Where have all the American boom towns gone?

“America’s boom towns have disappeared. Throughout its history, the country’s cities have transformed themselves into hotbeds of growth and prosperity. San Francisco became a boom town due to the 1850s gold rush; Detroit tripled in size between 1910 and 1930 thanks to the rise of the car industry; Los Angeles exploded in the 1920s as film sets, oil wells and aircraft plants drew in migrants seeking their fortunes. As for Chicago, in 1850 it was a muddy frontier town of 30,000 souls; by 1910 it was “hog butcher for the world” and the nerve centre of the US rail network, with more than two million residents.

“But America no longer creates boom towns. The areas experiencing high growth today, such as the Sun Belt, are attracting people with cheap housing, not high wages, while the places that should be drawing in ambitious migrants – Brooklyn, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston’s suburbs, Washington – are barely growing. Tight restrictions on development and the resulting sky-high property prices have seen to that. When migration stalls in the very places with the most opportunities, it can only worsen income inequality and stifle a nation’s productivity”. (Emily Badger, New York Times)

My personal take on this is that in former times big industry relied more on brawn than on brain. Now so much depends on education snd technical expertise. The tech industry thrives on savvy immigrants, specially from India, where some of the smartest engineers and well-educated computer experts now come from. As a foreigner (but a US citizen) I feel I can look at the American scene as, partially, an outsider. What I see is a disappointing educational situation (I am being polite!). The level of education in general is poor, which is why the country desperately needs immigration. O.K, the right kind of immigration. One reads comments on the web and in newspapers and it is clear that too many people cannot even speak or write their own language. If you can’t do that, you resort to a limited vocabulary of crudeness and vulgarity. If Americans just want to get a job and don’t value “education” then scrap many of the universities, create technical training institutions where you learn something that is useful to companies, and admit that the old ideal of education is beyond us.

We are in the midst of a huge social and political crisis that there is no political will to correct (the lock-hold of the NRA on politicians being a prime example). We have given up democracy and are now experiencing an oligarchy. There are enlightened exceptions of course, but in general oligarchs are happy with the status quo, which is one of extremes of wealth and poverty and a reluctance to invest in the health and welfare of the country. How can you possibly feel pleasure or enjoy ataraxia in such a situation? And yet there are apparently millenials who willingly support this!

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