You’ve probably seen photos or videos of huge homeless encampments in America’s cities, like the ones in this Daily Mail article about Portland. You’ve probably seen footage of brazen shoplifting in San Francisco
Re: NYC, as a lifelong resident I can concur with the assessment of the post-pandemic challenges as being relatively mild when compared to earlier decades. Remote work is a serious issue; conversion of empty commercial properties may help, as we have seen the transformation of the Financial District into a residential area.
Very good, reasonable and balanced analysis. It’s also important to distinguish between the approx 8 “global” cities in the US and everywhere else. Their fates and issues are very different. My sense is for the next decade many second and third tier cities will do quite well, while the famous ones will suffer. But in the end, I’d never go long against NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle. As you said, they just have way too many unique assets that will always exceed their liabilities.
Good thoughts. I agree with the importance of remaining engaged with reality, which tends to be more nuanced than the visions produced by echo chambers.
It's not always appreciated how broad-based the urban decline was during the 1960s-1990s crisis. For example, while Atlanta metro was booming during this period (growing around 30% per decade), the city itself was rotting and didn't surpass its 1970 peak until 2020(!) Lots of cities we think of as not exactly hollowed out or Rustbelt are nonetheless less populated than they were decades ago. Boston, Philadelphia, et al.
I recall being told by "experts" circa 2010 that the Millennials were showing a strong preference for the city and the Zoomers would double down on it, leading to a trend towards re-urbanization. That petered out. It turns out there is going to be a sustained push and pull -- cities have a unique appeal that will always enrapture some, but they also have unique problems. Cities aren't going away, but I doubt we're ever going back to the pre-1960s urbanism because the factors that made city life less desirable after that time aren't going away on a sustained, nationwide basis.
A key issue seems to be: whether or not one has the means and resources to avoid having to take public transit. John McWhorter is far from a reactionary or alarmist, but his description of the NYC subway sounds quite alarming indeed:
"I can testify that these days, about once every week one can expect to be in a car with a person, almost always male, who is actively menacing other passengers... But the problem is that in seeking this negative attention, these men are often not plangent but furious. They walk up and down the subway car yelling into individual faces. They stomp. They ball their fists. They curse. These are not just troubled supplicants who occasionally get a little pushy. They are men who make you genuinely afraid that you are about to be assaulted. And in my experience these men are most likely to be directly confrontational with women.... Men in a state of potentially violent agitation are now so common on the subway that I am wary of having my daughters, ages 8 and 11, ride with me, especially after an incident when one such man singled us out and I had to quietly instruct my girls to keep their eyes down and not move."
I have little perspective as I am a country boy start to finish and have no desire to live in a city or even truly suburban setting. I like spread out neighborhoods. I do read and see news (mostly bad) about our cities and I can be drawn to the doom and gloom scenarios. So this is encouraging. I would love to see the inhabitants of said cities begin to vote smarter as this would benefit them as well the rest of the state and even nation in time.
I wonder if Aaron could comment to the fact that the urbanized areas seem to be perpetually voting for those that are not serious about crime and actually improving the living conditions of those that vote them into office? He probably has addressed this in past writings to some degree. But the urban/suburban "blue" voting phenomena is just unbelievable and I can't understand it.
I suppose it is possible that things in a big city could get so bad that the voters will react, and elect someone like Giuliani again. Otherwise, the bad governance issue will combine with the other factors to ruin the cities.
But you never want to extrapolate infinitely from the current situation in any human system where there is a feedback loop, where people can get fed up and change directions.