Tag Archives: Richard Florida

Revisiting the City-State for the Modern World | Mark David Major

Revisiting the City-State for the Modern World
Editorial by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

(NOTE: I have been mulling over these ideas for more than a decade, slowly working them out and so forth. However, there did not seem any point in rushing to write something because it would have been a hopelessly one-sided conversation. I have been working on a partial redraft of the U.S. Constitution to reflect these reforms. You can also revisit my “20 Theses for Political Reform” article, posted on June 5, 2012. In any case, finally, there is a sign of hope: The Most Disruptive Transformation in History by Richard Florida in Medium.)

The post-election reactions of the Fourth and Fifth Estate have been truly madly deeply depressing, especially from people nominally associated with the political left (to one degree or another) Very few people seem to ‘get it’; namely, why these cataclysmic political results occurred in 2016 (e.g. Brexit, election of Donald Trump, and obvious rise of the European right/nationalists). Most are content with their lazy ‘go-to’ accusations/explanations of racism, fascism, misogynism, xenophobia and ‘whitelash’, all of which happens in the disturbing alternate reality of an echo chamber.

Finally, there is evidence that someone ‘gets it’ in Richard Florida’s December 1, 2016 article “The Most Disruptive Transformation in History: How the clustering of knowledge lays bare the need to devolve power from the nation-state to the city”, the link to which is available at the end of this editorial.

Excerpt:

Devolution and local empowerment would enable blue-state metro economies to invest their own resources while allowing others to do the same. It would respect local differences, local desires, and local needs.

This is a good start to the political debate, which requires both sides to converse with each other. Unfortunately, it does not happen much these days. A lot of the people who voted for Ronald Reagan and Tony Blair bought into their neoliberal economic policies (e.g. globalization) on the promises of economic prosperity and increased local power over their everyday lives; ‘returning power to the states’ in Reagan terms and ‘devolution’ in Blair terms. The Blair’s Labour Government only partially delivered. The rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP) is a positive result of British devolution (and the Labour Party’s failures) whereas the rise of the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) is a result of Blair’s failure to fully deliver on campaign promises vis-à-vis the power relationship between the European Union and local (mostly rural English and Welsh) communities. In the United States, the Democratic Party has frustrated efforts to ‘return power to the states’ for three decades, which has resulted in this behemoth of a Federal state with $20 trillion dollars of debt and the massive political reactions of the last decade. Hence, these constant ‘yo-yo-change’ elections culminating in the ‘surprise’ elevation of Donald Trump to the Presidency. It was only a surprise if you have not been paying attention.

Richard Florida’s article is a good start but delaying action in the USA for the last three decades now requires us to think bolder and get completely ‘outside the box’ to develop truly innovative solutions. We need to simultaneously solve multiple problems while drawing on the beauty of the constitutional system established by the Founding Fathers. Greater local political power for cities is certainly a big issue. Americans now live in an urban nation and we have to address this issue while still maintaining the horizontal and vertical balances of power inherent in the U.S. Constitution. How do we accomplish this? The answer may be to revisit the concept of the city-state for a modern world whilst reforming political representation at the Federal level. What might a plan of action look like?

1. Create criteria for city-states in the United States
Such criteria will have to be debated but a good starting point is physical and population size tied to population density in order to promote density, e.g. if cities want to become states with their own representatives, then they need growth management policies to densify their urbanized area. Right now, there are only a 6-8 US cities that would probably meet such criteria for statehood: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Washington, D.C. San Francisco (oops, forgot SF in initial publication) and perhaps Philadelphia. Houston, Atlanta, and Dallas are probably insufficiently dense at this time (order revised to discount Atlanta at this time).

2. City-state status is not a permanent condition
Cities that achieve statehood could lose that status through a process of promotion and relegation (yes, like the English Premier League). That is, if a city falls below the size and density threshold, then such cities can be returned to their original state. These criteria reflect the competitive component of cities, their rise and decline, and the fact that there can be no shortcut to statehood and greater political power. Because urban growth and decline occur over a very long time (except in conditions of catastrophes), there is time to adjust/prepare for promotion to statehood or relegation back to the state. For example, Chicago would become an independent city-state with its own representatives in the U.S. Congress but, if for some reason, the city declines over successive decades (loss of population and density, etc.), then Chicago would automatically revert back to the State of Illinois. Early in the 20th century, Detroit probably would have achieved statehood but no longer due to its precipitous decline.

In a sense, the Blair government already accomplished something similar, in part, with the creation of the Greater London Authority in the U.K. during the late 1990s. The USA and the United Kingdom are quite different in size, democratic representation, and constitutional structures but similar solutions could be pursued based on the same principle (e.g. devolution), though obviously tailored for their specific conditions.

Such a constitutional change would better reflect the urban reality of today’s world in the United States. However, under current conditions, it would also represent a dramatic, unsustainable increase of political power in the urban power base of the Democratic Party. This would terrify the rural power base of the Republican Party, rightly so. Constitution reform of democratic representation within the ‘vertical’ balance of power framework established by the Founding Fathers (rural-urban, small-big states, etc.) is necessary. This can be accomplished by reinvigorating the republican (with a small ‘r’) foundations of the country while simultaneously reducing the size of the Federal state. How?

We would have to redress the vertical balance of power by reducing the legislative size of the Federal government.

3. Reduce the number of U.S. Senators to one per state
Limit representation to one senator per state in the U.S. Senate, thereby significantly reducing the size of this legislative body (and their associated political staffing). If six to eight U.S. cities achieve statehood, then we would have only 56-58 senators, creating political power for the representatives of these city-states while redressing the rural-urban/small- and big-state balance with greater political power for constituencies that are predominantly rural in nature (Wyoming, Oklahoma, Dakotas, etc.).

4. Reduce the size of the House of Representatives to 217 members/End gerrymandering of districts (convex shapes)
Same principle at work for the reduction of legislative size except for representation in the House of Representatives is tied to population size. In order for this to work, we have to end gerrymandering of districts in favor of common sense districts that are physically convex in shape, which incorporate a diversity of populations and thereby moderate political representatives; promote compromise and work ‘across the aisle.’ There would be no ‘single issue’ representatives (most often associated with identity politics). Gerrymandering of districts (nominally in some cases to ensure ‘diversity’) is a real problem in the USA because when you gerrymander one district (nominally for laudable goals), you are gerrymandering every other district immediately adjacent to it. There is a ‘domino effect.’ The result is the legislative dysfunction of political extremism we have witnessed over the last three decades.

5. The domino effect on Federal Power
This would have a ‘domino effect’ on political power of the nation-state, making more feasible the devolution of all sorts of functions from the Federal department level to the local level (especially to the city-states: those that are already states and those that aspire to statehood), more fully meeting Reagan’s pledge to return power to the states and reduce the role of the technocracy at the Federal level and in people’s everyday lives.

This is the conversation we need to be having right now. Not the lazy attacks and doublespeak that is currently dominating the conversation. Let the real debate begin.

Read the full article here: The Most Disruptive Transformation in History | Richard Florida | Medium

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The Geography of Thought Policing

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a satire of the article “The Geography of Hate” by Richard Florida about ‘hate’ groups published in The Atlantic on May 11, 2011 and recently re-tweeted by Florida on June 26, 2016 in the aftermath of the Brexit results to leave the European Union. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s simple definition of hate is “a very strong feeling of dislike” so a ‘feeling’ (the overall quality of one’s awareness or thought) is being monitored and mapped in the original article.

THE GEOGRAPHY OF THOUGHT POLICING

Goodthink concentrates in certain regions, which correlates with secular religion, Obama votes, and ‘self-identified’ elitism

Goodthink (“orthodox thought of the political left”) abounds in our glorious nation, comrades! However, there are still pockets of crimethink (“orthodox thought of the political right”) to be eradicated. We have much to fear from crimethink. And not just from individuals suffering from the insanity of ownlife (“free will”). All citizens must participate in crimestop (“ridding themselves of unwanted thoughts interfering with the ideology of the political left”).

Since 2000, the amount of crimethink has climbed more than 5,000 percent, according to the Ministry of Truth. This rise has been fueled, as all citizens graced with goodthink know, by ignorance, racism, xenophobia, and fascism. Most crimethink merely espouses violent theories against the goodthink; some of them are stock-piling weapons and actively planning attacks against our glorious state.

But not all people and places goodthink equally; some regions of the United States – at least within some sector of their populations – are a virtual artsem (“artifical insemination”) of goodthink. What is the geography of goodthink and crimethink? Why are some regions more susceptible to one or the other?

The Ministry of Truth maintains a detailed database of crimethink, culled from the prolefeed (“steady stream of mindless entertainment to distract and occupy the masses”). The Ministry defines crimethink as “beliefs or practices that attack or malign goodthink people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: “immutable characteristics” means that any speech advocating religious persecution does not qualify as crimethink unless, of course, Christians are the subject of that persecution, which is goodthink. For example, ISIS beheading Christians does not qualify for categorization because the executioner may convert (i.e. mutable) to the crimethink of Christianity on the road to Damascus at some unknown date in the future.

The map below, created by the Ministry of Truth, graphically presents the geography of goodthink in the United States. Based on the number of goodthink groups per one million people across the U.S. states, it reveals a distinctive pattern, which dictates the amount of thinkpol (“thought policing”) required of all goodthinking citizens in their communities.

California_GeoTP_inverted

Goodthink is most highly concentrated in the broader regions associated with New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, concentrated in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and the West Coast. Two states have by far the largest concentration of crimethink groups – Montana with 13.8 groups per million people, and Mississippi with 13.7 per million. Arkansas (10.3), Wyoming (9.7), and Idaho (8.9) come in a distant third, fourth, and fifth.

Minnesota has the most effective thinkpol with 1.3 crimethink groups per million people, nearly ten times less than the leading state, followed by Wisconsin (1.4), New Mexico (1.5), Massachusetts (1.6), and New York (1.6). Connecticut (1.7), California (1.9), Rhode Island (1.9) all also have effective thinkpol per million people.

But beyond their locations, what other factors are associated with crimethink? With the help of the Ministry of Truth, I looked at the social, political, cultural, economic and demographic factors that might be associated with the geography of crimethink. I also considered a number of key factors that shape America’s geographic divide: Red state/Blue state politics; income and poverty; religion, and economic class. It is important to note that correlation does not imply causation – we are simply looking at associations between variables. It’s also worth pointing out that Montana and Mississippi are fairly extreme outliers, which may skew the results somewhat. Nonetheless, the patterns we discerned were robust and distinctive enough to warrant reporting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “might be” also means ‘might not.’ “Red state/Blue state politics” means there is an implicit political agenda associated with the article.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “It is important to note that correlation does not imply causation – we are simply looking at associations between variables.” Translation: this entire article is statistical bullshit but the author is hoping all goodthinking readers are stupid enough to draw conclusions, that are, in fact, not supported by objective, rigorous interpretation of the statistical analysis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Montana and Mississippi are fairly extreme outliers, which may skew the results somewhat.” Possible translation: if  Montana and Mississippi are removed from the data set, then the correlations fall apart and this article can’t posted to the prolefeed; not that it should have been in the first place.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Nonetheless, the patterns we discerned were robust and distinctive enough to warrant reporting.” Translation: reporting doublethink promotes groupthink (the last phrase was coined by the notorious crimethinker, William H. Whyte).

California_GeoofTP-thumbFirst of all, the geography of crimethink reflects the Red state/Blue state sorting of American politics. Crimethink is positively associated with McCain votes (with a correlation of .52). But we already knew that because it’s a self-evident truth that any state that did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008 is racist; made obvious by their refusal to concede electoral college votes to a man of color.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is not self-evident. It is only the starting point of the author’s initial assumption for compiling and analyzing the data set in this manner. However, the author is careful to hide this initial assumption because doubethink pomotes goodthink. The author is also unclear whether these correlations represent the R value or R squared value. The editor’s rule of thumb for R values: unsquared=0.75 or less is most likely a mess.

California_Florida_GeoofTP_5-11_chartConversely, goodthink groups voted for our glorious leader.California_GeoTP_5-11Goodthink and crimethink also cleaves along religious lines. Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, higher concentrations of crimethink are positively associated with states where individuals report that religion plays an important role in their everyday lives (a correlation of .35), indicating the true value of our secular religion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Whether a R-value or R-squared value, a correlation of 0.35 means bullshit.California_GeoTP_5-11_chart5The geography of crimethink also reflects the sorting of Americans by education and human capital level. Crimethink groups were negatively associated with the percentage of adults holding a college degree (-.41). The geography of goodthink and crimethink also sorts across economic lines. Crimethink is more concentrated in states with higher poverty rates (.39) and those with larger blue-collar working class workforces (.41). Higher income states with greater concentrations of goodthink workers provide a less fertile medium for crimethink. Crimethink was negatively correlated with state income levels (-.36), and the percentage of goodthink workers (-.48).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Most of these correlations appear to be nonsense, all with r-values (?) mostly well below 0.50.

Citizens, if you want to succeed in the United States and earn money, it’s best to adopt goodthink (even if you don’t really mean it, see Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post). You will be well compensated for groupthink: discipline your ownlife and crimestop yourself!

The geography of crimethink follows the more general sorting of America by politics and ideology, religion, education, income levels, and class. But the presence of crimethink does not necessarily lead to crime. A 2010 study of “Crimethink and Think Crimes” by the Ministry of Love found no empirical connection between the two. Tracing the association between crimethink and think crimes between 2002 and 2006, the Ministry found that while the amount of crimethink grew substantially, the number of think crimes did not – in fact such crimes actually decreased slightly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “the presence of crimethink does not necessarily lead to crime… no empirical connection.” Again, this unmasks the author’s article as nothing but goodthink propaganda since there isn’t any relationship between crimethink and actual crimes. The author’s article is, in fact, only promoting thinkpol (“thought policing”).

But the Ministry found a strong connection between crimethink and adverse economic conditions, particularly unemployment and to a lesser extent poverty. This proves citizens should adopt goodthink to avoid the classic crimethink-aggression thesis of the Ministry of Love, which, as its name implies, links aggression to high levels of crimethink. “When people refuse to adopt goodthink, the resulting economic hardship leads to crimethink and frustration,” wrote the deputy assistant undersecretary for the Department of Mutual Masturbation in the Ministry of Love. “They take their frustration out on goodthink citizens.”

Even if crimethink is not directly connected to crime, crimethink arises from the same underlying economic factors that are dividing Americans by class, ideology and politics. Crimethink, like think crimes, are strongly associated with ownlife. The geography of crimethink in America reflects and reinforces the need for more robust thought policing of crimethink.

Remember: Big Brother is watching… and watching goldfish positively correlates with cancer rates so watching goldfish is also crimethink for the greater good of our glorious citizenry. Crimethink clings to bibles and guns!

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Lying Statistics | Suicide in America | Atlantic Cities | New York Times

Editorial by Mark David Major, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

“Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves.” – Matthew 7:15

The difference between statistics and damn, lying statistics is the same as between the truth and demagoguery. In his May 8, 2013 article, Richard Florida exerts gun ownership is the ‘smoking gun’ behind surging suicide rates among Baby Boomers in the United States. He cities statistical data about gun ownership and suicide rates to make this argument. However, an objective assessment of the data reveals a more mundane truth: people who want to kill themselves are more likely to succeed if they own a gun. The key phrase here is not “a gun” but “people who want to kill themselves.” This revelation should rightly be filed under “Well, duh.”

Excerpt from “The Hidden Geography of America’s Surging Suicide Rate” by Richard Florida in The Atlantic Cities:

“While the economic crisis has clearly been a contributing factor to America’s rising suicide rate, perhaps it is not the only, or even the most important factor, behind the surge. In fact, another key factor appears to be at play: guns. Guns are the leading cause of suicide by far, according to the CDC report, accounting for nearly half (48 percent) all suicides among adults ages 35 to 64 in 2010. Slightly less than a quarter of suicides of people in this age group are caused by suffocation, and another 22 percent are poisonings, mainly drug overdoses.”

Read the full article here: The Hidden Geography of America’s Surging Suicide Rate – Richard Florida – The Atlantic Cities.

Unsurprisingly, Florida’s article appeared after 24/7 national media coverage of a series of high-profile mass shootings and, subsequently, legislative attempts by some in Congress and the present Administration to curtail constitutional protections under the 2nd Amendment. However, in making this argument, Florida shamelessly misinterprets  statistical data to fuel a political agenda and, in doing so, does a great disservice to the real mental health issues contributing to the increased suicide rate. To paraphrase the old NRA mantra, “guns don’t kill people, people kill themselves.”

Fortunately, the New York Times did not succumb to this urge to demagogue the issue. What followed was a series of (should be award-winning) articles offering more thoughtful insights into surging suicide rates in the United States. This includes the May 2, 2013 New York Times article, “Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.” by Tara Parker-Pope (excerpt below):

“Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.”

Read the full article here: Suicide Rate Rises Sharply in U.S. – NYTimes.com.

And a more thorough 6/26/13 investigative report in the New York Times, “The Suicide Detective” by Kim Tingly (excerpt below):

“For reasons that have eluded people forever, many of us seem bent on our own destruction. Recently more human beings have been dying by suicide annually than by murder and warfare combined. Despite the progress made by science, medicine and mental-health care in the 20th century — the sequencing of our genome, the advent of antidepressants, the reconsidering of asylums and lobotomies — nothing has been able to drive down the suicide rate in the general population. In the United States, it has held relatively steady since 1942. Worldwide, roughly one million people kill themselves every year. Last year, more active-duty U.S. soldiers killed themselves than died in combat; their suicide rate has been rising since 2004. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans has climbed nearly 30 percent since 1999. In response to that widely reported increase, Thomas Frieden, the director of the C.D.C., appeared on PBS NewsHour and advised viewers to cultivate a social life, get treatment for mental-health problems, exercise and consume alcohol in moderation. In essence, he was saying, keep out of those demographic groups with high suicide rates, which include people with a mental illness like a mood disorder, social isolates and substance abusers, as well as elderly white males, young American Indians, residents of the Southwest, adults who suffered abuse as children and people who have guns handy.”

Read the full article here: The Suicide Detective – NYTimes.com.

If you want to solve a problem, it’s always best to start addressing the problem on the basis of scientific objectivity, not political subjectivity.

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Pigs at the Trough| Florida & Obama build a lasting urban legacy | NY Daily News

Editorial by Mark David Major, The Outlaw Urbanist Blog

Obama, build a lasting urban legacy by Richard Florida – NY Daily News.

Richard Florida’s advocacy for President Obama to establish a U.S. Federal Department of Cities is an interesting idea. However, if implemented as outlined by Florida, it is also an inherently flawed one that would inevitably spell danger for our cities. The fatal flaw lies in a tepidness to truly reinvent our development processes. Instead of offering a radical vision to remake city building, Florida’s proposal actually represents more of the same. It would create a new Federal bureaucracy in “dysfunctional Washington” dedicated to the proposition that all special interests are created equal; more ‘Great Society’ than Great Cities. The fact is the majority of our citizens should have long ago grown tired of thinking that the default solution to every problem is a Cabinet-level Federal Department. Coming to CSPAN! The circus of Senate confirmation hearings for the Secretary of Cities, brought to you by National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and Community Organizations International, just as soon as the Senator from Montana releases his hold on the nomination! Stay tuned! More pigs feeding at the Federal trough would inevitably populate Florida’s Department of Cities. That is fine for the pigs but what about the rest of us?

Upon his election in 2006, Florida Governor Rick Scott had a similar opportunity to implement a new vision for building and growth in the State of Florida. His initial thinking was right: streamline the mess of State agencies to break down the ‘silos’ that had emerged between bureaucrats of different departments, reducing the size of State government so it works for its citizens rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, Scott’s implementation of this idea did not really change anything. Scott was unwilling to go far enough (or just paying lip service) to remaking State government. Instead of merging and streamlining the State Departments of Community Affairs, Environmental Protection, and Transportation into one organization dedicated to placing Smart Growth principles at the forefront of the agenda (and, by implication, subordinating road building and moderating environment protection under the umbrella of urban planning and development), Scott subverted urban planning to economic development under the banner of the Department of Economic Opportunity. In the process, Scott managed to make it look like he was doing something while actually protecting the special interests (ah, a real politician!) that made the Florida housing market the ‘birthplace of the Second Great Depression.’

Florida’s Department of Cities idea is not without merit but the implementation of that idea must warrant the importance Florida places on our “cities and metros (as) the engines of our economy,” which, of course, is their very nature as built environments designed for movement, interaction, and transaction. Otherwise, implementing Florida’s idea would be a waste of time, effort and money; what many believe is referred to as “governing” in Washington, D.C.

The only way a Federal Department of Cities could alter the prevailing development paradigm in this country for the last century is if we are willing to place Smart Growth for our cities at the top of the agenda by subsuming the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency, and other disparate Federal agencies and offices (Office of Urban Affairs, and so on) under one roof. Incidentally, this is probably the only way a new Department of Cities could generate bipartisan support by allowing the left and the right to explicitly address their key constituencies (urban interests on one hand, reducing and streamlining government on the other). It would also require both parties adopting an united front to take on other special interests threatened by such reform (most obviously, radical environmentalists). In the absence of such radical thinking, our cities are safer as “laboratories for pragmatic bipartisan policy innovation, pioneering new approaches on everything from schools, crime and gun control to economic development” at the local and State level.

The problem is not that our cities have failed to live up to our ideals. The real problem is everybody associated with city building (architects, developers, urban designers and planners and so on) have not not lived up to the opportunities presented by our cities for the last century. Why would we expect our citizens (and their representatives) to ever trust us and put us in charge when we have demonstratively failed our cities time and time again during their lifetime, their parents’ lifetime, and their grandparents’ lifetime? Instead of searching for magic bullets (like Florida’s idea), let us dedicate ourselves to leading for our cities. The irony is, if we truly did this, we would probably find the perceived need for Florida’s proposal and others like them would disappear. Unless, of course, the point is to become one of the fattest pigs at the trough. If this is the case, then never mind…

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