Rethinking the Scandinavian Model

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During a tour to Paris, Bruce Springsteen explained that his dream was for the US to adapt a Swedish style welfare state. The famous musician is far from alone in idealizing Nordic policies. The four Nordic nations (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) are often regarded as prime role-models the policies to be emulated by others. Internationally, advocates of left of centre policies view these countries as examples of how high tax social democratic systems are viable and successful.  read more »

What Jane Jacobs Got Wrong About Cities


Few people have had more influence on thinking about cities than the late Jane Jacobs.

The onetime New Yorker turned Torontonian, Jacobs, who died in 2006, has become something of a patron saint for American urbanists, and the moral and economic case she made for urban revival has been cited by everyone frompundits and think tanks to developers.  read more »

The Incompetence Hypothesis to Explain the Great Recession


Seeking an understanding of the Great Recession, I am finding that most of the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath can be explained by incompetence. In the final weeks of writing a book on the systemic failure in US capital markets, I had to re-read the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Inspector General’s 2009 report on their failure to stop Bernard Madoff despite having received credible evidence of a Ponzi scheme.  read more »

Blaming Foreigners for Unaffordable Housing


In a number of Western world cities, there is rising concern about foreign housing purchases which may be driving up prices for local residents. Much of the attention is aimed at mainland Chinese buyers in metropolitan areas where housing is already pricier than elsewhere. The concern about housing affordability is legitimate. However, blaming foreigners misses the point, which is that the rising prices are to a large degree the result of urban containment policies implemented by governments.  read more »

Special Report: The Laissez Faire New Orleans Rebuilding Strategy Was Exactly That


Urban risk may be understood as a function of hazard, exposure, and vulnerability.1 In metro New Orleans, Katrina-like storm surges constitute the premier hazard (threat); the exposure variable entails human occupancy of hazard-prone spaces; and vulnerability implies the ability to respond resiliently and adaptively—which itself is a function of education, income, age, social capital, and other factors—after having been exposed to the hazard.  read more »

LA’s Tale of Two Cities

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It’s the best of times and the worst of times in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is now attracting notice as a so-called “global city,” one of the world’s elite metropolises. It is ranked #6 in the world by AT Kearney and tied for 10th in a report by the Singapore Civil Service College that I contributed to.  Yet it also has among the highest big city poverty rates in the nation, and was found to be one of the worst places in America for upward mobility among the poor. Newspaper columns are starting to refer to LA as a “third world city.”  read more »

Chicago’s Great Financial Fire


My latest piece is online in City Journal and is called “Chicago’s Financial Fire.” It’s a look at the ongoing financial crisis in that city, which has all of a sudden gotten very real thanks to a downgrade of the city’s credit rating to junk by Moody’s. Here’s an excerpt:  read more »

Institution of Family Being Eroded


Recent setbacks for social conservative ideals – most particularly on same-sex marriage – have led some to suggest that traditional values are passé. Indeed, some conservatives, in Pat Buchanan’s phrase, are in “a long retreat,” deserted by mainstream corporate America sporting rainbow logos. Some social conservatives are so despondent that they speak about retreating from the public space and into their homes and churches, rediscovering “the monastic temperament” prevalent during the Dark Ages.  read more »

Countering Progressives' Assault on Suburbia


The next culture war will not be about issues like gay marriage or abortion, but about something more fundamental: how Americans choose to live. In the crosshairs now will not be just recalcitrant Christians or crazed billionaire racists, but the vast majority of Americans who either live in suburban-style housing or aspire to do so in the future. Roughly four in five home buyers prefer a single-family home, but much of the political class increasingly wants them to live differently.  read more »

How To Justify Spending $8M On Something Nobody Wants


The Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Council is gambling $8.7 million on a project to alleviate pedestrian congestion that might exist in 5 to 10 years if we’re somehow able to build two additional light rail lines and they are operating at full capacity for 10 days a year.

That’s like buying flood insurance on the house you have yet to buy.  read more »