I doubt my sister would approve, moral angel that she is, but I’ve seen the future and it looks like Vegas. Maybe you can help me convince her this is a good thing.
The nickname for Vegas is “Sin City,” but did you know it wasn’t always thus? During the Wild West of the 19th century, Las Vegas was a sleepy Mormon outpost. In 1930, total population was 2,304, which is pretty much the population of my high school. This is from the Wikipedia entry:
Las Vegas started as a stopover on the pioneer trails to the west and became a popular railroad town in the early 1900s. It was a staging point for all the mines in the surrounding area, especially those around the town of Bullfrog, that shipped their goods out to the rest of the country. With the growth of the railroads, Las Vegas became less important, but the completion of the nearby Hoover Dam resulted in substantial growth in tourism, which, along with the legalization of gambling, led to the advent of the casino-hotels for which Las Vegas is famous.
The rise of entertainment as an industrial sector during the 20th century was probably never imagined. So when you think about the jobs of the future, you cannot help but notice the dramatic developments within our lifetime. Whole cities. Hollywood, Orlando, Las Vegas. Whole oligopolies: the NFL, the NBA, NASCAR, WWF. It’s not enough that television was invented as a new media devoted primarily to entertainment, but massively valuable cable channel brands have been established as subsets: HBO, ESPN, MTV.
For me, the one worth close attention is Vegas. Not until the legalization of gambling on March 19, 1931 did the radical innovation of growing an entire metropolis occur to anyone as goal. The city has essentially doubled in size every decade, reaching a quarter million residents in 1990 and half a million in 2000. It is bigger than Cleveland or Atlanta, and by the time the next Census is taken in 2010, it may be bigger than Boston or Seattle.
The primary drivers of the Las Vegas economy have been the confluence of tourism, gaming, and conventions which in turn feed the retail and dining industries. Several companies involved in the manufacture of electronic gaming machines, such as slot machines, are located in the Las Vegas area. In the 2000s retail and dining have become attractions of their own.
So when people tell you that entertainment is an ephemeral economic foundation, that is all based on real money generated in other “real sectors,” just ask why Vegas continues to grow. In a world where food and manufactures are produced through automated processes, what is real?