Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession. read more »
Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been the crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th Century, represented “an inventory of the possible”, a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.
In the 21st Century – the first in which the majority of people will live in cities – this unique link between urbanism and upward mobility will become ever more critical. Cities have become much larger. In 1900 London was the world’s largest urban center with seven million people. Today there are three dozen cities with larger populations. read more »
On May 6 British voters handed themselves a hung Parliament for the first time since 1974. No political party has a governing majority. This has surprised most pundits who have assumed for several years that the Conservatives would reclaim government in Britain by 2010, ending 13 years of Labour rule and the tenure of Gordon Brown, the prime minister everyone loves to hate.
The reasons for the conservative’s disappointing performance are complex. Certainly the surprisingly adroit performance in the first-ever prime ministerial debates by Nick Clegg, the even-more-telegenic-than-David Cameron leader of the Liberal Democrat party, did not help. read more »
With the Labour Government exhausted and its supporters dismayed, why isn’t the Conservative Party leader David Cameron sailing home to victory?
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, all the weaknesses of the Labour Party have been painfully exposed. British Prime Ministers are elected by the House of Commons, and the Members of that Parliament by the people; so when Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair resigned, his replacement as Labour Party leader became Prime Minister without a general election. read more »
The evolving Greek fiscal tragedy represents more than an isolated case of a particularly poorly run government. It reflects a deeper and potentially irreversible malaise that threatens the entire European continent.
The issues at the heart of the Greek crisis – huge public debt, slow population growth, expansive welfare system and weakening economic fundamentals – extend to a wider range of European countries, most notably in weaker fringe nations like Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (the so-called PIIGS). These problems also pervade many E.U. countries still outside the Eurozone in both the Baltic and the Balkans. read more »
The common line used by advocates of housing affordability has been that the solution lies in “free markets”. Yet this "free market" solution does not address the fundamental problem which is really a political one.
This true fundamental problem is particularly evident here in Britain, the leader in house price inflation and housing financial bubbles since the 1970s. In their recent report Global capital markets, the McKinsey Global Institute has confirmed what has been shown in recent Demographia surveys. read more »
People are expecting British house building to pick up. Sadly they will be disappointed, even as the housing market inflates into another bubble.
There have been declines and recoveries in British house building before the 2007 collapse in construction activity. Data is in abundance. The total number of homes built annually has more than halved since the late 1960s, as successive governments withdrew from publicly funding the post-war welfare programme of council house building. read more »
Barack Obama's seemingly inexplicable winning of the Nobel Peace Prize says less about him than about the current mentality of Europe's leadership class. Lacking any strong, compelling voices of their own, the Europeans are now trying to hijack our president as their spokesman.
There's a catch, of course. In their mind, Obama deserves the award because he seems to think, and sound, like a European. In everything from global warming to anti-suburbanism to pacifism, Obama reflects the basic agenda of the continent's leading citizens--in sharp contrast to former President George W. Bush. read more »
During the long hot summer of the expenses scandal in British politics, one of the most bizarre stories concerned a Conservative MP who claimed from the public purse for a second home: a place for his ducks. It wasn’t any old duck house, however, but a ‘Stockholm’ floating model, valued at over £1,500. It is over 5 feet high. read more »
American metropolitan areas have been the subject of considerable derision. Often characterized as inferior to those of Australia, Canada, Europe and even of Japan by planners and politicians who travel abroad, there has long been a desire to reshape American cities along the lines of foreign models. Yet, despite this, American metropolitan areas generally provide a standard of living to their residents unmatched anywhere in the world. This is based upon the latest comparative economic data for the world’s most affluent metropolitan areas. read more »