Policy

Old Manhattan Had a Farm

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Old Manhattan had a farm
Ee-yi ee-yi O

As a child of the early Sixties, I fondly remember the days when colossal albeit stupid technological projects were fashionable. I remember in particular a cartoon that showed a subway running from the U.S. to China right through the center of the earth. Of course, this brings to mind Thoreau’s quip that, while the telegraph might connect Maine to Texas, would Maine and Texas have anything to say to each other? But the very point of the trans-core subway was its pointlessness. If titanic, useless engineering projects like the Hoover Dam are impressive, then how much more impressive are titanic, useless engineering projects!  read more »

Financial Innovation: Wall Street’s False Utopia

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In the popular media much of the blame for the current crisis lies with sub-prime mortgages. Yet the main culprit was not the gullible homebuyer in Stockton or the seedy mortgage company. The real problem lay on Wall Street, and it’s addiction to ever more arcane financial innovation. As we try to understand the current crisis, and figure ways out of it, we need to understand precisely what, in the main, went wrong.  read more »

Mortgage Credit Crisis: Homeowners Also Need to Look in the Mirror

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There is more than enough blame to go around for the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the unraveling financial disaster. But I believe the fundamental blame lies in two places: A purely American NIMBY myth about homeowners being the only genuine contributors to their communities and a capitalistic axiom, presumably started and perpetuated by a troika among realtors, homebuilders, and mortgage lenders, that the only way for middle-income Americans to truly create wealth is through homeownership.  read more »

Villaraigosa’s Housing Proposal: Billions of Dollars and Too Little Sense

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The matter of whether private companies should be required to include so-called affordable housing units in residential developments is worthy of debate. Perhaps any developer who takes public funding ought to be subject to such requirements. A developer who doesn’t take public money is a different story.  read more »

Bubble Opportunity: A New Life for Public Housing?

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The globalization of housing markets stood at the center of the vast, now unraveling, economic change of the past decade. The creation of new investment vehicles in the 90s diverted vast amounts of capital into housing markets around the world. The results were many and varied. Design features began to converge, with gated communities following shopping malls into cites in Latin America, China, Turkey and most other countries. Home prices began to rise, with The Economist even publishing a table of global house prices, indicating those with the most inflated costs  read more »

The future of suburbs? Suburbs ARE the future

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I entered the field of futures research in 1981. No, not futures – contracts to deliver a certain commodity at a certain price at a date certain (God, I wish I had) – futures research, as in scenarios, trends, strategic planning and market planning. Unfortunately the place was soon lousy with what I call “futurism”: extrapolations of the unsustainable to make the improbable look inevitable.

A current example: suburbs are doomed because of high energy prices (peak oil!), the housing bubble, the obsolescence of the internal combustion engine, and yes, global warming (and what hasn’t been blamed on global warming?). Besides, the urban renaissance is underway; people want to live in the city for the culture, food, music and hipness, don’tchaknow.  read more »

Back to Basics: The Financial Crisis Requires a Paradigm Shift

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It’s tempting to look at the current financial meltdown – and the proposed bailout – with a Bolshevik mentality. Let’s line up the investment bankers, hedge fund managers up against a wall and spray them with an odorous substance.
If it were only so easy. Rescuing Wall Street may not solve many problems but letting the investor class implode won’t help many people either.  read more »

What's the Biggest Flaw in the Administration Bailout Plan?

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The biggest flaw in the Administration bailout package: It could all happen again. The system doesn’t need just fixing, it needs decentralizing. Financial institutions should be big enough to fail—and never any bigger. We need compartmentalization, also known as federalism.  read more »

An Economic Recovery Program for the Post-Bubble Economy

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By Bernard L. Schwartz, Sherle R. Schwenninger, New America Foundation

The American economy is in trouble. Battered and bruised by the collapsing housing and credit bubbles, and by high oil and food prices, it is having trouble finding its footing. The stimulus medicine the Federal Reserve and Congress administered earlier this year is already wearing off, while home prices are still falling and unemployment continues to creep upward.  read more »

America is More Small Town than We Think

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America has become an overwhelmingly metropolitan nation. According to the 2000 census, more than 80 percent of the nation’s population resided in one of the 350 combined metropolitan statistical areas. It is not surprising, therefore, that “small town” America may be considered as becoming a burdensome anachronism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. America is more “small town” than we often think, particularly in how we govern ourselves.  read more »