STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Will Globalism Invade the US via its Cities? The Daily Beast Thinks So
By Staff News & Analysis - June 19, 2013

How Cities Are Fixing America … Mired in partisan division and rancor, the federal government appears incapable of taking bold action to restructure our economy and grapple with changing demography and rising inequality. With each illustration of partisan gridlock and each indication of federal, and also state, unreliability, metros are becoming more ambitious in their design, more assertive in their advocacy, more expansive in their reach and remit. The metro revolution reflects the maturing of U.S. cities and metros in terms of capacity and focus. For 50 years, metropolitan areas relied on their biggest single investor—the federal government—to finance infrastructure, housing, innovation, and human capital. They have dutifully competed for federal grants and aligned their visions and strategies to the federal focus du jour. Now cities and metros are driving the conversation, making transformative investments in the public goods that undergird private investment and growth. – Daily Beast

Dominant Social Theme: American exceptionalism is alive and well and best expressed by its dynamic urban environments.

Free-Market Analysis: It is almost impossible to defend the US federal government these days.

Mired in something like 50 wars, endless corruption, attacking certain ideologies with destructive taxation and spying on whole populations of citizens, even the Daily Beast has apparently given up cultivating a positive image for the American leviathan.

But perhaps top editors and writers of the Daily Beast have discovered a new subdominant social theme: "Our cities will save us."

Have these people actually LOOKED at US cities? In New York, an urban area as blighted and tenuous as any, infrastructure is crumbling and the only growth industry, from what we can tell, is expanding regulation. This is one of the major cities in the world but thanks to its hyper-regulatory mayor, you can't buy a large-sized soft drink or enjoy an indoor cigarette, or request eggs dabbed with trans-fat.

And how about Detroit? The city is getting ready to pay bondholders pennies on the dollar. Once Detroit was the "motor city" and proud cynosure of the Motown Sound. Today, it is basically a crumbling ruin. Chicago? Drudge just posted a report on the alarming rise in shootings and murders in the "Windy City."

We could go on, for all major US cities are surely in disarray to some extent. How could they not be? The same recessionary trends afflicting Fedgov are active at a local, urban level as well.

The Daily Beast, though, doesn't see it that way. Here's more from the article:

A revolution is stirring in America. Like all great revolutions, this one starts with a simple but profound truth: Cities and metropolitan areas are the engines of economic prosperity and social transformation in the United States. Our nation's top 100 metropolitan areas sit on only 12 percent of the nation's land mass but are home to two thirds of our population and generate 75 percent of our national GDP. Metros dominate because they embody concentration and agglomeration—networks of innovative firms, talented workers, risk-taking entrepreneurs, and supportive institutions and associations that cluster together in metropolitan areas and coproduce economic performance and progress.

There is, in essence, no American (or Chinese or German or Brazilian) economy; rather, a national economy is a network of metropolitan economies. The metropolitan revolution is like our era: crowd-sourced rather than close-sourced, entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic, networked rather than hierarchical. (Mario Tama/Getty) Cities and metropolitan areas are also on the frontlines of America's demographic change. America's population—and its workforce—will be much more diverse in the future than at present, and soon no single race or ethnic group will be the nation's majority.

Many of our metros are already living that future. In fact, every major demographic trend that the United States is experiencing—rapid growth, increasing diversity, an aging demographic—is happening at a faster pace, a greater scale, and a higher level of intensity in our major metropolitan areas. In traditional political-science textbooks, the United States is portrayed neatly as a hierarchical structure—the federal government and the states on top, the cities and metropolitan areas on the bottom.

The feds and the states are the adults in the system, setting direction; the cities and metropolitan areas are the children, waiting for their allowance. But in fact, cities and metropolitan areas are on their own. The cavalry is not coming. Networks of metropolitan leaders—not just mayors and council members but civic, corporate, philanthropic, educational and labor leaders— are innovating on the big stuff. That includes: the commercialization of innovation; support for advanced manufacturing, export promotion, and foreign direct investment; the public-private financing of advanced transport and energy infrastructure; upgrading the education and skills of a diversifying workforce; and forging strong relationships with trading partners in mature and rising economies alike.

What is happening in the United States today is rooted in timeless and quintessential American values and is uniquely aligned with the disruptive nature of this young century and the manner and places in which people live. We are living in a disruptive moment that extols collaboration, rewards customization, demands differentiation, and champions integrated thinking to match and master the complexities of modern economies and societies.

Wow. In our humble opinion, this article draws the wrong conclusions.

Cities, in fact, were not the inevitable outcome of American exceptionalism. The US, like Switzerland, was basically a rural and agrarian society. What finally forced people off the farms was the Great Depression. The country was further urbanized (and militarized) after World War Two.

Additionally, corporations have taken over farming in the US. But this is a synthetic trend, as well. Today's mega corporations are the product of legal decisions and likely would not exist as they are – or have the clout they do – absent the support of Western, corporate law.

The urbanization that the Daily Beast celebrates is an artificial one. There have always been cities, but as we see in China, the celebration of cities and their expansion is a kind of directed history. China intends to force hundreds of millions more into cities. No doubt, these cities will then be celebrated as epicenters of human vitality. They won't be.

Are modern cities in part the product of monopoly central bank stimulation? No one knows what a real economy would look like anymore, or not in the US, anyway. But chances are, absent monetary manipulation it would be a good deal less frenetic. Cities would be smaller and the US would still retain some of its agrarian flavor.

A strange celebration of internationalism infects the article. The authors focus heavily on the demographical texture of US urbanization and praise the idea that it is increasingly ecumenical. The argument seems to be that if we cannot have regional globalization (as with the EU) then we shall have urban globalization.

After Thoughts

The world will be writ large within a prescribed circumference. If the internationalists cannot have their way globally, they will create their faux-utopias in your backyard.

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