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In Prospect

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In Prospect

Spring 2021
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Riot-torn Portland, Oregon—“the whitest city in America”—has become the American headquarters of race radicalism, reports Christopher F. Rufo in our cover story, “The Child Soldiers of Portland.” Hallucinating white supremacy and systemic racism everywhere, the city’s leaders have enacted an “antiracist” agenda throughout local government, including in the public schools, where kids from the earliest grades through graduation are indoctrinated in a poisonous worldview that teaches them to hate the country and embrace radicalism—and even revolution. As Rufo observes, this isn’t hyperbole: teens run some of Portland’s most violent anarchist groups, and last year’s street chaos saw dozens of minors get arrested. Based on insider accounts from unhappy parents and teachers, Rufo’s story—the latest in his City Journal exposés of critical race theory’s march through the institutions—shows what happens when woke ideology takes over, and it’s terrifying. A very different, far more hopeful, view of race relations is offered in Glenn C. Loury’s powerful statement, “The Case for Black Patriotism.”

Another far brighter theme in this issue is the breathtaking possibilities that technology is opening up for economic growth and human flourishing—not least in biotech’s swiftly developed vaccines that provide an exit strategy from the Covid-19 pandemic. Three stories focus on tech and the economy. Eli Dourado’s “The New Productivity Revolution” gives a tour d’horizon of what’s coming, if unwise policies don’t get in the way—from medical breakthroughs in fighting diseases and slowing aging to cheap geothermal power to rockets to Mars. Oliver Wiseman zooms in on the company developing those rockets, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is remaking a poor border region of South Texas into a hub of America’s new space industry; it’s a story of smart local leadership and visionary entrepreneurial ambition. Joel Mokyr’s “The Great Fake” shows how “imitative technology”—reproducing aspects of reality, or what seems like reality—has developed over the centuries, as artists mastered perspective, filmmakers conjured lifelike illusions, and engineers built the tools for teleconferencing that have proved so valuable during the health emergency. Mokyr acknowledges that sophisticated imitative tech poses challenges if used to trick and manipulate; but the potential benefits are extraordinary.

Market-driven innovation is forging new platforms for expression, Steven Malanga writes in “Capitalist Havens of Free Speech,” allowing opinion makers like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald to bypass increasingly censorious media gatekeepers and reach audiences directly. The relationship between free markets and free minds isn’t new, Malanga explains—indeed, as economist Milton Friedman once argued, the liberties fundamental to democracy, including that of speech, didn’t thrive until markets became free. Friedman’s views on the fundamental role of old-fashioned profits in corporate governance receive a salutary update from Allison Schrager in “Profits, Not Causes,” which takes aim at stakeholder capitalism.

The federal government has spent unprecedented sums to help Americans cope with the pandemic, but as Edward L. Glaeser argues in “Free the Entrepreneurs,” the key to post-Covid recovery is to unleash new business creation. As Glaeser shows, American entrepreneurialism has gotten entangled in proliferating regulations and licensing requirements. It’s time to pare back many of those measures, he says.

The fate of midtown Manhattan, New York’s central business district—largely closed since last March—is essential not only to the city’s future but also to that of the entire region. Things look grim unless office workers return, warns Nicole Gelinas, in “What’s Next for Midtown?”, and that will require, at a minimum, safe streets, effective transit, and improved services. Richard Florida and Joel Kotkin’s “America’s Post-Pandemic Geography” describes how the pandemic is changing all communities—dense cities, suburbs, and rural areas alike. To adapt, cities can become as much about living as working; suburbs as much about working as living; and rural areas can become more connected, via remote technology, to sources of prosperity.

—Brian C. Anderson

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