The 1960s were a momentous period, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Vietnam War, but Shlaes's book focuses on the incredibly ambitious government programs of the era, which expanded the social safety net beyond anything contemplated before. Overall, the Great Society programs, Shlaes writes, came "close enough to socialism to cause economic tragedy." Great Society is a powerful follow-up to her earlier book, The Forgotten Man, about the Great Depression and the 1930s.
Seth Barron talks with four City Journal contributors—Rafael Mangual, Eric Kober, Ray Domanico, and Steven Malanga—about former New York City mayor and now presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg's record on crime, education, economic development, and more.
After years of teasing a presidential run, Bloomberg has entered the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Just a week before his official announcement, he made headlines by reversing his long-standing support of controversial policing practices in New York—commonly known as "stop and frisk." Bloomberg's record on crime will factor heavily in his campaign, but his 12 years as mayor were eventful in numerous other policy areas.
Manhattan Institute and City Journal have long sought to support and encourage civil-society organizations and leaders who, with the help of volunteers and private philanthropy, do so much to help communities address serious social problems. In this edition of the 10 Blocks podcast, Husock speaks with:
If you know individuals or organizations that deserve a Civil Society Award, please visit our nomination page and tell us about them.
Charles Marohn joins Michael Hendrix to discuss why the current approach to suburban development isn't working—the subject of his new book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity.
"Strong Towns," notes Aaron Renn in his review of the book for City Journal, "resulted from [Marohn's] discovery that the highway projects he designed showed a negative return on investment." Marohn has dedicated his career to helping the country's older suburbs avoid such costly mistakes by founding the book's namesake organization, Strong Towns. "Whether or not one agrees with his many observations and prescriptions," Renn writes, "Marohn provides a valuable analysis of sprawl-based development."
Kay S. Hymowitz joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss Pennsylvania’s Williamson College of the Trades, a three-year school for young men offering a debt-free path to high-paying work—and the life skills to help them get there.
“Trade schools” have long had a stigma in American culture, but Williamson is no ordinary trade school: students wake up early to the sound of reveille and attend academic classes in coats and ties. As Hymowitz writes in City Journal’s autumn issue, “With its old-timey rituals, rigorous scheduling, and immersive culture, Williamson has a military-school feel.” But according to the students she interviewed, the prospect of a good-paying career makes the strict rules more than worth it.
Music critic and historian Ted Gioia joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss the 4,000-year history of music as a global source of power, change, and upheaval—topics explored in his new book, Music: A Subversive History.
The music business is a $10 billion industry today. But according to Gioia, innovative songs have always come from outsiders—the poor, the unruly, and the marginalized. The culmination of his decades of writing about music, Gioia's new book is a celebration of the social outcasts who continue to define this art form.
Stian Westlake joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss the future of productivity and how institutions and policymakers can adapt to the new "intangible" economy.
Throughout history, as documented in the book Capitalism Without Capital by Westlake and coauthor Jonathan Haskel, firms have invested in physical goods like machines and computers. As society has grown richer, companies have invested increasingly in "intangible" assets: research and development, branding, organizational development, and software. Today's challenge is to build the institutions and enact the policies that will maximize the new economy's potential.
New York City jails currently house a daily average of about 8,000 people, in a city of 8 million residents. Under the new plan, the borough-based jails (once constructed) will be able to house 3,300 people—less than half the city's average daily jail population today. As Barron writes, the new target "will likely require a significant realignment of expectations about public safety."
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."
"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.
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.
"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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.