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    Perhaps nothing has been more ironic than the canonization of respectable, moderate-seeming Republicans. People like Mitt Romney and the Bush family, once castigated as practitioners of unmitigated greed or even Hitlerian fascists, have suddenly become laudable in the mainstream media.

    In this environment, even the perhaps rightly named Jeff Flake, whose popularity in his state was a rousing 18 percent, or Tennessee’s Bob Corker, now get praise from Democrats largely because they revile Donald Trump. But the much commented fall of what Slate calls “principled conservatism” reflects not more than the malicious work of Trump but largely the fundamental failure of the established right.

    What doomed the GOP establishment?

    The first disaster for the establishment GOP came with the embrace of the interventionist dogma of neo-conservatism, infuriating both the McGovernite left and traditional Republicans. The GOP has identified itself both with the endless Afghanistan imbroglio and consistently unpopular war in Iraq.

    America lost many of its young people, and billions in treasure, to fulfill the neo-con crusade. The electorate was not enthusiastic, one reason they voted for an inexperienced Barack Obama and against a genuine war hero in John McCain.

    The right half of the country generally favors a strong military but wants soldiers to defend the homeland, not engage in an ideological struggle. Defeat the Soviet Union without a major war, as Reagan could claim, or kill Bin Laden, as Obama accomplished, or annihilate much of ISIS, as Trump has done, seems a winning approach. Spending endless billions on corrupt governments who cannot even control much of their populace, not so much.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo: U.S. Sen Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. by U.S. Embassy Moldova, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    While doing some research for a forthcoming presentation, I was looking at some data about younger people with college degrees and put together some maps I’ll share with you today.

    The Census Bureau tracks educational attainment by age cohort. I decided to look at 25-34 year olds with a bachelors degree or higher. This is roughly today’s “young, educated Millennial” segment. Here is a chart showing the change in the share of 25-34yos with degrees between 2000 and 2016:

    Keep in mind these aren’t the same people – this is not a longitudinal study. The 25-34yos in 2000 are Generation X – my generation. This is simply a look at how the concentration of people in that age group has shifted over time. (To interpret the scale, multiply by 100 and that’s the percentage point change in college degree attainment).

    You can see right away that the big increases here are in the “usual suspect” cities: NYC, Boston, DC, Bay Area, LA, Seattle, Portland, Chicago. Also Pittsburgh’s brain gain is shown and also a great showing for Nashville.

    Some metro areas – the ones in red – actually saw a decline in educational attainment in that age group. Not good.

    Because the nation as a whole grew more educated during that time, another way to look at it is the change in college degree attainment vs. the national change for that age group, which was 7.4 percentage points. Because of some system quirks, the color scheme is different on this one. Blue is a change higher than the national average, purple is a change below the national average.

    Interesting to say the least.

    Now there are many caveats on this. One, your ability to grow your share of people with college degrees in part depends on your base. Pittsburgh started with low share in that age range. It’s a lot harder to post gains when you’re already high. So some of these coastal markets may slow down in growth over time. After all, you can’t get above 100% by definition.

    Secondly, this is the share of people with college degrees, not the total people with college degrees. Partisans of Texas or Atlanta will be quick to note that they grew so much total population that their total number of people with degrees went up a lot more than some of these coastal cities. That’s true.

    But it’s obvious these maps are telling us something important about what’s been happening in America. It helps us understand why, for example, Pittsburgh became a hot story and tech center. Or why Nashville went from just another Sunbelt sprawlburg to a hip and trendy city. Or the boom in Chicago’s Loop. The poor showing by Atlanta foots to its per capita income erosion vs. the national average and weak per capita GDP figures.

    While the total number of people with degree matters, the share also matters. A city dominated by highly educated people will have a different culture, attitude, etc. vs. one where interests are more divided between highly educated and lesser educated, for example. Something of the divergence between coastal elite cities and the interior is illuminated, if not necessarily in causal form. There have been some very divergent trends in demographics in these places.

    This piece originally appeared on Urbanophile.

    Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian, Forbes.com, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo: Aaron Hawkins, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    The Census Bureau reports that home ownership in the United States rose to 63.9 percent in the third quarter of 2017. This continues a rising trend since the second quarter of 2016, when home ownership had dropped to 62.9. This equaled the previous low of 51 years before (1965), just a year after annual data reporting began. Home ownership peaked at 69.2 percent during the housing bubble and had been generally declining since late 2006 (Figure).

    Home Ownership and the Housing Bubble

    Overall the drop in home ownership from 69.2 percent to the modestly recovering 63.9 percent is substantial. However, the last two decades have been unrepresentative of US home ownership. Any comparison of the declining recent rates must be considered in light of the Great Financial Crisis. The authors of a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco working paper (Paolo Gelain of the European Central Bank and Norges Bank, Kevin J. Lansing of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Gisle J. Natvik of the BI Norwegian Business School) expressed the view that the "U.S. housing boom was a classic speculative bubble involving naive projections about future asset values, imprudent lending against risky collateral, and ineffective regulatory oversight."

    There was plenty of blame to go around. Regulators at the very top failed to recognize the seriousness of the problem. Mortgage lenders so weakened lending standards that qualifying households insufficient financial means were soon to default. Then there was "securitization," which researchers have associated with higher default rates (Benjamin J. Keys of the University of Michigan, Tanmoy Mukherjee of Sorin Capital Management. Amit Seru of the University of Chicago and Vikrant Vig of the London Business School).

    With their focus on national level data, another government failure was missed by economists, geographic differences between the worst housing cost escalation and losses to the metropolitan areas with more stringent land use regulation. Indeed, if the more stringently regulated metropolitan areas had replicated the price trends of the traditionally regulated markets, the financial losses nationwide might have been 75 percent less. The result would certainly have been a less severe economic decline, or the Great Financial Crisis might have been avoided altogether.

    The losses were substantial. In the less than two years between April of 2007 and January of 2009, household wealth dropped $13 trillion. This was a loss nearly as great as the gross domestic product at the time ($14.5 trillion), and was equal to $125,000 per household. True enough, this loss was recovered by the end of 2012. But, as happens in any recovery, the losers do not necessarily recover their losses.

    At the same time, there is increasing concern about rising inequality, especially after publication of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. Matthew Rognlie, now of Northwestern University, found that virtually all of the increased wealth inequality has been in housing equity. More recently, Gianni La Cava of the Bank for International Settlements (the "central bank of central banks") concluded that the rising income equality in the United States is "concentrated in states that are constrained in terms of new housing supply."

    Comparing to Relevant History

    Thus, the appropriate comparison for today's home ownership rate is not the debacle of last two decades. It is rather the success of the decades before, which saw a nearly 50 percent increase relative to pre-World War II home ownership rates from 44 percent in 1940 to 64 percent in 1970. The current 63.9 percent home ownership rate is nearly as high as the average annual rate of 64.3 percent from 1964 to 1994. The maximum home ownership rate during those three decades of apparently successful regulation and competent mortgage industry management was only 1.7 percentage point higher than today (65.6 in 1980). Indicating the far greater market volatility of the past two decades, with the bubble, bust and regulatory overreach, the 2007 peak was more than three times higher than in 2017 (5.3 percentage points). Today's home ownership rate is in the historic "ballpark."

    The Future?

    The important question is where does home ownership go from here. There is no question that the recent increase is an improvement. Another 15 months as successful as the last 15 would raise the rate to a level exceeded only five times between 1964 and 1995. And, there still remains a clear preference for home ownership.

    There are, however, serious potential headwinds. Younger households are saddled with unprecedented levels of student debt. Household income growth has been muted, to say the least. Perhaps the most pessimistic scenario has been presented (among other more optimistic scenarios) by Arthur Acolin (University of Southern California), Laurie S. Goodman (Urban Institute) and Susan M. Wachter (University of Pennsylvania), who suggested that if the rest of the nation followed California's experience, the national home ownership rate could drop to 50 percent by 2050.

    House prices in California have escalated in an unprecedented manner, in large measure due to land use regulations making it largely impossible to deliver new housing for the "minimum profitable production costs," as shown by economists Edward Glaeser of Harvard and Joseph Gyouko of the University of Pennsylvania). Substantial urban fringe land use restrictions make construction of tract housing at historical housing affordability ratios virtually impossible.

    Avoiding California, etc.

    With its far stronger land use regulation, implemented in recent decades, California's house prices relative to incomes ("median multiple") have skyrocketed to 135 percent above those in markets where there is more liberal, traditional land use regulation. Each of California's major metropolitan areas are now rated as severely unaffordable (the worst category of affordability) in the 13th Annual Demographia Housing Affordability Survey. Before California abandoned traditional regulation, its income adjusted house prices were only 30 percent higher than in the traditionally regulated markets.

    The problem goes beyond home ownership. California has the highest gap between the costs of renting and buying in California than elsewhere in the nation (the price-to-rent ratio). Among the 53 major metropolitan areas, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento show the largest affordability gap between renting and buying. That makes home ownership doubly challenging for would-be first time buyers.

    A future in which only 50 percent of households could afford houses would mean considerably less affluent middle-income households and higher poverty rates. It would stunt economic growth, because both the many more renters and buyers paying more would have less discretionary income to buy other goods and services. This could retard economic growth, as Chang-Tai Hseih and Enrico Moretti have already found to have happened, even with stringent regulation that has been somewhat limited geographically (beyond California to markets most notably like Portland, Seattle, Denver, and Miami).

    Of course, maintaining the normal home ownership rates of the last past half-century will require strong economic growth, and the return of three percent growth over the past two quarters is a good start in the right direction. But there is much more to the equation that national economic policy.

    States, localities and metropolitan areas have an important role to play. It will be important for governments in traditionally regulated metropolitan areas to avoid the policies of California and the other stringently regulated markets. This could also be challenging, because of the strong proclivity of urban planners to impose the stringent urban containment policies that have been associated with destroyed housing affordability from Sydney to Hong Kong, Toronto, London and Auckland. Should they fail, the most pessimistic predictions might come true. This would be as unavoidable and unnecessary as the Great Financial Crisis. And the human costs would be considerable.

    Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

    Photograph: Suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul (by author)


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    In a 60 Minutes interview in September, Steven Bannon touted his form of economic nationalism and suggested that Democrats like Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S Representative Tim Ryan understood his economic vision, even if they didn’t agree with him. It was fitting that he name-checked Brown and Ryan, as both come from Northeast Ohio, where the history of deindustrialization began 40 years ago this fall. On September 19th, 1977 — known locally as “Black Monday” — Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced that it was shutting down, kicking off a wave of steel mill closings that would displace more than 40,000 area workers basic steel and steel-related industries.

    At the time, some explained deindustrialization as part of the “natural economic order.” Borrowing the term from Joseph Schumpeter, economists and business leaders saw the closings as part of an evolutionary process, a form of “creative destruction” that caused temporary hardships but would lead both capital and labor to more productive activities. While commentators acknowledged that the process was difficult and uncomfortable, they insisted that the ultimate outcome would be economic growth and a higher standard of living.

    Eager to validate such promises, local leaders brought in an array of speakers, including Irving Kristol and Michael Novak from the American Enterprise Institute, who gave public lectures at Youngstown State University. Both insisted that the Mahoning Valley would prosper over time as new industries took root and workers retrained for new jobs. It was all part of what Novak called The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.

    But as time passed, the Mahoning Valley continued to decline economically and to lose population. Journalists and scholars stopped asking “when will Youngstown recover?” and started trying to explain what was wrong with this community. Some blamed the region’s decline on political corruption, union contracts that gave workers too much, or the out-of-date skills of the local workforce. By the 1990s, the idealism of creative destruction had been replaced by the politics of resentment, perhaps most clearly represented by Congressman James Traficant, the first modern politician who voiced a version of economic nationalism and has sometimes been compared with Donald Trump.

    The politics of resentment were also fueled by a parade of presidential candidates, each promising to address the problems caused by economic restructuring, and each failing to do so. The most infamous of those was Bill Clinton, whose support of NAFTA, the war on drugs, and welfare reform still generates resentment from voters in this area. As Hillary Clinton learned last year, deindustrialized communities have long memories.

    In places like Youngstown, many people still remember what life was like when employment was high, jobs paid well, workers were protected by strong unions, and industrial labor provided a source of pride – not only because it produced tangible goods but also because it was recognized as challenging, dangerous, and important. The memory of what it felt like to transform raw ore into steel pipes and to be part of the connected, prosperous community that work generated still haunts the children and grandchildren of those workers. They long for the sense of purpose that industrial labor brought, even as they stock shelves at Walmart, wait tables at Applebee’s, and try to persuade strangers to make donations from a cubicle at the local call center. They resent not only the instability of largely part-time jobs with uncertain schedules and below-the-poverty-line wages but also the politicians and experts who insist that they should either stop whining, go to college (which for most would involve taking on significant debt), or move away from their homes and families to someplace with more and better jobs. Even more, they resent the educated big city elites who view them as exotic or foolish holdouts from a bygone era. That resentment emerged as support for populism in the 2016 election, and for too many it fuels racist and anti-immigrant positions.

    In our 2002 book Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown, we wrote that Youngstown’s story was America’s story. That seems even more true today, as Americans struggle to adapt to the growing precarity of work and to a changed political landscape. As Youngstown marks the 40th anniversary of its first major mill closing, people here understand that deindustrialization did not end in 1977, or even in 1982, when Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed the last of its local mills. They know that deindustrialization has a half-life. Like toxic waste, its potency decreases slowly, and it continues to cause harm – to individuals, to communities, and, as Americans increasingly recognize, to the nation as a whole.

    Yet it is also worth remembering this: the first response to Black Monday in 1977 was not despair or resentment. It was activism. Busloads of local residents went to Washington to demand assistance from the government. Churches, civic groups, banks, and unions worked together to devise a plan for the community to buy and manage the mills. That part of local memory has faded, but the populism it reflected has returned.

    Like the economic changes since the late 1970s, the politics of resentment will not disappear any time soon. New technologies and artificial intelligence will likely displace even more Americans, and workers no longer buy old promises about creative destruction or the great potential of a knowledge economy. The memory of an era when working-class jobs were good jobs has not yet faded, but neither has the hope that new policies will bring back good jobs. In the half-life of deindustrialization, Bannon may be right that traditional party affiliations will give way to a political contest between right-wing and left-wing populist movements, each promising – as so many politicians have before – to create real change for working people.

    A version of this commentary appeared in September on the American Prospect blog.

    This piece originally appeared on Working-Class Perspectives.

    Sherry Linkon, Co-directed the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University for more than a decade. Her Working-Class Studies research focuses on issues of education, diversity, literature and the arts, and pop culture. A professor of English at Georgetown University, she is also an expert on teaching and learning in the humanities.

    Associate editor, John Russo, is a Visiting Scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. He also serves as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Metropolitan Institute of Virginia Tech University, in Arlington. Until December, 2012, he was Director of the Labor Studies Program and Co-Director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University.


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    Blockchain, i.e. digitized and decentralized public ledgers of cryptocurrency1 or digital asset transactions, might emerge as the tool to liberate the Internet from the domination of the tech oligarchy. In some senses, we can envision through historical analogy how Blockchain can change the very economic system of the Internet itself, much similar to the processes in the offline world that ended the Middle Ages and laid the foundations for the birth of Capitalism.

    Viewed in isolation, the current economic system of the Internet can be described as being on a par, or at least structurally similar, with the economic system known as Feudalism. It struck me in 2013 while writing a thesis on the aspiration of states to claim sovereignty in cyberspace that the Internet is really similar to the Feudal system in terms of “land ownership”, or more accurately, the part of Feudalism known as Manorialism.

    Manorialism was a system characterized by legal and economic power vested in a Lord of the Manor. These Lords owned the land of various manors and made a living out of obligatory contributions from legally subject peasants, who worked the open common lands. The peasants could pay their obligations in labor, in kind, or more rarely, in coin. This was a system based on interest rate rather than profit, therefore it was not capitalist.

    Internet, since its early days, works on similar lines like Manorialism. Much like the medieval supreme powers controlling the access to nobility - the King and the Church - there is a supreme organization keeping record of Top Level Domains (TLDs), such as .com or .org. This organization is known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Their motto is “One World. One Internet.” The TLDs are owned by companies and various organizations authorized by the ICANN2. The famous TLD.com for instance is operated by Verisign, one of our digital Lords of the Manors. Obviously, this is not the entire ownership structure, but it is the basis of it.

    The Internet as such is owned by no one and everyone, much like the offline world prior to Capitalism. However, as users, we are never in full ownership of our own value creation online. We can use it, but we cannot really own it. The value that can be derived from our activities are all acquired by the Lords of the Internet, who are generally paid in labor, kind, or more rarely, in coin. Take Google as an example, in exchange for free web searches and free webmail, Google is acquiring our data and sells it to companies across the web. There is no way for a user to get ownership of his or her own data. This idea was first outlined by the computer scientist Jaron Lanier.3

    Much like peasants under Manorialism, we are free to work on the Internet Common as long as we pay back in kind. The system of Manorialism eventually disappeared when more and more land started to become enclosed and the open-field system gradually disappeared.4

    This process recalls the so-called Enclosure Movement which rose up in the early 1700’s in Great Britain. It entailed a series of events where wealthy farmers would buy land from small farmers and start fencing it off from the common land. It was the birth of private property of land, and the beginning of the Capitalism. The effects on the economic system were dramatic, as written by the economic historian James Boyle:

    “Before the enclosure movement, the feudal lord would not invest in drainage systems, sheep purchases, or crop rotation that might increase yields from the common – he knew all too well that the fruits of his labour could be appropriated by others.”5

    As Mark Twain allegedly said, history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.6 To make yet another case for this analogy, China for instance has already built the Great Fire Wall of the Internet, to suppress dissent.7 As Blockchain emulates those same factors in the online world that the Enclosure Movement brought about in the offline world.

    Blockchain was first described by Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in 1991. They envisaged a cryptographically secured chain of blocks in the peer-reviewed article How To Time-Stamp a Digital Document in the Journal of Cryptology. Their initial description of the problem which a Blockchain would be able to solve, was how to certify when a document was created or last changed. Their idea was that the solution must be in time-stamping the data, not the medium. This would make it infeasible for a user to tamper with documents by either back-date or forward-date the document.

    Intellectual property is one area in which time-stamping is crucial. It can be absolutely pivotal to verify when an inventor of something first wrote down the patentable idea. Since this can be tampered with in conventional documents, there is always the risk of competing claims. One conventional solution to this problem is lab notebooks, allowing scientists to write daily notations of their work one after another, while no pages can be left blank.

    Haber & Stornetta write that the claim noted in a lab notebook can be even further enhanced by having a notary public signing off on the validity of the notebook on a frequent basis. This provides a strong case for the origin of a particular idea if it becomes challenged in the future. Another method is to mail a letter to oneself and leave it unopened, as the postal service will time-stamp it.

    As the two authors noted, these procedures are completely out of question for digital documents, which now can be changed without leaving any mark or sign. Hence the need for a solution which fulfils the properties of being able to time-stamp the data itself in disregard of the medium. In this system, it must be impossible to change the time or data. From this problem, Haber & Stornetta worked out a solution that was computationally practical as well as mathematically sound: the blockchain.

    This idea was then implemented by the anonymous person (or group) known as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and developed into the digital currency bitcoin, which in essence is a public ledger of transactions based on Blockchain technology. The revolutionizing feature of Blockchain creates the possibility of having immutable property rights written into the very code of online environments, given that they are “enclosed”.

    Blockchain can therefore be envisioned like an Enclosure Movement of the Internet, where business-minded users will eventually close off areas of the online world on enclosed Blockchain systems, where private property is guaranteed by the very code. This technological disruption might potentially catapult the online world into a capitalist state which is hard to even imagine in our current paradigm. Users will be able to monetize everything from their cat videos to their very consumer data in ways that are impossible today. It will effectively reinstate the scarcity principle in the online world and make it impossible to infinitely copy various kinds of immaterial assets.

    Many people will probably protest to this development, as it will perceived that their Internet Commons, are being illegitimately cut off by pay-walls and enclosed systems. However, in the long run, it is absolutely necessary in order for common users to profit from a digital economy increasingly dominated by a handful of players. The fiercest critics of this revolution will be a paradoxical duo much like the ones who protested the bourgeois revolution in the offline world. The aristocrats and the non-commercial peasant. This time, it will be the Internet Lords, such as Google, and the global Left, who seek public, government control of the net.
    As in the case of the first capitalist revolution, the stakes are high, but well worth fighting over.

    Dennis Avorin is a Malta-based business analyst passionate about the digital economy. He is a master of Interdisciplinary Research and publishes frequently for the Swedish think tank Timbro.

    References

    Boyle, James (2007). “The second enclosure movement”. In Renewal: A Journal of Labour Politics, 15:4, 17-24.

    Haber, Stuart & Stornetta, W. Scott (1991). ”How to Time-Stamp a Digital Document”. In Journal of Cryptology, 3:2, 99-111.

    Investopedia (2017). Blockchain. Retrieved 2017-11-08:https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp

    Jones, Andrew (1972). “The Rise and Fall of the Manorial System: A Critical Comment”. In The Journal of Economic History, 32:4, 938-944.

    Kolbert, Elizabeth (2017). Who owns the internet? The New Yorker, August 28 2017. Retrieved 2017-11-07: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/28/who-owns-the-internet

    Kshetri, Nir (2017). “Will blockchain emerge as a tool to break the poverty chain in the Global South?” In Third World Quarterly, 38:8, 1710-1732.

    Nye, Joseph (2016). Who owns the internet? And who should control it? World Economic Forum, August 11 2016. Retrieved 2017-11-07: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/who-owns-the-internet-and-who-should-control-it

    Scott, Laurence (2013). Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier-review. The Guardian, February 27 2013. Retrieved 2017-11-08: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/feb/27/who-owns-future-lanier-review

    Wikipedia (2017). ICANN. Retrieved 2017-11-07: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICANN

    Wikipedia (2017). Manorialism. Retrieved 2017-11-07: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manorialism

    1. Investopedia 2017.

    2. Wikipedia 2017.

    3. See Scott 2013.

    4. Jones 1972.

    5. Boyle 2007. Page 18-19.

    6. Kolbert 2017.

    7. Nye 2016.

    Photo: deavmi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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    Owner Joe Ricketts shuttered unprofitable local news sites DNAInfo and Gothamist yesterday. Observers link this closure to a vote last week by New York employees to unionize.

    This is an example of the disruption of the local media ecosystem. Technology allowed sites like DNA and Gothamist to exist in the first place, but local news has proven resistant to sufficient monetization to create profitability in most cases.

    The loss of local news coverage is a serious issue in communities across the country, and the closure of these sites show that even the largest markets like New York and Chicago are not immune.

    The closure of these sites sent waves of anguish rolling across Twitter, vastly disproportionate to the size of the sites or their national importance. There’s something off about this, and Lyman Stone wrote in a tweetstorm:

    Sidenote: how many tears will be shed for, according to NYT, <300 jobs [115 jobs]? How did you respond to the Carrier plant in Indiana? I’ll be sad to see these sites gone, and the archive wiping seems not just vindictive but weird from a profit standpoint. But if you think this is some sort of hammer blow to democracy or a Big Evil Conspiracy…

    NOW YOU KNOW HOW THE RUST BELT FEELS

    “Gosh they didn’t even keep on a housekeeping staff in case they want to reopen the plant down the road.”

    “Man, so vindictive. We were fired without warning when we tried to unionize a company that was losing money for years.”

    “We didn’t get any warning, we couldn’t prepare for the next step in our career, they cut more than was ‘strictly necessary.'”

    All fair complaints. All quite possible true. But let’s all measure our reactions here. How would you respond to a 300 person factory [being closed]? “It’s just technological competition; this kind of smokestack industry isn’t sustainable anymore.” Hello, local journalism, my old friend.

    NYT ran a piece on a small business closing within *minutes* of the announcement. I am urging twitter to perhaps take a step back and use this as a moment to do some introspection about how they treat other industries.

    Stone is exactly right. The thing that struck me about Carrier was not just that there was so little concern about people losing their jobs, but that commentators gave an impression they didn’t want them to be saved, lest it generate any positive press for Trump.

    Given that the media industry has been subjected to many of the same forces ripping apart so many others, one would think its practitioners would be looking to make common cause across-industries, but that’s not the case.

    The other irony is that most cities never had a DNAinfo or an “-ist” site to begin with. They had their local paper, now owned by some national chain and largely gutted. And their local TV and radio stations, which the FCC is now promoting the gutting of, with no pushback from many of the people crying about DNA. The bigger cities are now getting brought down closer to the same level everyone else is already at, and they don’t like much at all. All of a sudden, the loss of local news is a crisis.

    I think the loss of sites like DNA is a problem. I hope somebody is able to fill the void and that the archives are reinstated, as reports suggest they will be. But the gap in local coverage is far greater than just New York, Chicago, and a handful of other major markets where DNA operated.

    There are some bright spots. Vox Media runs some verticals, Curbed and Eater, that seem to be doing well in major local markets. Or at least the company itself seems viable. This isn’t full spectrum local coverage, but it is covering some niches. Maybe this sort of thing could be expanded to other verticals. In the meantime, disruption of the media space continues.

    This piece originally appeared on Urbanophile.

    Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian, Forbes.com, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.


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    As President Trump visits China, the contrast between the president — at war with the national media, the corporate establishment, almost all of academia and even his own party — and the sure-handed Xi Jinping seems almost unbearable. Xi has consolidated power to an extent not seen since Mao’s time, while directing a global expansion of Chinese power, notably in central and south Asia as well as Africa.

    Xi’s power is all the greater for how subtly it is applied. There are no great propaganda posters on the streets of Beijing. Last week at Peking University’s “Global Forum,” few scholars openly challenged the country’s authoritarian system although limited open debate and discussion was permitted. China may be authoritarian, but not crudely oppressive like the former Soviet Union, North Korea or Cuba.

    What China craves, not surprisingly given its turbulent 20th century, is “order,” both at home and in its expanding roster of vassal states. Their soft authoritarianism, at least if you are not an open dissident, is now promoted as the new global “role model” in the Chinese media. No matter how much Trump tries to talk tough about no longer being a “chump,” it’s likely he will be portrayed here and abroad as ceding the center of the world stage to Xi.

    The New Role Model?

    China’s ascendency appeals to many in America’s intellectual classes, and not only them, who historically have a soft spot for “enlightened” autocrats and overweening bureaucracies. In the progressive era, the lodestone was imperial Germany, in the 1930s for many the “future” was to be seen in the Soviet Union and even fascist Italy. In the 1980s, Japan emerged as the role model, followed in the late 1990s by a united Europe that seemed to many more humane and successful than the U.S.

    In all cases, these role models ultimately failed to stay competitive with the United States. The Soviet Union is long gone and Mussolini, at best, is regarded as an almost comically bombastic figure. Both Japan and Europe have lagged the United States in innovation and are fading demographically.

    To be sure, China may pose a greater challenge than any other in our history. It is poised to surpass the U.S. in terms of aggregate economic output; it enjoys a rapidly growing educated population, bustling cities and a strong sense of national unity. It also has seen more people lifted more quickly out of poverty than any regime in history and some suggest it is about to be the leader in technology as well.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo: Via BBC.


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    Few global companies enjoy as much public good will as the Walt Disney Company. The entertainment giant regularly ranks highly on lists of the most admired or trusted companies, including ones from Forbes and Fortune.

    CEO Robert Iger, who reportedly is being encouraged to run for president in 2020, would be able to use the company’s image to his advantage on the campaign trail, according to The New York Times. Of course, Disney representatives say he’s not running; if so, one has to wonder why Iger is hinting at it so often, as reported in such other mainstream publications as the Guardian and The Hollywood Reporter.

    Iger’s progressive positions on gun control, immigration and the Paris Accords certainly are in harmony with the Democratic base. But Iger may have a more difficult time explaining away his company’s treatment of his theme park workforce on his watch, and some of the communities where they live.

    Rights and lefts

    Once upon a time the Walt Disney Company was seen as rather right wing: anti-union, staunchly Republican and sometimes ruthless in its business dealings. Walt Disney himself has been characterized as everything from a fascist to a Nazi, although this seems to be baseless. Yet without doubt, Walt Disney was a conservative, aligned with California’s then powerful right-wing political machine. And he was also a ruthless businessman who opposed unionization and drove hard bargains to assemble the real estate for his parks in Anaheim and Florida. In some circles he is still regarded, as critic John West put it, as “Hollywood’s most influential conservative film maker,” largely for the pro-family, anti-big government and patriotic memes common in his movies and television shows.

    Today the right-wing label no longer for Disney, which controls ABC, ESPN and other large media properties. The company has allowed a same sex kiss in a children’s cartoon, to the horror of social conservatives. Slate applauds Disney’s “progressive inclusive” shift with the plethora of plucky female heroines its introduced over the past few decades (Moana, Belle, Mulan), as well as casting the male “hunk” in the hit Frozen as the ultimate villain. This probably would have Walt Disney spinning in his grave.

    Increasingly Disney’s script seems more MSNBC than Walt, with the late-night ABC host Jimmy Kimmel now a darling of the anti-Trump resistance. Kimmel’s ratings are a far cry from those of the apolitical Johnny Carson, but they are still respectable.

    The more things change…

    Yet if Disney’s public persona has changed, its fundamental corporate culture seems to have not been so transformed. Workers at its theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim complain of low wages and exploitative management practices that belie the company’s squishy clean image and could pose a threat to any attempt by Iger to campaign as a progressive Democrat.

    Out of the 36,000 unionized Disney workers in the Orlando area, 23,000 make less than $12 an hour and only 3,000 make over $15 an hour, according to labor union officials. To afford a one-bedroom apartment in the Orlando area, a worker would need to be paid $15.87 an hour, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Workers complain that management is miserly with raises even for longtime employees.

    Earlier this year Disney was forced by the U.S. Labor Department to pay $3.8 million in back wages to over 16,000 employees in Florida because it had deducted a uniform fee that had caused workers’ compensation to fall below the minimum wage, as well as failed to pay them for work performed before and after their shifts.

    A Disney spokesman said the company agrees workers there deserve a raise – in contract negotiations, it’s offering an increase of “up to 5%” over the next two years.

    In Anaheim, Calif., home to venerable old Disneyland, wages are also low, averaging near $11.07 an hour for the first four years, with a meager rise to $12.57 for those with five to nine years of experience. And the cost of living in Anaheim is more than 50% higher than in Orlando.

    Few tourists realize that around the magic kingdom exists a city with an extraordinarily high concentration of poverty. A majority Hispanic city of 350,000, some 40% of the population of Anaheim is living in or near poverty, according to the United Way, compared to 29% for Orange County and 31% for California as a whole.

    Disney’s low wages contribute to the poverty problem, as well as growing homelessness, says Mayor Tom Tait, a Republican elected with strong Hispanic support. Anaheim and its surrounding cities, Orange and Santa Ana, now host a homeless population estimated at over 4,700, some subsisting just a few miles from the park near the grounds of Anaheim Stadium, the home of the Angels.

    The mayor says the city doesn’t have the resources to deal adequately with poverty, in part, as a recent Los Angeles Times series asserts, because its biggest corporate citizen has aggressively minimized its tax burden. The company has spent millions bankrolling politicians friendly to it. As a result, the Times reports, Disney pays very little directly into the city’s coffers and has won tax exemptions for hotels being built around the park. The city leases Disney’s new garage, which the city built for $108.2 million, for $1 year. “They have dominated the city,” Tait says. “They are not side players, they are the directors.”

    Overall, reports the Times, the Mouse has gained tax breaks, subsidies, rebates and incentives worth north of $1 billion. Disney disputes the accuracy of the tally. A one-dollar fee per ticket -- each of which costs over $100 -- would help the city close its budget deficit, Tait says. Disney also tried to push a highly impractical $300 million streetcar deal that would have shuttled passengers from the underutilized ARTIC train station to the park. Only the opposition of Tait and his allies, who saw this a diversion from more critical transportation needs, stopped what would have been a project that largely would have only benefited Disney.

    Disney, for its part, claims to be a good corporate citizen, paying some $125 million a year in taxes, bonds, levies and fees, making it the city’s largest taxpayer. Yet Tait and city officials suggest that most of these taxes go to the state and elsewhere.

    Disney’s PR people say the Times series is unfair; the Times says the company has not refuted it. Disney so objected to it that the company banned Times critics from press screenings for their latest movies. The movie ban was rescinded last week after a huge outcry by other media outlets.

    Perhaps more reasonably, supporters of Disney counter that, despite its relatively low wages, the company remains the county’s largest employer and is simply doing what corporations are supposed to do -- maximize profits. And to be sure, the company’s 30,000 jobs, roughly 19% of the city’s total, would be greatly missed if the Park shut down. And with an estimated $2 billion in new investments, Disney remains a critical linchpin of Orange County’s heavily tourist-dependent economy.

    Don’t tell the Bernie Bros

    The logic used to defend Disney may be persuasive to friendly political operatives, business groups and, no doubt, Iger’s own shareholders, to whom the company returned $2.3 billion in dividends last year. Iger, who took in $44 million in compensation last year, will have a tougher time explaining the labor issues to the Bernie Bros.

    Last year during a presidential campaign rally in Anaheim, Sen. Sanders lashed out at Iger for pocketing such a massive paycheck while paying poverty wages to so many. He particularly attacked the company for laying off 250 of its Orlando tech employees, replacing them with foreign H-1B visa holders from an Indian outsourcing firm. Some of the cashiered workers were asked to train their replacements before hitting the streets.

    Of course, progressives will no doubt find Iger more attractive than his fellow businessman Trump, at least culturally and stylistically. But Trump is an unabashed capitalist in a decidedly capitalist party. Iger, if he chooses to run, will have to face an increasingly leftist, redistributionist segment of the Democratic base.

    Given the likely ugliness that a presidential run would engender, Iger may decide it’s not worth taking any political dreams beyond the walls of the Magic Kingdom.

    This piece originally appeared on Forbes.com.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo: hyku [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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    • Annualized new home starts in 3Q17 are up 2.5% compared to 3Q16, while closings are up 1.7%. Quarterly new home starts were up 31% while closings are down 4% compared to 3Q16.

    • The average base price for new Single Family detached homes is up 17% YoY to a Metrostudy record, $1.03M; the average price for Attached homes is $905K, an increase of 5%.

    • The supply of homes priced under $500k is falling, as prices are increasing in the suburban locations. 28% of new home starts are priced above $1 million. At this point the Sacramento market is more attractive where 70% of the starts are under $500K vs. 12% in the Bay Area.

    • The East Contra Costa, Solano, Sacramento and Stockton regions will likely benefit from the expanding Bay Area economy, as homebuyers seek more affordable homes outside of the core Bay area.

    Metrostudy’s 3Q17 survey of the San Francisco Bay Area housing market shows that annualized new home starts in 3Q17 are up 2.5% compared to 3Q16, while closings are up 1.7%. Quarterly new home starts were up 31% while closings are down 4% compared to 3Q16. Annual starts have been outpacing closings since 1Q13. As a result, total inventory levels that were once below equilibrium remain at the highest level since 2009. By the end of 2013, the annual start pace had significantly outpaced the annual closing pace mostly due to Condominium starts. Over the past year, total new home inventory has increased 8%.

    “The story in this market continues to be affordability, or the lack thereof,” said Greg Gross, Regional Director of Metrostudy’s Northern California market. “Our average “offer to build” base price for new Single Family detached homes is up 17% over a year ago to a Metrostudy record, $1.03M as builders have realized higher land and construction costs, plus strong demand. The average price for Attached homes is $905K, an increase of 5%. Start activity has increased in the price ranges above $800K as builders adjust pricing based on increased demand and higher lot costs. The supply of homes priced under $500k is falling, as prices are increasing in the suburban locations. 28% of new home starts are priced above $1 million. At this point the Sacramento market is more attractive where 70% of the starts are under $500K vs. 12% in the Bay Area.”

    While demand remains strong, lot deliveries continue to shrink. Only 3,451 new lots were delivered over the past year, 33% fewer than at this time last year. Months of supply decreased now under 14 months. After a rainy first quarter, new lot development increased significantly this summer. Considering the barriers to development, the market continues to face a lot shortage. More importantly, a more affordable lot shortage.

    The Bay Area economy has experienced an exceptional run. Job growth is slowing significantly. Housing demand is strong and the general economic condition in the region is strong. Demand is stabilizing, prices have increased rapidly, and affordability limits are being pushed in almost all sub-markets.

    Metrostudy expects demand to remain steady through 2017. But can this demand afford a new home? The overall cost of home ownership is outpacing household income growth in most areas. With prices at or above peak pricing in most sub-markets, buyers may begin to rethink their home-buying decisions and decide to rent or move out of the area. Buyers will calculate the cost of commuting and will factor in those costs when they decide where, or if to purchase a new home.

    Given the above, Metrostudy does not expect the housing market to necessarily weaken, but experience more of a stable, slightly lower period of supply and demand into 2018 as the economy continues to moderate and the market adjusts to the rapid increase in home prices. The East Contra Costa, Solano, Sacramento and Stockton regions will likely benefit from the expanding Bay Area economy, as homebuyers seek more affordable homes outside of the core Bay area.

    The San Francisco Bay Area market has enjoyed robust economic conditions for nearly seven years, and 2017 will continue this trend. Job growth however slowed significantly from the highs experienced during the second half of 2015. The unemployment rate is also very low and now stands at 4.0 compared to the State level of 5.4%. Most markets are considered to be at Full Employment when the unemployment rate is at 5%. When the rate is below 4%, there is added pressure for companies to find qualified labor. The very low unemployment rate and exorbitant cost of living is undoubtedly having an impact on growth.

    This piece originally appeared on Metrostudy.com.

    Greg Gross is a Metrostudy Regional Director who played a pivotal role in the launch of Metrostudy’s offices in the Northern California market in 2005, and is responsible for all operations there including research, consulting and managing local client relationships.

    Photo: Maciek Lulko, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    In recent days, two well placed commentaries have detailed the recent declines both in US transit ridership, and in particular, Los Angeles, where the decline is most severe. The Cato Institute's Randal O'Toole provided a broad analysis of US transit ridership in The Wall Street Journal and explained how emerging trends may be seriously eroding transit ridership and rendering new urban rail systems even less effective than they have been in the past (see: It's the Last Stop on the Light-Rail Gravy Train). In a Los Angeles Times commentary, University of Southern California Professor James E. Moore and former top Los Angeles transit financial official Thomas A. Rubin described that area's stunning transit ridership losses (see: L.A.'s dwindling transit ridership isn't hard to fix: Make riding the bus cheaper and more convenient).

    This article provides more details on the developing national transit ridership decline. Particular emphasis is placed on Los Angeles, which, although widely praised as “the next great transit city”, has sustained by far the greatest share of the loss.

    Transit Ridership in Context

    Transit ridership had reversed its nearly six decade trend from the middle 1990s to 2014, reaching a level of 10.8 million unlinked trips. An unlinked trip is a "boarding," which is when a passenger enters a transit vehicle. A simple trip from point A to B on transit may have a single boarding, such as when only one vehicle is used, or more. For example, a single transit trip in which three buses are used counts as a "boarding" or an "unlinked trip."

    The all-time record had been set in 1946, when ridership reached double that level (23.5 billion) following World War II which sparked transit gain with gasoline and tire rationing. However, transit ridership has fallen each of the last three years. Federal Transit Administration data indicates that ridership for the year ended June 30, 2017 had fallen 4.7 percent, or nearly one-half billion annual rides.

    The losses have been pervasive. Among the 41 urban areas with more than 1,000,000 residents, 35 experienced losses and six had gains.

    Cities Losing the Most Riders

    These significant losses were dominated by Los Angeles. Between 2014 and 2017, Los Angeles lost 113 million annual rides, 16.6 percent of its 2014 ridership. The Los Angeles ridership loss was hugely disproportionate to its share of national ridership. In 2014, Los Angeles carried 6.4 percent of the nation's unlinked trips. Yet since that time, Los Angeles has posted 22.9 percent of the ridership decline, 3.6 times its share of ridership.

    Los Angeles lost more riders than were attracted by the whole transit systems of metropolitan areas such as Portland, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Only 10 urban areas had higher ridership in a year than the number of riders lost in Los Angeles. Indeed, Los Angeles fell to third in total ridership, with Chicago being restored to the second place, a position held by Los Angeles since the early 2000s.

    Other urban areas also lost riders, although no other area contributed more to the transit loss than Los Angeles. New York saw 14 percent of the decline, or 70 million riders. But this ridership decline of 1.6 percent, represented only one-tenth the 16.6 percent of Los Angeles losses.

    Washington, dealing with what appears to have been insufficient attention to safety and infrastructure issues on its Metro, lost nearly as many riders as New York, 57 million. This is a 12.2 percent decline. Washington's loss comprised 12 percent of the national total.

    The other largest losers were Chicago (40 million, a loss of 6.3 percent), Miami (30 million, a loss of 17.9 percent), Philadelphia (23 million, a loss of 6.2 percent) and Boston (19 million, a loss of 4.5 percent). Combined, these cities represented 23 percent of the total national loss. Approximately 21 percent of the loss was in the urban areas other than the eight identified above (Figure 1).

    The largest ridership losses are shown in Figure 2. Figure 3 converts these 10 largest losses to percentages. It is notable that each of the losses was more than 6 percent over the year, with the exception of Boston and New York, with by far the smallest loss.

    Transit in Los Angeles: Where Rail, Not Riders Drive Policy

    I personally played an role in establishing the Los Angeles rail system during my time on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (see Los Angeles: Rail for Others). Since that time, a rail system of 6 radial routes (from downtown), one cross-town route (along the I-105 Freeway) and two exclusive busways have been opened. No larger US population center outside New York has seen such an improvement in high capacity transit. I and the others on LACTC expected that this system would substantially increase not only transit's ridership but also its market share in Los Angeles. Yet, as Moore and Rubin put it:

    "Metro’s current “annual boardings” — just under 400 million — represent a drop of almost 20% from the system’s 1985 peak, even though the county’s population has increased by nearly a fifth since then." Further, all of this has cost more than $15 billion (inflation adjusted).

    Astoundingly, this abject policy failure has gone largely unnoticed in the media and, according to Moore and Rubin, at least $500 billion that could have been spent to lower fares and improve bus service has gone instead to expanding a rail. The system’s ineffectiveness can be measured in passengers lost per million dollars of expenditure.

    Moore and Rubin remind readers that the low-fare program of 1982-1985 resulted in a 40 percent ridership increase, perhaps the most significant gain in modern US transit history. Moore and Rubin further show that after a federal court agreed with plaintiffs that Metro was expanding the rail system at the expense of the bus system, a 10-year agreement produced a ridership increase of 36 percent.

    Transit is About People, not Trains

    In its quest to become "the next great mass-transit city," Los Angeles has headed off toward a "dead end." A great mass-transit city does not become so because of its trains (or buses) --- that requires riders. In Los Angeles, riders are increasingly in short supply.

    In the final analysis, transit is justified by the extent to which it provides mobility to people, especially to those with insufficient resources to provide their own mobility throughout the metropolitan area. The key to transit is growing ridership and putting riders first (see: The Great Train Robbery).

    Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

    Photograph: Los Angeles Metro Rail route map.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/Los_Angeles_County_M...


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    The Wharton Africa Business Forum took place in Philadelphia on November 3-5, 2017. Present were the Finance Minister of Nigeria, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines and other business leaders (notably from lead sponsors McKinsey & Company and the Boston Consulting Group) and educators. The event was attended by hundreds of participants including Wharton faculty, students and alumni, African investors and entrepreneurs, members of the African diaspora and many others who have an interest in Africa.

    These are our notes from the event. They are not intended to be comprehensive.

    First, there was a tremendous amount of energy and optimism surrounding Africa developments. There were a palpable sense that Africa’s moment is coming and an urgency that it should not be squandered. These sentiments are validated by our analysis of African demographics that show a coming decline in the dependency ratio and an accompanying increase in the odds of realizing somedemographic dividend. However, fertility rates remain too elevated and are not falling fast enough to deliver the massive dividend that was seen in China, the US and Europe in recent decades.

    Second, and very close on the heels of this optimism, there was a clear-eyed realization that nothing is guaranteed and everything remains to be done. It was said that “the 21st century will be the century of Africa”, with emphasis on this being a double-edged sword, meaning that it could be a century of growth and prosperity driven in large part by African demographics, or a century of spiraling calamity if reforms fail to come through as needed. Again, this is supported by our view that education, infrastructure and the fight against corruption all need to make a quantum leap before the African economy can surge forward in a sustained fashion. In our view, the first links in this chain reaction have to be a big improvement in female literacy and a closing of the gender gap. As shown in the graph, fertility falls quickly when literacy rises over 80%.

    Third, there was more attention paid to bottom-up developments: exciting new startups across the entire continent, pro-active NGOs and angel investors assisting local projects etc. And there was less discussion of the need to build the adequate large-scale architecture to facilitate and accelerate the work of entrepreneurs and investors. This architecture, the superstructure of the economy, is a top-down effort where populyst has claimed an active role: to assist in the building of robust institutions to improve governance, education and infrastructure and to lower corruption. More on this in coming weeks.

    Other quotes or ideas heard at the conference, in random order:

    Africa’s “high five” priorities are 1) Feed Africa (food self-sufficiency), 2) Light up Africa (boost the electricity supply), 3) Industrialize Africa, 4) Integrate Africa (encourage intra-Africa trade, tourism etc.), 5) Educate Africa.

    Nigeria wants to diversify its economy away from oil. But it still needs oil revenues to effect this diversification. “We need oil to get out of oil.”

    “What is different this time: the younger generation have different values. They have a deeper sense of equity.”

    “African health priorities have shifted from communicable diseases (HIV, malaria, yellow fever, tuberculosis etc.) to non-communicable (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental disease).”

    “Africa is not poor; it is poorly managed.”

    “The 21st century is the African century.”

    This piece originally appeared on Populyst.net

    Sami Karam is the founder and editor of populyst.net and the creator of the populyst index™. populyst is about innovation, demography and society. Before populyst, he was the founder and manager of the Seven Global funds and a fund manager at leading asset managers in Boston and New York. In addition to a finance MBA from the Wharton School, he holds a Master's in Civil Engineering from Cornell and a Bachelor of Architecture from UT Austin.

    Photo: Africanmodern (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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    There are things that we can do as a society to work through our big structural difficulties at an institutional level. And there are other things that can be done independently at the household level by individuals. I don’t have the technical skills, political skills, social skills, credentials, patience, or desire to engage the large scale systems. To be honest, I don’t think most people do. But there are all sorts of things that ordinary people can and should do on their own that can make a huge difference on the ground at room temperature. Collectively all our separate choices create the world we inhabit.

    On a recent trip to Orange County in southern California I explored the suburban landscape and started to pick apart the typical arrangements as well as some surprising alternatives which demonstrate divergent trajectories. The quiet cul-de-sacs of 1950s homes have been remodeled, expanded, and optimized for different functions over the decades. Low maintenance ornamental landscapes, artificial turf, decorative pavement, and rock gardens abound.

    Many homes have received multiple layers of appliqué brick and stone veneer, little cupolas, Iberian and Asian make-overs, and Greco-Roman columns. The pattern is clear. People go out in the world, earn a cash income, then spend a lot of money on beautification projects to reflect an aspirational status.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum there’s a tremendous social stigma associated with a dead lawn. It’s a sign of poverty, laziness, a lack of pride, and an act of aggression toward the neighbors. In a location where it doesn’t rain for months or years at a time keeping a lush Kentucky lawn is a challenge. But heavily irrigated and chemically induced turf is also stigmatized as being inappropriate for the local climate, wasteful, expensive, and borderline toxic. A delicate balance of social and economic forces are at play. It’s really all about conforming to a generally agreed upon cultural look and feel.

    Hardscaping in a hot climate results in a heat island effect. All day long the sun beats down on the concrete, brick, and stone which soaks up the heat. That heat is then radiated back all night long when the temperature should be dropping instead. When enough of the territory is paved over like this one lot at a time the entire county heats up.

    Dark colored roofs – particularly tar and asphalt shingles – also absorb and hold heat. These roofs are disposable and only last for a couple of decades before they need to be peeled off and replaced. Property owners don’t seem to understand that a roof is first and foremost a functional element and not something to be picked out like wallpaper based on fashion. Something as simple as a light colored roof made of a reflective material makes a huge difference in thermal performance inside a building.

    Here are classic cases of homes fitted with photovoltaic panels to offset electricity coming from the grid, presumably to help run air conditioning compressors. But the same amount of money could have been spent on a light colored roof that bounces heat away, or extra insulation, or better quality replacement windows, or a reduction in the concrete around the house, or some strategically placed exterior shade structures. At that point the extra “green” power would no longer be needed since the house would have remained considerably cooler passively. I’m in no way opposed to solar power. I just think there’s more low hanging fruit to pluck first. Reduce demand by 90%, then install a few panels to supply the little bit of power that’s still needed.

    This house has a standing seam metal roof that reflects the heat away. There are also ventilators that passively draw heat out of the attic. A metal roof has the advantage of lasting a century or more, is fire resistant, and is the perfect surface for collecting rain water. A white pebbled roof also gets the job done in a hot dry climate. So does a white elastomeric material. Is this house any more or less attractive than the others in the area? Meh.

    The need to accommodate multiple vehicles per home is apparently universal among the affluent and working class alike. Driving is an essential requirement in suburbia. Therefore the bulk of many front yards are parking lots. Some are just more attractive than others. What I see in each example is a huge amount of money (almost all of it borrowed and repaid with interest) being spent on cars as well as the driveways and extended garages to accommodate them. Four or five cars per household appears to be the norm. On average each car costs $10,000 per year. That’s a $40,000 – $50,000 household expenditure just to get from Point A to Point B. Ouch.

    I lived in Orange County when I was a kid and remember the last of the actual orange groves before they made way for supermarkets, tract homes, office complexes, and auto dealerships. The land underneath is still rich agricultural soil and the climate supports a wide range of year round crops. There’s generally enough winter rain and mountain run off in spring to maintain the aquifer.

    I met with a young woman who spent the last three years transforming the yard of her rented home into a permaculture style food forest. She said her dream is to be a farmer and own land someday. This garden uses half the water compared to the old lawn it replaced. A deep mulch retains moisture and the dense collection of ground covers, vines, shrubs, and fruit trees keeps the soil shaded and cool.

    Everywhere you look there’s food. She’s taken the same space that might have been a driveway, a rock garden, or a plastic lawn and transformed it into a small farm that provides her family with nearly all its fresh produce. The garden is cool and tranquil. The vines and trees help shade the house on hot days. It’s wonderful and incredibly productive.

    A few blocks away another woman gave me a tour of her garden burdened with fruit of every variety. The house was quite modest and the yard wasn’t all that large. But she cultivated every inch of it to great effect.

    The suburbs are a permanent fixture in the landscape that aren’t going to change much in most places. There’s infill development here and there in the places with enough money, geographic constraints, and market demand to support intensification. The congealing clumps of apartment buildings and office blocks are usually concentrated along the eight lane arterial roads and always include five stories of structured parking. There’s some half assed public transit smeared around that tends to be really expensive to maintain yet doesn’t actually do a great job in the ‘burbs. And there’s an army of expert consultants and engineers who are busy securing grants to build ever more complex and expensive infrastructure projects to keep it all functional. It ain’t Paris folks. It’s always going to be kind of shitty. I can’t help but think the world’s problems can be solved in a garden organized by the ladies.

    This piece first appeared on Granola Shotgun.

    John Sanphillippo lives in San Francisco and blogs about urbanism, adaptation, and resilience at granolashotgun.com. He's a member of the Congress for New Urbanism, films videos for faircompanies.com, and is a regular contributor to Strongtowns.org. He earns his living by buying, renovating, and renting undervalued properties in places that have good long term prospects. He is a graduate of Rutgers University.


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    Just a decade ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, suburbia’s future seemed perilous, with experts claiming that many suburban tracks were about to become “the next slums.” The head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development proclaimed that “sprawl” was now doomed, and people were “headed back to the city.”

    This story reflected strong revivals of many core cities, and deep-seated pain in many suburban markets. Yet today, less than a decade later, as we argue in the new book that we co-edited, “Infinite Suburbia,” the periphery remains the dominant, and fastest growing, part of the American landscape.

    This is not just occurring in the United States. In many other countries, as NYU’s Solly Angel has pointed out, growth inevitably means “spreading out” toward the periphery, with lower densities, where housing is often cheaper, and, in many cases, families find a better option than those presented by even the most dynamic core cities.

    Reality check: What the numbers say

    Less than a decade since the housing crisis, notes demographer Wendell Cox, barely 1.3 percent of metropolitan regions live in the urban cores we associate with places like New York City, Boston, Washington or San Francisco.

    Counting the inner ring communities built largely before 1950, the urban total rises to some 15 percent, leaving the vast majority of the population out in the periphery. More important still, the suburban areas have continued to grow faster than the more inner-city areas. Since 2010, the urban core has accounted for .8 percent of all population growth and the entire inner ring roughly 10 percent; all other growth has occurred in suburban and exurban areas.

    Much of this has been driven by migration patterns. In 2016, core counties lost roughly over 300,000 net domestic migrants while outlying areas gained roughly 250,000. Increasingly, millennials seek out single-family homes; rather than the predicted glut of such homes, there’s a severe shortage. Geographer Ali Modarres notes that minorities, the primary drivers of American population growth in the new century, now live in suburbs. The immigrant-rich San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire, Orange County and their analogues elsewhere, Modarres suggests, now represents “the quintessential urban form” for the 21st century.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Alan Berger is Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he teaches courses open to the entire student body. He is founding director of P-REX lab, at MIT, a research lab focused on environmental problems caused by urbanization, including the design, remediation, and reuse of waste landscapes worldwide. He is also Co-Director of Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT (LCAU).

    Photo: Laurie Avocado, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    If you want to understand why a lot of America’s youth embrace socialism today, just look at this small but revealing story about General Electric. Former CEO Jeff Immelt apparently didn’t just fly around the world in a corporate jet, a fairly standard practice, he had an empty spare corporate jet follow him around just in case anything happened to the jet he was actually using.

    Now that the news has come out, supposedly the board wasn’t informed about this, and even Immelt himself says he didn’t know. How convenient. The plane had a bogus passenger manifest designed to make it look occupied, and everyone was instructed to keep it hush, hush.

    Immelt was flying around like this with the shareholders’ money, not his own. GE under-performed during his tenure, but Immelt’s pay and perks sure didn’t underperform.

    Will anything bad happen to anybody as a result of this stupendous waste of shareholder money? Not likely, unless some junior people need to be offered up as scapegoats.

    Is it any wonder more and more people are less than impressed with today’s corporations?

    This piece originally appeared on Urbanophile.

    Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian, Forbes.com, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo: JD Lascia, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    Recent stories have detailed the strong net domestic migration out of Sydney, Australia's largest city (metropolitan area). A well covered report by economist Callam Pickering has noted strong interest by STEM workers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers in leaving the area (see here and here). Pickering cites high housing costs as a cause, while social researcher Mark McCrindle agrees and notes that "Sydney has the longest capital city commuting times in Australia." Both are right. Sydney has the second worst housing affordability among the 92 major metropolitan areas in nine nations covered by the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Only Hong Kong has housing affordability more severe. Moreover, Sydney's traffic congestion is so bad that its average work trip commuting time is greater than that of traffic clogged Los Angeles, as well as 51 of the other 52 metropolitan areas over 1,000,000 population in the United States.

    The out-migration from Sydney is not new, having led Australia in that category for at least a decade. This article examines net domestic migration over the past 10 years in Australia.

    Net Domestic Migration among the States and Territories

    As goes Sydney, so goes New South Wales. New South Wales experienced by far the greatest net loss, at 146,000, according to the annual reports of the Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2006-2007 to 2016-2016. However, outside Sydney, New South Wales experienced a net domestic migration gain of 54,000, which was widely distributed beyond Sydney (Greater Capital City Statistical Area, or GCCSA), including just west of the Blue Mountains and along the Pacific Coast (Figure 1).

    Queensland continues to see the largest net domestic migration gain among the states and territories of Australia. Over the past ten years, 114,000 more people have moved to Queensland than from other parts of the country. This has been driven by the two large resort and retirement centers of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast as well as Brisbane, Australia's third largest metropolitan area. Outside these three areas, the state gained 13,000 net domestic migrants.

    Victoria, the second largest state in population is also the second largest attractor of net domestic migration. Victoria gained 47,000 net domestic migrants over the last ten years. Nearly all of the net domestic migration gains have been to areas outside Melbourne, the nation's second largest metropolitan area. Other areas of the state of Victoria, such as Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo, had strong gains, and all were greater than that of much larger Melbourne, both in actual numbers and population relative terms.

    Western Australia gained 36,000 net domestic migrants, all of which and more went to the Perth metropolitan area. Net domestic migration outside Perth was a minus 6,000. The Australian Capital Territory, home of the commonwealth (federal) capital of Canberra gained 2,000 net domestic migrants.

    The other states and territories lost net domestic migrants. Tasmania, the island state, lost 4,000 net domestic migrants, while the state capital, Hobart gained 1,000. The Northern Territory lost 12,000 net domestic migrants, 11,000 of which were outside the capital, Darwin. South Australia lost 37,000 net domestic migrants, with 36,000 of the loss occurring in the capital, Adelaide.

    Large Metropolitan Areas and Local Domestic Migration

    Australia has long been dominated by its few (five) large capital city metropolitan areas, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. These are the only metropolitan areas with more than one million residents. Yet, trends over the past decade have indicated a flow of domestic migrants (residents who move from one area within the nation to another) to outside the large capital cities. Totaling up annual reports of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the national statistical agency shows that 163,000 residents moved away from the larger cities to other parts of the country between 2006-2007 and 2015-16.

    The Large Capital Cities

    Net domestic migration losses have been dominated by a large outflow from Sydney. Sydney's loss of 200,000 net domestic migrants is equal to 4.1 percent of the Sydney GCCSA population according to the 2016 census (4.8 million). Adelaide, capital of South Australia, lost 36,000 residents to other areas. This is not as high a percentage as in Sydney, at 2.8 percent of Adelaide's 2016 GCCSA population (1.3 million). Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, which is nearly as large as Sydney (4.5 million), gained a nominal 3,000 net domestic migrants.

    Two of the large capital cities gained. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, added the most net domestic migrants, with a 42,000 gain. This was 2.2 percent of its 2016 Perth's GCCSA population (1.9 million). Brisbane, capital of Queensland, added 28,000 residents, or 1.1 percent of its 2016 GCCSA population (2.4 million).

    The Rest of Australia

    Altogether, the two large, principally retirement areas garnered nearly one-half of the domestic migrants lost by the large capital cities.

    The Gold Coast, just south of Brisbane (80 kilometers or 50 miles) had the largest net domestic migration gain in the nation, at 45,000. This is equal to 6.8 percent of the population recorded in 2016. The Gold Coast is largely in Queensland, but a part, Tweed Heads, is located just across the state border in New South Wales.

    The Sunshine Coast, which is 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Brisbane, gained 38,000 net domestic migrants. This is equal to 13.3 percent of the 2016 population, and the largest net domestic migration percentage gain among the largest metropolitan areas.

    Outside of these areas, the rest of Australia gained 79,000 net domestic migrants (Figure 2).

    The Future?

    The domestic migration patterns, however, do not indicate a mass migration to the outback across the whole of the nation. Outside the capital cities, there is substantial domestic out-migration from Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Yet, there is strong domestic migration outside the capital cities of Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales. The large capital city migration losses are in just two of the largest capital cities, Adelaide, and Sydney, the largest and dominant exporter of people.

    Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reports a poll showing that one-in-three Sydneysiders is considering leaving in the next five years. This includes more than one-half of renters, who have found moving up to home ownership especially difficult due to Sydney's severely unaffordable housing. It also includes more than one-half of 18 to 25 year olds. This is not terribly surprising. Stuck in traffic, or on crowded rail trips to the central business districts (CBDs), there is plenty of time to contemplate a better life with less expensive housing that an increasingly digital age is likely to make available.

    Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

    Photograph: Surfer's Paradise (Gold Coast), Queensland by author.