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  • 06/28/18--22:33: The New Demo-pessimism
  • Normandy—cold, green, and charming—should be the scene of celebration for liberal democracy. The northern region of France produced seminal writings from its aristocratic native son, Alexis de Tocqueville, and was the setting for the landings on D-Day, which reestablished liberalism on a continent locked in the grip of fascism. Yet at the Tocqueville Foundation’s recent conference, “Democracy in the West: Towards a Vision for the 21st Century,” held in the sixteenth-century chateau that remains the property of Tocqueville descendants, the prevailing sentiment was pessimism about democracy’s future and even fear that the Tocquevillian model is headed toward extinction. New forces, notably from Russia and China, noted former French prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, “are trying to undermine democracy and offer an alternative model.”

    Read the entire piece at City Journal.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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: Édouard Hue (User:EdouardHue) [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

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    The Dallas city manager and housing director are proposing a devastating blanket zoning change: allowing ADUs (additional dwelling units), better known as backyard rental houses, in single-family zoned neighborhoods. This change would allow a 44-foot wide by 30-foot tall rental house to be built on the back of a standard 50‑foot wide by 150-foot deep lot. Backyard rental houses would deforest the older neighborhoods, undermine neighborhood stability, accelerate gentrification, reduce diversity of housing, and diminish attainably priced opportunities for homebuyers.

    The Older Neighborhoods of Dallas Are Green While Other Cities Are Dense

    The life force of Dallas is its original neighborhoods, which have layers of towering trees, lush landscape, gardens, and a natural habitat for wildlife and singing birds. This is in contrast to most cities where urban planners strive to make cities denser and grittier, with neighborhoods geared towards mass transportation. In Dallas life is more pleasant. One can still stroll through shaded neighborhoods and easily drive five or ten minutes to favorite destinations.

    Dallas continues to rapidly evolve in a positive way. However, allowing backyard rental houses to be built would derail the distinguishing characteristics and lovely momentum of Dallas’ older neighborhoods. The city manager and housing director are soft-pedaling backyard rental houses as just adding “gentle density,” “granny flats,” “mother-in-law suites,” and “ADUs” to increase affordable housing in Dallas’ finest neighborhoods.

    Backyard Rental Homes Will Replace 80′ Trees

    This 40-foot two-story structure replaced an 80-foot tall, 100 year old tree. It is a several bay garage with a large storage space above. It is not a rental house, but shows the mass on a 50-foot wide lot.

    This option is not gentle. There are no proposed limits on the number of these backyard rental houses allowed in any neighborhood. They will replace 80-foot tall pecan trees and other mature trees in backyards and disrupt the positive direction of older neighborhoods.

    Adding Density Erodes Prices of Homes

    5011 Junius Street sold for $10,500 in 1907 and after density was added to the neighborhood it resold 70 years later, in 1977, for $7,500.

    Over the decades, economic studies have shown that adding multi-family zoning and density decrease the prices and stability of neighborhoods. While absentee owners find two houses on a lot more attractive, homeowners find this less attractive.

    Density Was Added to Munger Place – Value Subtracted

    An interesting case study is Munger Place. In 1905, it was the finest residence park in the South, at a time when Highland Park was struggling. “Gentle density” was added—rooming houses, apartments carved out of single-family homes, and ultimately apartment zoning. By 1974 the City of Dallas Housing Report identified Munger Place as the worst neighborhood in Dallas with the highest disease rate, the highest murder rate, the greatest number of homes being demolished, the most transient population, the highest crime rate, and no building permits issued for new homes for the past several years. The added density and resulting transience had a profound negative effect. A home at 5011 Junius in Munger Place that sold in 1907 for $10,500 resold in 1977 for $7,500—a 30% decline over 70 years.

    City Planners Have Love Affair With Density for Density’s Sake

    Despite the economic havoc that adding density and increasing multi-family zoning has had on older neighborhoods, the call to add density in the inner city neighborhoods is not new. For 75 years urban planners have been pushing for more residential density in cities. Rooming houses became common in the 1940s. In the 1970s, mixed use zoning became the zoning du jour. In the past several years, ADUs in backyards have been the latest academic, avant-garde, urban planner movement.

    Backyard Rental Houses Accelerate Gentrification

    Craftsman cottages are small houses framed by large backyard trees. Neither will likely not survive with backyard rental house zoning in place.

    Urban planners claim that by adding backyard rental houses gentrification will be slowed, there will be more affordable housing in improving neighborhoods, and seniors will be better able to afford to stay in their homes. An example of this national infatuation for increased neighborhood density is seen in the recent New York Times June 13th op-ed column by Diana Lind, Bring Back Rooming Houses. Lind writes, “We need to disrupt the model of single-family homes.” She also says, “A font of affordable housing exists.” She explains, “It is the wasted space of single-family homes … backyards … that could be zoned as shared space.” Lind mentions that some forward-thinking cities get it.

    Backyard Rental Houses Encourage Landlords to Replace Homeowners

    I, on the other hand, do not think her ideas are forward-thinking. While she thinks backyards are wasted spaces, I think they are an oasis of trees. Rental houses built in the “wasted spaces of backyards” will deforest the older neighborhoods and accelerate gentrification.

    Backyard rental houses and increased density encourage landlords to replace homeowners and concrete to replace streets. This has a domino effect. Neighborhoods have either a positive or negative effect on each other. For instance, Highland Park has even benefited from the resurgence of the bordering Dallas tree-lined neighborhoods.

    Attainably Priced Houses Are Reduced, Gentrification Increases

    In addition to economically and aesthetically disrupting the neighborhoods, backyard rental houses accelerate gentrification and reduce the attainable priced options for homebuyers.

    Rental House Loans Hurt Seniors, Not Investors

    The city planners claim that seniors can offset the cost of their homes and remain in their homes longer by building backyard rental houses. This is not economically accurate. First, building a small rental house is very expensive per square foot. We have seen this on the cost of the 400 sf homeless cottages built in Dallas. Their construction cost was well over $200/sf. The 700 sf backyard rental house would cost approximately $200,000 or $300,000 if it was built over a three- or four-car garage.

    Seniors Want Simpler Lives, Becoming Landlords Complicates Lives

    Seniors, who probably want simpler lives, would become landlords with all the accompanying headaches that it entails, responsibilities, liabilities, and pressure of keeping it rented to pay off their $200,000 to $300,000 loans.

    Backyard Rental House Removes A Senior Tax Freeze

    But that’s not the worst of it. Once a new rent house is built, the tax freeze is taken off the house. The original house is reappraised for its full value and the value of the backyard rental house is added. A new senior tax freeze is reset but at a much higher amount. If seniors want to get into the rental business to offset their own home costs, they would be better off keeping the tax freeze in place on their homes and buying $200,000 rent houses nearby. If they had any cash flow beyond the cost of their loan, they could then apply that to the operating costs of their own home.

    Backyard Rental Houses Lower Number of Affordable Rents

    Also, the backyard rental house plan does not net more affordable apartments for renters. For instance, Mt. Auburn is a neighborhood just eight blocks away from the $2 million homes on Swiss Avenue. Here, one can purchase a 1,150 sf home for $175,000. These homes are 50% larger than a new 700 sf backyard rental house which would have a higher monthly rental rate because they are new. There will also be investor pressure to buy the $175,000 Mt. Auburn house because they can now build two houses on its lot.

    Small Houses Will Be Torn Down for Investor Template of 2,800 sf Main House and 700 sf Rental

    Investors would be given an incentive to tear down the existing home and build a 2,800 sf $700,000 house. This is the minimum square footage they would need in order to build a 700 sf rental house in the backyard. The result is a $700,000 home replaces an attainably priced $200,000 home, and the backyard rental house costs more to rent per month than did the original $175,000 home. In fact, there would be an incentive to make all the neighborhoods a template of 2,800 sf main houses and 700 sf backyard rental houses.

    Junius Heights-Style Homes With 1,800 sf Also In Jeopardy

    Junius Heights cottages will be candidates for expansion to 2,800 sf to allow 700 sf backyard rental houses, replacing trees as pictured.

    In Junius Heights, adjacent to Swiss Avenue, the 1,800 sf houses cost $300,000 to $450,000—still attainable prices for many homeowners. By allowing backyard rental houses, these Junius Heights homes would also become targets for investors. Investors would add 1,000 sf to these 1,800 sf. homes to make them 2,800 sf, allowing them to build the maximum 700 sf rental house in the backyard.

    City Planners’ Template of 2,800 sf Main House/700 sf Rental Destroys Diversity of Housing

    The backyard rental house proposal, if enacted, would make all the older Dallas neighborhoods susceptible to the investor/builder template of 2,800 sf main houses and 700 s. backyard rental houses. Along with mature trees, the rich diversity of housing, sizes, prices, and architectural styles is lost forever.

    Backyard Trees Soften Retail Streets

    The backyard rental house proposal does more than just disrupt the economic stability and housing diversity in the older neighborhoods known for their tree-lined streets, such as Old East Dallas, North Oak Cliff, and South Dallas. They are also known for their even larger trees that are clearly visible behind the houses, and it is not just the residential neighborhoods that benefit from these tall trees, but the retail streets in these neighborhoods.

    From Houndstooth coffee house one can see Louie’s Bar with 70 foot tree in neighbor’s backyard.

    Henderson Avenue Benefits From Backyard Trees

    Henderson Avenue is a vibrant street of retail, restaurants, and grocery stores that leads to Ross Avenue and Lower Greenville Avenue. Softening this neighborhood commercial street are 80-foot tall trees, like those one can see from Houndstooth Coffee, located on Henderson Avenue. These are found behind the 100-year-old residences beyond Henderson, like this one on Monarch Street behind Louie’s Bar and Restaurant. The mature trees in the backyards of the houses abutting the commercial uses are what give Henderson a neighborhood feel. Otherwise, we might as well be in the commercial districts of the West End, Deep Ellum, or Uptown.

    Global Warming, Pestilence, Neighborhood Ecosystem Disrupted

    The loss of trees is more than just an aesthetic loss. Backyard rental houses contribute to global warming, invite pestilence, and disrupt the environmental ecosystems of the neighborhood urban gardens.

    Global Warming

    A canopy of trees keeps homes cooler, requiring less air conditioning. Shaded backyards with unblocked breezes cool the yards and porches, encouraging homeowners to spend time outside, and reducing the amount of air conditioning needed inside. The rooftops and concrete that replace these backyard trees collect heat and radiate that heat outward to the neighboring homes, neighborhood and city.


    West Nile Mosquitoes Do Not Like Density

    The summer breezes that flow through the trees have more than just a cooling effect. Breezes are the best defense against the small West Nile Virus-carrying mosquito. The large field mosquito can fight through the wind. The West Nile mosquito likes still air in highly developed areas, breeding in bottle caps and other small amounts of water. The breezes and open areas make East Dallas much safer than neighborhoods like North Dallas, with larger footprints of homes and development. Backyard 40-foot wide rental houses on 50-foot wide lots block any breeze. These backyard rent houses invite the West Nile mosquito.

    Environmental Impact

    Cooper’s Hawks in backyards cause an ebb and flow with a variety of songbirds that return when hawk leaves.

    In the older neighborhoods of Dallas, with layers of flowering trees, one will see Cooper’s hawks, egrets, and owls. Also seen are songbirds of many varieties, pollinating hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, along with much wildlife. This natural environment and rich ecosystem is eradicated with backyard rental houses.

    Density Creates Dire Consequences

    Adding backyard rental houses might sound like a short-term solution, but it would have negative short-term and dire long-term consequences. As cities around the world become more prosperous, they become less dense. Both homeowners and apartment renters prefer to live in single-family home neighborhoods.

    People Are Flocking to Cities Without Density

    The people in denser cities like New York and Chicago are flocking to less dense cities like Dallas. Every city has a distinct personality that should be further developed. Dallas is an open, green city that is easy to move around. Also, it is full of potential.

    Employment and Housing Now Have More Flexibility

    One half of the geographic area is on the south side of the Trinity River which houses only 10% of the Dallas population. This geographically beautiful part of Dallas has unlimited possibilities for affordable homes, expensive homes, and new jobs. Autonomous transportation and delivery systems will be implemented in a few years, eliminating congestion and changing development patterns and removing the need to live near places of employment. Further, 50% of workers even now can work remotely. The future evolution of technology and development will eliminate any benefit of inserting rent houses in backyards of single family homes.

    Dallas Should Celebrate Its Strength – Revel in Low Density

    Rather than undermining the economic and aesthetic stability of Dallas’ finest neighborhoods, inviting disease, accelerating global warming, and eradicating the rich natural ecosystem, Dallas should celebrate its strengths and potential. The finest neighborhoods are like gardens that should be tended and nourished, so they can continue to flourish. The Dallas city manager, housing director, and planning director should concentrate even more energy on revitalization, conservation, and development of the distressed neighborhoods. Rather than diminish the neighborhoods north of the Trinity River, the southern half of the city should be cultivated, planted and nourished so it, too, can flourish.

    South of the Trinity River Should Be City Planners’ Playground

    It is in the southern half of Dallas where there is an abundance of vacant property, deteriorating neighborhoods, and development opportunities. Many of the current avant-garde housing ideas from the 1940s can be explored—shared housing, rooming houses, adding extra kitchens and apartments within single-family homes, and allowing rent houses in backyards—in the neighborhoods that are deteriorating, being abandoned and that are ripe for new development.

    It is essential we protect the positively evolving neighborhoods from more density. We do not want to destabilize the good neighborhoods by adding more apartment zoning. We do not want to return to the Dallas housing policy of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s that wreaked havoc on the single family neighborhoods. Has the city of Dallas conducted a study to see how many more rental units can be built under the current zoning? How many more can be built near single-family homes?

    Dallas Had Largest Multi-Family Zoned Area Rezoned Single-Family in the Country

    In 1976, the largest rezoning case in Dallas history consisted of rezoning 100 blocks of 2,000 mostly rental properties from multi-family zoning to single-family zoning. This single-family rezoning was in an era when urban planners, including the award-winning ones in Dallas, were calling for more density, not less. The property owners, with the support of the property rights mayor and developer Robert Folsom, prevailed. The largest single-family rezoning in the nation passed.

    FNMA Selected Munger Place for Its First Inner City Loans

    Because of this single-family rezoning, FNMA selected Munger Place and Old East Dallas for its first inner city lending demonstration project. Old East Dallas gradually became more single-family. Many years later, FNMA called this neighborhood their most successful inner city lending revitalization project. Rather than return to the bad housing policies of more density and rental zoning that devastated the finest old neighborhoods of Dallas, we should embrace the single-family zoning that revitalized them and made them stronger.

    Dallas Neighborhoods Become Increasingly Attractive

    Our single-family zoned neighborhoods, many of them now also historic and conservation districts, are increasingly attractive to residents in Dallas and residents in the denser cities across the country that are moving to Dallas to find a home that will make them happy and to enjoy a lovelier way of life.

    This piece first appeared on Dallas Architecture Blog.

    Douglas Newby is a real estate broker who initiated the largest the largest rezoning in Dallas - 2,000 properties primarily in use as multi family rental properties to single family zoning. In 1979, in Dallas he created the first Restoration House of the Year Award, and for the Dallas Chapter of the AIA organized a city wide survey of architect designed and Significant homes. His TEDx talk is Homes That Make Us Happy. His website is: Blog is

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    The following excerpt is from a new report, Perspectives on Defining the American Heartland, written by Ross DeVol, a Walton Family Foundation Fellow. Read the full report (PDF) here.

    George Strait sings about it. Kevin Costner built a baseball field in the middle of it. The Pioneer Woman cooks for it.

    When one hears “American Heartland”–specific images and cultural values come to mind. With more emphasis on the economy between the coastal regions of the United States, there’s more interest in the American Heartland that goes beyond a country music song, a movie, or a popular cooking show on television.

    And yet, a widely shared vision of what geographic region truly comprises the American Heartland has so far proved elusive.

    A recent online poll from The New York Times provided nine different maps of the United States. They then asked their readers to choose the one map that most closely represents their perception of the American Heartland. Many of these maps represented subsections of states. Out of the provided choices, the map with the most responses only managed a meager 22 percent. Some people might see it merely as the middle of the country (Midwest). Others may use the pejorative term, Flyover Country. Most would not include parts of the South. Many would focus on the economic characteristics such as manufacturing (Rust Belt) or agricultural (Breadbasket) dependence. Despite all of the variables, we innately share degrees of ideology and geographic orientation of where the American Heartland is on a map.

    There is little written analysis attempting to explain the geography of the American Heartland and the emerging term, New American Heartland, in a cohesive manner. This paper explores the origin of the term, Heartland and traces through a series of predecessor terms and how the use of the American Heartland term evolved over time. It concludes with my perspectives on the geographic dimensions of defining the American Heartland.

    Today, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a heartland as “a usually extensive central region of homogeneous (geographic, political, industrial, etc.) character.” Moving to the specific from the generic definition, Merriam-Webster adds a sociopolitical context to Heartland—“the central
    geographic region of the United States in which mainstream values or traditional values predominate.” This context is essential as the geography is deemphasized and ideology becomes more central to the definition.ii The Merriam-Webster definition also implies that some Southern states are part of the Heartland.

    Further, some writers attach almost a mystical quality to the Heartland, “The Heartland is considered a place we return to when we need to renew ourselves or recommit ourselves to the things that matter.” This quote from Frontiers to Heartland provides a clear perspective of those seeking to enhance the importance of Heartland in the national psyche. Additionally, it suggests that Heartland residents are more stable, cautious and traditional than other parts of the U.S. Many Coastal residents would envision that description as highlighting what traits are holding the Heartland back.

    Read the full report (PDF) here.

    RossDeVol is a Walton Fellow at the Walton Family Foundation and is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, focusing on research on policies related to economic vitality in Northwest Arkansas and the American heartland. Ross is the former chief research officer at the Milken Institute, where he was responsible for overseeing research on international, national and subnational growth performance; access to capital and its role in economic growth and job creation; and health-related topics. He was ranked among the “Superstars of Think Tank Scholars” by International Economy magazine.

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    No state in the union has been more adamant in opposing President Trump’s policy on immigration than California. The Golden State widely sees itself — and is widely seen in progressive circles — as the harbinger of America’s multi-cultural future, a “sanctuary state” that epitomizes ethnic ascendency.

    Yet in reality, the picture is far less pleasing, most of all for racial minorities, particularly the poor and working class. The state policy agenda, dominated by concerns over climate change, has been something of a disaster for the very minorities that state progressives so fervently claim to serve.

    This claim is at the center of a new report by David Friedman and Jennifer Hernandez, released this week by Chapman University, which spells out the ways the California “boom” has hurt the prospect for historically disadvantaged ethnic minorities such as African Americans and Latinos.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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: TJH2018 [CC BY-SA 3.0 us], from Wikimedia Commons

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    Federal District Court Judge William Alsup dismissed the "global warming" lawsuits of the cities of Oakland and San Francisco against large oil and gas companies, In so doing, the Judge provided important lessons in history, logic and public policy.

    The cities had sought compensation for present and future sea level rise they attributed to the actions of defendants Chevron, Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips, all among the largest investor owned companies in the industry. The suit did not target the similarly large state-owned oil companies such as Saudi Arabia's Aramco, China's Sinopec and PetroChina, Kuwait Petroleum, and Mexico's Pemez which are among the most powerful in the industry.

    The Costs and Benefits of Fossil Fuels

    Judge Alsup ruled that cost-benefit analysis was necessary. Nearly a decade ago, I wrote a New Geography piece on "cowboy greenhouse gas emission policies" that get in the way of policies that could work, but did not anticipate the piecemeal cowboy legal actions of individual jurisdictions.

    He cited a precedent, in which the U. S. Supreme Court "cautioned that policy questions concerning global warming require an “informed assessment of competing interests” and that “[a]long with the environmental benefit potentially achievable, our Nation’s energy needs and the possibility of economic disruption must weigh in the balance.” These points have been made evident in the recent report on the impact of climate change recently released.

    The Judge noted that:

    The scope of plaintiffs’ theory is breathtaking. It would reach the sale of fossil fuels anywhere in the world, including all past and otherwise lawful sales, where the seller knew that the combustion of fossil fuels contributed to the phenomenon of global warming.

    Jurisdictions around the world could follow suit, with the result being substantially higher costs of production. This could significantly reduce economic growth rates and would especially hurt low income residents who are by far the most sensitive to such price increases.

    Based upon the historical record, Judge Alsup's view is that there have been important net benefits to society from fossil fuels:

    "With respect to balancing the social utility against the gravity of the anticipated harm, it is true that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has caused (and will continue to cause) global warming. But against that negative, we must weigh this positive: our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible. All of us have benefitted."

    Despite all the sometimes overhyped talk about renewable substitutes for fossil fuels, it is clear that fossil fuels are still necessary to maintaining and growing the economy, Alsup says that:

    In our industrialized and modern society, we needed (and still need) oil and gas to fuel power plants, vehicles, planes, trains, ships, equipment, homes and factories. Our industrial revolution and our modern nation, to repeat, have been fueled by fossil fuels.

    Who is Responsible for the Externalities of Fossil Fuels?

    Judge Alsup also raises the important logical question of responsibility. Who should shoulder the cost of any externalities? Judge Alsup places the responsibility for use of fossil fuels where it belongs, with those who use them. Perhaps it would have made more sense for Oakland and San Francisco to sue everyone, including their own citizens, since virtually everyone contributes to fossil fuel emissions.

    The harm alleged by our plaintiffs remains a harm caused by fossil fuel emissions, not the mere extraction or even sale of fossil fuels.

    Of course, the emissions are caused by the users of fossil fuels, none of whom is forced to use them. That may be an impractical course, but it is surely available to any who would apply monkish dedication to the subject.

    Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?

    Fossil Fuels Made the Modern World Possible

    Indeed, if political leadership at the beginning of the industrial revolution had been similar to that of the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, there likely would never have been one. That would have been tragic. The billions of people lifted out of poverty would still be poor in all likelihood.

    This is evident by the work of economists Diedre McCloskey at the University of Illinois, Chicago and Robert Gordon at Northwestern University. In 1800, most of the population of the world, including the currently most affluent nations of Western Europe, Canada, the United States and Japan was in poverty. Fossil fuels were critical in making possible the affluence that emerged on an unprecedented scale. It seems unlikely that there are many households prepared to accept the radically lower standards of living necessary by "swearing off" fossil fuels. Moreover, most would agree that throughout the affluent countries, poverty should be reduced.

    China, which as late as 1980 was among the poorest per capita nations in the world, has made unprecedented economic progress since that time. This has included lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. It was made possible by fossil fuels, and especially the use of coal, which fueled much of the economic growth. Similarly, there seems no rush on the part of the Chinese to restore that economic conditions of forty years ago. Despite the huge reduction of poverty in China, there is still a need for more reductions (see photograph above of a low-income area of Shanghai, with a nearby expensive apartment building in the background).

    The world economy, including that of China could be substantially weakened by the precedents that Oakland and San Francisco sought to establish. Moreover, poverty would be increased and middle-income households would be left worse off.

    The Self Evident Net Benefits of Fossil Fuels

    Beyond the judge's opinion, the reality is that fossil fuels provide substantial enough net benefits to billions of people who might not be willing to accept the substantially lower quality of life. This is the ultimate and self-evident test. These users have not been duped by the oil and gas companies into using fossil fuels; they use them to improve their own lives.

    And these billions include the city council members of both San Francisco and Oakland, as well as just about everyone else in the United States, Europe, Japan --- and every other countries as well.

    Judge Alsup's opinion is refreshing and should be the basis for future discussions on looking for ways of mitigating environmental consequences without undermining prosperity, particularly for those who do not yet fully enjoy it.

    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: Shanghai low-income neighborhood, with expensive apartment tower in background (By author, July 2018)

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    Environmental extremism increasingly dominates California. The state is making a concerted attack on energy companies in the courts; a bill is pending in the legislature to fine waiters $1,000—or jail them—if they offer people plastic straws; and UCLA issued a report describing pets as a climate threat. The state has taken upon itself the mission of limiting the flatulence of cows and other farm animals. As the self-described capital of the anti-Trump resistance, California presents itself as the herald of a green, more socially and racially just society. That view has been utterly devastated by a new report from Chapman University, in which coauthors David Friedman and Jennifer Hernandez demonstrate that California’s draconian anti-climate-change regime has exacerbated economic, geographic, and racial inequality. And to make things worse, California’s efforts to save the planet have actually done little more than divert greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) to other states and countries.

    Read the entire piece at City Journal.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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: Berardo62 (Flickr: offshore oil rig) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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    One of the things you’re sure to hear about if you read up on Nashville is a local dish called “Nashville hot chicken,” a local culinary specialty.

    To listen to people talk about it, you’d think eating Nashville hot chicken was some kind of ancient local religious rite. In fact, Nashville hot chicken appears to be a dish of fairly recent provenance. According to the Wikipedia entry for it:

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that spicy fried chicken has been served in Nashville for generations. The current dish may have been introduced as early as the 1930s, however, the current style of spice paste may only date back to the mid-1970s. It is generally accepted that the originator of hot chicken is the family of Andre Prince Jeffries, owner of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. She has operated the restaurant since 1980; before that time, it was owned by her great-uncle, Thornton Prince. Although impossible to verify, Jeffries says the development of hot chicken was an accident. Her great-uncle Thornton was purportedly a womanizer, and after a particularly late night out his girlfriend at the time cooked him a fried chicken breakfast with extra pepper as revenge. Instead, Thornton decided he liked it so much that, by the mid-1930s, he and his brothers had created their own recipe and opened the BBQ Chicken Shack café.

    In other words, it’s possible that this dish has been around a while in some form in the local black community, but what we know today as the Nashville hot chicken is from the 70s or 80s. A Midwestern reader with longstanding family ties to Nashville told me a while back that at least through the 1990s he never heard hot chicken mentioned there. I read that Nashville hot chicken is now supposedly popular around the south, but having spent extensive time in Alabama 10-15 years ago, I never once came across it there.

    An enterprising journalist should write a true history of hot chicken, but it appears that this was a minor product, until fairly recently mostly limited to the black community and not even especially prevalent there.

    Yet once again Nashville managed to take something about itself and create a mythos around it to build the brand. I just read this week that Pringles is now releasing a Nashville hot chicken flavor.

    Being from Indiana I can’t help but contrast this with the pork tenderloin sandwich, which may be served regionally in various places (supposedly especially in Iowa) but is a particular speciality in Indiana.

    I did not eat these growing up. The far Southern Indiana area I grew up in had a strong Kentucky influence and orientation, and tenderloins were not a thing there. I suspect there are other parts of the state where that’s also true. For example, I’ve never seen one on a menu in Northwest Indiana, nor have my many friends from there ever referenced it. But the pork tenderloin is fairly ubiquitous in Central Indiana, where it is on practically every bar and grill menu. I’m not sure of the actual origins and history of this product either, but it’s been around at least as long as Nashville hot chicken and in a much more extensive way.

    Yet, as typical for Midwest food products, this never became a branding element outside Indianapolis or outside the state. (A better example might be Cincinnati style chili, which is better known, but never became “cool” in any sort of national way, though Skyline chili tried to expand regionally a while back).

    Why was Indianapolis unable to do with the tenderloin what Nashville did with hot chicken?

    For one thing, it never actually tried. The most telling thing in this regard is that I’ve never once seen or heard of a chef at any of the new hip restaurants in Indy do an interpretation the pork tenderloin. My wife lived her entire adult life in Indy until recently and she couldn’t think of one either, though it’s possible it happened recently.

    Go to the restaurant page of the Indianapolis tourism agency and there’s no mention of a pork tenderloin sandwich, nor a picture of it. There’s nothing on the Indianapolis Monthly dining page either, though I know they occasionally do cover tenderloins. One place that I have seen do something with it is north suburban Hamilton County, which has an annual tenderloin trail event– conveniently happening this month – with discounts at 27 different places on “Tenderloin Tuesdays.”

    I again and again see that Southern cities start with little to nothing, and yet what they do have they treat as the greatest things of all time. As illustrated by Nashville hot chicken, they’ve also looked at their often neglected black community as a source of local cultural identity.

    The Midwestern cities not only fail at this consistently, they typically don’t even try. There are tons of regional food products in the Midwest – Chicago style dogs, St. Louis pizza, etc. – but other than Chicago’s deep dish pizza, they have been dramatically underexploited in the marketplace even as these cities say that they are very keen to raise their brand profiles.

    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,, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo: Prince’s hot chicken, CC SA-2.0

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    With his decision to move to Los Angeles, LeBron James has given our metropolis another reason to feel good about itself. When it comes to sports, and celebrity, Los Angeles’ lead is only growing, as evidenced by the recent movement of two football teams to the area, the proposed construction of a new basketball facility for the Clippers and the winning of the 2028 Olympics games.

    Los Angeles is clearly winning the battle for sports screen time. In choosing Southern California, James effectively dissed Cleveland, no great rival, but also wannabe Houston, which he apparently has no fondness for, as well as Philadelphia and Boston, two attractive traditional basketball junkie centers. The fact that New York, America’s other megacity, was not even in the discussion might constitute the sweetest message of all.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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: Keith Allison, via Flickr, using CC License.

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    Just a few years ago, experts indicated Americans (especially young Americans) were more interested in a different lifestyle than previous generations. Instead of owning a house in the suburbs, the new American dream consisted of renting an apartment in the city.

    Recently, though, Americans of all ages have begun to leave major metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles. Over the last five years, population growth in big cities has shrunk, and people are packing up and moving again.

    But where are they going now? We analyzed census data from the last five years to explore the counties and states where the most people are putting down roots. Let's take a look.

    Living just a train ride away from Manhattan or a few hours from the Santa Monica Pier or Golden Gate Bridge might sound like the life—and for some people, it is—but people may now be looking elsewhere to settle down.

    This graphic helps illustrate which U.S. states have seen the highest net migration, both in and out, between 2011 and 2016. As you can see, states in the Northeast saw a larger negative net migration, while Southern states had a strong influx of newcomers.

    Additionally, states with some of the most popular metropolitan areas, including New York, California, and Illinois, had substantial negative net migration as well.

    "There's no place like home" is meant to convey that even when you live somewhere else, you'll always have a certain fondness for your home. That is unless you can find someplace better.

    From the data, we learned there was actually quite a lot of back and forth between state borders. While a majority of people moving to the West Coast (including Utah, Washington, and Oregon) came from California, people from these states typically relocated to California as well. Similarly, people living in states like New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana generally moved from Texas, but people from these same states were also more likely to relocate to Texas.

    It's no wonder, though, states like Texas and California continue to be popular destinations considering their successful employment rates. Of course, some states also come with a fairly hefty price tag. California and New York may have great job markets, but they also have the highest costs of living in the U.S. Looking to buy a home in California? The median home price is over $537,000—compared to roughly $213,000 across the country.

    So if some states are losing residents in droves, where are they going?

    For New Yorkers looking to leave behind the cold winters, high costs of living, and stagnant wages, there's only one place to go: Florida. With its world-famous beaches and low personal income tax rate, Florida was the most popular destination state for people leaving states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

    Even Californians are leaving the West Coast for Southern hospitality. In the past five years, an average of over 25,000 people left California for Texas. The tech industry has been relatively successful in certain parts of Texas, but unlike California, you won't have to give up the majority of your salary to afford rent.

    Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon were other popular destinations for people looking to relocate from California. While Florida certainly sees its fair share of new residents, more than 9,400 people have left Florida to call Texas home since 2011.

    The sunshine and celebrity sightings might be nice, but it costs a lot of money to live in Los Angeles. Where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $2,000, buying a home can set you back an average of $740,000, and even frugal spenders should expect to spend $500 or more a month on groceries. The cost of living might also help to explain why nearly 6,900 people have left Los Angeles for Clark County, Nevada.

    Every year, thousands of people give up their daily commutes on the 405 for the dry heat of Nevada, home to the University of Nevada, Mesquite, Boulder City, and Las Vegas. In Clark County, the median home price is less than $203,000, and a positive job growth means there's plenty of opportunity for those looking to escape the big city life.

    In Cook County, Illinois (the second most populated county in the U.S. after Los Angeles and home to Chicago), almost 5,600 people have left for Lake County, Indiana.

    Thousands of people have also decided to leave Washington, D.C. Whether it's the congested roadways, cost of living, or job opportunities, many have made their way to Prince George's or Montgomery counties in Maryland from D.C.

    In some cases, people have left areas like California, New York, and Washington, D.C., almost as fast as they've moved into them. Only a few states have seen a much faster exodus than growth.

    Between 2011 and 2016, nearly 11 percent of Alaskan residents moved out of state, although there was less than 6 percent growth to replace their presence. This marks the first time in decades that Alaska's population has shrunk, further compounding the state's economic strife. Since 2012, over 29,000 more people have moved from than moved to Alaska, and nearby states like Washington and California have become much more attractive to residents.

    However, many states are seeing the opposite effect. Despite the expense, more people moved to than from California between 2011 and 2016, New York saw hardly any change in its population, and a higher percentage of people moved to than from Washington, D.C., over the same period.

    Millennials are shaking things up. Whether it's the way they shop, eat, or approach money, young Americans aren't following in the footsteps of generations past—and that even includes their jobs.

    Studies have shown millennials aren't afraid to do two things uncommon for older generations: jump from job to job and move from place to place. Considering relocating appeals to young employees, it's no wonder the highest percentages of people crossing state borders were millennials.

    Seven percent of people aged 18 to 19 moved between states from 2011 to 2016. The next largest moving age groups were between 20 and 24 and 25 to 29. But where did they go? States like California and Florida were more likely to be the new homes of Americans aged 70 to 74, while young movers were more inclined to move to states like Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, and Illinois.

    Coming or going?

    When it comes to deciding where you want to live, there are many factors to consider aside from the location. As we found, the cost of living, job market, and industry trends likely play an important role in whether Americans pick up and move. Thousands of people do it every year though, including New Yorkers leaving the Northeast for Florida and Californians relocating to Nevada.

    Whether you're coming or going, your house should feel like a home from the very beginning. At Porch, our goal is to help simplify the home improvement process from day one. Our free Porch Home Assistant is available 24/7 to connect you with professionals (or someone in our network) to manage everything from TV mounting to furniture assembly and lawn maintenance. Don't let your to-do list get out of hand. Visit us at Porch to find the right professional for your next home project.


    Using the U.S. Census Bureau County-to-County Migration Flows data, we analyzed where people moved to and from across the United States. We utilized the 2011-2015 Migration Flows data, which are the most up to date at the time of this writing. We looked at net migration unless otherwise stated, which shows the net gain or loss for a location-to-location flow. This is not indicative of the number of people who left the location, though. Since Census data relies solely on estimates, the figures presented above may not be inclusive of all migration.

    This piece originally appeared on

    Photo by yesid ferney patiño … [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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    Once the rich protected themselves by aligning with Republicans who would protect their property from high taxes and their firms from regulation.

    Some still do—notably the Koch brothers—but this breed of right-winger is gradually losing out to more progressive tilted plutocrats. In 2016, according to Open Secrets, three of the four largest billionaire political donors—hedge fund manager James Simon and his wife Marilyn, Michael Bloomberg, and currency speculator George Soros—titled progressive. This reflects a broader social trend.

    Overall the GOP continues to slightly outpace Democrats among the ultra rich, but most of the big conservative donors such as Charles and David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Rupert Murdoch, and Irvine Chairman Don Bren are well into their seventies or in their eighties. The trend belongs, clearly, to the progressives. Between 1980 to 2016, support for Democrats from the 0.1 percent has tripled, and donors in the nation’s wealthiest zip codes overall now give more to Democrats than Republicans.

    Take Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican of convenience who last week announced he would invest $80 million into Democratic campaigns this fall before teasing, yet again, a possible presidential run of his own. Bloomberg’s usual causes are not those of traditional social democracy—after all this is the guy who proclaimed what New York really needed was more billionaires, and who beta-tested in New York City the businessman-as-better-political-leader pitch he then watched with dismay Donald Trump take all the way to the White House—but issues less threatening to the plutocracy, such as climate change and gun control.

    The buyout of mainstream progressivism has changed its nature. Big donor-driven candidates—who still dominate the party’s leadership ranks, even as small-donor powered insurgents like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez test that arrangement, at least in low-turnout elections—are less concerned with the fate of auto or communication workers than they are with issues of environmental regulation, identity, and culture.

    Facebook President Sean Parker, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Chairman Marc Benioff, Mark Zuckerberg, and the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, are all relatively young men devoted to the progressive cause—at least those parts of it that don’t threaten their bottom lines.

    The Trump Effect

    With his horrendous comments and awful actions, Trump has accelerated wokeism among the wealthy and their minions. This oligarchic drift has been building for years, as wealth has shifted from traditional resource and manufacturing industries to software, media, finance, and entertainment. In sharp contrast to energy firms, home-builders, and farmers, the regulatory state does not threaten the bottom lines of these industries, as long as it refrains from breaking up their virtual monopolies.

    Indeed, as researcher Greg Ferenstein suggests, the new oligarchs favor an active state that will subsidize worker housing or even a guaranteed minimum income, and keep their businesses off the hook for providing decent benefits to their ever expanding cadre of gig-economy serfs. He points out that the former head of Uber, Travis Kalanick, was a strong supporter of Obamacare and that many top tech executives—including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk—favor a government-provided guaranteed annual wage to help, in part, allay fears about what happens to most of the workforce as their industries and jobs are “disrupted.”

    Geography plays a role here as well. With the biggest concentrations of wealth now in the most “progressive” regions—the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Seattle—moguls must operate in an environment dominated by fervent anti-Trump social-justice and green advocacy. Many big tech employees—nearly 40 percent in the Bay Area, by some estimates—are noncitizens, with little reason to be concerned about how the wealth in these corners is, or is not, spread across the nation.

    So it’s no surprise that woke employees at Microsoft, horrified by the brutalism of Trump’s immigration policies, have decided not to cooperate with ICE. Not to be outdone, Amazon workers compare their company’s cooperation with immigration authorities to IBM’s collaboration with Nazi Germany. Similarly Google workers are refusing to help with drones used to combat terrorists, while Apple is actively working to make it difficult for police to break into phones used in committing crimes, including in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist massacre.

    So powerful, and self-referential, are these companies—and their highly compensated workers—that they are increasingly willing to deny even the idea of national interest when that does not suit their political notions. Unlike businesses that worry about competition or mass opinion, these oligarchic companies can demonize half of the country with impunity. At the end of the day, even Trumpians depend on these systems unless they want to look at Chinese alternatives.

    The New Controllers

    Since Trump’s election, many progressives have pushed the idea that we are on the cusp of a return to traditional authoritarianism, as portrayed in books like George Orwell’s 1984 or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Yet the real model for future tyranny may be more that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which portrays a society run by a biologically conditioned scientific and technological elite.

    In Brave New World, the masters are not hoary Stalinoids or angry right-wing fundamentalists, but gentle, reasoned executives. The Controllers preside over a society where social classes are well-defined, and only those at the top—the Alphas—live in comfort. Families have been abolished except on reservations for misfits, and people widely enjoy access to pleasurable pharmaceuticals and unconstrained, commitment-free sex in the city.

    Huxley’s future eerily resembles the one favored by the oligarchs, who are now paying women workers to freeze their eggs as they aim to create an elite Alpha class without children or property, to be serviced by the low-wage Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons of Huxley’s world—bused in from the suburban fringes.

    The Controller’s power, first and foremost, depends on implanting information. In Brave New World contrary ideas are dismissed not as breaking the party line but as simply absurd or even pornographic. Today’s woke oligarchs do much the same by controlling both information and culture. Bloomberg is a prime example but he’s a pauper compared to Bezos, the world’s richest man owning one of the nation’s most influential newspapers.

    Tech sofa change in recent years also helped Mark Zuckerberg’s college roommate buy The New Republic, and run it into the ground before selling it. More recently Laurene Powell, the left-leaning widow of the late Steve Jobs (net worth $20 billion), scooped up The Atlantic for a nonprofit that will compete with more traditional competitors who still, sadly, have to make money.

    Meanwhile, Google is promoting journalism by robots while also planning to invest $300 million in favored outlets. What could go wrong?

    The Agenda

    In the emerging regime, here’s what’s not important: personal autonomy and privacy. A controlled and woke society starts with access to people’s thoughts, something critical to the advertising-driven businesses of Google and Facebook and, increasingly, also to Apple and Microsoft. It’s important to remember what Google’s former Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt once told CNBC: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

    The digital revolution, which had so much promise for democratizing information, appears to be hyper-concentrating media both geographically, on the coasts, and through pipelines controlled overwhelmingly by firms like Facebook, so that a change in policy there can undermine even established media, and Google, which controls over a third of all on-line advertising and a remarkable 90 percent of global search. As The Guardian recently put it: “If ExxonMobil attempted to insert itself into every element of our lives like this, there might be a concerted grassroots movement to curb its influence.”

    These patterns are reinforced by students shaped by our ideologically homogeneous education system. The censorious instinct now intrinsic to universities, particularly the elite ones, shapes the thoughts of the highly educated workers critical to these companies. Controllers like those at Facebook increasingly seek to “curate” views, largely conservative, they don’t like, according to former employees. Often this censorship is being carried out under guidance developed by largely progressive groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has too often labeled anyone outside its ideological “safe space” as racist bigots. Over 70 percent of Americans, notes a recent Pew study, believe social media platforms “censor political views.”

    Ultimately the oligarchs, reacting to their woke workers and constituency, seek a control over basic behavior in ways even the snoop-crazy Chinese would admire. Facebook already admits to having patented technology that would allow them to snoop on their users, although they deny using it. Netflix, the oligarchical company that by some estimates is now worth more than any of the movie studios, recently imposed controls over what people do on sets of movies they finance. That includes rules that ban asking for phone numbers of co-workers or even looking at people for more than five seconds, an innovation even more intrusive than those of Huxley’s Controllers.

    Hypocritical Oaths

    Stanley Bing’s recently released Immortal Life gives a riveting version of a near-future society shaped by our tech oligarchs. In his not-so-distant future, government has largely been replaced by a cabal of superannuated tech moguls—effectively Global Controllers—who shape societal views, implant devices in human brains, and dominate every aspect of the economy. Democracy hasn’t just been constrained; it’s been excised.

    Right now the rising power of the Controllers has been obscured by the Trumpian counterrevolution, a peasant rebellion supported by a less than charming alliance of old economy moguls, angry white males, and more than few xenophobic racists. But over the long term, history is bending toward the woke oligarchy—particularly as the old generation conveniently dies off.

    If these well-heeled progressives have a vulnerability, it’s their extreme hypocrisy. In California, the epicenter of the resistance and elite wokefulness, Silicon Valley oligarchs and their shrieky Hollywood counterparts are fervent in their embrace of progressive values. But, as a new report from Chapman University shows, the prevailing oligarch-friendly California economic agenda—hostile to suburbs, fossil-fuel energy, and manufacturing—has proven unequal and particularly damaging to minorities.

    Not without reason has the maverick environmentalist Mike Shellenberger called California “the most racist” state in the union. Far from Malibu and swanky haunts of the cultural elites, the bulk of Los Angeles suffers among the highest poverty rates of any metropolitan areas. Cost-adjusted wages for middle-class workers, Latinos, and African Americans in Silicon Valley have actually dropped during the recent economic boom there.

    Perhaps there’s no better illustration of hypocrisy than the Disney company. The once conservative bastion-turned-promoter of woke values has been led by Robert Iger, a fantastically well-compensated self-defined “progressive,” who has made much of denouncing President Trump’s immigration policy as “cruel and misguided ” and taking standard progressive positions on guns and the Paris accords. Yet, as Bernie Sanders has pointed out recently, Disney workers are generally poorly paid, many on the verge of poverty. Even middle-class workers have been given the shiv: The company infamously replaced its IT workers with outside contractors shipped in from India.

    Against the Oligarchs

    This unprecedented agglomeration of wealth and power needs to be opposed both by conservatives and traditional progressives. It won’t be easy. In the presidential run, The Washington Posttook hard aim at Bernie Sanders before turning, albeit less successfully, against Trump. More recently Amazon and its minions forced Seattle’s progressives to back down from a plan to make the company pay more taxes. Majority Leader Charles Schumer opposes higher capital-gains rates, warming the cockles of venture capitalists and the new economic royalists, some of whom are his contributors.

    Even on green issues, the famously pious oligarchs demonstrate remarkable levels of hypocrisy. These firms have bought enough allowances and built solar or wind facilities to claim “carbon neutrality.” But such offsets, as the new Chapman report reveals, mostly shuffle greenhouse gases around and don’t actually reduce global emissions. Apple keeps its California carbon footprint down by making all its products abroad, mostly in China—which ends up spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than if they built them here.

    Ultimately the only way to stop the new Controllers and challenge their hypocrisy will be to meet them head on. Companies like Google need to be broken up, as many on both right and left agree. This position has even been adopted by the generally liberal Boston Globe which warned that, “Never ever in the history of the world has a single company had so much control over what people know and think.”

    But it’s not just Google—which spends more on lobbying than any other private company—or Amazon, which has quadrupled its government spending since 2014. This relatively new focus on inside Washington influence-peddling, combined with their oversized influence on critical technologies, our media, and overall economic system makes these firms a threat to the pluralism essential to democracy, unlike any we have seen in the last century. Their vision presages a society where few work and a handful control the nation’s riches. To avoid a rebellion, the “redundant” are supposed to be paid off with some sort of government allowance.

    Americans need to oppose this evolution and fight for the flourishing of a grassroots and more dispersed economy now, before the oligarchs brave new world is fully and finally here.

    This piece originally appeared on The Daily Beast.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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 by Maurizio Pesce, via Flickr, using CC License.

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    Some recent piecesI wroteabout segregation in the past few weeks got me thinking of how to express how a particular feature of segregation I've witnessed in the Rust Belt, what one might call "diversity without integration", plays out in some cities. As quite a few people know, at the overall city level Chicago is about as diverse as any city in the nation -- the demographic makeup of the city is about 30 percent white, 30 percent black and 30 percent Latino, with various other groups making up the balance. But at any level lower than the citywide level, whether regional (North Side, West Side, South Side), or community (one of the city's 77 designated community areas), or neighborhood (numbering in the hundreds), you'd be extremely hard pressed to find a place of any size that has the same level of the city overall. Hence the term diversity without integration.

    Thinking about this brought me back to a story produced last year by Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ for their Curious City series. The premise of the series is great; listeners are given the chance to ask a vexing question about Chicago and WBEZ's team of reporters put in the research to find an answer. Sometimes questions address myths or urban legends regarding Chicago, or address conditions unique to the city. The story linked to above asked a simple but searing question, as it relates to this city: is notoriously segregated Chicago finally becoming more integrated?

    WBEZ did the analysis to find an answer. Their verdict?

    "Yes, Chicago is less segregated than it used to be. Curious City, in collaboration with City Bureau, crunched the numbers and found a slight decrease in segregation since 1990 — both on the citywide level as well as for individual neighborhoods.

    (T)he black-white index of dissimilarity in 2010 in Chicago was 82.5, meaning nearly 83 percent of the city’s black and white residents would have to move to a different part of the city in order to achieve integration across the city. But in 1990, it was 88.5, so there’s been a slight improvement."

    But if you examine Chicago at the neighborhood level, things change:

    "Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, says since the 1990s, the white population has declined on the Southwest and Northwest sides and it’s been replaced by Latinos. This has put Latino communities in closer proximity to black communities on the South Side compared to 20 or 30 years ago.

    In a way, Latinos are now a buffer group between whites and blacks.
    “Latino communities are in between black and white communities in most areas of the city,” Puente says. “If you look at a map of Chicago from downtown, and you draw a ‘V,’ Latinos are the ‘V’ with whites and black communities being on either side.”

    And that brings us to Ashburn, a community I know well (I used to live just to the east of it in the Auburn-Gresham community), and has undergone pretty significant racial and ethnic change since the 1980's.

    Ashburn is a community of about 40,000 people on Chicago's Southwest Side. It's part of the city but it has a distinct inner-ring suburb feel to it: comfortable single-family homes mostly built in the '50s and '60s. Ashburn sits just south and east of a major industrial area with dozens of manufacturing employers which made housing for those workers attractive. The main commercial corridor is 79th Street.

    Here are a few pictures of the residential streets:

    7900 Block of S. Richmond Avenue in Chicago's Ashburn neighborhood

    3500 Block of W. 76th Place in Chicago's Ashburn neighborhood

    The neighborhood has become home to lots of city workers and retirees, much like in the Mount Greenwood area I described before, about five miles directly south of Ashburn. But there are far more black and Latino residents here.

    In fact, WBEZ chose this neighborhood in part because Ashburn's current demographic makeup might make it the community closest to Chicago's overall makeup -- about 48 percent black, 36 percent Latino and 13 percent white.

    But this is clearly a community in transition, and WBEZ's report makes that clear.

    "If you visited Ashburn in 1990, more than four in five Ashburn residents would have been white.

    Now, it’s about half black, 38 percent Latino and 13 percent white.
    Ashburn’s white population declined rapidly after black people began moving into the area in large numbers in the 1980s. Today, whites continue to leave, and blacks are still moving in, along with Latinos."

    Ashburn appears to be a community that will be largely black and Latino soon, but that doesn't mean the two groups are necessarily integrating, either. Ashburn is a roughly rectangular area stretching from Western Avenue on the east to Cicero Avenue on the west, a length of about three miles. Two miles in, going from east to west to Pulaski Road, Ashburn is mostly black. Beyond Pulaski Road Ashburn is largely Latino with the remaining remnants of its white population. And the two groups keep their distance.

    And that is how diversity without integration happens.

    Others in the "Welcome To" Series:

    Welcome To South Chicago
    Welcome To Mount Greenwood
    Welcome To Rosemont
    Welcome To The South Side, JRW Style

    This piece originally appeared on The Corner Side Yard.

    Pete Saunders is a Detroit native who has worked as a public and private sector urban planner in the Chicago area for more than twenty years. He is also the author of "The Corner Side Yard," an urban planning blog that focuses on the redevelopment and revitalization of Rust Belt cities.


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    My home state of Iowa famously gave Barack Obama a convincing victory in the Democratic caucuses in 2008, the first triumph that launched a young U.S. senator from Illinois to become the first African-American president. Obama ultimately won two terms, and each time Iowans favored him by considerable margins. Iowa was also one of several Midwestern states that famously flipped to support Donald Trump in 2016.

    Hillary Clinton won just six of Iowa’s 99 counties in 2016. Trump won the remaining 93, including 31 counties that had backed Obama in the two previous elections. Nationwide, 206 counties in 34 states voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 and then flipped for Trump in 2016.

    Iowa had more than any other state, with 31 pivot counties out of 99. This makes Iowa a useful microcosm to analyze the nature of Trump’s victory. Did Trump win, as the New York Times’s Nate Cohn reported, because of “an enormous wave of support among white working-class voters”? Or were there other factors in play?

    Cohn’s claim doesn’t seem to apply for Iowa. Only 17 of Iowa’s 31 pivot counties had higher turnout compared to 2012. In 14, turnout declined. In addition, most of the increases were small — less than one percentage point. Overall – and this must bring him great angst – Trump won Iowa with fewer statewide votes than Obama had in either of his election victories. So, if there was “an enormous wave of support among white working-class voters,” then the wave was not caused by a mass of new people jumping in the pool. It was more like most of the same people wading from one side of the pool to the other.

    But Trump did win support in more working-class rural counties. As in the national election, Clinton did much better than Trump in large metropolitan areas, winning just six counties, all among the state’s most populous. All but one of the pivot counties were rural, with populations of 87,000 or less and not among the top 10 of Iowa’s largest counties. It’s clear that the urban-rural divide was a salient element in the Iowa campaign, a pattern similar to what political scientist Katherine Cramer discovered in the adjacent state of Wisconsin (see her 2016 book The Politics of Resentment).

    The urban-rural divide is also a class divide, reflected in income and education. Iowa’s estimated per capita income in 2016 was $28,872, but per capita income is less than that in 77 counties, and Trump won in 75 of them, 28 of which were pivot counties. Clinton won in four of the six urban Iowa counties with higher per capita income. The pattern is similar for education. 25.7 percent of Iowans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and only 11 of Iowa’s 99 counties have higher rates of citizens with a bachelor’s degree. Hillary Clinton won five of those counties. Of the 31 pivot counties, 27 have lower rates of higher education. In other words, Clinton’s only successes in Iowa were in six major metro counties with higher levels of income and education. Trump won every other county in the state.

    Considering the urban-rural status, income, and college education rates of the counties that pivoted to Trump in 2016, Cramer’s idea of rural consciousness seems apt, with its “strong identity as a rural resident, resentment toward the cities, and a belief that rural communities are not given their fair share of resources or respect.” Resources and development in Iowa are increasingly unequal, with most affluence located in Iowa’s two large multi-county metropolitan areas. In the center of the state, Polk and Story Counties run along the I-35 corridor, creating a large metro area that stretches from Ames and Iowa State University in the north to Des Moines and its many suburbs in the south. Similarly, in the eastern part of the state, Linn and Johnson Counties along the I-380 corridor form a district that stretches from Cedar Rapids and its suburbs in the north to Iowa City and the University of Iowa in the south. These “corridors” (and they do market themselves that way) are the wealthiest, most populous, and fastest growing regions of the state, with plenty of government-funded institutions and research, headquarters of the largest corporations, excellent hospitals, and the state’s best sports, recreation, and shopping. These are the areas where Clinton won the most support.

    Life can be quite different in Iowa’s more rural counties, where population is falling, school districts get consolidated (so towns may no longer have local schools), access to doctors and quality hospitals lags, new investment is rare, and young adults often move to places like Des Moines or Iowa City to find better jobs. Away from the corridors, the lived experience of personal income, higher education, and the long-term hope for opportunity and prosperity for the majority of Iowa’s rural counties is on a much more feeble trajectory.

    These areas, where Trump won, were primed to embrace the rhetoric of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, which called for drastic change to the economic status quo. If a very unlikely presidential candidate – one made famous by playing the role of super-successful billionaire in a network reality television show and countless movie cameos – shows up and said says to the “forgotten men and women of our country” that “I AM YOUR VOICE,” residents of these areas might well listen to him, despite (or in some cases because) of his lack of experience and subtle racism and misogyny. Trump went all in on the Tea Party discourse and wore the mantle of change.

    In comparison, Clinton’s words about the economy were vague, spare, and unremarkable. In her victory speech late on the night of the Iowa caucus, she said “I know what we are capable of doing, I know we can create more good-paying jobs and raise incomes for hard-working Americans again.” Although Clinton narrowly won the Democratic nomination in 2016, her message of incremental reforms did not give her resounding victories in Iowa and other important states. On caucus night, Bernie Sanders, the change candidate (like Obama before him) spoke directly to those who felt alienated by politics-as-usual: “What Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution.” Sanders’s rhetoric might have attracted more of Iowa’s rural voters, but he wasn’t on the general election ballot November.

    Of course, rhetoric might win elections, but results matter afterward. So far, Trump’s appointment of Supreme Court justices may thrill conservative Iowans, but his trade war is already hurting Iowa’s agricultural exports, and he continues to undermine other things Iowa voters care about, including health care coverage, funding for education, infrastructure development, and well-paying jobs. Iowa may pivot again in 2018 and 2020. Recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Polls have found that Iowans favor Democrats for Congress in 2018, and that 68 percent of Iowans will “definitely vote for another candidate” or consider doing so in the 2020 presidential election. To win back the pivot county voters, Democratic candidates will need to connect with issues to rural voters. It is a message already received by the six Democratic candidates for Iowa governor, who made rural outreach a priority. Democratic Congressional and presidential candidates should take note.

    This piece originally appeared on Working-Class Perspectives.

    Christopher R. Martin is author of the forthcoming The Invisible Worker: How the News Media Lost Sight of the American Working Class (Cornell University Press). He is professor of Communication Studies and Digital Journalism at the University of Northern Iowa.

    Photo: Protestors in Cedar Falls, by Christopher Martin

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    In recent years, China has substantially increased the size of its railway system and has overtaken long-standing leader India in total passenger travel. As a result, it has become far more convenient to travel longer distances by train.

    One intriguing newer route runs from Lanzhou (capital of Gansu) to Urumqi (capital of Xinjiang) at top speeds of over 120 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour). According to Railway Technology, this electrified route is 1,104 miles long (1.776 kilometers). I recently took that round trip, arriving in Lanzhou from Guangzhou (an 11 hours 29 minutes, 1,670 mile/2,687 kilometer train trip). This article describes the trip and includes photographs.

    My train to Urumqi, Number D-2701(Images 1-3) is one of four trips each way on the new route and had a 11 hour, 23 minute terminal to terminal scheduled travel time, though other high-speed trains can take up to between 12 and 13 hours (Note). A map of the route is here.

    There are a number of other high-speed trains that cover only part of the distance, such as from Lanzhou to Xining or to other points beyond. In addition, there are also conventional trains that generally operate over the route on the parallel older line (also electrified). These trains can take from 16 to 27 hours.

    The Gobi Desert

    The Gobi is the world’s second largest desert, with an area of 650,000 square miles (1.6 million square kilometers), about midway in size between Alaska and Mexico (the larger). The Gobi is in the rain shadow of the Tibetan Plateau and is a cold desert, with low temperatures in the winter. In contrast with the Sahara Desert, the world’s largest, the Gobi is largely a gray/black gravel rather than sand. (Images 22, 28, 30, 33-36, 38-39 and 42-47)

    The route across the Gobi Desert follows the Silk Road, with its oases. As a result, there are a number of small verdant sections of greenery and agriculture, generally near the urban areas that developed at the old oases.

    The Train Trip

    The Lanzhou to Urumqi route starts in the narrow Yellow River Valley and after climbing onto the Tibetan Plateau, reaches Xining, capital of Qinghai, and terminus of the relatively new passenger rail route to Tibet. After descending from the Qilian mountains, the route is largely in the Gobi Desert for the rest of the way.

    Lanzhou to Xining: 1 Hour 20 Minutes (Image 4)

    Lanzhou, the starting point of the new route, has an urban area population of 2.9 million (Image 4).

    The new railway is a notable feat of engineering. Even before Lanzhou, the mountainous country from western Shaanxi province (capital Xi’an) requires many tunnels to obtain the flat and straight alignment required for high speed trains. In fact, the tunnels begin in Baoji, even before reaching Lanzhou. Nearly all of the route from Baoji to Lanzhou, which takes just over two hours, is in tunnel.

    The tunnels begin again shortly after the Urumqi bound train leaves Lanzhou West. Again, there are only brief periods outside the tunnels to Xining. As a result, there is little to photograph in this segment of the trip.

    Xining to Zhangye: 1 Hour 50 Minutes (Images 5-13)

    Xining has an urban area population of 1.5 million (Image 5).

    From Xining, at an elevation of nearly 7,500 feet (2,300 meters) the route climbs through a lush green valley (Images 6-7), and soon begins another series of tunnels, with brief interludes. Where these sunlit portions occur, you can see spectacular canyons (Image 6), which unfortunately can be missed because the distances between the tunnels can be very short, leaving little time to take a picture.

    The train traverses the Qilian mountains in a tunnel at 12,700 feet elevation (3,900 meters), then drops to the flatlands that approach the Gobi Desert (Images 8-12). In the process, the train travels back into Gansu from Qinghai. There is considerable agricultural production in this area, around the city of Zhangye (Gansu). Zhangye is the second largest urban area between Xining and Urumqi, with an estimated population of approximately 500,000. (Image 13).

    Zhangye to Jiayuguan: 1 Hour 20 Minutes (Images 14-20)

    Between Zhangye and Jiayuguan, the scenery changes from generally green and agricultural to the brown and gray/black of the desert (Images 14-17). This is the heart of the Hexi Corridor, which was an important link in the old Silk Road, connecting China Proper, to the east of Lanzhou, to the Tarim Basin and Xinjiang (Image 18).

    There is also considerable greenery in the Jiayuguan area (Image 19). This is the western terminus of the Great Wall of China, though it was not visible from the train.

    Jiayuguan to Hami: 3 Hours 30 Minutes (Images 21-30)

    The gravel begins after Jiayuguan and continues to dominate the scenery nearly all the way to Urumqi. (Image 22).

    The Lanzhou to Urumqi Expressway (G-30) is adjacent along most of the rail route, and carries considerable truck traffic (Image 23). A truck stop and gasoline station is shown in Image 24. It is also parallel to the old railway line, on which the slower conventional passenger trains (Image 25) and freight trains operate (Image 26).

    Further, the Qilian mountains are often visible to the south which divide the Gobi Desert from the Tibetan Plateau, such as in Images 23 through 25.

    Between Liuyang and Hami, the route crosses the Gansu/Xinjiang border.

    Hami to Turpan: 2 Hours 20 Minutes (Images 31-36)

    Hami (Kumul) is the largest urban area between Xining and Urumqi, with about 550,000 residents (Image 31), and is surrounded by extensive agriculture (Image 32). Later, the train passes Shan Shan, an urban area with less than 200,000 population, but with an impressive skyline (Image 37).

    Turpan to Urumqi: 1 Hours 20 Minutes (Images 38-50)

    Just south of Turpan (Image 42) is one of the lowest land elevations in the world, at Ayding Lake. The basin is more than 500 feet below sea level. This is comparatively close to Bogda Peak in the Eastern Tien Shan Range (Image 42), which reaches an elevation of 17,900 feet (5,400 meters). This difference of 18,400 feet (5,600 meters) between these two points is substantial and exceeds the better known difference of approximately 14,800 feet (4,500 meters) between California’s Mount Whitney and Badwater in Death Valley (the highest and lowest points in the “Lower 48” states). Both distances are about 90 miles (145 kilometers). A photograph of Bogda Peak is here.


    The end of the trip was Urumqi South station, which is adjacent to the older part of the city. This former Urumqi Station has been replaced by a newer station in the northern part of the city.

    Urumqi (alternate spelling “Wulumuqi”) is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and has an urban area population of 3.6 million (Image 50).

    A Really Interesting Two Days of Sightseeing

    For any interested in geography and topography, the round trip from Lanzhou to Urumqi is two days well spent, opening up a perspective of the enormity of China beyond the crowded, and far more visited, eastern urban areas.

    Note: Railway Technology indicates that “The line is designed to be operated with trains running at speeds up to 300km/h. The new line reduced the travel time between Lanzhou and Urumqi to approximately six hours.” The fastest speed I saw indicated on the carriage message board was 207 kilometers per hour. There are no trains that complete the distance under 11 hours, in either direction. Perhaps six hour operation is in the future.

    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: The gray/black gravel of the Gobi Desert, Xinjiang, China (by author)

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    As the economy has improved, popular concern, both here and abroad, has shifted to issues of migration and identity. Just last year, immigration, according to Gallup, was seen as the most important issue by barely 5 percent of the population, while the economy was cited by more than four times as many. But now, immigration and undocumented aliens is now the biggest concern to 15 percent of the population, equal to that of the economy.

    You can blame Donald Trump, and his focus on that issue, for some of this. But Trump did not create the long mounting migration pressures — including 200,000 unaccompanied children during President Obama’s last term. Nor is he responsible for growing opposition — almost three-to-one — to mass migration among Europeans.

    Unrestricted EU migration helped drive Brexit in the U.K., upended Italian politics and sent many traditionally centrist voters elsewhere flocking to anti-immigrant parties, including some on the extreme, quasi-fascist right. The move towards what the Guardian ominously calls “fortress Europe” could even dethrone the current queen of the EU, the much praised “great humanist,” Angela Merkel.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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: Elekes Andor [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

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  • 07/16/18--22:33: The Once and Future Lagos
  • City Journal just ran a very interesting piece on Lagos by Armin Rosen. Lagos is by some estimates Africa’s largest city and is well known as a creative capital. I don’t know anything personally about the city, but found Rosen’s description balanced and fascinating. Here are some excerpts:

    Poverty, confusion, and moral fluidity haven’t stopped Lagos from achieving global prominence. Maybe an all-pervading looseness has even been a source of the city’s growth, since it has expanded with a velocity that prudent planning would avoid. Lagos is now West Africa’s economic and cultural hub, as well as perhaps the continent’s largest city, depending on which population figures one accepts. By most accounts, Lagos has twice as many people as London, along with a GDP greater than all but six African states. In its successes and failures, the city offers a cautionary preview of where an urbanizing developing world is hurtling.

    The project seeks to expand the congested Victoria Island area, while creating a glittering showcase of world-class high-end real estate, thus helping to reverse Lagos’s reputation for disorder. But the initiative reflects a certain myopia: the landfill destroyed Bar Beach, once a popular public space in a city with no large parks and few major squares or monumental avenues. It’s not obvious whether the existing infrastructure can support such a large development so far off the mainland; as it is, Victoria and Lagos Islands are accessible only through a gauntlet of traffic choke points. The development is also aimed at a tiny upper sliver of an overwhelmingly poor city. “The plan is to create a Dubai and just ignore people who can’t afford to live in the proverbial Dubai, which describes most of the population,” says Olaolu Ogunmodede, a researcher at the Lagos-based Center for Public Policy Alternatives and an editor at The Republic, of the Lagos state government’s approach. (The city is organized as a state within the Nigerian federal system.)

    In nearby Ikoyi and Victoria Island, affluent Lagosians have little reason to venture too far, either—they live in gated estates, with their own security, garbage collection, electricity, and private bus services. One gets frequent reminders of how segmented Lagos is, how cordoned off its parts are from one another. Cut down a side street in Ikeja, and you’re suddenly in a squalid parallel world, where generators scream beside narrow mud streets, lined with freelancing numbers-runners and peddlers hawking broken clocks. The alley ends, and the modern downtown resumes again. From the Third Mainland Bridge, travelers can see the plush villas of Banana Island and Lekki glimmer in the distance at night, while the vast lagoon-side Makoko slum, less than 500 yards west of the six-mile-long causeway and home to an estimated 250,000 people, is invisible in the darkness. Makoko has become a transit point for timber from farther down the coast, creating yet another vibrant hyper-local poverty economy. You can smell the tang of burning garbage and wood from the bridge whenever traffic slows.

    Cheta Nwaze, a researcher at SBM intelligence, offers more insight into the city’s divisions. Nwaze and another SBM analyst, Ikemesit Effiong, meet me at Seven Eagles Spur, a diner-style restaurant inside Ikeja’s City Mall, decorated in images of southwestern American desert highways and chiefs in feather headdresses. Nwaze informs me that, a decade ago, the land that the mall now occupies was a slum. Residents were removed with a minimum of due process or public deliberation—still the standard procedure for any big-ticket Lagos development project. The mall has a KFC and a Nike store, and our lunch bill comes out to 9,100 naira, or $25. The people who had lived on the site of the future mall probably never imagined such a thing. “You give someone 9,100 naira and tell them to kill someone, and they will do it,” Nwaze says, only half-joking.

    Lagos is booming. Credible estimates put the population at 17 million or 18 million, but the city defies understanding of its true scope. “Most Nigerians can’t be accessed even by the government,” Effiong notes. This relative lack of data could turn out to have broader significance, since the world is sure to look more like Lagos in the coming decades. An estimated 54.5 percent of the global population now lives in cities, but urbanization is less complete in the developing world. Slightly more than half of Asia’s population, and nearly 60 percent of Africa’s, still lives in rural areas. The number of cities with 500,000 inhabitants or more is expected to grow by 80 percent in Africa alone between now and 2030, and the ten cities that the UN projects to cross the 10 million–inhabitant “megacity” threshold by 2030 are all in developing countries. By 2030, some 730 million people, or 8.9 percent of the people on earth, will live in these megacities, up from the current total of 500 million, or 6.8 percent. Success has made Lagos an unnerving glimpse into the near future.

    This constant flux can make for a verdant creative environment. Jumia and iRoko, West Africa’s leading e-commerce and entertainment streaming services, respectively, are regionally important companies founded in Lagos during the past decade. Music and movies produced in the city dominate West Africa and beyond—it was a Lagosian, Wizkid, who appeared alongside the Canadian pop star Drake in his 2016 megahit “One Dance.” As Edet Okun, an assistant curator at Lagos’s Nimbus gallery explains, the city has also fueled a burgeoning art market. “The money is here, and you have a high concentration of people,” Okun says, guiding me through a collection that includes traditional Ife bronzes, as well as striking monochromatic abstract works from Nigerian artist Olu Okekeanye.

    Attracting Nigerians of every description, Lagos offers hope for a country often defined by its religious, regional, and ethnic cleavages. It is the exception to Nigeria’s fault lines, “probably the one place in the country where, regardless of where you came from, you can feel like you belong,” one Nigerian told me. For some Lagosians, the rationalized marketplace of the city is also the only way of escaping a dead-end village economy, in which labor is a social or familial obligation, rather than a source of money and freedom. “A lot of these many odd jobs that people do for free in rural areas, people pay for in Lagos,” says Ray Ekpu, cofounder of the magazine Newswatch. Ekpu moved to Lagos from Nigeria’s southeast in 1980 and has seen the worst of the city: he was imprisoned six times during military rule, and a close colleague at Newswatch died in a mail-bomb attack in 1986 that many suspected was linked with the magazine’s work. “People come searching for the bright lights,” Ekpu observes. “They think they can find a good life here. Some of it is true. Some of it is a myth. They think if they can get here, they can find something to do.” That Lagosian myth—of opportunity and an escape from Nigeria’s various social and political ills—has an intense hold over the country.

    Infrastructural lapses aside, Lagos uneasily embodies one of civilization’s fundamental divides: the split between the city and the provinces, between a flagging periphery and the center toward which that periphery gravitates. The numbers reflect an astounding imbalance. Lagos contributes more to Nigeria’s GDP than any other state, and twice as much as the second highest-ranked state. Only 214 Nigerians pay 20 million naira ($56,000) or more in taxes each year; all live in Lagos, which collects some 39 percent of Nigeria’s internally generated revenue. Lagos state governor Akinwunmi Ambode has claimed that 60 percent of the country’s industrial and commercial business takes place in his city.

    Click through to read the whole thing.

    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,, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo: Lagos, Nigeria. Image via City Journal