Posted On: Saturday - July 22nd 2023 10:40AM MST
In Topics:   Americans  The Future
Part 1 on this topic, written yesterday, had observations only. The explanations are myriad and arguable as to significance, but the demise of American cities IS a thing, one we can all observe if we have memories of only a decade or two back.
Let's go back more than that, to before my memories of the world, to the flight from cities to suburbs. Of course, the automobile and the interstate highway system (meant for yes, inter-state but spurs and loops ended up serving city/suburb travel as much as interstate travel) made it easier for American to have their own "spreads", even if only 1/2 an acre. One fact in this flight I did not understand myself until fairly recently, from my reading of certain non-Narrative-based (or just "based") blogs, is the racial aspect. Going back 1/2 a century it was mostly White flight, not everybody. The reasons for this are likely known to the Peak Stupidity crowd, so I won't belabor the point of getting the hell away from Black! violence and theft.
I can still remember a department store in the downtown of a medium-sized city I know well. It was there in the early 1980s, but, as I recall, just closing down. Yeah, the malls drew the shoppers - think Breakfast at Tiffany's (the movie, not the song) - away from the city, but that seems like a chicken/egg question. Were the malls successful because people already lived outside the cities and needed to drive to shop anyway? Or, were they built because the inner city shopping experience became "not so great" due to the same factor that drove White residents away.
Well, that's the long past. Because medium-sized cities had* government offices one might need to go to, the banks, etc. there was a reason to occasionally go downtown. Then too, there were the office workers. They went to lunch at various establishments near them downtown and had to do errands too. So, downtown was kind of fun - except for parking, about which I could write a book of humorous anecdotes! - during the daytime. At night, unless you were a partying university student, you got the hell out. It got dark and quiet, way too quiet.
Then what? I was pretty late in noticing, so I imagine the trend of lots of housing being built in America's inner cities was happening 5 years or more before I noticed it ~ 2 decades ago. You all have seen the types of buildings. (I didn't see any of this in Hartford that day, but I didn't get around all of downtown.) Those pricey 5 story condo buildings with their coffee shops in the loft-style lobby are not my style, but I don't begrudge the young people for wanting to leave those Sub-divisions for the Bright Lights, Big City** Before these residences, I'd seen huge old brick mill buildings get converted into apartments too. Either way, gentrification, the ousting of ghetto dwellers via razing of old dwellings and the construction of these newer buildings (also the pastel row-house thing), made these parts of the cities safer to live in over a 30 year span or so.
That sounded great then. You can live right there downtown near your job where all the conveniences are and party at night with other young people. They've got the blocked off walk streets for craft beer festivals, and other stuff, which I'll mention at the end...
That one block section, with that fancy clothing store at one corner, was blocked to cars.
The thing is though, as of late, as there are more places to live in them. the cities themselves are no longer all they've been cracked up to be.
I've got to back up here. A factor making cities less pleasant is the slow but sure increase in the number of street people, homeless and/or bums. There've always been the down-on-their-luck, the Wharf Rats, as described nicely by the Grateful Dead (Robert Hunter, to be fair). The situation nowadays involves more than a few established bums and grifters. A factor in the demise of the cities has been the demise of the Funny Farm. See Peak Stupidity on Outsourcing of the Funny Farms and All flew out of the Cuckoo's Nest - an Unforced Error? ***
There's a political aspect to this, and, as usual, the cities of the West coast more than tolerate the mess, and even have encouraged it. The good weather also makes the cities there a haven for the homeless. (Were I homeless, I'd choose San Diego, but I don't know if they'd have ME.) The situation is worse almost everywhere though.
That's a long-term deterioration that could be dealt with. Another is the more recent politically-caused crime wave, motivated by the "Summer of George". This goes back closer to 10 years though, and it's gotten to the point where Black! city dwellers can get away with anything, making things more miserable for everybody. Steve Sailer is all over this, so I don't need to expound much.
All of that damage to American cities might be overcome with political will, of which there is none. The future keeps coming though, and it's the internet that has been part of what could be the permanent demise. The Kung Flu PanicFest consisted of experiments in Totalitarianism, for the most part, but along with those were the experiments in a UBI (Univeral Basic Income)****, which didn't go well at all and also remote work via the internet.
Lots of that white-collar work can be done from home. Is there a reason for big office buildings at all anymore? In the comments under the previous post, Mr. Blanc mentioned that management may not always like this idea. The concept of "hours worked" would have to be changed in the minds of managers to "work done". That's not easy for them, as some work has never actually involved any perceived "work done". Some employees are up to the task of self-motivation and suppression of distractions, and some aren't.
A family member who is conservative in all ways (not a fan of change) did not relish the idea when he got sent home to work like everyone else there during the PanicFest. He's gotten used to it well though, was told to stay away longer than most others due to his successful resistance to the vax mandate, but now got told he HAS to come in (on Tuesdays by one manager, Wednesday by another, so lets call it Tuesdays and Wednesdays). This place is not in downtown however. I'm not sure what will be their plan in the long run.
Remote work saves a LOT of money for rent and other overhead for businesses. True, there are plenty of white-collar jobs that must be done in an office somewhere that involve interfacing with reality. Where it can work I think remote work will continue, if not expand even.
If people aren't doing much working in offices downtown, will they still live there, in those converted former office buildings? I suppose one could work remotely from his condo in downtown too. You get out and about, if it's safe, hang out with other young people for lunch and dinner and the craft beer festival on that walk-street right about the corner... she lives on Pride Street ... lingers long on Pride Street... , got The Doors in my head...
Yeah, that's not so family friendly, as much as they think it is or WISH it would be.
The purpose of cities used to be serious industry a half-century ago, maybe more, but since then and before the internet allowed the type of interactions it does, it was to support company headquarters, government offices big entertainment venues, etc. Can a city be just a place for dense living with no other purpose? That would have been more possible if it hadn't been for the large increase in diversity and the experimentation with all the lefty weirdness that has made the street more miserable. Additionally, all this stupidity costs money. That may have been OK when tax money still poured into city coffers from the office towers. Can the residents alone support the stupidity that they must also live with? Family formation looks like a no-go item in these downtowns, affordable or otherwise. Better get away from the Bright Lights/Big City and back to those Subdivisions. Be cool or be cast out.
Cities have been around since Homo Sapiens began farming 100 centuries ago. Is their time over with? I only write about America here, but that's the way things are headed right now. I could be wrong.
PS: I didn't mention the factor of big universities in the cities. UConn has a small campus in West Hartford and a school of business in downtown, but the big campus is in Storrs, 22 miles to the east, a long way in Connecticut! There's an ~5,000 student Univ. of Hartford, but it's not a college town. Big university campuses can add life and money to a city. This is not so sustainable a business model either, as it's just based on more tax money. (No, not the State funds, but the school loan money coming from the taxpayers, the way it looks ...)
* Even this is going away. Water Department, power company, etc, offices have moved out of downtown, at least a little ways.
** I've always been a big Michael J. Fox fan. His sister Mallory was not too bad either!
*** In a rare style of Peak Stupidity brain fart, I'd written the 1st of those post 4 years before the 2nd one, and I'd totally forgotten by the 2nd. That's happened a few times over the 2,670 posts written.
**** Whatever happened to Andrew Yang, anyway?