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City Journal's 10 Blocks

City Journal's 10 Blocks, a weekly podcast hosted by editor Brian C. Anderson, features discussions on urban policy and culture with City Journal editors, contributors, and special guests. Forthcoming episodes will be devoted to topics such as: predictive policing, the Bronx renaissance, reform of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, homelessness in Portland, Oregon, and more. City Journal is a quarterly print and regular online magazine published by the Manhattan Institute.
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Urban policy and cultural commentary with City Journal editors, contributors, and special guests

Oct 16, 2019

Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, joins City Journal contributing editor Nicole Gelinas to discuss the state of U.S. infrastructure and how federal spending could be used more effectively to improve safety and reduce fiscal waste.

The federal government spends between $40 billion and $60 billion on transportation infrastructure annually. In recent years, congressional leaders and the White House have pushed a $2 trillion plan to upgrade roads, bridges, and more. But such proposals, Osborne argues, "would throw more money into the same flawed system."

Oct 9, 2019

Heather Mac Donald joins Seth Barron to discuss homelessness on the streets of San Francisco and the city’s wrongheaded attempts to solve the problem.

"San Francisco has conducted a real-life experiment in what happens when a society stops enforcing bourgeois norms of behavior," writes Mac Donald in City Journal. For nearly three decades, the Bay Area has been a magnet for the homeless. Now the situation is growing dire, as residents and visitors experience near-daily contact with mentally disturbed persons.

Mac Donald's essay, "San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless," appears in City Journal'Autumn 2019 issue; an adapted version was published in the Wall Street Journal.

Oct 2, 2019

Howard Husock joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss Husock's new book, Who Killed Civil Society? The Rise of Big Government and Decline of Bourgeois Norms.

Government-run social programs funded with tax dollars are thought to be the "solution" to America's social ills. But in his new book, Who Killed Civil Society?, Husock shows that historically, it was voluntary organizations and civic society, operating independently from government and its mandates, that best promoted the habits and values conducive to upward social mobility.

Learn more about the Civil Society Awards and fellows program on the Manhattan Institute website.

Sep 24, 2019

John Tierney joins City Journal assistant editor Charles McElwee to discuss Pittsburgh's recent resurgence.

"If you want to see how to revive a city—and how not to," John Tierney writes, "go to Pittsburgh." Pittsburgh has transformed itself from the Steel City to central Pennsylvania's hub of "eds" and "meds." But before that could happen, the city nearly destroyed itself under various misguided urban plans dating back to the 1950s.

Tierney's essay, "A Renaissance Runs Through It," appears in City Journal's Summer 2019 issue; an adapted version was published in the Wall Street Journal.

Sep 18, 2019

Edward L. Glaeser discusses how the proliferation of unfair laws and regulations is walling off opportunity in America's greatest cities at the Manhattan Institute’s 2019 James Q. Wilson Lecture.

We like to think of American cities as incubators of opportunity, and this has often been true—but today's successful city-dwellers are making it harder for others to follow their example. In this year's Wilson Lecture, Glaeser addresses the conflict between entrenched interests and newcomers in its economic, political, geographic, and generational dimensions.

Video can be found at the Manhattan Institute website.

Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University (where he has taught since 1992), a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of Triumph of the City.

Sep 11, 2019

City Journal contributing editor Christopher Rufo joins Brian Anderson to discuss an increasingly influential progressive faction in many cities—one that seeks to rebuild the urban environment to achieve a wide range of environmentalist and social-justice goals.

According to Rufo, these "New Left urbanists" rally around controversial (and often dubious) ideas like banning cars and constructing new public housing projects. While all urban residents want to improve their city's quality-of-life, radical left-wing policies aren’t the way to get there.

Check out Howard Husock's new book, Who Killed Civil Society? (available now).

Sep 4, 2019

Labor unions have dramatically declined as a percentage of the American workforce over the last 30 years. A new proposal from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders seeks to double union ranks, City Journal senior editor Steven Malanga reports, which would mean adding nearly 15 million new members.

Malanga joins associate editor Seth Barron to discuss Senator Sanders's proposal, which would put new restraints on employers, limit workers' rights to opt-out of union membership, and make other changes to U.S. labor law. The Sanders plan would also give federal workers the right to strike and force states to allow government workers to unionize.

Aug 28, 2019

Corey Johnson, Speaker of the New York City Council, joins Seth Barron to discuss the state of New York City’s transit system and his plan to break up the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), allowing the city to take control of its buses, subways, bridges, and tunnels. According to Johnson, direct control of the MTA would enhance its responsiveness, accountability, and transparency.

Aug 21, 2019

Brian Riedl and Shai Akabas discuss the U.S. federal budget, budget negotiations, and why Congress hasn’t addressed the rising national debt—even as it gets worse.

The case for a “grand deal” on the budget has never been more evident: within a decade, annual budget deficits are projected to exceed $2 trillion. Entitlement programs are projected to drive trillions in new government debt over the next few decades. Yet increasing partisanship and political polarization—both in Washington and among voters—have significantly diminished the likelihood of bipartisan cooperation to avoid a fiscal calamity.

Riedl is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of a new report, Getting To Yes: A History Of Why Budget Negotiations Succeed, And Why They Fail. The report analyzes the past 40 years of successful and failed budget negotiations in Congress. Akabas is the director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Aug 14, 2019

James B. Meigs joins Seth Barron to discuss last month's power blackout in Manhattan, California's self-inflicted energy crisis, and potential energy sources for the future.

"As power outages go," Meigs writes, "the Broadway Blackout of 2019 was pretty modest." But energy reliability is becoming an issue in states across the country. California's largest power supplier, Meigs reports, recently announced that it will begin shutting down parts of the grid to help reduce the risk of wildfires.

Energy problems could get worse as states adopt strict mandates and replace today's power sources with unreliable green alternatives. The Broadway blackout and California's fire-prevention strategy illustrate the same reality: the nation's energy infrastructure is outdated, and upgrading it will require a huge investment.

Aug 7, 2019

Milton Ezrati joins Paul Beston to discuss escalating trade tensions between the United States and China.

The Trump administration announced new tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods last week, prompting China to order its state-owned businesses to stop purchasing U.S. agricultural products. Ezrati has written on U.S.-China trade issues for City Journal previously, and he maintains that both sides want a deal of some kind—and soon.

Jul 31, 2019

Steven Malanga and Rafael Mangual join Seth Barron to discuss concerns that lawlessness is returning to American cities, a theme that Malanga and Mangual explore in separate feature stories in the Summer 2019 Issue of City Journal.

Memories of the urban chaos and disorder of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s have faded, and many local leaders today have forgotten the lessons of that bygone era. Malanga's story, "The Cost of Bad Intentions" (available soon online), shows how a new generation of politicians are bringing back some of the terrible policies that got American cities into trouble in the first place. On crime and incarceration, Mangual argues that the new disorder will grow worse if progressives manage to overhaul the American criminal-justice system.

Jul 17, 2019

City Journal editor Brian Anderson joins Vanessa Mendoza, executive vice president of the Manhattan Institute, for our second annual discussion of Brian's summer and vacation reading list.

Summer is upon us, and the City Journal editors are ready for some vacation. We asked Brian to tell us what books he's taking with him to the beach this year and why.

Check out Brian's summer reading list, in the order discussed:

Also discussed in the episode:

Jul 10, 2019

Ray Domanico joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza's controversial and divisive leadership of the nation's largest public school system. Domanico details Carranza's emphasis on ridding schools of purported racial bias in his recent essay for City Journal, "Richard Carranza’s Deflections."

Over the past four decades, with varying levels of success, Carranza's predecessors in the chancellor's job have launched numerous policies and programs aimed at better serving students. By contrast, Carranza has put forth no substantive plan for improving the schools, instead charging that the system is overrun by racial prejudice.

"This appeal to racial resentment is cynical and misguided," writes Domanico. Carranza seems to believe that reforming New York's public schools will require intensive racial-bias training and large budget increases. Instead, the chancellor and his team need to focus on the hard work of improving the schools academically.

Jul 2, 2019

Stephen Eide joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss how homeless services are putting pressure on one of New York City's most valued cultural institutions: the New York Public Library. Eide describes the situation in "Disorder in the Stacks," his story in the Spring 2019 Issue of City Journal.

Homelessness has been a challenge for every New York City mayor since the 1970s. Prior to the city's revitalization, the homeless were mostly concentrated in destitute neighborhoods of Manhattan. But today, homeless single adults are an increasingly visible presence in parks, subway stations, and libraries around the city.

"All urban library systems have found themselves in the homeless-services business, with varying degrees of enthusiasm," Eide writes. The New York Public Library spends $12 million annually on security, including training for staff in dealing with potentially threatening patrons. The city needs a comprehensive strategy for dealing with a worsening crisis.

 

Jun 26, 2019

Anthony Daniels (known to readers as Theodore Dalrymple) joins Brian Anderson to discuss Daniels’s quarter-century of writing for City Journal and his new book, False Positive: A Year of Error, Omission, and Political Correctness in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“Theodore Dalrymple” first appeared in the pages of City Journal in 1994 with an aptly titled essay,The Knife Went In,” which recounted conversations he had had with violent felons during his time as a physician in a British inner-city hospital and prison. Since then, Daniels has written nearly 500 articles for City Journal. Selections of his essays have been compiled in the books Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass (2001) and Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (2005).

Daniels’s latest book, False Positive, brings a critical eye to one of the most important general medical journals in the world: The New England Journal of Medicine. Daniels exposes errors of reasoning and omissions apparently undetected by the Journal’s editors and shows how its pages have become mind-numbingly politically correct, with highly debatable arguments allowed to pass as if self-evidently true.

Jun 19, 2019

Nicole Gelinas and Howard Husock join Seth Barron to discuss New York's landmark rent-regulation law and its potential impact on housing in the city and state.

Lawmakers in New York recently passed the toughest rent-regulation law in a generation, imposing new restrictions on landlords' ability to increase rents, improve buildings, or evict tenants. The bill made permanent the state's existing rent regulations, meaning that future legislatures will find it harder to revisit the issue.

Housing experts like Husock argue that the new laws will discourage landlords from investing in building improvements, causing the housing stock to degrade statewide. And economists across the political spectrum, from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman, have also maintained that rent regulation can be counterproductive and detrimental to housing quality.

Jun 12, 2019

James R. Copland joins Rafael Mangual to discuss how activist investors are turning corporate America’s annual shareholder-meeting process into a political circus.

Most of corporate America is wrapping up the 2019 "proxy season" this month—the period when most publicly traded companies hold their annual meetings. It's at these gatherings that shareholders can (either directly or by proxy) propose and vote on changes to the company. Since 2011, the Manhattan Institute has tracked these proposals on its Proxy Monitor website. This year's proxy season has followed a long-term trend: a small group of investors dominates the proceedings, introducing dozens of progressive-inspired proposals on issues ranging from climate change to diversity.

Copland has testified before Congress on the importance of reviewing the rules developed by the Securities and Exchange Commission governing the shareholder-proposal process. The Senate and SEC are considering changes to ensure that these proposals are relevant to business and fair to other shareholders.

Jun 5, 2019

Erica Sandberg joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss the deteriorating state of public order in San Francisco.

The Bay Area's most densely populated and desirable neighborhoods are being destroyed by lawlessness and squalor. San Francisco now leads the nation in property crime, according to the FBI. "Other low-level offenses," Sandberg reports for City Journal, "including drug dealing, street harassment, encampments, indecent exposure, public intoxication, simple assault, and disorderly conduct are also rampant."

With the situation growing more dire, residents are organizing to demand that the city take action against repeat offenders and strengthen quality-of-life laws. It remains to be seen whether the city will change its approach to public safety. "Meantime," Sandberg writes, "the poor bear the brunt of low-level and property crimes."

May 29, 2019

Kay Hymowitz joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss a challenge facing aging populations in wealthy nations across the world: loneliness. Her essay in the Spring 2019 issue, "Alone," explores this subject.

"Americans are suffering from a bad case of loneliness," Hymowitz writes. "Foundering social trust, collapsing heartland communities, an opioid epidemic, and rising numbers of 'deaths of despair' suggest a profound, collective discontent."

Evidence of the loneliness epidemic is dramatic in other countries, too. Japan, for example, has seen a troubling rise in "lonely deaths." The challenge, Hymowitz says, is to teach younger generations the importance of family and community before they make decisions that will further isolate them.

May 22, 2019

Economist Allison Schrager joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss her new book, An Economist Walks Into A Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk.

Risk is a universal fact of life, but some of us manage more of it than others. Schrager examined how a broad cross section of people handle it: horse breeders in Kentucky, members of an elite tank unit during the Gulf War, paparazzi who stalk celebrities, prostitutes in Nevada brothels. She lays out five principles for dealing with risk and explains how financial tools can help guide people through uncertainty.

May 15, 2019

Charles McElwee joins Seth Barron to discuss the decline of the Catholic Church in the Rust Belt and the impact of immigration on a working-class community in Pennsylvania.

The Catholic Church faces a crisis in an area that remains disproportionately Catholic. In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed how clergy covered up the abuse of children by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years. Congregations continue to shrink, deepening the region’s fragmentation and leaving a hole in its community life.

McElwee has just joined City Journal as assistant editor. His writing has appeared in The AtlanticThe American ConservativeNational Review Online, The Weekly Standard, and other publications.

May 8, 2019

Myron Magnet joins Brian Anderson to discuss his new book, Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution.

Magnet contends that Justice Thomas's originalist jurisprudence offers a path forward for recovering our nation's "lost Constitution" and restoring America as a free, self-governing nation made up of self-reliant citizens.

Author of The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817 and other books, Magnet was City Journal's editor from 1994 through 2006 and is now editor-at-large.

Apr 30, 2019

Urbanist Alain Bertaud joins Michael Hendrix to discuss how urban planners and economists can improve city management.

Bertaud's book Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities argues that markets provide the indispensable mechanism for cities' growth. The book is a summation of what Bertaud has learned in a lifetime spent as an urban planner, including a stint at the World Bank, where he advised local and national governments on urban-development policies.

Previously, Bertaud worked as a resident urban planner in a number of cities around the world: Bangkok, San Salvador, Port Au Prince, Sana'a, New York, Paris, Tlemcen, and Chandigarh. He is currently a senior research scholar at New York University's Marron Institute of Urban Management.

Apr 24, 2019

At the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, Professor Jacob Howland writes in City Journal, "a new administration has turned a once-vibrant academic institution with a $1.1 billion endowment and a national reputation in core liberal arts subjects into a glorified trade school with a social-justice agenda." Speaking with Seth Barron, Howland describes how, in early April, TU's new administration announced a wholesale reorganization of academic departments, including the elimination of traditional liberal arts majors. Students and faculty have responded by organizing protests and launching a petition to "save the heart and soul of the University of Tulsa."

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