Policy

A Cri de Coeur for Localism

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The current era of 21st century urban revolutions began in early 2011, with scores of cities during the Arab Spring. The uprisings have now taken on a newer, darker hue, with Sao Paolo’s protest over bus fares that has already spread to other cities in Brazil. A few uprisings have resulted in the deposing of hated Middle Eastern dictators, and many leaders have reached uneasy truces with their citizens, but observers sense that this conflict is far from over. Some see these as isolated incidents. It seems more like a global web of urban unrest searching for a voice.  read more »

Subjects:

A Million New Housing Units: The Limits of Good Intentions

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In May 2013, the district of Husby in suburban Stockholm, Sweden was shaken by “angry young men” engaging in destructive behavior for about 72 hours,1 including the burning of automobiles and other properties and attacks on police officers (over 30 officers were injured). The violence spread to the nearby districts of Rinkeby and Tensta as well as to other parts of Sweden.  read more »

Public Unions for Private Benefits: Public Sector Unions Enrich their Members by Distorting State Finances

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Concerned citizens of California are already familiar with the undue political influence of California’s prison guard union. According to Tim Kowal of the Orange County Federalist Society, the union raises $23 million dollars per year and spends $8 million of it lobbying. As a result, the state has found it impossible to engage in meaningful reform of its correctional system.  read more »

The Hall of Gimmicks

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Occasional Urbanophile contributor Robert Munson has talked about how Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley was among the first to recognize that there was a “taxpayer strike” in America. That is, given the breakdown in the social contract in our cities, taxpayers were increasingly unwilling to pour money down a rat hole.  read more »

How the Left Came to Reject Cheap Energy for the Poor

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Eighty years ago, the Tennessee Valley region was like many poor rural communities in tropical regions today. The best forests had been cut down to use as fuel for wood stoves. Soils were being rapidly depleted of nutrients, resulting in falling yields and a desperate search for new croplands. Poor farmers were plagued by malaria and had inadequate medical care. Few had indoor plumbing and even fewer had electricity.  read more »

No Solar Way Around It: Why Nuclear Is Essential to Combating Climate Change

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Nobody who has paid attention to what's happened to solar panels over the last several decades can help but be impressed. Prices declined an astonishing 75 percent from 2008 to 2012. In the United States, solar capacity has quintupled since 2008, and grown by more than 50 times since 2000, according to US Energy Information Administration data. In 1977, solar panels cost $77 per watt.  read more »

The Unexotic Underclass

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The startup scene today, and by ‘scene’ I’m sweeping a fairly catholic brush over a large swath of people – observers, critics,  investors, entrepreneurs, ‘want’repreneurs, academics, techies, and the like – seems to be riven into two camps.

On one side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P: clean energy, poverty, famine, climate change, you name it.  I needn’t replay their song here; they’ve argued their cases far more eloquently elsewhere read more »

The Mad Drive to Subvert Democracy in Toronto

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Let me stipulate that I think Toronto’s Rob Ford is a terrible mayor. In fact, while I might not go so far as Richard Florida, who labeled Ford “the worst mayor in the modern history of cities, an avatar for all that is small-bore and destructive of the urban fabric, and the most anti-urban mayor ever to preside over a big city,” I’m willing to say he’s probably in the running for the title.

The roots of Rob Ford lie in “amalgamation,” the forcible merging of the city of Toronto government with various of its suburbs by the Ontario provincial government. The idea was cost savings, but of course costs went up.  read more »

Housing Boom Is The Best Chance For A Recovery For The Rest Of Us

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Our tepid economic recovery has been profoundly undemocratic in nature. Between the “too big to fail” banks and Ben Bernanke’s policy of dropping free money from helicopters on the investor class, there have been two recoveries, one for the rich, and another less rewarding one for the middle class.

Viewed in this light, the recent run-up in home prices, the biggest in seven years, offers some relief from this dreary picture. Home equity accounts for almost two-thirds of a “typical” family’s wealth (those in the middle fifth of U.S. wealth distribution); there is no other investment by which middle-class families can so easily grow their nest eggs.  read more »

Toward a Self Employed Nation?

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The United States labor market has been undergoing a substantial shift toward small-scale entrepreneurship. The number of proprietors – owners of businesses who are not wage and salary employees, has skyrocketed, especially in the last decade. Proprietors are self employed business owners who use Internal Revenue Service Schedule C to file their federal income tax. Wage and salary workers are all employees of any establishment (private or government), from executives to non-supervisory workers.  read more »