An Awakening: The Beginning of the Great Deconstruction


The federal debt climbed above $13 trillion this month. An easier way to define the national debt is to comprehend that we each owe more than $39,000 to the Chinese, Japanese, and Arabs of the Persian Gulf. The budget deficit will exceed $1.5 trillion this year and forty-seven states are running deficits. California has a $19 billion deficit and its legislature’s landmark response was to pass a law banning plastic bags. Our cities are in worse shape. The former mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, says that a bankruptcy by that city is inevitable.  read more »

The Declining Human Footprint


There are few more bankrupt arguments against suburbanization than the claim that it consumes too much agricultural land. The data is so compelling that even the United States Department of Agriculture says that "our Nation's ability to produce food and fiber is not threatened" by urbanization. There is no doubt that agricultural production takes up less of the country's land than it did before. But urban “sprawl” is not the primary cause. The real reason lies in the growing productivity of American farms.

Since 1950, an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma (or an area almost as large as France plus Great Britain) has been taken out of agricultural production in the United States, not including any agricultural land taken by new urbanization (Note 1). That is enough land to house all of the world's urban population at the urban density level of the United Kingdom.  read more »

Energy's Other Side


The BP oil spill disaster likely spells the slowing down, or even curtailing, of offshore oil drilling for the foreseeable future. You can take California, Florida and much of the east coast off the energy-drilling map for years, perhaps decades.

But if the oil, gas and coal industries are widely detested on the coasts, people in Bismarck, N.D., have little incentive to join an anti-energy jihad. Like other interior energy centers, people in this small Missouri river city of over 100,000 see their rising oil-, gas- and coal-based economy as the key to a far more lucrative future.  read more »

The Vote: Democracy or Disease?

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When the California polls closed on Tuesday, the most costly primary race in the state's history—thus far—came to an end. Like many high profile races for Senator and Governor nationwide, the spending attracted national attention.

Of course, this isn't the first time that California politics and political trends have captured the national imagination and spread like a virus. Given the particularly brutal economic meltdown in California, one would not expect the state's notoriously dysfunctional governance system to be a role model for others to follow. Alas, it unfortunately seems that it is. Three examples below from the Midwest show that California-style governance definitely has its fans.  read more »

BEA Report: Printed Word Surplus? Brave New Books at Book Expo America

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If the future of the printed word lies inside the sleek case of Apple’s new iPad, get ready for illuminated manuscripts that will turn most books into animated cartoons. It was all on display at Book Expo America (BEA), the just-ended annual trade fair extravaganza that pulls together under one roof all the players in the publishing industry.  read more »


Toronto's G-20 Conference: Financial Boon or Boondoggle?


Ever since the ill fated 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle, there has been some debate over the merits of hosting meetings of international organizations in major cities. Some argue that there are economic spin offs from the tourism generated by these conferences, but others argue that the security costs far outweigh the benefits. In the lead up to the G-20 meeting in Toronto, scheduled for June 26-27, there has been a flurry of controversy over the price tag for conference security.  read more »

It is Time to Plant


It is springtime in Kentucky – think foals and mares in the pristine meticulously fenced pastures. But, in another part of the state – the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky – it is time to plant on those rocky hillsides. As my 90 year old father puts it, you plant your corn when tree buds are the size of squirrel ears. I confess to not having given a thought to whether squirrels even have ears or not ... but my father knows. He was born and raised in a part of the world where they know things like that, typical of the mostly Scots-Irish who settled there.  read more »

Can Europe’s Economy Turn Around If Its Great Cities Continue To Wither?


Europe's Greece crisis has turned the world's attention to the continent's fundamental flaw: burgeoning public spending and sluggish growth in some of its national economies.

To the extent that Europe's more economically fragile countries cannot fix this flaw, Europe poses a global financial risk as toppling EU countries cannot meet their obligations and those left standing cannot prop them up. Only fiscal discipline and boosting growth can save Europe in the long-run.  read more »

The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?


For many years, critics of the suburban lifestyles that most Americans (not to mention Europeans, Japanese, Canadians and Australians) prefer have claimed that high-density housing is under-supplied by the market. This based on an implication that the people increasingly seek to abandon detached suburban housing for higher density multi-family housing.

The Suburbs: Slums of the Future?  read more »

Subdivisions: The Lots-Per-Minute Race

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When you get that morning cup of Java, do you desire the minimal flavor? How about your career, do you desire the most minimal pay check or profits or the most mundane of positions? Let’s assume for some reason that you said 'No, you would always want to strive for something better than the minimum'.

You now have three hats in front of you, one says “planner” on it, one says “engineer,” and the last one says “developer”. When you put on the “planner” hat, your job is to develop and enforce a set of rules that will guide the development of a city. You suggest to the council a set of standards that recommend the minimum dimensions and areas for residential or commercial projects that are brought in for approvals.  read more »