The Wealth of Nations

The rapid pace of change has created a world filled with excitement and energy. At the same time, it’s created a world filled with anxiety and fear. At the intersection of both of these is hatred, distrust, disrespect, and every other force you can think of which can divide people.  Rather than bring us together, closeness has us running to define boxes to hide in, regardless of how small.

The great force which should unite but instead often confuses and separates is the driving force of our time: technology. That one simple word is the savior and excuse all at the same time. But what is it, really?

Continue reading

Progress and History

There’s no doubt that the United States is in a period of transition. But from what to what else? Through the last 16 years the economy has been tough on everyone – except the very wealthy. The most recent few years have been a time of terrible social upheaval. Pessimism is understandable.

Yet if we look back through history there is a lot of good reason to believe that everything does move in cycles. Business cycles which seem permanent eventually give way to better opportunity. Social upheaval does usually reach a consensus and progress is made.

Hope comes naturally by taking the Barataria view that cycles are real and that the economy is really nothing more than a social arrangement. Sure, it’s the dismal one with all the numbers and the brutal one that defines rich and poor. But at the heart it is only about turning our personal “values” into a socially convertible “value”. How it changes through generations and lifetimes defines us even as we define what this thing called an “economy” really is.

This essay is a continuation of the previous piece, Spring is Coming! as a cycle on my personal political philosophy and read of history.

Continue reading

Big Ideas Fall Apart

The dust continues to settle after the Brexit earthquake. US markets stabilized today, but it appears to be a “dead cat bounce” or a technical upturn as short positions are covered. It comes from the saying that even a dead cat will bounce up one story after falling off a ten story building. It certainly feels like that kind of week, especially if you think about whatever dead animals might account for the ridiculous hair of Donald Trump and/or Boris Johnson.

Then again, it hasn’t been a week yet.

For all the comparisons between this vote and the Trump phenom, they still don’t do this situation justice. People all over the world are recoiling from opening up markets and generally moving closer together. The threat to the EU is far from done as “euroskeptics” on the continent will certainly be emboldened – as will globalskeptics around the world. What has gone wrong?

Continue reading

The Campaign Ahead

The general election, Clinton versus Trump, is set. It will almost certainly be the nastiest election any of us have lived through, but barring something bizarre happening the outcome is rather certain. The only question remaining is whether the Democrats pick up enough downballot, in the Senate and House, to really take control.

Two things have happened that give us reason to believe this will happen. The first is that the Trump campaign had to confess that it is essentially broke and will depend on the money that comes from the actual nomination – six weeks from now. The second is that Clinton has already opened this window of opportunity with a blistering speech using Trump’s words against him.

How will this play out? Let me predict it for you.  Add your predictions and thoughts in the comments.

Continue reading

Visions for West Seventh

How do you fit all the public amenities needed for a 21st century city into a 19th century street? Some cities benefited from great forethought, like Salt Lake City, and gave a few extra feet here and there for the public realm. Saint Paul, my hometown, wasn’t as generous.

As I have discussed before, I’m deeply involved in the process of considering transit improvements to West Seventh Street. For me, it’s more than just my ‘hood – it’s a very classic street through a neighborhood that demonstrates many of the best things that cities have to offer. Yes, it needs a little something here and there, and should include better transit.

This is a big public decision, and the public has to be involved. In order to communicate not just plans but the thinking behind them, for true citizen empowerment, it’s vital that we get into how this is going.

Continue reading

The Big Rally

For the primary season, it’s all over but the shouting, to use a cliche. But this one works because this is a good time to evaluate what happened – and most of that analysis will be based on policies and platforms. There will be shouting, because that’s pretty much how people discuss politics.

One key feature this year has been the insurgent outsider candidate. Call him Sanders or Trump, one thing was the same – outsiders rallying people to a movement, a cause, a rebellion. A tactical key to this has been the rally itself – a large venue filled with cheering supporters whipping each other up into a frenzy for the cause. Every campaign has them, but Sanders’ effort came to be defined by them.

Is the mega-rally a new feature of what will define a campaign, particularly an insurgent one? Is it a good idea? How does it work? Why did this become a feature? These are all questions worth considering as we look at how the Bern became a blaze.

Continue reading

Flexible Cities

Predictions of the future are often tricky. It requires an extrapolation of a trend from today to some kind of logical conclusion, taking into account how the object changing connects to the rest of the world. There’s a real showmanship to it all, too, when you start from the logical conclusion and then explain yourself backwards.

Cities will be radically different by 2050, with zoning codes and concepts that are more flexible and the corresponding buildings will have many uses on top of each other. Suburbs, as we know them now, will require extensive rehabilitation that will work well in some places but create wastelands in others.

See how it works? This is simply the logical conclusion of a flexible workforce and a fast-paced economy with people changing careers often. Should all that come to pass, our cities will have to have more flexible structures and more agile concepts of zoning. We can easily imagine how that might look because that is what cities were like before zoning came along about 100 years ago.

Continue reading