Wednesday assorted links


#1 is great, either because it confirms my priors, or because I've done a little work to arrive in the same place. I prefer to believe the second, YMMV.

# 4 St. Louis is the next Detroit.

I got a page and a half into that story, got bored and have no clue where it was going. Does anyone have a TL;DR ?

tl:dr changes to antitrust laws hurt st. louis.

he blames a rerouting of significant rail capacity to chicago from st louis, airline deregulation and subsequent mergers (not sure this is an example he wants to use), stan kroenke, anheuscer-bush / inbev, and a bunch of advertising agencies that i as a native st. louisian am proudly ignorant of.

he doesn't really discuss much in particular other than dissing the small group of high powered lawyers and economists pulling the strings behind the scenes and the general argument that large oligopolies have negative welfare outcomes relative to competition

Michael, agreed. I kept skipping paragraphs trying to find even the smallest hint of the argument. About 1.5 pages in I dropped it and came here to see if anyone had summarized.


#4's title was pretty clickbait.

"4. Is St. Louis the victim of predatory monopoly?"

I had to resort to skimming, because the article desperately needed an editor to chop it down by 60%. That being said, I failed to see where the author makes his case. He drops a lot of anecdotes about companies headquarters leaving but fails to prove that that they were due to "predatory monopolies".

Of course, the fact that St. Louis is one of the most dangerous cities in the US based on crime, and that the last Republican mayor was in 1949, would have nothing to do with its decline.

The best I can do on the author's behalf is assume an unstated premise that industry consolidations were anti- rather than pro-competitive in nature, and should have been blocked by antitrust authorities.

But where the only evidence for that premise seems to be "St. Louis lost jobs," I am less than convinced.

spencer March 16, 2016 at 12:43 pm

# 4 St. Louis is the next Detroit.

Racial composition 2014 (est.)[40] 2010[41] 2000[42] 1990[43] 1970[43] 1940[43]

White 46.6% (est.) 43.9% 43.9% 50.9% 58.7% 86.6%

Black or African American 47.5% (est.) 49.2% 51.2% 47.5% 40.9% 13.3%

St Louis has some way to go before it is Detroit. But it is interesting the lengths people will go to rather than point out the obvious - Black politics is very dysfunctional. A city that regularly elects politicians put in power by a largely Black electorate is going to be in trouble. If there is a single example to the contrary in the US I don't know of it.

It is not the Democrats per se. Portland is now twice as big as St Louis. It has not elected a Republican mayor since 1953 (although one was appointed in 1979 - a Gay rights and Equal Opportunities Amendment supporting Republican). Portland is so far to the Left they elect former policemen who are too left wing for the Democrats.

Portland (76% White, 6% Black) is doing just fine.

The interesting counter example would be a city run by Black Republicans. Unfortunately I don't know of any.

Missouri has an unemployment rate lower than the US average...

Can someone tldr #4?

A quick skim suggests that the author is arguing that antitrust modernization in the 80's and 90's led to nationwide monopolistic consolidation in most of St. Louis' key industries, which gutted the city.

A less charitable reading of this history would be that a regional economy dependent on outdated protectionist models of economic regulation failed to adapt to the introduction of external competition.

This. As global competition supplanted regional competition, the optimal firm size and industry-cluster size both increased, so midsize cities suffered disproportionately. Seems like there's a perfectly good model there that doesn't need any nefarious government activity at all.

"so midsize cities suffered disproportionately."

Did they? Plenty of midsize cities have prospered. Particularly the lower cost of living, lower tax cities. I'm not sure there's a story generalized story here at all.

Whether certain mid-size cities have done well in the new global environment says little about whether mid-size cities have shouldered a disproportionate share of the losses that come with the new global environment.

Granted, "disproportionate" is pretty ill-defined here, but I don't think it's unreasonable to look at the struggles of small-ish cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, and Baltimore and conclude that their smaller size was a contributing factor to decline.

My question was more basic. Have mid-size cities disproportionately suffered at all? Or is the author just completely cherry picking one city?

"I don’t think it’s unreasonable to look at the struggles of small-ish cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, and Baltimore and conclude that their smaller size was a contributing factor to decline."

That's around the 300K-600K range, which includes quite a number of more successful cities -- Portland OR, Atlanta GA, Miami FL, Corpus Christi TX... I really doubt it's the size that is driving this, although certainly if the city is badly enough run, the population size will shrink (see Detroit).

Miami and Atlanta are quite large metro areas (9th and 11th in the U.S., respectively), even if the core cities aren't necessarily. So it's not clear they necessarily fit the mold that well.

Corpus Christie is a successful city? On what metrics?

The population of the nominal city is an irrelevant historical accident. What you want is the population of the metro area. St. Louis' is 19 with 2.8 million and is situated between Baltimore, Denver, & Charlotte on the smaller side and Tampa, San Diego, & Minneapolis on the larger side.

Isn't it more like Average Cities are Over?

I would say there is a divergence between tier 1 cities and the rest. Or cities that are at the top of a specific industry or comparative advantage.

Except for baseball, there's no reason for St. Louis. As for Chicago, there's no reason.

Is there any city that does have a reason to exist, beyond the mere fact that it does?

Well, DC was explicitly created as the capital of the U.S. in the Constitution, so yes, in that sense, it does have a reason to exist.

Not quite--the Constitution authorized Congress, by and with consensual territorial cession of the states, to create and administer a capital district. Congress could just as easily have decided to house the functions of the new government in an existing metropolis (as it did for the first 11 years of the Constitutional republic until D.C. was constructed).

And of course, there's no reason the capital district had to be located where it came to be, even if one had to be built from scratch.

And yet, that apparently magically undefined federal district is what became the District of Columbia.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution -
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States

In other words, there is a dispute that the federal district and its creation, as defined in the Constitution, is somehow not relevant to the creation of the District of Columbia? Buttressed by the idea that in light of the fact that before there was a federal district, as provided for in the Constitution, there was no federal district?


But maybe you should have left this part out, then - 'there’s no reason the capital district had to be located where it came to be, even if one had to be built from scratch.' Because, as it turns out, Congress did use its delegated Constitutional power to create and build the District of Columbia, a real city built for a real reason.

And the magically undefined strip of land where a bunch of people decided to live is what became the City of St. Louis.

So either cities justify their existence by the fact of their mere existence, contra rayward, or none has any reason to exist.

It's 2016, not 1789. There's currently no reason for a capital district, except perhaps as a complex of museums. Modern communications don't require legislators or their bureaucratic cousins to assemble in one spot to carry on their business. In fact, they chat on the phone, use fax and send emails, ala Mrs. Bill Clinton, rather than engage in face to face encounters. These parasites should be in the districts that they represent, where they're easily available to constituents and can keep an eye on the local issues that concern them. An added benefit would be making the work of lobbyists more expensive and difficult. It's amazing that there hasn't been a concerted national effort to get the government out of DC.

chuck martel March 16, 2016 at 8:10 pm

It’s 2016, not 1789. There’s currently no reason for a capital district, except perhaps as a complex of museums.

Presumably it is so that no state government can threaten the Feds. If Washington was entirely inside Virginia, with no separate jurisdiction, the Virginian police could conduct no-knock raids on the Federal politicians and bureaucrats. It may be 2016 but I don't think that reason has gone away.

The interesting question is what would have happened if DC hadn't existed during the Civil War, or if it was entirely enclosed by Virginia and/or Maryland had more of a slave population. To keep Maryland in the Union, Lincoln suspended the legislature and civil rights, jailed pro-Southern politicians and when he did allow the legislature to re-convene, he stationed artillery pointing at the building to make sure everyone's minds were focused on the task at hand. Had Maryland gone too, or if Virginia had surrounded Washington, and if Jefferson Davis was ruthless enough, it is easy to imagine the South doing that to the Congress. Which would have made the North the rebels.

It would be easier for a state force to threaten a federal government concentrated in one spot, rather than one dispersed throughout the country. Maybe residents of Wyoming or Alabama could sneak around the country and take elected officials hostage in order to increase spending in their own area but that seems unlikely. Lincoln's unconstitutional tactics to preserve the union certainly weren't virtuous. The country was originally envisioned as thirteen separate but affiliated states, not one mega-state. There's never been any logical or legal reason why one or more states couldn't secede.

port cities. duh.


Derek answered this reasonably well.

"port cities. duh"

For example, New York harbor is an astonishing piece of geography. The original harbor was 17 feet deep (dredged to 45 feet in the main channel). It is huge. Quote

"Totaling an area of more than 1,200 square miles, New York harbor comprises more than 430 square miles of water including the vast 122 square mile expanse of the Lower Bay as well as, above the Narrows, the deep and protected waters of the Upper Bay."

It is also very well protected from the ferocious winds and waves of the North Atlantic and linked to the interior via the Hudson.

No surprise that a major city developed around it.

By that metric, Virginia Beach, at the mouth of the Chesapeake bay, is a port city and has a bright future. Not to mention it's a base for the US Navy.

It's pretty close to having a bright present, i.e. the future is now. Until I visited the area, I had no concept of it and places such as Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News were mere names. And unlike most MSA's, there's no dominant big city, it's a bunch of small cities, so it's easy to think that they're a bunch of dinky no-account towns.

But what they've got there is a mini-version of San Diego. Massive naval presence. No well known metropolis but the collective population makes it the 37th largest MSA, just behind Austin and Nashville and just ahead of Providence and Milwaukee. Beaches and resorts at Virginia Beach. Several universities. Etc.

(Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 16, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Is there any city that does have a reason to exist, beyond the mere fact that it does?

Looking at San Francisco Bay does anyone seriously think that some great cities would not have arisen there? Is there any way to have a post-agricultural society and not have a big city on the Bay? Likewise New York has a great harbor. Or used to. It is on a major river that links, without too much trouble, to the Great Lakes. It was always going to be something although it might have been more like Montreal.

Chicago is one of the more convenient places that is the shortest distance from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi basin. That means that the trade of two thirds of the continent were going to pass through somewhere very close to where Chicago is now. That did not have to be Chicago but the smart money would be on it. If not there, where?

People are usually quite rational in their city choices. Except when it comes to government. They put cities in odd places. Washington presumably went where it did because no one else wanted what was swamp land. As with Russia's St Petersberg. Moscow on the other hand benefited from being within the northern tree belt and so the Mongols could not burn it down as easily as Kiev. Lasting benefit it seems.

St Louis doesn't quite have the same advantages.

St. Louis exists because it's at the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Exactly. I'm not sure why people are so puzzled by the location and existence of some of the cities mentioned. If you were with Christopher Columbus in 1492 and were able to foresee that a European-style civilization was going to colonize the continent, where on the map would you predict future great cities would arise? St. Louis, at the confluence of two of the mightiest rivers on the continent. Chicago, to connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi.

And if you could foresee that the Erie Canal was going to be built, then you'd know that Buffalo would become a major city. And also that when canals lost out to railroads, Buffalo would eventually begin a slow century-long decline (in relative terms at least).

Not that Columbus in 1492 knew that North America existed.

dearieme March 17, 2016 at 8:50 am

Not that Columbus in 1492 knew that North America existed.

No, he thought he had found the Sveriges Riksbank Continent named in Memory of Amerigo Vespucci

Mecca is the end of the Hajj. If it weren't there, millions of pilgrims would wind up lost in the middle of a desert every year. So there's that.

Salt Lake City exists because it's about as far away as you can get from people who want to burn down your city, if you're a Mormon.

#6....Great, another Harvard or Yale grad. You have to love the diversity.

Harvard Law Review editor nominates Harvard Law Review Editor; Harvard Law Review Editor vows to lead the opposition.

High school valedictorian. National Merit Scholar. Harvard undergrad valedictorian. Harvard Law magna cum laude, and an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

This guy had a damn impressive resume.

I don't say this often, but this was a good choice by Obama.

Can anyone looki inside the paywall and tell us whether his most cited article states that the courts should be in the business of undoing legislative deregulation, or something else?


#6...It's a good resume if names impress you, or maybe for a law professor. I prefer judges with a pedigree of overcoming serious setbacks, like going to a public law school.

Which is different from the other Justices how?

#2: To realize that PLoS is a scam, it is sufficient to look at what they "publish." (They "publish" everything that is submitted to them; referees are explicitly instructed NOT to judge the quality or importance of submissions, only their originality---i.e., the only purpose of referees is to watch out for plagiarism.)

Scam is too harsh. PLoS entered a stratified market with a powerful new value proposition. Someone else might have, but they did. That early mover advantage carries forward, with some .. skim. But skim is not scam, nor unique in publicly funded education.

The probable outcome of this investigation is higher scrutiny, and less skim going forward.

That's good.

This is not accurate. I just acted as reviewer on a PLOS ONE manuscript, which was rejected due to experimental protocol flaws. While the importance of a finding is not assessed by PLOS ONE reviewers, the validity of the methodology and the conclusions are verified. Perhaps the financial side of PLOS ONE is off-putting, but the service they offer academics is good as far as journals go, and their fees are reasonable. I'm not sure about how the other PLOS journals are run, however.

But the Trumpster has a plan to make St. Louis great again.

"6. Merrick Garland"

Merrick Garland strikes me as a very Clintonesque nomination. He seems very much like somebody that Hillary Clinton would nominate. So, if the Senate waits till next year, they get either a) a Republic nominee or b) a Clinton nominee. There's no down side to waiting and potentially a lot of upside to the Senate majority.

IE It doesn't seem likely he'll be confirmed.

Or they get Trump's nominee. Even Republicans are likely shuddering at that thought.

He'll nominate Hitler's corpse!

Maybe this is Ben Carson's post! Actually, Carson would probably behave exactly the same as Thomas...

Er, no. Thomas is a pretty extreme outlier

Garland strikes as the sort of candidate Clinton nominated because he had to deal with Republicans in Congress to get a confirmation. The concern on the GOP side is that a Trump nomination will turn the Senate back over to the Democrats, freeing Clinton to nominate someone further to the left.

"..freeing Clinton to nominate someone further to the left."

Hillary Clinton doesn't want someone further to the Left than Garland. He's has a track record of supporting the authority of the state. He votes in a way that matches her revealed preferences.

"Garland’s nomination is likely to come as a disappointment to many progressives. While Garland is undoubtedly a legal liberal, his record reflects a version of legal liberalism that tends to line up in favor of broad judicial deference to law enforcement and wartime executive power.

In the area of criminal law, for example, Garland’s votes have frequently come down on the side of prosecutors and police."

#6...The downside to waiting is that it's a purely partisan move. As President Reagan said, supreme court nominees should have "prompt hearings conducted in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship."

But then, I respect President Reagan much more any than any of the current crop of GOP politicians.

I tend to agree that the Supreme court nominees should have “prompt hearings conducted in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship.”

But of course that speech of Reagan's was a direct response to the awful treatment of Robert Bork.

And? So which way is better?

Whichever happens to serve my immediate partisan ends regardless of the expense to long-term governance capacity, of course.

Well both ways end in the same result.

Personally, I'd say not scheduling a vote is better than bringing a nominee in front of the judiciary committee purely to savage him with rhetoric. Of course, from a purely tactical political perspective the Republicans would have been much better to have followed the Democrat's precedent and Bork'd the nominee. But they don't refer to Republicans as the Stupid Party for no reason.

The Republicans correctly chose not to Bork the nominee because they could not predict who the nominee would be. That now proves to be a good decision: it would have been awful politics (or should I say worse because it already stinks for them) to Bork someone like Garland.

The Republicans' choice looks politically smart to me. Giving a hearing amounts to a concession that they would confirm the right nominee. They can then only reject on the basis that this particular nominee is too extreme. If Garland comes across as moderate and reasonable (as seems likely based on his reputation), they will be painted into a corner. It is much easier to defend the position "we won't consider any lame duck nominee".

#3: Air Force spends a fortune learning what tailors already knew.

Average is over, and has been for a long time.

#4 St. Louis has been on decline for a LONG time, since it was the 4th largest city in the US in 1910 with 687,000 people (now 60th with 317,000).

That's the city of St Louis proper, not the metro area.

As the 4th largest city, it was "first in booze, first in shoes, and last in the American League" -- supporting two major league baseball teams until the Browns became the Orioles.

Too many people fail to make this connection: city has no meaning anymore.

Metro area, or even statistical area, is what matters. Core cities represent usually about 10-20% of the total population in the area. People moving out of downtown St Louis or downtown Detroit, to just a couple of miles into the suburbs, does not mean decline in the overall area's population or economic activity. Simply a reallocation a couple of miles away. Something which could not have been done in 1910, since neither cars, nor roads nor suburbs existed.

True about population, but

1. St. Louis has still slipped a lot -- it's the 19th largest metro area.

2. Because the city of St Louis is its own county, it has less financial (i.e. tax base) connection with the surrounding suburbs than other cities do.

#3 is very interesting read. I suspect the same can apply to politics. Politicians, especially on the GOP side, are obsessed with the "average" voter (the Dems take explicitly the opposite approach since their strategy is to appeal to people on racial, class and gender identities). Lots of polls to figure out what the "average" voter wants, and try to appeal to that average voter (perhaps average on the center-right side).

This seems to be backfiring rather badly. No one likes the "average" voter, or the positions tailored by the GOP to them. And their policy prescriptions become unacceptable to almost everyone even within their own party.

This is also antithetical to the very idea of the American political system which is about individuals, rather than the average of the mob. Instead of proposing policies which increase choice and adaptability to individual preferences, they instead focus on appealing to the "average" numbnut, while pi**ing off everyone else.

But, this is what the GOP has decided to focus on, and why it is losing.

He is a Republican, but if elected he might very well appoint a justice with a position on the Takings Clause, for example, that is strongly opposed by many libertarians and conservatives in the party, if Trump's career as a developer is any indicator. And it is exactly such a relatively invisible issue -- away from the red meat of abortion or the death penalty, about which Trump could probably care less, personally -- that might be decisive in his choice, but deeply worries much of the party establishment.

I am afraid I am not really following this. The way I see it, the Republican party Establishment are closer to the Democrats than they are to the Base. For some reason they call themselves Republicans but they clearly prefer their fellow North-East Democrats to their own voters.

So Trump doesn't care about abortion. That is he is pro-abortion. He praises Planned Parenthood. He is opposed to Capital Punishment. It would be no surprise if he was in favor of Eminent Domain. That involves the State taking things from poor people and giving them to rich people. The odd thing is that this is a Democratic position.

In other words, Trump is a Democrat too. The Establishment is not worried about him for his judicial opinions. Trump would probably like this candidate. He won't be appointing a real conservative to the Supreme Court. The Establishment is probably glad of that. The last thing they want is someone who might challenge Roe v Wade.

If Trump wins he may even appoint someone even further to the Left.

#1 is cogent and applicable reading considering, this is two economic's professors blog, having said that, and i admire arrow, but i don't have to weave in & out with the latest academy/political/groupset nomenclature . .

It is great that Arrow is still so on top of things.

The real peak of St. Louis was in 1870 when it was the third largest city in the US.

As for those who question that there should be cities, the main answer is agglomeration economies, both across firms within an industry as well as across industries. These latter are what give us the ten million plus megacities of the world.

Gotta be the 1904 world's fair, right?

#3 So "almost entirely original anecdotes" means some of the examples were borrowed, right?

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