Retrovision: We’re on the Wrong Side of History

This post originally appeared on 9 February 2016.

The biggest major at UTEP is Criminal Justice.

Because law enforcement and corrections are the biggest employers in El Paso.

But lots of the criminals are convicted for drug crimes, and the tide is turning against the War on Drugs.

Sure, those bureaucracies will fight to survive, the way bureaucracies do. But they’ll only delay their demise. The War on Drugs is over. We just haven’t signed the treaty yet.


Self-driving cars are right around the corner. The whole logistics industry is on the cusp of automation. Drones will even make local delivery jobs obsolete. There are no jobs for truck drivers in the future.

Fort Bliss?

I suspect that the country’s hegemonic ambitions haven’t been quenched. But future wars may be fought with proxies and drones. Anyway, we’ve got no control over the whim of Imperial America. They can drop us with the stroke of a pen.

Medical technology?

Look at the age distribution of America’s population. The baby boomers will all be dead before our medical infrastructure apparatus takes hold. The cost of cutting edge technologies and people’s ability to pay for them are on divergent paths. Palo Alto has a twenty year head start on us and the market’s shrinking. You can’t fight demographics.

So what’s left?


El Paso isn’t a place you go to. It’s a place you pass through. Tourists are more likely to go to all those places we’re pretending to be like instead of our simulacrum, no matter how hard we pretend. We folded our authenticity bona fides a long time ago.

We bought the ticket for the wrong bus. I don’t know where we’re headed, but it’s not the destination we were planning on.


  1. a 2021 perspective….and then there are the call centers and the warehouses, current and future, from which drones can make those deliveries.

  2. I have come to believe that there is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy or Theory of Everything for city-building but there is an organizing principle, that of focus – what is it you want to optimize, because you can’t optimize everything or you risk losing focus? An Aspen or a Carmel or a La Jolla optimizes ambience and services for tourists and wealthy residents, but not for their teachers, nurses and salon workers who cannot afford to live there. Houston optimizes opportunity – housing, employment and business -but at the cost of the environment, urban beauty, and convenience in that you have to get on a freeway for an hour to do anything. There’s no free lunch.

    So, what is El Paso trying to optimize and does it make sense in the context of its capability? To me it seems that we tell ourselves it’s all good while we go about the real agenda of trickle-up economics, i.e., optimizing wealth creation for a donor class of investors, developers and builders at the expense of average homeowners, who see little in the way of job-creation and even less tax base offset for their contribution. It’s no wonder UTEP graduates leave their home town for greener pastures elsewhere. It is why El Paso grows, but doesn’t deepen and prosper.

    But it could.

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