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In Prospect

from the magazine

In Prospect

Autumn 2019
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San Francisco enjoys extraordinary advantages—beautiful architecture, temperate summers, breathtaking landmarks, cultural power, and an entrepreneurial working population. Yet it’s also a city that shows what happens when, in the name of compassion, bourgeois behavioral norms go unenforced. The result, reports Heather Mac Donald in “San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless,” is an escalating vagrancy crisis, with open-air drug use by addicts; illness-ridden homeless encampments that generate tons of trash daily; sidewalks dirtied by piles of human feces; escalating crime and disorder; and a political class that continues misguidedly to view the problem as primarily about insufficient social-welfare spending, despite the city’s shelling out nearly $400 million annually on it. Enough, argues Mac Donald: San Fran needs to reclaim its public spaces, and that means empowering cops to dismantle encampments and requiring the homeless to get off the streets and into shelters and treatment.

Journalists were once vigorous defenders of free speech, as they should be, since their profession requires it. These days, though, warns John Tierney in “Journalists Against Free Speech,” that’s less and less true. Many younger journalists, in particular, having absorbed the campus indoctrination on “hate speech,” are bringing “cancel culture” into the newsroom. They may like the First Amendment when it protects their expression, but many are happy to see opposing views silenced—which they help make happen by pushing to get right-of-center journalists fired, kicked off social media, and de-monetized. The spirit of today’s press is less civil libertarian legend Nat Hentoff and more sixties guru Herbert Marcuse, who saw free speech as a mask for bourgeois oppression.

A happier tale is told in “Schools That Work,” our three-story feature package. Kay S. Hymowitz’s “Trading Up” profiles Williamson College of the Trades, a three-year school that provides a viable skills-based educational path for young men who don’t attend traditional four-year universities. Graduates go on to good jobs in construction, aerospace manufacturing, and other industries. In “Hallowed Ground,” Ray Domanico revisits a long-standing City Journal interest: the key role that urban Catholic high schools have played in transforming the lives of at-risk students. Domanico focuses on All Hallows in the South Bronx. Founded more than 100 years ago by the Irish Christian Brothers, the school emphasizes character and academic achievement and works closely with students to prepare them for college—and it gets results, Domanico says. Finally, Max Eden’s “Great Hearts, Great Minds” looks at the expanding Great Hearts network of charter schools. Located in Arizona and Texas, the schools—unusually for charters—serve mostly middle-class families, and they use a Great Books curriculum more rigorous than those of most contemporary universities.

There’s good news on the judicial front, too, writes Myron Magnet in “The Court Moves Right”: the Supreme Court shows signs that it is willing to constrain the administrative state and begin to restore the Framers’ Constitution.

Amazon’s plans to locate a second headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City imploded earlier in 2019 when faced with fierce local opposition. As Eric Kober argues, however, in “Long Island City, Without Amazon,” the neighborhood’s future remains bright—if Gotham pursues the right zoning reforms, enabling the area to keep expanding housing and office space. Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake’s “An Agenda for the Intangible Economy” contends that sluggish productivity growth in developed nations’ economies, including America’s, may partly reflect our inability to maximize “intangible capital”—the knowledge-based sector of GDP. They offer a series of prescriptions.

In “The City in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” a title referencing the famous Walter Benjamin essay, Bruno Maçães meditates on the emergence of cities built from scratch—such as Xiongan, a new Chinese metropolis in Hebei province that extends over 770 square miles, more than twice the size of New York. Will such cities be livable? Or will they lack the spontaneity that helps make urban life so creative?

—Brian C. Anderson

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