The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the 21st Century

By W. W. Rostow | Go to book overview

EIGHT
The Critical Margin and America's Inner Cities

There is no extravagance more prejudicial to the growth of national wealth than the wasteful negligence which allows genius that happens to be born of lowly parentage to expend itself in lowly work.

Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics ( 1890)

The slums . . . constitute America's main domestic challenge today.

Economist, March 20, 1992

I agree with British economist Alfred Marshall about the high costs of "wasteful negligence" of the poor and with the Economist that the slums in our cities constitute "America's main domestic challenge." But those judgments alone would not justify making the urban problem the subject of the final substantive chapter of this book. What argues for coming to rest here on the contemporary urban problem is the view that it will be impossible, over a period of time, for the United States to play the role of critical margin on the world scene if we do not solve the urban problem.

By "solve," I do not mean a reduction of the social pathology within the inner cities to the level of the more affluent counties that surround them. That will take time, perhaps a generation or more. Indeed, it might never happen. In any case, there is no quick fix. By "solve," I mean the bringing about of a systematic and substantive process of decline in the social pathology of the inner city. That demonstration will convince those who live there and the community as a whole that the job is doable. Right now, the greatest obstacle to a solution of the problem is the belief both in the inner city and the community at large that the job is not doable.

-157-

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The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the 21st Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • One - The Framework 3
  • Two - Population and the Stages of Growth 45
  • Three - Technology and Investment 47
  • Introduction 47
  • Conclusion 77
  • Four - Relative Prices 79
  • Five - Cycles 97
  • Six - The Limits to Growth 119
  • Seven - The Role of the United States in the Post-Cold War World 139
  • Eight - The Critical Margin and America's Inner Cities 157
  • Nine - Conclusions 181
  • Appendix A - A Historical Analogy 187
  • Appendix B - The Demography of the People's Republic of China 195
  • Notes 203
  • Index 221
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