Is China About to Decentralize?

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More than a car, plane or train tick, the “Hukou” (the residential permit system) is the key to mobility in China.

I can still remember what my junior high English teacher said to my classmates and I, “I really worry about you guys; if you don’t study hard, not only will you not be able to get a job, you will probably have nowhere to stay, while the kids from the countryside; at least they will have some land to grow plants on and a house to live in!” (In my junior high school, all of my classmates had an urban hukou.)  read more »

Fuzzy Thinking by Famous Economists

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Edward L. Glaeser, in an end-of-year piece for the New York Times, claims that generous housing supply is the reason that Texas’s economy is performing so well. As he says in his final paragraph:

“Housing regulations, more than those that bind standard businesses, explain the Sun Belt’s population growth. If New York and Massachusetts want to stop losing Congressional seats, then they must revisit the rules that make it so difficult to build. High prices show that the demand would be there if the supply is unleashed.”

This can’t be true.  read more »

The Heartland Rises

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The change in congressional power this week is more than an ideological shift. It ushers in a revival in the political influence of the nation’s heartland, as well as the South.

This contrasts dramatically with the last Congress. Virtually its entire leadership — from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on down — represented either the urban core or affluent, close-in suburbs of large metropolitan areas. Powerful old lions like Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) of Harlem, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) of Los Angeles and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) of Newton, an affluent, close-in Boston suburb, roamed. The Senate was led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who loyally services Las Vegas casino interests while his lieutenant, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), is now the top Democratic satrap of Wall Street.  read more »

Coalition of the Unwilling

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This week the UK government announced an ”end to anti-car policies” reversing the guidance to local authorities to dissuade citizens from using their cars in favour of public transport. Charges for parking will be reined in, they promise.

It should be good news. The comically-named ”traffic calming” schemes put in place by the outgoing government were deeply unpopular. Still, we are getting used to taking our announcements from the new coalition government with a pinch of salt.  read more »

Yes, We Do Need to Build More Roads

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Road are clearly out of fashion in urban planning circles. Conventional wisdom now decries roads in favor of public transit, walking or biking in developments designed to mimic traditional 19th century urbanism. Common refrains are “we can't build our way out of congestion” or “widening roads to cure congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.” Also frequently noted is the vehicle miles traveled has – at least until recently – outpaced population growth.  read more »

Faith-Based City Planning: Exorcising the Suburban Dream

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We're coming to the end of the season when we focus a great deal of attention on faith. What is faith? The Biblical definition calls it the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Humans have the capacity to firmly believe in something that cannot be explained by reason and is not visibly evident. Faith is the basis of the world's major religions, and often is a cause for war, and today, terrorism. But though the season of faith may be winding down, there is still a place where faith remains strong year round: It is often the basis of the way we plan our communities.  read more »

California’s Third Brown Era

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Jerry Brown’s no-frills inauguration today as California governor will make headlines, but the meager celebration also marks the restoration of one of the country’s most illustrious political families. Save the Kennedys of Massachusetts no clan has dominated the political life of a major state in modern times than the Browns of California. A member of this old California Irish clan has been in statewide office for most of the past half century; by the end of Jerry Brown’s new term, his third, the family will have inhabited the California chief executive office for a remarkable two full decades since 1958.

Brown, at 72 the oldest governor in state history, may well determine the final legacy of this remarkable family. His biggest challenge will be to reverse the state’s long-term secular decline — a stark contrast to the heady days of the first Brown era, presided over by paterfamilias Edmund “Pat” Brown.  read more »

Overselling Transit

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A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times eloquently illustrated the limits of mass transit in modern societies. This is not to imply that that transit does not have its place, nor that it does not provide a most useful service where it can. The problem has been the overselling of a mode that has very serious limitations.  read more »

The NFL: Running the Numbers in the Football Business

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Why does America — and I include myself — invest so much psychic energy, not to mention hard dollars, in professional football, a sport that on many levels combines the worst aspects of roller derby and professional wrestling?  read more »

The Poverty Of Ambition: Why The West Is Losing To China And India - The New World Order

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The last 10 years have been the worst for Western civilization since the 1930s. At the onset of the new millennium North America, Europe and Oceania stood at the cutting edge of the future, with new technologies and a lion’s share of the world’s GDP.  At its end, most of these economies limped, while economic power – and all the influence it can buy politically – had shifted to China, India and other developing countries.  read more »