Kotkin (The City) offers a well-researched—and very sunny—forecast for the American economy, arguing that despite its daunting current difficulties, the U.S. will “emerge by midcentury as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in human history.” Nourished by mass immigration and American society’s “proven adaptability,” the country will reign supreme over an “industrialized world beset by old age, bitter ethnic conflicts, and erratically functioning economic institutions.” Although decreasing social mobility will present a challenge, demographic resources will give the U.S. an edge over its European rivals, which will be constrained by shrinking work forces and rapidly proliferating social welfare commitments. Largely concerned with migration patterns within the U.S., the book also offers a nonpartisan view of America’s strengths, identifying both pro-immigration and strongly capitalist policies as sources of its continued prosperity. However, Kotkin tends to gloss over the looming and incontrovertible challenges facing the country and devotes limited space to the long-term consequences posed by the current recession, the rise of India and China, and the resulting competition over diminishing energy resources. Nevertheless, his confidence is well-supported and is a reassuring balm amid the political and economic turmoil of the moment. (Feb.)
Such antinatalist choices reflect a lack of understanding that depopulation and aging may be an even greater threat to the advanced countries," he writes.
One advantage to projecting what the world will be like so far ahead when Emanuel Plata will be 44 years old and, perhaps, living in the suburbs of the Southwest with his family and working from home is that many of the people who review Mr. Kotkin's book will be dead by then. But regardless of whether he turns out to be right, his predictions are mostly plausible and are certainly grist for serious public policy debate.
One advantage to projecting what the world will be like so far ahead…is that many of the people who review Mr. Kotkin's book will be dead by then. But regardless of whether he turns out to be right, his predictions are mostly plausible and are certainly grist for serious public policy debate.
The New York Times
In the grip of recession, with the economic news ranging from bad to dire, Kotkin's (The City) prediction that the United States will "emerge by mid-century as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in human history" may come as a welcome surprise. Kotkin identifies two demographic trends—a growing birthrate and increased immigration—as engines that will drive this new prosperity. He anticipates that the "next hundred million" will live not in dense, "superstar" cities (e.g., New York, Chicago) but in suburbs and sprawling cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles, with urban planning taking a back seat to the force of the market, which will, in some unspecified way, be able to mitigate the effect on the environment of all those cars on the road. Kotkin's research is prodigious and at times quite convincing. But he deploys it so selectively, while failing to offer more substantive comment on some of the unquestionable challenges we'll face in the coming decades, that his relentlessly optimistic future vision becomes somewhat hard to swallow. VERDICT A refreshing change of pace, but the tone is so breathless and the future portrayed as so sweet that this book must be taken with a grain of salt. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/09.]—Rachel Bridgewater, Reed Coll. Lib., Portland, OR
Think you have trouble finding a parking space today? Wait until 2050, when the American population will have grown by another 100 million. According to Forbes columnist Kotkin (The City: A Global History, 2005, etc.), that's good news. Indeed, he writes, "because of America's unique demographic trajectory among advanced countries, it should emerge by midcentury as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in human history." There are several arguments and bits of data bundled in that opener. As the author notes, most of the world's leading nations, particularly in Europe, are rapidly losing population and with it the prospect of future power and wealth. Russia's population, for example, could be one-third the size of the United States by 2050, and 30 percent of China's population will be over the age of 60 by then. Meanwhile, our future cultural richness will come from the fact that the greatest growth will be among groups that are now ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics and Asians. "Demographically at least," writes Kotkin, "America may have more in common with Third World countries with the developed world." The cultural shifts are likely to be dislocating to some, though the relentlessly optimistic author believes that the future will see a mix of traditional values and new ones leading to greater social tolerance. Whereas other nations are likely to decline precipitously, he adds, America will truly be in a position of economic dominance-though, admittedly, output might be high because no one will be able to afford to retire, given current trends. Less rosy is Kotkin's picture of a future America in which the leading cultural centers are likely to be-andelsewhere, to look like-places such as Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Miami, "multipolar, auto-dependent, and geographically vast." So much for reversing climate change, even if the author does see the rise of "greenurbia" in years to come. A fascinating glimpse into a crystal ball, rich in implications that are alternately disturbing and exhilarating. Agent: Scott Moyers/The Wylie Agency