The China Syndrome

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China's ascension to the world's second-largest economy, surpassing Japan, has led to predictions that it will inevitably snatch the No. 1 spot from the United States. Nomura Securities envisions China surpassing the U.S.' total GDP in little more than a decade. And economist Robert Fogel predicts that by 2050 China's economy will account for 40% of the world's GDP, with the U.S.' share shrinking to a measly 14%.

Americans indeed should worry about the prospect of slipping status, but the idée fixe about China's inevitable hegemony--like Japan's two decades ago--could prove greatly exaggerated. Countries generally do not experience hyper-growth--the starting point for many predictions--for long. Eventually costs rise, internal pressures grow and natural limitations brake and can even throw the economy into reverse.  read more »

The Disappearance of the Next Middle Class

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Every week we read that yet another major housing project has been turned down by the Courts here in New Zealand because of the need to protect "rural character" or "natural landscapes". This may well have profound short and long-term consequences for the future of our middle class, as it does for the same class in countries around the advanced world.

Every week a multitude of smaller developers abandon their projects because Councils’ compliance costs and development contributions make the projects unviable – even if the land were free. And it’s not.  read more »

China's Sliver of a Housing Bubble

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Few finance issues have received such a wide range of opinions among financial experts than the "housing bubble" in China. This is an issue of international importance because what happens in what is now the world’s 2nd largest economy affects the rest of the world.  read more »

Can We Socialize Ourselves to Good Health?

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How can we reduce health problems in society? Should we tackle poverty and social problems such as crime and drug abuse, or is the problem inequality in itself? If we reduce the income in a middle class neighborhood, will this in itself improve the health of poor people living in the same city?

The latter form of reasoning is perhaps not so popular in the US, but quite so amongst European social democrats. A new book highlights how the European left is as concerned with fighting wealth as it is with fighting poverty.  read more »

Vancouver: Planner’s Dream, Middle Class Nightmare

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Vancouver is consistently rated among the most desirable places to live in the Economist’s annual ranking of cities. In fact, this year it topped the list. Of course, it also topped another list. Vancouver was ranked as the city with the most unaffordable housing in the English speaking world by Demographia’s annual survey. According to the survey criteria, housing prices in an affordable market should have an “median multiple” of no higher than 3.0 (meaning that median housing price should cost no more than 3 times the median annual gross household income). Vancouver came in at a staggering 9.3. The second most expensive major Canadian city, Toronto, has an index of only 5.2. Even legendarily unaffordable London and New York were significantly lower, coming in at 7.1 and 7.0 respectively. While there are many factors that make Vancouver a naturally expensive market, there are a number of land use regulations that contribute to the high housing costs.  read more »

City Thinking is Stuck in the 90s

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The 1990s proved to be quite a nice decade indeed for most of America's largest cities. It was an era of general prosperity in all of America to be sure, but in contrast to previous decades, the turnaround also extended from the suburbs to many of the nation's biggest cities, notably New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and San Jose. The notion – popular in the 70s and 80s – associating cities with a sour and fatalistic sense of decline and dysfunction, or even anarchy, in the 90s finally began to evaporate.  read more »

Sarah Palin: The GOP's Poison Pearl

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Sarah Palin has emerged as the right's sweetheart, a cross between a pin-up girl and Joan of Arc. For some activists, like the American Thinker's Lloyd Marcus, she's "my awesome conservative sister" who the mainstream media wants to "destroy at any cost."

On a more serious note, leading right-wing pundit Roger Simon argues Palin's is now the biggest name in Republicandom, which he admits is not too great an accomplishment. Armed with "something more than intellect," he praises her unique ability to "connect with the base." He also believes, citing some polls for 2012, that she could run a close race against President Obama.  read more »

Urban Legends: Why Suburbs, Not Dense Cities, are the Future

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The human world is fast becoming an urban world -- and according to many, the faster that happens and the bigger the cities get, the better off we all will be. The old suburban model, with families enjoying their own space in detached houses, is increasingly behind us; we're heading toward heavier reliance on public transit, greater density, and far less personal space.  read more »

New York Commuting Profile: From Monocentrism to Edgeless City

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The US Bureau of the Census has just released detailed county to county and place (municipality) to place work trip flow tables. This new data is the most comprehensive since the 2000 census and covers 2006 to 2008.

The county to county data is particularly useful for analysis in the nation's largest metropolitan area (Note 1), New York. The New York metropolitan area has more than 19 million people and stretches across 6,700 square miles of land area, one half of it in the urban area, which is the urban footprint that includes all areas, including suburbs, in the continuous urbanization (3,350 square miles) and the other half rural (Note 2).  read more »

In California Cool is the Rule, but Sometimes, Bad is Bad

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Californians value cool. I’m not sure how this came to be. It might be the weather. It might be the entertainment industry. Whatever the reason, Californians don’t get excited. Better to go with flow than to get excited. Things will be ok. Concerned about the economy? Stay cool Dude. It’ll come back. Always has. Always will. Relax.

It’s not cool to get excited, or heaven forbid, panic. Californians are not quick to react to problems, so confident that eventually the problem will just go away.  read more »