Assorted links


So people don't have to read the linked article at #2, here are the reasons why Americans are moving less, as given in the article:

"Clearly, the recession has something to do with declining mobility. You can’t move for a job if no job exists. You can’t buy a house if nobody gives you a mortgage. And you can’t sell your place and take off if nobody is buying. "

The article points out later that places with jobs, like New York and San Francisco, have really high rents and housing costs, while places with low housing costs, like Dayton, don't have jobs and in a different way are equally unaffordable. But that's pretty much it.

There is no doubt that the recession is part of the temporary slump but since the decline predates the recession by a decade, that's clearly not the entire reason.

I think the rise of telecommuting has affected our required mobility in the last 10 years. There are certainly workers for my company that live far away from our offices and travel to works sites as required, but work from home when they'd normally be at the 'office'. It's a minority of employees to be sure, but it's also concentrated among the type of employees who would have, in the past, been force to move.

In addition there is this factor,
"The rise of the Internet can explain much of the rest of the decline in mobility, Kaplan and Schulhofer-Wohl said, by reducing the chance that a worker will move and move and move again in search of a good neighborhood or a good job. A worker moving to a new town 30 years ago took a huge leap of faith about her new home and workplace. By making information more accessible, the Internet has improved the quality of any given move. As a result, Americans’ moves are stickier these days. "

The article mentions that the national job market has become significantly more homogenous over the years, thus there are few gains to be had from moving.
I am not sure if I agree, given the high variance in unemployment rates
I am certain there are different job concentrations by municipality, but what do I know? *shrug*

Some of the comments mention addition factors that the article leaves out:

- The 'two-body' problem faced by dual-career families.

- The high cost of moving: real-estate commissions/transfer taxes/new furnishings can easily run tens of thousands of dollars -- and home price appreciation no longer masks these costs.

- Lower levels of employer-employee commitment makes a long-distance move to take a job riskier than it used to be.

Of these, I wouldn't expect the latter two to be a huge deal: you can negotiate for reimbursement of moving costs, and if you move to a region with multiple employers in your chosen career/industry, then lower loyalty (greater inter-employer mobility) is fine. I've had family members and colleagues move for a job (or even just the chance of a job) and then switch employers within a year or two.

The two-body problem has been huge, though. Best-scenarios: have one person with a highly portable career (nurse, teacher), or have one person with highly flexible career options (couples in grad school together -- the person with the better job offer 'wins'). But if you have two established careers and/or kids ... you're staying put.

On #3, during the first century BC the leaders of the Roman Republic started not bothering doing things that used to happen more or less automatically, like the annual election of the magistrates. There were years where no magistrates were elected and the old ones just continued in office. Julius Caesar and Octavian get too much credit or blame for ending the republic (in fact at the time received opinion was that Octavian restored it), it was pretty much dead by the time they took power.

However, the US probably has not gotten to that stage yet. In the 1920s, Congress decided not to bother with the post-census reapportionment of representatives among the states that was constitutionally required. American political institutions have always been somewhat creaky.

If you rolled your eyes at #4 and gave up a couple paragraphs in, you missed the best part:

"A man who screamed at protest organizer Erin McElroy, 31, was later identified as a union worker who was pretending to be a Google employee upset at being delayed by the protest."

I love the concept that the Google employees should have to ride the same shitty buses the city provides. With the excuse of "well, maybe they wouldn't be so shitty if even more people were forced to use them!"

More or less the same argument that is used in favor of public schools.

Generous use of neighborly appellations like "Google scum" and poormouthing from surly public transit workers no doubt will only enhance Google employees' regard for their neighbors in San Francisco and the city's public transit system. The bemused responses of transiting Google scu--ummm, employees--no doubt will enhance tech giant Google's neighborly appeal for beleaguered San Fransciscans.
In only short decades: Google could be managing ALL SF transit (public and private), to hear all the fuss that's been made so far over the advent of driverless cars.

I suppose this says something bad about me as a person, but my first assumption when I hear about this kind of protest is to ask who's trying to shake Google down for some money to make the protest go away. Google has piles of money, and inconveniencing them till they toss a little your way might just be a pretty good business to be in.

Isn't that what fukuyama was talking about, at least as another commenter on this page quotes him as saying"The decision system has become too porous—too democratic—for its own good, giving too many actors the means to stifle adjustments in public policy."

I think there's a deeper lesson here: People resent privilege when it's rubbed into their face. It annoys people to be waiting at a stop while others from same stop get whisked away in special buses. Had Google sent Limos to doorstep pickups no one would protest.

So also at airports: A First Class only security line next to the plebes is annoying but if you whisk VIPs right to the plane in chauffeur driven cars, not so much. Bouncers prefer the club-owner's friends jump the queue through the kitchen back door if they must.

Average is over will make these psychological games more important I think.

Those aren't exactly parallel cases. But still I think you make a good point.

This boils down to class resentment and economic pressures. There's no easy scenario where the poor can comfortably live in San Francisco without crowding them into slums. The cost of living is just too high, particularly the cost of housing.

2. I don't know how other industries work, but the U.S. automakers now send people where they need them for weeks at a time rather than relocate them from Detroit.

I recognize that Frank Fukuyama may not have written the following 'blurb,' but really, someone was having fun -

'We have a problem, but we can’t see it clearly because our focus too often discounts history.'

Frank Fukuyama's first book? 'The End of History and the Last Man' - 'In the book, Fukuyama argues that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.

"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."'

Mr Fukuyama's account of history is so bad that I suspect he may be American.

"All European countries have gone through similar changes to the legal status of racial and ethnic minorities, and women and gays in the second half of the 20th century."

For Britain there was no change in the legal status of racial or ethnic minorities in the second half of the 20th century, or at any other time I can think of since Cromwell readmitted the Jews. As for the change in the legal status of women, the most recent big deal was this

I think he is referring to the Race Relations Acts, the first prompted by the government-owned Bristol Bus Company refusing to employ non-whites. That corrected a much smaller disability than the US Voting Rights Act of the same year, but it is something.

Are you distinguishing race from religion? Why do you include Cromwell's action, but not the 18th century or 19th century emancipations of Jews? Disraeli's example shows that in the 19th century disabilities could be escaped by conversion; was that not true in the 16th century? (And if you include religion, there are a lot more steps in Catholic and Dissenter emancipation, but that is sandwiched by laws about Jews.)

I am skeptical of distinguishing race from religion. It appears to me that conflicts attributed to religion are actually about racial or ethnic differences.

Do you care about the difference between nominal and actual legal practices? Cromwell did not change the law, but declared it a dead letter. In the other direction, the US Voting Rights Act was largely about enforcing rights that had nominally existed for a century.

5. I'm really not a fan of lists like this in general - they seem more for the writer than the reader. But this one is especially bad. The only possible benefit to the reader is discovering a passed over gem. But Kurt Vonnegut? Harry freakin' Potter?! It's just an exercise in narcissism.

It serves an important reminder that it's socially acceptable to read popular fiction, but only at such point in time where the masses are not. Questions to ask, Is the author alive? Is there a movie currently out? Is it To Killing a Mockingbird? Any lawyer will advise you it's a sin to list a mockingbird.

The protest is only misguided if you take at face value what they claim they are protesting. I suspect the Google Bus is merely a metaphor that represents a lot of what people don't like in our society. Average is over and people are unhappy about seeing America go down the tubes.

"The protest is only misguided if you take at face value what they claim they are protesting." Well, yes, this is almost definitional.

actually I think "misguided" in the link title translates best to "does not conform to my views of little unrest when average is over"

Why should they protest? They have beans and Lolcatz.

Free searches for everyone! Hurrah hurrah!

I believe a great person once said "Let them eat searches"

There's a qualitative difference between protesting against you eating cake while my kids starve to death versus protesting coz' you drive a Ferrari and me only my Toyota.

^This. Not being able to live in the most expensive city in the country is hardly an existential crisis.

Protesting a metaphor is pretty damned misguided, in that it won't ever produce the effect a protest is notionally meant to produce - a change in the state of affairs being protested.

But if you're not protesting the thing you claim to protest, how are you ever going to produce such a change?

(Unless we view protesting as mere therapy for the protestor, in which case people will very rapidly stop respecting it as a "speech" issue.)

from the link given above, francis fukuyama wrote:
"The third is that under conditions of ideological polarization in a federal governance structure, the American system of checks and balances, originally designed to prevent the emergence of too strong an executive authority, has become a vetocracy. "

That is so laughable, and so wrong. Madison, father of the constitution, wrote that the american system of federal government was designed to dampen democracy by increasing factions in the voting districts, thus preventing the majority from uniting and discovering their common interests. Thus divided via enlarged voting districts, the majority could not unity against the elite (e.g., madison, washington, et al.) and thus the fed govt and its enlarged voting district, its checks and balances would preserve wealth inequality and "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority" (to quote madison).

francis fukuyama wrote:
"The decision system has become too porous—too democratic—for its own good, giving too many actors the means to stifle adjustments in public policy. "

Once again, this fukuyama has always spewed the sort of elite-centric nonsense that the neoliberal media and academia will avidly eat with a spoon, but this quote is fecal matter of the nth degree. In fact, the problem with american institutions is a lack of democracy, not a surplus of democracy.

Why the lack of democracy? Well, we never really had much (thanks to the structure of our federal govt), but as america has grown in size and increasing "diversity" via mass immigration, we have more factions and therefore less unity and therefore less shared common interests and so therefore we are less able to hold our politicians and other institutions accountable.

3. Francis Fukuyama

The quick summation: The US is too democratic. The President needs to be more powerful. The US Courts, Congress and Lobbyists need to be less powerful. The Constitution needs to fixed (or replaced) and the US converted to a parliamentary system.

That's a very, long article to come to the conclusion, that Fukuyama wants the US to have a parliamentary system of government. What's completely missing from his long "analysis" is why US governance was better in the past (when we didn't have a parliamentary system of government) and is wrong now that necessitates moving to a parliamentary system to fix.

He also fails to provide much evidence that other countries with parliamentary systems are provably better than the US due to having a parliamentary system.

"why US governance was better in the past (when we didn’t have a parliamentary system of government)": doubtless there are cynics who suspect that American governance was at its best before 1776, when each colony did have a parliamentary system of government.

Louisiana disagrees. ;)

Keep going. 1760. The system was 'benign neglect'.

yup... in fact the reason the founding aristocrats dumped the articles of confederation and installed our current constitution was because they wanted a less democratic form of government. In fact, founding aristocrat Elbridge Gerry called the situation an "excess of democracy."

Parliamentarian forms of govt are inherently and deliberately more democratic than the american federalistic style of govt, with its enlarged voting districts (full of factions) and checks and balances and separation of powers.

What nations have parliamentarian style of govt? Well, only all the best nations on earth--the western european white nations, canada, australia, etc. Just the best nations on earth. That's all.

Parliamentarian govts put basically all the power of the govt into the hands of politicians elected from small voting districts. The prime ministers for the most part serve at the whim of the lower house, which typically has all the power. The lower house can typically throw out the PM whenever they want.

The smaller the voting district the more unified, homogeneous, and united the electorate, in general. Therefore the politicians are more accountable to the electorate in such small districts.

That was why the founding aristocrats dumped the articles of confederation.

The buzz in Canada is that the parliamentary system isn't working either. These noises always arise when the center right has any power and influence. If those damn republicans in congress would only submit to the elite consensus...

Yes, my thoughts exactly. Mr. End of History missed on three counts; he's OUTTA HERE. One point he made indirectly is true: as Time magazine shows in a graphic recently, over the last 20 years politics has become more polarized.-RL

Quotes from his paper:
The first is that, relative to other liberal democracies, the judiciary and the legislature (including the roles played by the two major political parties) continue to play outsized roles in American government at the expense of Executive Branch bureaucracies. [SAME AS IT EVER WAS; USA is NOT France]

The second is that the accretion of interest group and lobbying influences has distorted democratic processes and eroded the ability of the government to operate effectively [THATS CALLED DEMOCRACY]

The third is that under conditions of ideological polarization in a federal governance structure, the American system of checks and balances, originally designed to prevent the emergence of too strong an executive authority, has become a vetocracy.[VETOES ARE CONSTITUTIONAL]

I mostly agree with this. The 1787 Constitution is poorly understood. The only branch of the federal government that was supposed to be elected democratically was the new House of Representatives. And these from large districts as you noted -it was possible for states to have at large elections for their representatives- under state laws and under whatever the state provided for suffrage, there being no universal suffrage.

Some states in the north were fairly democratic, and the during the controversy over ratification of the 1787 Constitution it was understood by both sides that the scheme was imposing a fairly undemocratic super-structure over the existing state governments, which could be more democratic. The more populist forces sought more guarantees against the federal government running roughshod over the states, not a more powerful and more democratic federal government.

Incidentally, by 18th century standards, the Constitution was remarkably liberal and democratic, but the 18th century was probably the most oligarchic period in human history, though the present century might surpass it.

But there are parallels with the Roman Republic, in that the 1787 Constitution has been patched and stretched to accomodate more democracy, more centralization, and a more imperial government than the Framers really intended (they were pro-empire, but except for maybe Hamilton were thinking in pre-industrial revolution terms).

"Incidentally, by 18th century standards, the Constitution was remarkably liberal and democratic": by 18th century standards; but compared to the 20th century Constitution of the USSR, it is a feeble thing.

Well ours has an effective Bill of Rights, which makes it simultaneously more Liberal but less Democratic than the Constitutions of the USSR (there were at least 3 by the way). In addition, the Soviet constitution wasn't big on the whole checks and balances thing. Which again made it more Democratic. The will of the people was not to be thwarted by any Dead Tree document.

Fukuyama laments a bureaucracy that can't do as it pleases when, in fact, only its most controversial decisions are subject to judicial review. If the thinking in this article is indicative of the book to follow I don't want a copy for Christmas.

2 - I wonder to what extent the answer is "because we've already moved." In other words, one reason Americans moved so much in the 20th century is that we were spreading out from the highly populated Eastern seaboard & industrial midwest to the relatively underpopulated south & west. Now the east is no longer overpopulated; the south & west no longer underpopulated. There's just less reason to move.

2. So reading Urso, JWatts and my own comment, it seems the answer lies in part with the Internet, air conditioning and airline deregulation.

4 is not as big a deal as the article suggests. There is at least one protest in San Francisco all of the time. Having said that, until I moved to San Francisco, I never appreciated how different it is from the Silicon Valley cities just to the south on the Peninsula. San Francisco always had the media (print) companies, and Silicon Valley (roughly San Bruno to San Jose) always had the technology companies. The internet combined these two things, and San Francisco got a taste of the aggressive ambition that used to be beyond the city gates. The old residents didn't like it and just when it was getting noxious, the internet bubble popped, and the new money people left. Now it is all back, and it seems it is here to stay. Many of the companies are even locating in the city such as Twitter, and yes, the company shuttles from Silicon Valley companies are everywhere. Personally, gentrification suits me, but the prices will knock your socks off.

I wonder, do employees of these companies ever live on the OTHER side of the bay, in Oakland? Guess they just go without those fancy shuttle services. And their numbers are so small given the income affords most the opportunity to live in SF.

Oakland/Berkley is for those less ambitious non-profit worker types.

#2 should not be too surprising given that technology makes geography less important. I could do my job from anywhere with a good internet connection. Discussions almost never need to be face-to-face. I see presentations and attend meetings online 20x more than in person. My department within a huge corporation has grown from having people located in 2 cities to having people located in 6 cities due to our aquisitions: there was no need to make people from acquired campanies move to our locations and away from their families and friends. Obviously that's not true for all jobs, but it's true for many, especially for the types of jobs that people would formerly have been willing to relocate for.

Ironically I have the converse anecdote but in the same spirit. An oil major I did some work for used to maintain process control troubleshooters for a particular type of plant-wide-control system at or close to each refinery. Effectively we had 20-30 people scattered across the western hemisphere in groups of 2 to 3.

But now we only have one central group that's only about 8 people and they can do all their tuning & optimization remotely. Very rarely will someone have to fly out to site.

4. @Rahul (can't seem to reply to above.) Your point is that the protesters have nothing to protest. But they seem to think they do. I suspect something real is bugging them and that it has nothing to do with only driving a Toyota.

Probably though, as someone from the oil industry, I'm just happy to see a different industry become a protest target. There's a lot more reasons to despise Google than to despise BP.

My comment wasn't so much addressing if or not something is indeed bugging them. Maybe it is or at least if they are pretending it is. On that count, you are right.

I was more trying to draw a distinction whether we should view it as a legitimate or a frivolous protests.

PS. What's your reason to hate Google more than BP? Personally, I hate neither.

Neither do I, but industry-wise, the Googles of the world make life convenient, the BPs of the world keep you alive.

Yet there's a bunch of pharma firms I hate worse than them both. :)

#2: too few people are moving to places like San Francisco.

#4: too many people are moving to San Francisco.

#2: Declining mobility. One of the interesting aspects of the depiction of cities like San Francisco and New York in popular fiction is that cheap housing in the city is depicted as being readily available. One possible reason for that is rising expectations about what constitutes acceptable (or even legal-to-supply) housing. As late as the immediate post-World-War-II period, NYC apparently had a large supply of single-room occupancy (SRO) buildings, often with a bathroom down the hall, even in Manhattan (e.g., Hell's Kitchen). As recently as the late 1960s/early 1970s, reasonably cheap housing remained available (although rent control may have been a part of that). I suspect similar changes have occurred in many cities. But the consequence of this is to make these cities less desirable as destinations for people willing to, or needing to, take a significant risk in order to improve their lives.

I'm amused (having read all the comments pertaining to the decline in mobility, by the emphasis on telecommuting as an explanation. The more general point is that people used to move to places like NYC or LA or SF or Chicago to find relatively low-level manual/service jobs with the hope/expectation of improvement. The mobility was not largely that of well-educated professionals (or at least the myth is that it was not). And that mobility depended on really cheap housing (and what we would today regard as rally bad housing), which is gone.

From the article: "But even with the pressure of high housing costs in many areas, Americans are moving less, Kaplan said. “That might explain why people are moving from San Francisco to, I don’t know, Houston,” he said. “But you’ve seen a decline in migration from Texas to California as well as California to Texas.”

#3 - Some of Fukuyama's statements about trust are highly odd - international metrics which ask people to judge their trust in institutions seem to relate to international eminence, and there is not a pattern whereby Americans place particularly low trust in their government.

Not to mention, there isn't a pattern whereby people within parliamentary systems are more satisfied with legislation, nor where legislation relates more meaningfully to campaign promises nor where it is more subject to effective public censure in the following election cycle.

Likewise comments on size and capability of the state are also odd - there are contradictions in that US government is being described as limited in scope and capability. It hardly seems incompetent or ineffective compared to its comparison groups.

Comments for this post are closed