When Detroit Stood Tall and Shaped the World

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My recent post about how urban planning decisions helped lead to the Motown sound in Detroit was inspired by David Maraniss’ new book Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story.

The book takes a deep dive into Detroit 1963, a city that was, although in some ways already in decline, in others near its zenith.

It’s a great read, in particularly for the depth of characterization. Too often Detroit writing is a story of heroes, villains, and victims. Maraniss rejects that approach and provides mostly nuanced portrayals of Detroiters that allows them to be the actual real, red-blooded human beings that they are.  read more »

China’s Demographics at a Turning Point

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For decades, the decline in China’s birth rate was a big boost for the economy. What now?

This week, schadenfreude could have been a word invented for China experts if you judge by some of the commentary surrounding the country’s lifting of its one-child policy. Most got it right that the legacy of the one-child policy is now a problem for the Chinese economy because of a rapidly rising old-age dependency ratio (green line in the first chart below). This was tacitly acknowledged by the lifting of the policy.  read more »

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Too Many Places Will Have too Few People

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The adage “demographics are destiny” is increasingly being replaced by a notion that population trends should actually shape policy. As the power of projection grows, governments around the world find themselves looking to find ways to counteract elaborate and potentially threatening population models before they become reality.  read more »

Berlin: The Imperial Impulse in City Planning

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"He who controls Berlin, controls Germany, and who controls Germany, controls Europe." V.I. Lenin (but also attributed to Karl Marx, and sometimes to Otto von Bismarck)

About the time that Syrian refugees were on the march to Germany’s safe havens, I spent a few days in Berlin, which is not only the capital of reunified Germany, but the unofficial capital of the European Union, as well as being hipster ground zero.  read more »

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12 Ways to Map the Midwest

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What is the Midwest? There’s been a lot of debate about this question among folks passionate about such thing. But it defies easy definition. Here are eleven ways various people have taken a crack at drawing the map.

Traditional Maps

1. The Northwest Territory

Start with the original Northwest Territory, now sometimes referred to as the Great Lakes region. This is the historic core of what we now think of as the Midwest.  read more »

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How Land Use Regulations Hurt the Poor

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Sandy Ikeda and I have published a new Mercatus paper on the regressive effects of land use regulation. We review the empirical literature on how the effects of rules such as maximum density, parking requirements, urban growth boundaries, and historic preservation affect housing prices. Nearly all of the studies on the price effects of land use regulations find that — as supply and demand analysis would predict — these rules increase the price of housing.  read more »

Public Transport’s Biggest Problem: The Public (That’s Us)

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When’s the last time you heard some futurist or management guru suggest that in the future more of us will be working at the same desk doing routine tasks on a predictable working week schedule? No? That’s just one of many problems that advocates of limitless spending on public transport need to keep in mind in dealing with the issue of urban congestion.  read more »

The Sociology of Fear

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As part of its annual Survey on American Fears, Chapman University has tried to identify what Americans fear the most. A team of professors and students teamed up to retool last year’s survey tool and dig up American’s deepest horrors.  read more »

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A Question of Values: Middle-Income Housing Affordability

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This is the Executive Summary from a new report “A Question of Values: Middle-Income Housing Affordability and Urban Containment Policy" authored by Wendell Cox and published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Ailin He, a PhD doctoral candidate in economics at McGill University served as research assistant.  read more »

Are We Heading for An Economic Civil War?

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When we speak about the ever-expanding chasm that defines modern American politics, we usually focus on cultural issues such as gay marriage, race, or religion. But as often has been the case throughout our history, the biggest source of division may be largely economic.

Today we see a growing conflict between the economy that produces consumable, tangible goods and another economy, now ascendant, that deals largely in the intangible world of media, software, and entertainment. Like the old divide between the agrarian South and the industrial North before the Civil War, this threatens to become what President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, defined as an “irrepressible conflict.”  read more »