America's Path to 400 Million

The New York Times reviews a new book by Joel Kotkin about the role of immigration and minority populations in America.

Whereas in the past minority populations mainly had a big impact in large cities and "gateways", the impact of minority populations will spread over the next 40 years. And the concept of "minorities" will change as well. Kotkin's book predicts a continuation of American innovation, success and resilience.

"What will this nonhegemonic transcendent superpower look like? The Internet's democratization of information will mean more people will work at home. The heartland will be revived as places with 'skill surpluses' like Fargo, N.D., and Boise, Idaho, prosper through technology. The nation's suburbs will become more like preindustrial villages with vibrant town centers and less like bedroom communities catering to commuters. As a result the core of many central cities will shrivel and become anachronisms as the sprawling, multipolar, car-dependent cities of the South and Southwest (which can lure younger families with lower property prices) become cutting-edge cultural incubators.

Some older urban areas, like New York, may survive as "luxury cities," but Mr. Kotkin perceptively warns that municipal officials who believe they can position their cities only as playgrounds for the rich are doomed to a demographic dead end."

Full Story: A Nation 400 Million Strong



NY Times Reviews Kotkin's New Book

I was frightened when I first read this review in the New York Times. The reviewer describes Kotkin's vision of the centers of American cities emptying out as people move to auto-dependent suburbs, and describes Kotkin's glorification of population growth, and he concludes that Kotkin's "predictions are mostly plausible."

My first reaction was that there is very little hope if a reviewer in the mainstream liberal New York Times thinks that the environmentally disastrous future that Kotkin describes is plausible.

Then I realized that the reviewer just doesn't know enough about city planning to connect the dots. If someone said explicitly: "We don't have to worry about all these people who say we should conserve energy to control global warming. We should just increase our energy consumption as if there were no tomorrow," I think the reviewer would condemn that idea as destructive and implausible.

But the reviewer doesn't realize that Kotkin's vision of Americans moving en masse to auto-dependent suburbs implies just that.

Charles Siegel

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