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The new ancien regime

Over the past several months, I have sipped from 18th and 19th century literature, as well as social critique.  This was sparked by Piketty’s read of novels from earlier eras, and what they said about the economics of the time.  While his interpretation offers a glimpse into the finance of the coming times, it seems to be even less than a full picture of the larger sweeping arc of history that we may be witnessing at this time.  What began as a slowly gathering momentum towards freedom of thought and social liberalism peaked about 1950-1970, and has slid remarkably quickly since then.  This slide appears to be heading into a new era that resembles the ancien regime period with a new aristocracy and a dwindling bourgeoisie.  The outlines of this new period are beginning to take shape in the mists.
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Are there any best places anymore?

A colleague recently confessed a desire to leave his home state and move to Texas.  He felt  that "for 50 years, California was easily the best place to live in the world" but now feels that it is no longer so.  And that Texas is better.  Recently, many friends and colleagues have confessed a desire to escape to a better place, and it begs the question:  are there any best places anymore?
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What comes next

[caption id="attachment_1145" align="alignleft" width="264" caption="Neofeudal city by Terra Politica"][/caption] For those on the Picketty train, a gloomy scenario is painted fairly clearly.  We are entering an age of slow growth, one where little change in status is possible no matter how hard one works, or how brilliant one's ideas might be.  We are entering an age like the Belle Epoque, the 19th century Gilded Age where the top ten percent own virtually everything, and make their  living by renting it to others.  They rent their money to the government, the land to the proles, and live off the rental income, or interest, or whatever it is called in the various income streams they have fashioned for themselves.  The rest of us, in the meantime, have only the sweat off our backs, or our brows, to sell.
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Rich and poor: clash, or slow change?

While the times beg for a clash, we may just be boiling to death stupidly in a slow, slow kettle. Since 2004, the term "urban feudalism" has increasingly characterized my outlook on the future.  This outlook has essentially been confirmed by Thomas Piketty in his recently translated "Capital in the Twenty-First Century."  He uses monster-sized data to suggest that the future will resemble the past era of feudalism, with the exception that the rich shall live in the city.  In other words, urban feudalism.  I don't like to be right on this, but unfortunately, you heard it here first.
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The Pet Doc got repainted

Two men on ladders were repainting this pet doctor's office on Monday and it seemed, in some strange way, to be a sign of hope.  This desultory, charmless section of leftover Americana, a strip upon which everyone travels but no one loves, seems like so many others.  Rarely, in the last fifteen or twenty years, has any care been taken on any of the buildings.  Sure, some have changed hands; new signage and graphics.  But pride in appearance has been missing from the entire strip from the airport all the way up...frankly to I-4 in Altamonte.  Things here just tend to go to hell.
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How to smell capitalism

Theme parks are remarkable studies in high capitalism, worth a field visit for every earnest student of business anthropology, mostly for their exquisitely complex form.  We have reached a plateau of mannerism when it comes to the theme park style and look, with each one trying to out-do the other in overstimulating glitz.  What seems dramatically under-designed is the entry ticket booth, and it is here that the theme park really reveals itself to the proletariat as nothing more than a machine designed to extricate a breathtaking amount of your hard-earned money and give it to those who need it the least, the wealthy theme park owners.  I've designed a few, renovated some, and observed many, and they all smell the same. Here is how it works.