Poverty? Isn't there an app for that? None of my college journalism students has asked me that one -- yet. But I wouldn't be all that surprised if one of them did.
Millennials, it seems, have very different ideas about how to solve urban problems. And unlike the notions of this retirement-age New Dealer, their solutions typically don't include raising taxes or expanding the reach of some government agency.
This is, I think, a fast-evolving yet underappreciated phenomenon in American life and politics. The millennials, roughly defined as those born between 1985 and 2000, are so smitten with mobile technology and its social and economic applications that they see tech as the solution to just about everything.
Need a cheap ride? Punch-up Uber on the iPhone.
Hungry? Go to grubhub.com.
Their universe of digital conveniences is extensive and extending. When she needs a movie listing or a sports score, my 20-something daughter would no more pick up an ink-flecked sheet of dried tree mulch (aka a newspaper) than she would scan the horizon for smoke signals.
But is this new way of thinking birthing a new kind of politics? I think it is. And the new digital mindset is, at its core, libertarian. Which is to say: very liberal on social issues such as gay marriage and legalized pot, yet very skeptical of government efforts to regulate the economy or levy taxes.
So they're trending toward the Republican side of the ballot.
This was driven home in November's election when the two Chicago wards most associated with upwardly mobile millennials - downtown's 42nd Ward and Lincoln Park's 43rd Ward - carried, in the aggregate, for Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner.
Normally it has been the white ethnic and blue-collar wards on the city's Far Northwest and Southwest sides that stray from the Democratic reservation. This time it was the 43rd - the same lakefront precincts that once elected independent Ald. Bill Singer and Ald. Marty Oberman - that delivered nearly as many votes for the Republican Rauner as for the independent-minded Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn.
Downtown's 42nd Ward - the city's fastest-growing neighborhood where millennials have been leasing high-rise apartments from Harrison Street to North Avenue - carried outright for Rauner, the only ward to do so in a city that went almost 4-to-1 for Quinn.
So what's going on here? My take is that we're witnessing an emerging force, not just in Chicago but in national politics. They are the young digital libertarians. They think there's an Easy Button for just about everything, and they don't get why older folks aren't pushing theirs.
What's more, they don't like the way we baby boomers have saddled their futures with debt. So they're renting instead of buying, wise in the knowledge they'd also be buying, via property taxes, a big slice of their parents' public pension liabilities.
And they're maneuvering politically, with privatization ideas, to avoid responsibility for our Social Security time bomb.
I get their angst but can't say I buy their approach. There's a reason why services like common carriage (planes, trains, cabs, etc.) are closely regulated; a reason why every unemployed Joe Blow with a jalopy ought not be allowed to take Aunt Mabel to the airport. And though I'm sorry about all that debt, the problem won't be solved by allowing more and more taxpayers to sneak away through offshore and online loopholes.
But that's just this old-timer's opinion. The future is being courted by a new generation, one that helped elect Rauner for governor and will try to nominate Rand Paul for president.
They do have some good ideas. Technology and freedom can and will solve many of our problems.
But not all of them.
For the toughest ones, the ones involving compassion and difficult choices, there will be no app.
John McCarron teaches, consults and writes on urban affairs. He wrote this for the Chicago Tribune.