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From Oxford Town To Ferguson Town

Politics / Social Issues Aug 18, 2014 - 10:58 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Everybody's Got Their Head Held Down
A long time ago Bob Dylan sang 'Oxford Town' and he did not mean Oxford in England. He could have, however, if he was talking about Oxford-England today. He could also have been talking about almost any inner-city ghetto in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain. Where youth unemployment usually runs at a cool 35% to 55%, except in Germany. Here, young unemployeds have no choice at all but accept make-work “apprenticeships” that last forever, paid by the German Federal government at around 2.75 euros per hour. To be sure that doesn't even pay an apartment “but its a job after all”.

The trick is generational, racial and religious discrimination dressed up as “the crisis”. The western political elites, true to their go-for-growth strategy, circa 1970, were sure that handing out residence permits, and then national identity papers and passports to the children of immigrant families “could only favor growth”. At least the line-ups for social allocations and aids, and free dinners from religious and community associations would grow – showing there was some activity out there in the New Ghettos!  Besides, the elites didn't live anywhere near those new ghettos so why would they care?

Blowback of the political sort is painful. As the Ferguson “incident” grows in the USA of today Obama can ask himself, as “the first black president” of the USA, and one of its worst presidents, why are such incidents so predictable and he is so powerless to stop them?

The Christaller-Losch Least Effort Principle
Sometimes also called the Zipf Law for a later version, through 1935-1949 of their law dating from the early 1930s, re-formulated by American scientist G. K. Zipf, this explains why people huddle together in cities. The facts are simple. In 1950 about 29% of the world's 2.5 billion population lived in cities. By 2020 at least 60% of the probable 8 billion human population will live in cities.

The world's urban populations will have increased more than six-fold or 500% in 70 years.

Cities weren't designed for that assault, nor the economy. For Walter Christaller and August Losch, two German human geographers of the early 20th century, their “central place theory” concerned an observable and clear but slow and steady drift to the city over centuries in Europe. The economy adapted to this, and society also. It was win-win.

In a highly basic way, there were energy economies of scale, and infrastructure economies of scale from urban concentration – despite the simple fact that 1 urban citizen always consumed more energy than 1 rural citizen living in the same country with the same standard of living at any one time. The classic ratio was around 1.3 : 1.The economies of concentration however outweighed this, in the classic Christaller-Losch and Zipf models.

Making this even clearer, for the reference time frame of Christaller and Losch, the European economy for the period of about 1750-1900 had and urban-rural divide where economic activity outside the cities, called the hinterland, was low value-added or even semi-autonomous and self-sufficient. The urban areas were the sole drivers of economic progress and growth.

This model has been totally transformed from at latest the 1950s and at an accelerating pace. Today, so-called “rural citizens” lead an urban lifestyle and contribute to an urban economy – and consume more energy than a strictly-urban citizen! Urban areas have sprawled to the extent they can cover 10 000 square kilometres in a mix-and-mingle of part-urban and part-rural. Major global cities or “economic hubs” are connected 24/24 by air transport, for example. Simply the transport function of hyper-urbanism results in massive energy demand and waste, 24/24.

End of the Line for Ferguson
The result of all this is like Bastiat's Law. You have to pay or incite somebody to break windows to get some economic activity. If they break bones and break heads also, that is “joie de vivre” and gives a job for riot police and morticians. Nobody else.

The economically inert and dead urban ghettos surrounding today's mega cities are parasitic, only. They have no “centrality” to use the key term of Christaller, Losch and Zipf. Nobody in their right mind would set up an enterprise in them – unless paid by government. Condemned to parasitic status, the urban ghettos become ungovernable as well as a waste of economic time and effort.

Obama as the “first black president” of the USA could or might be aware of this predicament but shows little signs of being so, more especially because it could affect his form on the golf course, of course.

The effective social and ethnic model of urbanization in the western societies since the 1970s or before has been to “park” racial and ethnic minorities in economically useless urban ghettos – and then be “surprised” at the results!  Restoring centrality to the ghettos is the first major task of any program to head off a series of copycat urban uprisings in the US and the other western societies that have pursued the same No Win model.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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