New York Problems

First, the coronavirus clickbait.

Then, the meat of employment.

Finally, the summary.


The Cororonavirus Clickbait

From The End of New York

Yet today, New York faces a looming existential crisis brought on by the coronavirus. It suffers the largest outbreak of infection by far, accounting for the largest numbers of both cases and deaths outside of Wuhan and Milan. New York is home to nearly half of the coronavirus cases in the United States, and a majority of deaths.

What’s particularly ominous for New York’s future is that the best way to slow the spread of the virus—social distancing—works against the very things that make Gotham so appealing. The very pleasures and crowded realities of urban life, such as mass transit, are particularly susceptible to pandemics. As New Yorkers are told to avoid crowded subways, subway traffic is down 60% and commuter train traffic by as much as 90%.

From: The End of New York by Joel Kotkin

Cities are not good places, during epidemics and pandemics. But if this was the only problem, New York City could get by. City infrastructure adjusts, people’s behaviour adjust, and the grip of pandemics is weakened.

Moreover: cities have always been more heavily struck by disease than the countryside. Indeed, the very fact that the Old World had more diseases (and more livestock, and more kinds of livestock) than the Americas both increased the disease load of the Old World, and made it’s diseases overpowering when Europeans contacted the Native Americans.

Cities have always had too many diseases: but they remain highly populated, even in the old days, because that’s where the money and power and the brains are.

Pandemics naturally thrive most in big cities, where people live cheek by jowl and are regularly exposed to people from other regions and countries. Like COVID-19, the bubonic plague came to Europe on ships from the Orient, where the disease originated. As historian William McNeill noted, the plague devastated the cosmopolitan centers of Renaissance Italy far more than the backward reaches of Poland or other parts of central Europe.

Being away from people, driving around in your own car, and having neighbors you know, all have clear advantages when it comes to avoiding and surviving contagion. Even the urban cognoscenti have figured this out. Like their Renaissance predecessors during typhus and bubonic plague outbreaks, contemporary wealthy New Yorkers are retreating to their country homes where they struggle with the local townies over occasional short supplies of essentials.

From: The End of New York by Joel Kotkin

Same hymn book, second verse.

The Meat of Employment

Today the top 1% in New York are taking in over 40% of the city’s income—about double the top 1-percenter income share nationally in the United States—while much of the city’s population find themselves left behind. Even the epicenter of gentrification, Brooklyn, actually got poorer in the first decade of the new millennium.

This reflected in large part a precipitous fall in middle income jobs—those that pay between 80% and 200% of the median income. Over the past 20 years, such jobs barely grew in New York, while such employment soared 10 times as quickly in Texas cities and throughout much of the South and Intermountain West. Of the estimated 175,000 net new private sector jobs created in the city since 2017, fewer than 20% are paying middle-class salaries. Amid enormous wealth, some 40% of working families now basically live at or near the poverty line. For most New Yorkers, the “luxury city” was not glamorous, but more resembled a version of Detroit—a place largely without hope. In the process, the primarily middle-class New York I knew as a young man has slowly evaporated. Since the 1970s, the middle orders’ share of the city population declined from more than 60% to 48%. Economic research shows this decline to be among the fastest in the country. While Bloomberg’s “luxury” city thrived, poverty became more entrenched and evident. As The Atlantic recently noted, Manhattan now suffers conditions where “the homeless shelters are full, and the luxury skyscrapers are vacant.”

From: The End of New York by Joel Kotkin

Now, we’re getting somewhere!

No middle-class or aspirational jobs? Nobody is going to move into the city.

Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, who ran against the notion of “two New Yorks,” ultimately managed to only accelerate the city’s social unraveling. De Blasio’s policies on policing, notably bail reform, have engendered a noticeable rise in crime, including on the subways. If the virus doesn’t get you on your evening commute, it’s possible that a mugger will.

The spread of contagions in a starkly divided city, lacking the glue of its formerly tenacious and now greatly embattled middle class, will be accelerated by the growth of the homeless population on New York’s streets. These populations—exposed to the elements and living in often crowded, unhygienic conditions—can be breeding grounds for rats and all sorts of diseases, some of them distinctly medieval, such as typhus, and many of which will arguably be far more dangerous than coronavirus.

From: The End of New York by Joel Kotkin

That’s the real killer flu I expect: when it starts up, it will start up in a city.

Perhaps a Chinese city, according to stereotype. But it could be an African city, a European city, or even an American city.

Lots of poor unhygienic, poorly-fed people in the major US cities today.

Sure, the Church can help them out: and should help them out! The poor are not to be punished to be poor.

But charity – even holy, blessed charity – generally does not end poverty. Free markets and solid rights of life, liberty and property for the poor as well as the rich – a.k.a. capitalism – a.k.a JUSTICE – ends poverty.

As working parents fear sickness and crime, the prospects for their children have been further eroded by de Blasio’s systematic, ideologically driven assault on the city’s education system. Charter schools, critical to retaining middle- and working-class families, are getting steamrolled by teachers unions and city administrators. The biggest losers here are usually innercity poor children, of which nearly 70% are black and Hispanic. At the same time, the mayor, along with New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, have been working assiduously—in the name of racial justice—to undermine the merit-based schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, which remain magnets for primarily working-class Asian children. Equally critical is the fact that the city’s once thriving Catholic schools, long a bastion of working-class upward mobility, face rapidly declining enrollments. The assault on the city’s schools by the mayor makes it far less attractive both to middle-class residents and to businesses.

From: The End of New York by Joel Kotkin

Our Betters never did like seeing other people climb up the ladder. Much better to kick the ladder down, and keep their own position at the top free of challenge.

That is the number one problem with capitalism: not that people get rich, but — as soon as they can — the newly enriched immediately try to re-rig the rules, so no on else can get rich.

(And, also, to insure that they never need to face a challenge or even meaningful resistance, in business or politics, or be in danger of losing their wealth.)

We need justice. So we need elites who are aware of their position before God, who understand that He (or, as His representative, the market and the masses) has the right to take away wealth as well as give it. That they can be wrong as well as right. That if they are wrong, they are no t to immediately try to rewrite the rules, but to have integrity and suffer their lumps.

(It’s a grim fact, that we will always have ruling elites for as long as we have governments, which are tied to the public suppression of certain sins – murder and theft, largely. But that isn’t so bad, if they are just “the people, plus money and power”. It a  lot uglier if they are – as today – a hostile alien ruling class, that despise the lower classes, their culture, their way of life.

And – as such – are always looking for ways to strip the lower classes of their authority, their wealth, their culture, and their liberty to act – or even speak – contrary to the will of the Right Sort.)

Yet while the city’s middle class may be dissatisfied, it is smaller, weaker, and more stressed than it was in the 1970s or after Sept. 11. Crucially, the middle class lacks a solid foothold in the ruling Democratic Party, which arbitrates between city employee unions, professional ideologues, and the megarich. Particularly critical will be the role of ethnic communities, including Jews, who retain a unique stake in the city’s culture. These varied groups offer the greatest hope for New York, which has survived greater challenges, to climb out of what looks like a very deep hole.

From: The End of New York by Joel Kotkin

The middle class is not going to get a foothold in the Democratic Party. That place is locked down by:

  • Intensely anti-Christian (and this, anti-bourgeois/anti-middle class) ideologues. To enter the middle class, you need certain habits – from saving, to stable marriages before having kids, to decent community bonds, to never quitting a job unless you have a new one lined up – that poor people don’t teach other poor people.
    • “Wouldn’t it be nice if the preachers taught it to their congregations?”

I regard John Wesley as the person who did more to relieve poverty than anyone in history. He showed the way to wealth to millions of poor people who had not read Adam Smith. He preached this of money: Earn all you can. Give all you can. Save all you can. (Sermon #50, “The Use of Money” [1744], Part 6.)

Wesley preached to the poorest people in the British Isles. He spent most of his adult life on horseback. He preached sobriety, hard work, and thrift to those poverty-stricken people who came to be called Methodists. He changed the face of England. Within a century of his death, Methodists had become middle class. Then the denomination went theologically liberal. This would not have surprised Wesley. He had warned against the effects of riches in Sermon 126 (1790).

His followers experienced what religious orders and monks did throughout the Middle Ages: they got rich by practicing systematic frugality. That was why, every few centuries, there was a wave of religious reform among the mendicant orders that had sworn vows of poverty. Too much money was rolling in. The monks were enjoying the life style of the rich and famous.

Thrift is the key element in the reduction of poverty. Thrift capitalizes the entrepreneurs and inventors whose ideas overcome poverty for the masses.

The fact that wealth corrupts some of those who create it and makes their children feel guilty after four years at an Ivy League school is a valid theological and moral issue. But as to how poverty is overcome, capitalism has proven more effective than any other system of ownership and production.

I argue in many of my books that the worldview of the Bible presents the case for private ownership, which in turn produces the capitalist order. Socialists may disagree. So may Randians. But the fact remains that the capitalist order is what has made the difference historically in the conquest of poverty. Before capitalism, there were many varieties of Christianity, but none of them produced the society-wide cornucopia of wealth that has given us all of those blessings to count.

From: The Source of All Blessings (and Curses) by Gary North

  • The wealthy movers and shakers, happy to hire and work with the ideologues to remove bourgeois limits on their power, and knowing that the upper-class professionals that they own – almost all of whom are of the Left, to a greater or lesser degree – will not dare bite the hand of their master.
  • The poor. Well, not the real poor, who don’t vote, have little or now power, and are largely apolitical, except for handouts and tribal pride displays. No, I mean the “community organizers”, who speak for the poor. As these political operators get more skilled, they get better payoffs… regardless of what happens to the poor people they supposedly represent.

Professional beggars are not a major problem in the US… but they might be in the future, especially after the destruction of the welfare state.

Summary

This ability to work remotely can be seen in the flow of jobs in fields like finance, technology, and business services. In all these fields, according to an analysis by Mark Schill from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York’s performance has been either at the national average or well below. Top bankers or designers may continue to operate out of Manhattan, but their many minions can operate far easier in places like Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Nashville, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, and Jacksonville, which so far have been far less affected by the virus than New York.

From: The End of New York by Joel Kotkin

I can see diseases and crime as drivers to push the middle class – and their children – out of the cities. But the real shove is going to be the distinct lack of jobs.

There aren’t only sticks driving people out: there will also be carrots louring people to the countryside and the smaller towns. The major one is the ability to work remotely, to earn good money in a poor or small – but safe – town. A lesser one is that it will take less work for people to build their kind of community for their family… as opposed to the kind of community their wealthy overlords back in the Big City prefer.

This will be easier when the checks stop in the Great Default – the bankruptcy of the central governments of the West – and small towns and counties are more easily able to quietly ignore – or even openly flout – the rules from the Masters, ruling from their enclaves in the Centre of the Empire.

So long as there is no open declaration of independence, locals will be able to get away with a lot after the Central State is busted.

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