages of Boss Rule


Between roughly the Civil War and World War II, most American cities were at some point dominated by a boss and his machine. The term “boss” referred not only a powerful politician, but one who acquired, held and exercised power outside the channels dictated by law. Progressive reformers fought the bosses for control of American city government for over a century. The Progressives ultimately won, or, at least, the bosses lost.  read more »


Evaluating Urban Rail

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For more than 40 years, US cities have rushed to build new rail systems (indeed I was part of such an effort, see Los Angeles: Rail for Others). This article examines the trend in transit and driving alone work trip market share in 23 cities (metropolitan areas) that have built new rail systems that have represented material expansions of regional transit systems. These new rail systems include Metros ("heavy rail"), light rail (not streetcars) and commuter rail (suburban rail).  read more »

Las Vegas: The Once and Future Downtown Project


There’s been a lot in the news lately about the troubles plaguing Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project in Las Vegas. The latest is a longish report in the Guardian, which notes:

Yet by late September of this year, the press – especially the technology press – had begun asking some serious questions, as the Downtown Project suddenly laid off 30 people – 10% of the total it then directly employed. Alongside portentous headlines announcing this “bloodletting” appeared claims that Hsieh had “stepped down” from his position of leadership of the project. A damning open letter from the Downtown Project’s former “director of imagination”, David Gould, called the operation from which he had just resigned “a collage of decadence, greed and missing leadership … There were heroes among us,” he added, “and it is for them that my soul weeps.”

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Southern California Stuck in Drive

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Southern California has long been a nurturer of dreams that, while widely anticipated, often are never quite achieved. One particularly strong fantasy involves Los Angeles abandoning what one enthusiast calls its “car habit” and converting into an ever-denser, transit-oriented region.  read more »

Legal but Still Poor: The Economic Consequences of Amnesty


With his questionably Constitutional move to protect America’s vast undocumented population, President Obama has provided at least five million immigrants, and likely many more, with new hope for the future. But at the same time, his economic policies, and those of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, may guarantee that many of these newly legalized Americans will face huge obstacles trying to move up in a society creating too few opportunities already for its own citizens, much less millions of the largely ill-educated and unskilled newcomers.  read more »

10 Steps to Financial System Stability: Lessons Not Learned

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Recently, BloombergView writer Michael Lewis called attention to tape recordings made by a Federal Reserve Bank of New York bank examiner who was stationed inside Goldman Sachs’ offices for several months during 2011-2012. She released the tapes to This American Life who aired her story on September 26, 2014.  read more »

Long Island Suburbs: How Planners Should Treat Age Spots

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Long Island is the birthplace of suburbia, from colonial-period Brooklyn to Levittown and beyond, and its economy has survived booms and busts since the 1950s. As stagnant as it may be, if it's anything, it is resilient. Today, its problems mirror those of many older suburban areas scattered across the country, and, like many other suburbs, its problems cannot be solved by simply shoehorning in more development - and more tax revenue. Are policymakers addressing the true thorns in the region's side: Affordable housing, cost-of-living, taxes, racism and fear of change?  read more »

California's Southern Discomfort


We know this was a harsh recession, followed by, at best, a tepid recovery for the vast majority of Americans. But some people and some regions have surged somewhat ahead, while others have stagnated or worse.  read more »

The Demographics That Sank The Democrats In The Midterm Elections

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Over the past five years, the Democratic Party has tried to add class warfare to its pre-existing focus on racial and gender grievances, and environmental angst.  read more »

Choosing Fortune Over Freedom


“If the 19th [century] was the century of the individual (liberalism means individualism), you may consider that this is the ‘collective’ century, and, therefore, the century of the state.”

Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932), translated by Barbara Moroncini.

Where goes the 21st century? Until recently, it could be said that, with the defeat of fascism, in 1945, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union about a half century later, that we had seen the demise of what the Italian dictator Mussolini envisioned as “a century of authority.” But, now, liberalism’s global triumphal march, as was so brazenly predicted in some corners just two decades ago, seems to have slowed, and may even be going into reverse.  read more »