The Miracle of Minneapolis – The Atlantic

I found The Miracle of Minneapolis at The Atlantic fascinating, and not just because I am fond of the Twin Cities after coming of age there. I’m far from an expert on urban planning but I’m interested in the problems associated with cities, including the social, economic, educational, and quality of life issues. The Twin Cities do suffer from the climate, but truthfully you adapt and the cold weather just isn’t that much of a burden for most folks. I had never heard of the story about the destruction and rebuilding of the St. Anthony Falls and was unaware of the redistributive tax policies that have succeeded in being the tide that raises all boats. It’s a nice example of how to transcend partisan theoretical arguments in order to accomplish something.

What grabbed me most, though, was the blurb at the end about Seoul’s importation of some of these tax policies. When I was doing visas, I saw several applicants employed by the state or city who were applying for professional visas to study and learn about urban planning in the U.S. I enjoy visa work in part because I know what an impact it can have on people lives, and I confess it was thrilling to see the effects of our nation’s visa policies working this way too.

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Beautiful photography of zoo animals

Fantastic project.

 

The Great Tax Wars

I just finished “The Great Tax Wars” by Steven R. Weisman, a book that was given to me by a friend several years ago. I met this friend during the Foreign Service selection process and he mentioned how much he enjoyed reading tax history. I accepted his offer to send me a copy and have read it off and on over the last 4 years. Although it took me a long time to finish, that’s an indictment of my lifestyle rather than the book itself. It would get packed up in a move and end up deprioritized when unpacked. It’s an interesting read though and recommended for those interested in U.S. political history as much as tax junkies.

I enjoyed this book on several levels. The obvious history of U.S. federal taxation legislation is in and of itself interesting to me. The author succeeds at personalizing these “tax wars” through the politicians fighting them and setting a rich stage incorporating world events and social trends of each era. Conflict and war are at the root of tax policy and he demonstrates the effect warfare has on national finances, then the lesson legislators attempt to learn from each incident. It’s a fun ride through familiar history (Civil War, the Industrial Age, WWI, the depression) with so many familiar names (Lincoln, Roosevelt, Wilson, William Jennings Bryan) but the tax war focus reveals another facet of these events, tied together over time, that results in a particularly interesting and readable coherency.

I’ve collected another shelf of financial histories that I’ve resisted reading until I finish The Great Tax Wars. It isn’t hard to read, I just kept forgetting to pick it up. I’m excited to move on to some of these others now.