Policy

Whatever Happened to “The Vision Thing?”

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When I was in elementary school, I remember reading about the remarkable transformations that the future would bring: Flying cars, manned colonies on the moon, humanoid robotic servants. Almost half a century later, none of these promises of the future – and many, many more – have come to pass. Yet, in many respects, these visions from the future served their purpose in allowing us to imagine a world far more wondrous than the one we were in at the time, to aspire to something greater.  read more »

While Fixing Housing, Fix the Regulations

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Everyone knows that subprime mortgages lie at the root of our current financial crisis. Lenders originated too many of them, they were securitized amidst an increasingly complex credit market, and the bubble popped. The rest is painful history.  read more »

Why We Need A New Works Progress Administration

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As the financial bailout fiasco worsens, President Obama may want to consider a do-over of his whole approach towards economic stimulus. Instead of lurching haphazardly in search of a "new" New Deal symphony, perhaps he should adapt parts of the original score.

Nothing makes more sense, for example, than reviving programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA), started in the 1935, as well as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), begun in 1933. These programs, focused on employing young people whose families were on relief, completed many important projects – many still in use today – while providing practical training to and instilling discipline in an entire generation.  read more »

Are Farms the Suburban Future?

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More than fifty years ago, Frances Montgomery and Philip O’Bryan Williams bought a 500-acre stretch of prairie north of Dallas as a horse farm. It was designed to be a place for their children to run wild on weekends, ride horses, a family escape light years from the Frette-linen, Viking-kitchen and fully staffed second and third home palaces enjoyed by today’s junior high net worth set. The main residence was a recycled World War II barracks; the one bathroom was the only luxury.  read more »

Is Germany the Planners’ Valhalla?

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Urban planners and anti-sprawl advocates point to Germany as a wonderland of appropriate land use. It is true that Germany has been better at preserving open space between former villages; the non-stop development that seems continuous throughout most of the United States cannot be found here.  read more »

Anger Could Make Us Stronger

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The notion of a populist outburst raises an archaic vision of soot-covered industrial workers waving placards. Yet populism is far from dead, and represents a force that could shape our political future in unpredictable ways.

People have reasons to be mad, from declining real incomes to mythic levels of greed and excess among the financial elite. Confidence in political and economic institutions remains at low levels, as does belief in the future.  read more »

Enough "Cowboy" Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies

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The world has embarked upon a campaign to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is a serious challenge that will require focused policies rooted in reality. Regrettably, the political process sometimes falls far short of that objective. This is particularly so in the states of California and Washington, where ideology has crowded out rational analysis and the adoption of what can only be seen as reckless “cowboy” policies.  read more »

Story of the Financial Crisis: Burnin’ Down the House with Good Intentions and Lots of Greed

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Last week, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, told Congress that he didn’t know what to do about the economy and the repeated need for bailouts. This week, the Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway told the press that he couldn’t understand the financial statements of the banks getting the bailout money.  read more »

Restoring the Real New Orleans

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Like so many others, I have long been a visitor to New Orleans. In my case, the first visit was 1979, when we studied the city to influence the design of the new town of Seaside. I have been back often – for New Orleans is one of the best places to learn architecture and urbanism in the United States. My emphasis on design might seem unusual, but it shouldn't be, for the design of New Orleans possesses a unique quality and character comparable to the music and the cuisine that receives most of the attention.

During those visits, sadly, I did not get to know the people – not really. The New Orleanians I met were doing their jobs but not necessarily being themselves. Such is the experience of the tourist.  read more »

How Elite Environmentalists Impoverish Blue-Collar Americans

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The great Central Valley of California has never been an easy place. Dry and almost uninhabitable by nature, the state's engineering marvels brought water down from the north and the high Sierra, turning semi-desert into some of the richest farmland in the world.  read more »