Flexible Forecasting: Looking for the Next Economic Model

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Last autumn I gave a talk in California's San Fernando Valley. I was the last of three economists speaking that day, and I watched the other economists’ presentations, each a rosy forecast of recovery and imminent prosperity. So, I was a bit nervous when it was my turn to speak, because I had a forecast of extended malaise. People don’t like to hear bad news, and they do blame the messenger. In the end, I was relieved. No tomatoes, no catcalls.

That’s how things went last fall and winter. Many economists confidently predicted a rapid recovery, while my group’s forecasts were pretty dismal: weak economic growth with little if any job creation. Today, many of those same economists’ forecasts are far closer to ours. Why?  read more »

Melbourne: Government Seeking Housing Affordability

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Once a country known as “lucky” for its affordable quality of life, Australia has achieved legendary status as a place where public policies have destroyed housing affordability for the middle class. Draconian land rationing policies (called "urban consolidation" in Australia and more generally "compact city" policy or "smart growth"), have made it virtually illegal to build houses outside tightly drawn urban growth boundaries that leave virtually no room for new construction beyond the urban fringe.  read more »

Can The Suburban Fringe Be Downtown Adjacent?

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For many suburban Americans, the thought of migrating to a center-city environment holds an intriguing appeal, fueled by urbanists who tout the benefits of stunning cityscape views, walkability, proximity to civic and cultural amenities, and street vibrancy. I happen to be among those suburbanites who have harbored a secret fantasy of living in a dense downtown environment, replete with throngs of creative millennials roaming the streets, fancy coffee houses, and close access to fine dining. A decision to move from suburban Sacramento to Denver has been the result.  read more »

Alaska: Caribou Commons Or America's Lost Ace?

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The most serious collateral damage from the BP spill disaster could very likely be in the far north, along the Alaskan coast. The problem is not a current spill but the Obama administration's ban on offshore drilling and what many fear may be a broader attempt to close the state from further resource-related development.

Such an approach could harm both the local and national economies for decades to come.  read more »

Resort Towns Becoming Neo-Company Towns

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Over the past few years resort communities - communities ideal for a ski vacation, a beach week, a hiking excursion or the like - have been hard hit by the downturn in real estate.

The key question is how these communities can be revived. If the issues involved are successfully addressed head-on, these small towns are able to provide significant amounts of affordable housing, viable and productive public transportation networks, and public functions such as parks, schools, police, and fire, despite limited financial and physical resources.  read more »

Ownership Subsidies: Dream Homes or Disasters?

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Home ownership has been considered an integral part of the American Dream for as long as anyone can remember. Now it has come under scrutiny, notably in a June Wall Street Journal piece by Richard Florida, which claims that that home ownership reduces employment opportunities for young adults, since it limits their mobility.  read more »

Health Care Development in Central Florida

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By Richard Reep

In this still cooling economy, Florida seems to be continually buffeted by a perfect storm of unemployment, record foreclosures, and stagnant population growth. As the state continues to suffer, the health care industry has unfolded two planning efforts aimed at building some economic momentum.  read more »

Deepwater Dreams: Drilling The Psych of Oil Execs

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For more than fifteen years, I spent a considerable amount of my professional time in the company of oil men. For years I ate lunch with them, traveled with them to places like Scotland and Russia, listened to their war stories over drinks, watched them unfurl seismic charts on board tables, read their budgets, and marveled at their forecasts — all of which predicted finding the next Prudhoe Bay, North Sea, Bass Strait, or Caspian Sea, no matter where they looked. In one meeting, I heard of a vast store of gas under, alas, the walls of old Jerusalem.  read more »

Subjects:

A New War Between The States

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Nearly a century and half since the United States last divided, a new "irrepressible conflict" is brewing between the states. It revolves around the expansion of federal power at the expense of state and local prerogatives. It also reflects a growing economic divide, arguably more important than the much discussed ideological one, between very different regional economies.  read more »

Going Underground in Australia

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Just over a decade ago, governments in Australia were immune to calls for accelerated infrastructure investment in our major urban centres. Plans for strategic reinvestment were rare. Much has changed in that time, maybe too much. It seems that enthusiasm for major urban infrastructure now runs ahead of impartial assessment of the cost, versus the claimed benefits. A proposed $8.2 billion underground rail loop for Brisbane, along with a new underground station for its busy downtown, provides one example of an over exuberant propensity to spend.  read more »