Commanding Bureaucracies & 'The New Normal'

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Prior to the fifteenth century, China led the world in technological sophistication. Then, it went into a period of long decline. Here’s what Gregory Clark had to say about it in Farewell to Alms:

... When Marco Polo visited China in the 1290s he found that the Chinese were far ahead of the Europeans in technical prowess. Their oceangoing junks, for example, were larger and stronger than European ships. In them the Chinese sailed as far as Africa.  read more »

Buffalo, You Are Not Alone

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It hurts. When a bigtime Harvard economist writes off your city as a loss, and says America should turn its back on you, it hurts. But Ed Glaeser’s dart tossing is but the smallest taste of what it’s like to live in place like Buffalo. To choose to live in the Rust Belt is to commit to enduring a continuous stream of bad press and mockery.

I write mostly about the Midwest, but whether we think Midwest or Rust Belt or something else altogether, the story is the same. From Detroit to Cleveland, Buffalo to Birmingham, there are cities across this country that are struggling for a host of historic and contemporary reasons. We’ve moved from the industrial to the global age, and many cities truly have lost their original economic raison d’etre.  read more »

Gary Hustwit's "Urbanized" Re-lighting Debate on Cities

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Gary Hustwit’s new film, “Urbanized,” is the third in his series of documentaries concerning design.  In his first two films, he looks at consumer product design and the global visual culture.  The existential problem of the city, an urgent one about which much of this website is concerned, is scarcely treated in our contemporary mainstream, and Hustwit’s effort is laudable. In this film, he tackles urban design, introducing ideas about how cities should – and should not – accommodate growth.  “Urbanized” tends to favor the big idea over the small, and airs the conventional wisdom of the urban design community.  In doing so, he brings to the public an important debate, but he misses some opportunities to explore change in the urban realm.  read more »

Subjects:

The Next Public Debt Crisis Has Arrived

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In July of 2009, while the smoke from the global financial bonfire was still thick in the air, I wrote for this website about another crisis of massive proportions just looming on the horizon: the Global Crisis in Public Debt.  read more »

How A Baby Bust Will Turn Asia's Tigers Toothless

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For the last two decades, America’s pundit class has been looking for models to correct our numerous national deficiencies. Some of the more deluded have settled on Europe, which, given its persistent low economic growth over the past 20 years and minuscule birth rates, amounts to something like looking for love in all the wrong places.  read more »

What Apple’s Supply Chain Says About US Manufacturing and Middle-Skill Training

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In January, The New York Times released a front-page report on the iEconomy, Apple’s vast and rapidly growing empire built on the production of tech devices almost exclusively overseas. The fascinating story created a wave of attention when it was published, and it’s back in the news after NPR’s “This American Life” retracted its story about working conditions at Foxconn, one of Apple’s key suppliers of iPhones and iPads.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto

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Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto is Japan's second largest urban area and ranks as the 12th largest urban area in the world. With a population of approximately 17,000,000 and a land area of 1240 square miles (3200 square kilometers), Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto has a population density of 13,700 per square mile (5,200 per square kilometer), making it the most dense major urban area in Japan and among the denser urban areas in the high income world. The larger metropolitan region includes four prefectures, Osaka, Kyoto, Kyoto and Nara (Figure 1).  read more »

Inequality and Economic Growth

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There has been news and conversation about economic inequality and economic growth lately, mostly because the former is increasing steadily and the latter has been less than stellar.

Of course, there is always a tension between economic growth and equality.  Economic growth implies at least some inequality.  That’s because most people need incentives to create things people value.  They need a reward.  Creating perfect equality necessarily eliminates incentives.  read more »

The Great Reordering of the Urban Hierarchy

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A delegation from Chicago is in Brussels this week to sell the city as a tourist destination in advance of the forthcoming NATO Summit. A Phil Rosenthal column explains that the city has a long way to go:  read more »

The Leveraged Buyout of the GDR

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Until the European Central Bank purchased a call option on the future assets of the Greek government (which remains out-of-the-money), the largest leveraged buyout of a sovereign state had taken place in 1990, when the West German government acquired the German Democratic Republic (GDR), thought at the time to consist largely of liabilities. By most accounts the Bonn government paid over the odds for East Germany, estimated to have cost the West more than $1 trillion.  read more »