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February 20, 2007

« Bigger Houses, Smaller Families | Main | The More Things Change... »

Rob Horning over at Pop Matters weighs in.

"A week ago Joel Kotkin wrote an article for the WSJ about fading American “supercities” (New York, San Francisco) and the B-list cities (Las Vegas, Phoenix, Charlotte) that are gaining population at their expense by providing better value (mainly via cheaper real estate) and catering to a more family-oriented middle-class lifestyle. ... What makes them most suburban-like is how one’s insulation from the lives of others is upheld pretty well—traveling in cars assures that ...What drives Kotkin’s piece is instead a chance to heap scorn on “trustafarians”... This has obvious middle-class populist appeal ... Kotkin’s article brandishes its antielitism...stopping just short of championing mediocrity. Middle-class existence is not incompatible with intellectual pursuit; I wonder why commentators like Kotkin imply that it is."

Ryan Avant does too:

"Kotkin ... is apparently under the extremely misguided impression that the growth of cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, Houston and Phoenix has come at the hands of some mass of middle class blue-collar heroes (although he presents evidence to the contrary in the very same article). It’s difficult to describe this belief as anything other than unbridled ignorance. The success of the cities mentioned above is directly traceable to their ability to attract educated, skilled professionals. These new banking and research centers are brimming with post-graduate degrees; you simply cannot find a booming city without a well-educated workforce."

And CEOs for Cities:

"I had to reflect again on the puzzling op-ed piece on "The Myth of Superstar Cities"...To our knowledge, no source of data that would tell you with any accuracy the number of college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds in any city since 2000, even though the piece insists that "over the past decade college-educated workers...now appear to be tilting to more affordable, family-friendly places." It goes on to assert the following: "Since 2000, Riverside, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Dallas all have been among the big net gainers. In contrast New York, Boston, L.A. and even the Bay Area, a big winner in the 1990s, appear to have become among the highest net losers." If the author has any facts to support these claims, we wish he would share it with us. In fact, we wish his editors would have insisted on including them in the article so we could all be enlightened ... What is most puzzling of all is that Las Vegas actually ranks last among the top 50 metro areas in the percentage of college grads, and Riverside and Phoenix are not far behind. The notion that big cities in so-called blue states are filled with evil chablis and brie elites sure feels like trumped up class warfare."

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Comments

Michael Bindner

I guess the answer to my emails is yes, Richard has seen the article.

I am getting the impression that New America is overrated.

Richard

Michael - Didn't see your e-mails. But I'd say New America is uneven. On urban issues, its folks are light-weights, and ideologically close to the Manhattan Institute crowd. In other areas, they have some very good people. Looking over their board, it seems pretty mainstream, centrist or center-right, though many would seem to think it tilts left. My biggest concern, not just with New America but with the think-tank community in general, is how partisan and ideology driven they are. In most pressing policy areas we need more data, facts and objective analysis and less partisan rhetoric. Also, a time of economic and social transformation cries out for what Paul Romer calls meta-ideas. When was the last time you saw something resembling a big, important new idea come out of a think tank?

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