Loneliness is an epidemic. A recent report found that only about half of Americans have meaningful, face-to-face interactions with other human beings. Public-health officials say that loneliness is now killing more people in the United States than smoking. Opioids—which trigger a brain response akin to feelings of intense connection—are ravaging entire communities. The British government has even appointed a Minister of Loneliness. Kay S. Hymowitz’s “Alone” maps this bleak terrain and shows how dissolving family ties, bound up with modernity’s emancipation of individual desire, are to blame. Solving the problem, Hymowitz argues, will require what Tom Wolfe called a “Great Re-learning” in the culture.
A dramatic shift in political ideology has occurred among younger Americans, with half of millennials and Generation Z respondents claiming in one 2019 poll that “our economy should be mostly socialist” and looking down on capitalism, findings mirrored in other surveys. Democratic Socialist pols Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders draw enthusiastic crowds and can mobilize millions of youthful followers. In “How to Talk to Millennials About Capitalism,” economist Edward L. Glaeser explains what’s behind this leftward shift, but also how it’s not as clear-cut as it seems, as younger people also admire entrepreneurs and are uneasy about excessive red tape. We need a New Freedom agenda, Glaeser says, that will “resonate among Americans who’ve probably never heard of Lavrentiy Beria.”
Inflated prescription drug costs are a bane to Americans, prompting Democrats (and sometimes President Trump) to say that the government needs to step in and wrestle those costs into submission—an outcome that would harm pharmaceutical innovation. But as John Tierney reports in “Disrupting the Pharmacy,” major culprits behind the high prices are the system’s middlemen: the pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), including CVS Caremark, which control the pricing and availability of drugs and take a significant, often hidden, cut of the action, driving up expenses for the consumer—not unlike the way travel agents once handled airline bookings. The good news: Tierney says that the PBMs could soon be disintermediated by innovative tech firms like Blink, which make prices transparent.
So far, ten U.S. states have legalized recreational pot use, and eight more might do so soon. Before states join the bandwagon, though, they should educate themselves about the drug’s damaging effects, Steven Malanga writes in “The Marijuana Delusion.” Touting pot’s benefits, from the therapeutic to the economic, advocates have created “an enticing narrative,” Malanga says—“but most of it is wrong.”
In “Disorder in the Stacks,” Stephen Eide shows how the New York Public Library is transforming into a daytime shelter, with the homeless crowding branches to stay warm, charge phones, use the bathrooms, and sleep. It’s a trend that risks betraying the civic purposes of public libraries. Nicole Gelinas asks: “Who Should Run the MTA?” as lack of accountability plagues the struggling transit system, so crucial to New York’s future. Her essay tells the story of transit in the city and considers reform options. Also on the New York beat: Howard Husock presents a Jane Jacobs–inspired plan to “re-street” a public-housing project cut off from the city’s grid.
A note of profound thanks is due to Lawrence Mone, who steps down in May after nearly a quarter-century as president of the Manhattan Institute, this magazine’s publisher. Larry has been the very model of an enlightened think-tank head, leading the organization from strength to strength through a historical period marked by 9/11, the financial crisis, and other extraordinary and testing events. Larry combines equanimity in judgment with enthusiasm for ideas, and City Journal, like the rest of the institute, has flourished under his steady hand. And an equally warm welcome to Larry’s successor: Brooklynite Reihan Salam, who comes to the institute after serving as National Review’s executive editor and authoring, most recently, a powerful book on immigration, Melting Pot or Civil War? Reihan’s energy, vision, and urbanity will open the next chapter in the Manhattan Institute’s history.
—Brian C. Anderson