17 August 2009

Saving Our Crumbling Urban Landscape

Cities of the western world are beginning to collapse from the inside out. As criminal and other non-productive classes displace the productive classes, large cities across the developed world are watching their inner cores crumble. Inner city redesign, refurbishing, and gentrification can only be successful in the long term if the city's tax base can be maintained -- and its crime and unemploment rates kept under control.
One answer is to build a new industrial city focusing on small scale craft and specialty manufacturing with high value added. We're seeing a precursor to this in the rise of [urban] organic farming and artisanal products of all kinds. TV shows featuring hip young carpenters renovating homes or gearheads tricking out cars and motorcycles make these professions seem glamorous. Magazines targeted at the global elite like Monocle scour the world in favor of the finest handcrafted products from old school workshops, building demand for these products. The New York Times Magazine recently did an article making the case for working with your hands, and also noted how digitally oriented designers are rediscovering the use of their hands. Perhaps it is no surprise that sociologist Richard Sennett turned his attention to the idea of the craftsman. In short, making things, craftsmanship, and quality are back in fashion.

The challenge for urban economies is to develop [a new industrial city] and put it on a sound industrial and economic footing. One key might be to inspire people to start these craft oriented businesses by tapping into people's desire to purchase ethical and sustainable products. We increasingly see with foods and other items that people want to understand their provenance, to know who made them, how, with what, and under what conditions. Often today businesses catering to this desire are small scale “Mom and Pop” type operations, but there is no reason they can't be done at greater scale, or expanded into areas like organic food processing, not just organic farming. American Apparel has done just that by manufacturing low cost, stylish clothing “Made in Downtown Los Angeles. Sweatshop Free.” at scale, for example.

Beyond craft products, reinvigorating small scale, specialty fabrication and other businesses, to rebuild an American version of Germany’s Mittlesand, creates another, often ignored option for urban economies. Quality, flexibility, responsiveness, and a willingness to do small runs are keys. These businesses can also underpin product companies higher in the value chain. They start building an ecosystem of local companies and expertise that can be useful for related or spin-off businesses. Jane Jacobs, and before her the great French historian Fernand Braudel, noted how cities could incubate many new enterprises because all the diverse products and services they needed were available locally. If you need to scour the globe looking for custom parts and services, it can quickly overwhelm a small business. _NewGeographic
The developed world is learning that outsourcing all of its manufacturing and production may not be the best idea. While China has built a large cash surplus by acting as the west's surrogate manufacturing sector, many regions of the western world have gone from prosperous to quasi-impoverished.

City planners and managers need to begin thinking in terms of "city-state" operations. Helping to develop local and regional sources for raw materials, food, and manufactured goods can improve the bottom line for both the city and the surrounding countryside.

One of the less considered products for local and regional production, is energy. But with the coming of bioenergy, more of a region's energy supply may well be accessible at close range.

Food, energy, housing, sanitation, education, medical care, entertainment, recreation, manufactured goods, large construction . . . Most cities are better suited for some of the above than others. But with a bit of imagination and better technologies, cities may be able to supply a larger portion of their own needs -- and boost their faltering economies at the same time.

The demographic problem -- the shrinking numbers of the innately talented with the rising numbers of the less talented -- will continue to be a challenge for Europe and North America. But persons of lower innate talent (lower IQ and EF) can be much better educated and trained than at present. By completely transforming and reforming our outmoded educational system and replacing it with a 21st century approach free of union thugs and government bureaucrats, the crime and unemployment figures can be improved even in the face of the ongoing demographic transition.

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Blogger Audacious Epigone said...

If the urban core can't be removed from the, well, urban core--and I don't see how it will be otherwise--why would a stable urbane population want to subject itself to the inner city? Young professionals will to some extent, but if children come along (and we need them to), it's out to the safety and structure of the suburbs.

Monday, 17 August, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Some cities will have to be abandoned as lost. When a city's core is dominated by low productivity residents, and its city government is run by low IQ / low EF / persons of minimal innate talent, it is time to cut it loose. This is a misfortune for the state or province containing the lost city, but it is simply how it is.

But many cities are only partly lost, and can often be rehabilitated.

Of course this blog is all about progressing to the next level, which assumes a degree of coming intelligence and vitality that few people can dream of currently.

Problems that are insoluble on our current level should become comically simple upon transitioning.

Vague, yes, and clearly based upon speculative opinion. That's what blogs are for, among other things.

Monday, 17 August, 2009  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

Social Darwinism used to 'cull' the low productive types from the urban population. Right now, the collection of social misfits is being subsidized; primarily through Section 8 housing.

As for suburbs and smaller urban areas being 'safe'? Section 8 is allowing the pathology to migrate out from the deteriorating city center. The Atlantic did a story where the rise in murder / crime hot spots overlayed very close to the concentration of section 8 housing. The spike in crime started as soon as the section 8 tenants started moving in.


Tuesday, 18 August, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm posting this here since I don't want to clog up your comment section.

Steve Wunsch tried to start the Arizona Stock Exchange (AZX) a decade or two ago and failed. Since his failure he has used his experience to write this 40 page paper on what is causing the destruction of the US electric and power grids. I would really recommend reading Wunsch's paper, which is located here.

Monday, 31 August, 2009  

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