Are Big Cities Dead Forever?

Published on
September 7th, 2020
49 minutes

Are Big Cities Dead Forever?

The Interview ·
Featuring James Altucher

Published on: September 7th, 2020 • Duration: 49 minutes

James Altucher, author and former hedge-fund manager, speaks to Real Vision senior editor, Ash Bennington, about his recent head-turning op-ed, “NYC is Dead Forever – Here’s Why.” James lays out his thesis in detail, arguing that a work-from-home economy is a death-knell for everything that is quintessentially "New York" -- from hot dog stands to Broadway shows. James and Ash discuss the consequences on commercial real estate as well as how this scenario might affect other asset classes. They explore the worst-case scenario and the potential silver linings. Filmed on September 2nd, 2020.



  • FF
    Fabio F.
    23 September 2020 @ 12:13
    Even if he is an autist that has some interesting things to say from time to time, how is this guy everywhere? Since he tried to run a crypto gem calling scam at the top of the bull market, flooding the internet with ads, no one should take him seriously again... Anyway props to to him to be able to manipulate everyone so well...
  • JS
    John S.
    7 September 2020 @ 10:54
    Incoherent comments on gold but at least he gets BTC
    • MS
      Michael S.
      10 September 2020 @ 13:17
      How can someone get BTC without getting gold? Just asking. As a system of payments, credit cards are way less trouble than BTC.
    • km
      kristopher m.
      16 September 2020 @ 17:59
      BTC will eventually have the benefit of being usable. GLD will not.
  • SP
    Sat P.
    7 September 2020 @ 09:26
    James' business ideas and advice around entrepreneurship are always actionable and excellent. Please get him back on RV to go through that in more detail! Great work Ash!
    • AB
      Alastair B.
      7 September 2020 @ 14:36
      Seconded. Time for a third appearance from James
    • km
      kristopher m.
      16 September 2020 @ 17:59
      how can people down-vote bringing in ideas? You dont have to like them to get value from them.
  • km
    kristopher m.
    16 September 2020 @ 13:59
    Props for you to basically tell Seinfeld to shove it. I wouldn't talk with him either. Not worth your time.
  • JG
    Jory G.
    10 September 2020 @ 19:07
    Most people working remotely are not engaged in making anything of value. Wealth is created when value is added to raw materials and that is hard to do when not working in or supporting a factory of some sort. I am sad for NYC but also do not believe it my responsibility living in Oklahoma to be held financially responsible for irresponsible governance in other states and big cities. They need to be allowed to fail, rise from the ashes and then hopefully act more responsibly going forward. That is what happens when anyone loses their job even if not their fault. Why should NYC or LA, or Chicago or any big city be different? Is that not how capitalism is supposed to work?
    • km
      kristopher m.
      16 September 2020 @ 13:58
      We are in a bubble of easy money fueled speculation in entities chock full on intangible assets. It is impossible for all of these "ideas" to prosper financially. .com 2.0
  • km
    kristopher m.
    16 September 2020 @ 13:55
    New York is filled with some of the most self absorbed and delusional people on Earth. Here they are again, expecting everyone else to solve their problems. It needs to crash no matter the pain so that a feasible replacement can come in its place. When times are good....... New York is so vibrant......BS its largely mismanaged in perpitude. The Mayor is an absolute joke and incapable of solving anything. The sooner people leave the New York, Seattle, Portland, and San Fransciscos of the world the better. Hopefully they dont take their idiotic politics and policies with them.
  • tr
    tom r.
    14 September 2020 @ 03:01
    What relation is James to Harpo Marx? Fun interview mostly because I don't live in NY.
  • VS
    Victor S. | Contributor
    11 September 2020 @ 17:24
    James solutions are really easy get rid of the communist Mayor ... open everything of what is not bankrupt. Look at Taiwan 23.8 million people 7 deaths NO LOCKDOWN . WHY? THEY WORE MASKS AND DID TESTS.
    • DS
      David S.
      14 September 2020 @ 02:39
      A lot of testing when anyone showed positive. Mandatory quarantine supervised. Compliant population. I agree with reopening, but many Americans are not compliant. Many Americans would defy mandatory supervised lockdown. Taiwan and US populations react differently to authority even if it is in there own good. DLS
  • JC
    Jason C.
    10 September 2020 @ 20:56
    Stick with decades long trends. Y'know, like genomics. And Bitcoin. All kidding aside though, I kinda liked this guy.
  • dd
    david d.
    7 September 2020 @ 16:08
    look, its the "bitcoin genius"... even his hairdo is genius like
    • TM
      The-First-James M.
      7 September 2020 @ 18:53
      That is certainly an incredible head of hair! ;) Bitcoin genius - not so sure. I recall reading some of his stuff back in 2017, but IMO it largely amounted to, "I'm an expert because I can read code, and I've been through the Bitcoin source code". I can read code too, but it doesn't make me a Bitcoin expert; even if I bothered to download Bitcoin Core from Github and go through it; something I must confess I have not done to-date... I do recall Ben Hunt labelling James Altucher as a "racoon" in an early 2018 Epsilon Theory piece. Those familiar with Ben's work need go no further here. None of the above detracts from what he has to say about NYC though. Was an interesting conversation.
    • MS
      Michael S.
      10 September 2020 @ 13:14
      That's his Echo and the Bunnymen hair. Total 1980s.
  • JM
    John M.
    7 September 2020 @ 17:34
    "Gold is just a rock" ? Some rock!
    • AB
      AJ B.
      8 September 2020 @ 16:00
      I'll bet James I can buy a house with gold
    • MS
      Michael S.
      10 September 2020 @ 13:13
      Just shows another example of his basic lack of perspective. He's always saying something to get a rise out of people, and make headlines. "Don't go to college" even though he went to a famous prestigious school. This is just another of those. Just look at how many times he bet the farm on something and went broke. Almost certainly feels he can do that because he stands to inherit a small fortune, my guess is. So many faux bohemians like him can do that.
  • JV
    Jay V.
    10 September 2020 @ 05:29
    James, you are the lightning rod for the tough criticism because you are so good-natured!
  • DS
    David S.
    8 September 2020 @ 00:55
    Unfortunately, NYC is one of a million basket cases. The pandemic is and will hollow out most states, cities, towns, vacation destinations, etc. Former NYC residents cannot provide the revenue to keep their new locations afloat. The economic damage is and will continue for years. Effective vaccines will help to stop the spread, but not the economic damage already incurred. The reaction of NYC residents is a rational behavior. It is and will be repeated globally for years. The end game for NYC and much of the rest of the nation is bankruptcy. A bailout of California will dwarf a NYC bailout. Congress will be lucky to just bail out the Federal government by printing money. There are fewer, and fewer taxes being paid to all levels of government. COVID has blown a whole in an economy that was already over indebted. This is not just a US problem. It is global. The American consumer cannot support world trade anymore. Just like NYC the world is awash in debt and revenues are falling fast. Mr. Pal and Mr. Bennington recognized this in the early COVID Times – Mr. Pal macro for the world and Mr. Bennington micro for NYC. I understand why Mr. Seinfeld wrote his article from the heart. Unfortunately, he should stick to comedy. COVID Times is a tragedy. DLS
    • DS
      David S.
      8 September 2020 @ 07:24
      Sorry. Hole not whole. DLS
    • MS
      Michael S.
      10 September 2020 @ 04:16
      Go ahead and overreact. Recency bias and all.
  • TG
    Thomas G.
    9 September 2020 @ 14:00
    Amazing interview, what a privilege to be able to listen to James.... thank you Real vision you guys are awesome.
  • HC
    Hao C.
    9 September 2020 @ 05:20
    Ash should get his own show.
  • GT
    Guillaume T.
    9 September 2020 @ 05:07
    Great interview. I will have enjoy mixing the informations from the video with a chart about the psychological effects of working from home and COVID! Curious to know if old people are afraid and stay home and think to retire and if young people don't care and are the new consumers/buyers in the city?
  • GK
    Gautam K.
    9 September 2020 @ 04:56
    Altucher is just brilliant! Brilliant insights
  • dw
    douglas w.
    9 September 2020 @ 02:43
    It was like getting wasted with a couple friends and talking about cv but actually hititng some deeper issues that haven't even been touched on in any rv vids as of yet. entertaining, bravo gents. kudos to ash to make sure the leash had some slack but was kept at arms length..
  • WG
    Ward G.
    9 September 2020 @ 00:56
    The US has sort of lost its mind but New Yorkers have experienced a full psychotic break.
  • JA
    Jeff A.
    9 September 2020 @ 00:26
    I did’t see the feds bailing out orange county calif. or jefferson county al. Why should they bail out NY?
  • BC
    Brente C.
    8 September 2020 @ 22:13
    Really enjoyed this. Realistic, expansive, creative.
  • SS
    Stephen S.
    8 September 2020 @ 19:40
    It would be a bitter pill to see NYC and SF get bailed out after decades of Globalization and Financialization Have made those two places some of the richest in the world.
  • RD
    Reginald D.
    8 September 2020 @ 15:58
    This was an extraordinary interview, loved this one!
  • RD
    Reginald D.
    8 September 2020 @ 15:58
    This was an extraordinary interview, loved this one!
  • TP
    Timothy P.
    7 September 2020 @ 17:45
    Altucher is right. Cities are hollowing out, the failed policies of their mayors are becoming evident. I'll just repost a few points I made to a friend who was considering moving: 1) Cities only function because the people living there think the premium costs are worth it - much like options, there's no point in paying top dollar for premium if the underlying isn't sound. 2) A city taxbase is highly mobile - when the heavily taxed 1 - 5% (by income) move out, this can decimate a city's budget. Just look at NYC and the entreaties for the fleeing wealthy to come back and "stay a while". (This doesn't count the real economic engine of most cities - small businesses.) 3) Feeding into the above - Cities have large infrastructure costs that depend on revenue - New York's MTA is losing 200 Million USD a DAY. Most transit networks saw plunges in riders down to 3 - 10%. Months later, this has hardly improved. There have been polls indicating that even if an effective vaccine existed, people wouldn't take public transit. That is just one facet, the next is all the small businesses that have closed, with restaurants/retail bringing up the rear. 4) Defund The Police - Whether this happens through a decimated budget, or through political posturing, the end effect is the same. Minneapolis is forming citizen patrols because of full defunding efforts, with residents complaining about increased crime. NYC has had a spectacular rise in all kinds of violent crime, Chicago and other cities as well. This isn't the kind of problem that goes away. Even if you funded the police to the brim at this very moment, it takes time to get back to levels deemed "acceptable". The damage being done here is extensive and real. Criminals are learning that they won't be caught, so it emboldens even more activity such as flash-mob looting and other activities. 5) Feeding into the above - most cities have bad laws regarding self-defense. Whether you love or hate it, owning various methods, such as OC Spray, Tasers, Defensive collapsable batons, and other methods all the way up to most lethal such as handguns are restricted and in many cases, outright banned. With a near-useless police presence (or none), what happens to citizens trying to protect themselves? It isn't any accident that most first-time gun buyers were women -- about 40% from recent sales numbers. Think a city is the place to make a stand? I'd rather be in less dense areas that don't offer criminals bountiful opportunities. 6) Finally, housing values - think that "cheap" rent and that below-market mortgage is going to help you? You might be pleased at your "savings" until you realize that you were the last sucker to hold on to a rapidly depreciating asset. Sometimes, when something is cheap -- its a warning, not an opportunity. Follow me or forget me, the above isn't going away -- and if you are in a city I'd urge you to reconsider that choice.
    • BP
      Bryce P.
      8 September 2020 @ 05:36
      All valid points. I think Catherine Austin-Fitts of The Solari Report (Former Assistant Secretary of Housing in the daddy bush admin.) nails it best. Mapping Minneapolis Minnesota Riot Damage, Opportunity Zones, and Fed Banks (A Work in Progress) I believe she has also shown the same in other cities but I can't locate the link at current time. I'm sure it's just a pure coincidence this stuff just happened to fall in place like it did. Twitter posts by Catherine Austin-Fitts (@TheSolariReport)........ "Calibrating the magic virus with central bank QE + inflat.-deflation needs. Protests, rioting + looting are ok in Opportunity Zones near Fed banks/branches - good for the health of Fed digital $ + smart cities. Social media CEOs + MDs engineer the mother of all debt entrapments." July 16, 2020 "I wonder how much $ is coming in as campaign donations from private equity + tech investors pleased with cheap redevelopment clearance in cities + Opportunity Zones. Fires work in California, but riots work best in cities with Fed banks and branches. - Smart city Crypto grids." August 28, 2020 "Let's plow through Open Secrets website to find donors - tech, real estate, Opportunity Zone, private equity + their lobbyists, lawyers + bankers. - Big $ paying for small business cleaned out, burned out before election and after. Not a political movement - a real estate play." August 28, 2020 I'm sure it's just all purely coincidental.
  • JS
    John S.
    8 September 2020 @ 05:09
    Jamming with James is entertaining, but Ash's questions & focus kept it on point and useful! Lots of nuggets in this interview even though James does not believe in gold.
  • AI
    Andras I.
    8 September 2020 @ 04:59
    ...meanwhile in Asia...
  • RM
    Robert M.
    8 September 2020 @ 02:27
    Extremely entertaining interview for a Monday night. James makes some great points on the issues facing NYC.
  • RH
    Ron H.
    8 September 2020 @ 00:01
    What I haven't seen discussed anywhere yet is a comparison to the collapse of the Tokyo real estate bubble in the early 90's. That would be very interesting. The US is in a similar hopelessly over-indebted position, and is now staring down a similar debt-deflation spiral. New York can cleanse, and rise again like a phoenix, but only if real estate is allowed to properly collapse in the city that epitomizes capitalism. If capitalism fails there, we might as well say at this point that it is dead to history. Given the current political environment, how can anyone expect main street to -- literally this time -- bail out Wall Street? Are CMBS a ticking time bomb to blow up the financial system, or is there some reason to believe they can be contained?
  • JP
    John P.
    7 September 2020 @ 21:11
    It's interesting to here James Altucher talk. I dismissed him as a scammer back when his "crypto genius" ads were everywhere. I'm still not sure what exactly he is. I think the prospects of cities dieing is a little overblown, though they still have significant issues. One thing that I don't understand is all the discussion of tax revenue that is "needed." Here NYC is among the richest of cities in the US and had tons of income streams from tourism and ultra high taxes. The financial industry effectively transfers wealth from every area of the US and concentrates it back into the city. The rental rates are enormous. The idea that somehow it won't survive solely because of capital flight is crazy. To mope about the problems and then act like "well I hope the fed bails us out, they really should because, ya know, we're a cultural/financial center" just reeks of New York elitism. If NYC is so great with finance and all, perhaps it could/would solve it's own financial problems. In an increasingly polar political landscape, areas that fail because of their policies should be held accountable to fix their own problems.
  • MS
    Mark S.
    7 September 2020 @ 17:25
    Great interview, Ash. I think NYC’s blue check mark crew need to heed his words. There’s no desire for a NYC bailout from the flyover states when we’re being scolded 24x7.
  • AB
    Alastair B.
    7 September 2020 @ 14:29
    No wonder you stay home 23 hours a day. Stay safe Ash.
  • RM
    Russell M.
    7 September 2020 @ 14:08
    Very useful interview!
  • EC
    Evelyn C.
    7 September 2020 @ 14:04
    If NYC is saved it's because of guys like this. Seinfeld's complacency and knee jerk attack on Altucher do NYC no good.
  • tW
    tgwtom W.
    7 September 2020 @ 13:07
    Capitalists in Cayman getting Coffee Seinfeld first guest :)
  • AL
    Aaron L.
    7 September 2020 @ 09:00
    What was that newsletter creation website he mentioned in the last 4 mins of the interview? sub-something? Please have him on to expand on all those entrepreneurial ideas, that was interesting
    • AS
      Anton S.
      7 September 2020 @ 09:24
  • PB
    Pieter B.
    7 September 2020 @ 09:06
    Awesome conversation! Thanks a lot!