Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged – The Atlantic

Places like St. Louis and New York City were once similarly prosperous. Then, 30 years ago, the United States turned its back on the policies that had been encouraging parity.

Until the early 1980s, a long-running feature of American history was the gradual convergence of income across regions. The trend goes back to at least the 1840s, but grew particularly strong during the middle decades of the 20th century.

The rise of the broad American middle class in that era was largely a story of incomes converging across regions to the point that people commonly and appropriately spoke of a single American standard of living. This regional convergence of income was also a major reason why national measures of income inequality dropped sharply during this period.

Yet starting in the early 1980s, the long trend toward regional equality abruptly switched. Since then, geography has come roaring back as a determinant of economic fortune, as a few elite cities have surged ahead of the rest of the country in their wealth and income.

Adding to the anomaly is a historic reversal in the patterns of migration within the United States. Throughout almost all of the nation’s history, Americans tended to move from places where wages were lower to places where wages were higher. … But over the last generation this trend, too, has reversed.

The Emergence of a Single American Standard of Living: Regional Per Capita Income as a Percentage of the National Average

Washington Monthly

A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around.

Beginning in the late 1970s, however, nearly all the policy levers that had been used to push for greater regional income equality suddenly reversed direction.

The Rise in Per Capita Income for Selected Cities Compared to the Rise for the U.S. as a Whole

Washington Monthly

The Per Capita Income of Various Regions Compared to the New York Metropolitan Area’s

Washington Monthly

Empirical studies have shown that when a city loses a major corporate headquarters in a merger, the replacement of locally based managers by “absentee” managers usually leads to lower levels of local corporate giving, civic engagement, employment, and investment, often setting in motion further regional decline.

The spectacular rise in the affluence of the D.C. metro area since the 1970s belies the idea that “deregulation” has brought a triumph of open and competitive markets. Instead, it is the result of a boom in what libertarians in other contexts like to call “rent seeking,” or the enrichment of a few through the manipulation of government and the cornering of markets.

Source: Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged – The Atlantic

Why Computer Programmers Should Stop Calling Themselves Engineers – The Atlantic

Computing has become infrastructure, but it doesn’t work like infrastructure.

Just as the heavy industry can greenwash to produce the appearance of environmental responsibility … the technology industry can “engineerwash” … to make their products and services appear to engender trust, competence, and service in the public interest.

Source: Why Computer Programmers Should Stop Calling Themselves Engineers – The Atlantic

RECONSIDER – Signal v. Noise

Well, the reason I’m here is to remind you that maybe, just maybe, you too have a nagging, gagging sense that the current atmosphere of disrupt-o-mania isn’t the only air a startup can breathe. That perhaps this zeal for disruption is not only crowding out other motives for doing a startup, but also can be downright poisonous for everyone here and the rest of the world.

Part of the problem seems to be that nobody these days is content to merely put their dent in the universe. No, they have to fucking own the universe. It’s not enough to be in the market, they have to dominate it. It’s not enough to serve customers, they have to capture them.

The web is the greatest entrepreneurial platform ever invented. Lowest barriers of entry, greatest human reach ever. I love the web. Permission-less, grand reach, diversity of implementation. Don’t believe this imaginary wall of access of money. It isn’t there.

Examine and interrogate your motivations, reject the money if you dare, and startup something useful. A dent in the universe is plenty.

Curb your ambition.

Live happily ever after.

Source: RECONSIDER – Signal v. Noise

Let’s Run the Numbers – Nuclear Energy vs. Wind and Solar | The Energy Reality Project

Four bottom lines up front:

  • It would cost over $29 Trillion to generate America’s baseload electric power with a 50 / 50 mix of wind and solar farms, on parcels of land totaling the area of Indiana. Or:
  • It would cost over $18 Trillion with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) farms in the southwest deserts, on parcels of land totaling the area of West Virginia. Or:
  • We could do it for less than $3 Trillion with AP-1000 Light Water Reactors, on parcels totaling a few square miles. Or:
  • We could do it for $1 Trillion with liquid-fueled Molten Salt Reactors, on the same amount of land, but with no water cooling, no risk of meltdowns, and the ability to use our stockpiles of nuclear “waste” as a secondary fuel.

The bottom line

The only way we’re going to power the nation—let alone the planet—on carbon-free energy is with nuclear power. And the sooner we all realize that, the better.

Source: Let’s Run the Numbers – Nuclear Energy vs. Wind and Solar | The Energy Reality Project

Philip Guo – The Two Cultures of Computing

The Two Cultures originally referred to the schism between the sciences and humanities. However, I’ve noticed a similar schism in computing between users and programmers, which makes it hard to teach programming to beginners.

In computer user culture, each piece of software is a tool for getting something done … Each app on a user’s computer, tablet, or smartphone is a self-contained digital tool with a specific purpose.

In contrast, in computer programmer culture, each piece of software is an agent with whom one can hold a conversation, via either programming or chaining together shell commands. … Learning to use these programmer-centric tools is like learning to speak new artificial languages

I don’t have a magical solution to this issue. I just want to highlight the fundamental cultural disconnect between programmers, who routinely talk to their software via decades-old command-line interfaces, and ordinary users, who exclusively use modern GUIs.

Source: Philip Guo – The Two Cultures of Computing