Plato's "noble lie" is one of the foundations of his mythical republic. It also handily cements the power of the elites. So it is with our city with the name from mythology. Let's take them on one at a time:
Phoenix is a young city. This is a canard tossed out to explain every shortcoming or difficulty that can't be blamed on "the Mexicans." As in, Phoenix lacks the amenities commensurate with a big city "because it's a young city." Phoenix was founded in the late 1860s and incorporated in 1881. That's 129 years for those readers who were home-schooled or graduated from Arizona charters. It didn't become what would be considered a large American city until the late 1950s; by 1960, it was the nation's 29th largest city. That's a half century to get its act together.
Where Phoenix can legitimately claim it was shortchanged by being a younger city is that it was too small to benefit much from the golden age of American urban design and architecture, including the City Beautiful Movement. And most of what it did have was torn down in careless acts of civic vandalism from the 1960s onward. It grew into a city in the automobile age and the ubiquity of the automobile suburb, with all the dolorous consequences that followed once that became the only mode of city "planning." Otherwise, the reliance on the "young city" excuse actually undermines itself on close inspection. For example, Los Angeles went from around 100,000 to 1.2 million population from 1900 to 1930 — essentially two decades faster than it took Phoenix to reach that mark. By that time, LA had established two world-class universities, the most extensive rail transit system in the nation and a host of economic assets with national and even global heft. (Chicago, among other big "young cities," also grew faster and gained more). Phoenix got some pro sports teams and call centers.
Growth pays for itself. This is true if one is talking about the growth of real research universities that have successful technology transfer programs. Or growth in the excellence of public schools. A host of such yardsticks could be laid upon our table. But this ignoble lie merely concerns the growth of population and far-flung subdivisions dependent on single-occupancy car trips. All of Phoenix's recent history shows this is not true. The "externalities," as economists say, the often unaccounted costs associated with such large population increases and the sprawl urban form, are huge. They range from deferred infrastructure to the environmental costs and overwhelm the simple model of "more people = more sales tax dollars." The model appeared to work in the 1960s because that generation of stewards made sure Phoenix was aggressively attracting new industries, many of which are now gone. But even then, it didn't really pay for itself; the costs were merely not as apparent.
We don't want to become another LA. Don't worry. Los Angeles is the home to elite universities, major headquarters, the entertainment industry, one of the world's largest ports, a highly diversified economy, leading cultural institutions and now one of the nation's most extensive systems of commuter rail and light rail. It is in every way a Global City. This is another example of Phoenicians either not getting out much, and thus not really knowing LA, or thinking a bunch of freeways represents commonality. Phoenix is not even likely to become another San Bernardino County. Phoenix does have all of LA's problems — gangs, pollution, traffic, etc. It has none of its assets.
Low taxes and light regulation are the most important keys to economic success. Say it with me: If this were true, Somalia and Mississippi would be global economic powers. Here is a case where the Kookocracy's policies have been shown to be demonstrably untrue. After years of their rule, the economy is less robust, more dependent on housing, unsustainable, with lower incomes and wages, and not even in the same league of similar-sized metro areas. Median household income fell during the 2000s. Headquarters were lost and not replaced. Major new industries did not arise. One thing these policies did accomplish was to leave government finances in a shambles, education at the bottom of the heap and both Phoenix and Arizona poorly positioned for the challenges barreling toward them. Nicely done.
The lies and myths won't stop. They do keep the elites in power. As a certain president would have it: "Mission accomplished." Now the echo chamber is claiming a "recovery" is just around the corner because land sales have resumed. As if that would begin to fix the damage done.
Another big lie is that "Phoenix has no history." The Phoenix 101 archive is your antidote kit.