Assessments

The Problem With the Second Phase of Gentrification

Are you a hipster? Probably not, at least if you accept the definition of the word that Norman Mailer made famous in the 1950s. To be a hipster, Mailer wrote, is “to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self.”

No doubt there are a few people like that still hanging around our cities, some of them perhaps even contemporaries of Mailer. But that isn’t what we mean today when we say a neighborhood is full of hipsters. Nowadays, one can qualify as a hipster merely by being under 40 years old, living single or childless in the center of a city, drinking pour-over coffee and craft beer, and listening to the music of obscure homegrown indie rock bands. READ MORE

Urbanophobia: A Growing Threat to Public Transit in America

Agenda 21 isn’t getting the attention it once did. Five years ago, the much-criticized United Nations environmental manifesto was all over TV news and conservative talk shows, denounced by Glenn Beck and others as a sinister globalist threat to American sovereignty and liberty.

That debate has more or less quieted down. But the opponents of Agenda 21 haven’t gone away; they have merely spread out, into the politics of cities and counties planning for the future. They aren’t winning everywhere, but they have acquired access to funding and a collection of allies that makes it wise to pay attention to them. READ MORE

Resisting Inevitable Urbanization

When North Carolina became a state, upon ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, it was far and away the nation’s biggest backwater. Virtually alone among the original 13 colonies, it had nothing remotely resembling a city. The inhabitants didn’t do much except raise tobacco; most of the modest population centers were sleepy market towns scattered along the rivers in the eastern part of the state. Coastal Wilmington, the largest place in 1850, had only 7,000 people.

After the Civil War, medium-sized cities began to emerge: Raleigh and Durham in the center; Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem in the Piedmont farther west; and Asheville in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. READ MORE

Why ‘Costs’ and ‘Savings’ Are Often an Illusion

For most of my adult life, I have clung to some unorthodox beliefs about government and economics that most economists and public policy experts don’t much care for. I sometimes think that talking about these subjects to specialists is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

Nevertheless, I am tempted to try one more time. READ MORE

Why It's Important to Know Lawmakers' Day Jobs

State legislatures are mysterious institutions, but there are a few things most of us know about them. We know which party is in control. We know when one of the leaders gets in trouble with the law. We can find out, for the most part, who gives money to candidates and how much they choose to give.

What we don’t know, at least at the moment, is what sorts of people are filling the seats -- which professions and occupations produce our state leadership. In particular, we don’t know much about how the professional makeup of legislatures has changed since Republicans took control of most statehouses in 2010. This isn’t a trivial issue, either. It matters quite a bit whether we are being governed by a coalition of lawyers and teachers or by an alliance of corporate executives and insurance brokers. READ MORE