Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


It's the capital of the world, but is it still the capital of the UK?
March 26, 2013 1:04 PM   Subscribe

BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders asks "Should Britain let go of London?"
posted by nickrussell (82 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
For a certain kind of "global citizen", London today feels like the new capital of the world - while, for people living in other parts of the UK, it all too often feels like another planet.

Sounds like NYC/the rest of the USA.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:05 PM on March 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


London as a city is terrifying. London as an independent city-state would be infinitely worse. And I say this as a Londoner.
posted by fight or flight at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Related article in the current issue of Vanity Fair: A Tale of Two Londons
"Said to be the most expensive residential development ever built, One Hyde Park embodies London’s rising status as an international tax haven, which has many Britons crying foul. An investigation of the complex’s offshore owners reveals the face of the new global super-wealthy—and they aren’t from Goldman Sachs."
posted by ericb at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2013


Sounds like NYC/the rest of the USA.

Not really. In rankings of global cities, the US has an Alpha++ city (NYC), an Alpha+ city (Chicago), three Alpha cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC), and five Alpha− cities (Miami, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia).

By contrast, London is an Alpha++ while Manchester, the next UK city on the list, is a Beta city.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:19 PM on March 26, 2013 [25 favorites]


I would now like to read an SF novel about the Zeroth World, where loosely allied groups of city-state arcologies full of 1 percenters go about their tax-shielded, high speed traded businesses.

Does that book exist? It must.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:21 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


"A first-rate city with a second-rate country attached."

While I would never call Vancouver "first-rate", this does resemble Vancouver and, to a certain extent, the rest of British Columbia. It's not that the rest of BC is second- or third-rate, it's just that it is so totally and absolutely culturally different than Vancouver.

And since Vancouver is the seat of power (not the provincial capital) where most of the decisions get made (promoting grubby resource extraction on a huge scale elsewhere to profit a privileged class of lawyers and speculators in Vancouver), Vancouver is responsible for the second-rated-ness of the hinterlands.

In Japan, too, travelling over the mountains from the sparsely populated Japan Sea Coast to Tokyo or Osaka is like going to a totally different country.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:24 PM on March 26, 2013


Sounds like NYC/the rest of the USA.

More like NYC/The rest of New York State.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:25 PM on March 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


What sonic meat machine said. To expand, it is a primate city; in the U.S. (federal) political power is concentrated in DC for instance, whereas in the UK no city even remotely rivals London when it comes to population, finance, political power, media, and so on.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:28 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Northern England would be a far better place to live were it a multi-centred country which could focus on manufacturing rather than the hinterland of that city.
posted by Jehan at 1:30 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


sonic meat machine: Not really. In rankings of global cities, the US has an Alpha++ city (NYC), an Alpha+ city (Chicago), three Alpha cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC), and five Alpha− cities (Miami, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia).

By contrast, London is an Alpha++ while Manchester, the next UK city on the list, is a Beta city.


It was interesting to see that NYC and London are the only Alpha++ cities.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:31 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


In related news, the UK is still in the grips of a deep winter, so people aren't doing as much stupid things for news editors to write about.

On the other hand, if London did secede, then the UK could have a very interesting chat with it's "leading" city about the train network, utilities, and other infrastructure. After all, if everything between Watford to Reigate suddenly became another country, what is England doing with all these pesky trains? They would be London's financial responsibility. If the ex-capital disagrees, it's welcome to source it's own water, food, waste disposal, and electricity.
posted by The River Ivel at 1:32 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well the other thing that makes the London/Rest of UK and NYC/Rest of the US fall apart is just how international the plutocrats in London are. It would be like if Americans were a minority in the West Village or UES West of Park.

Getting rid of the crazy favorable tax laws for non-doms et al would do a lot so far as reclaiming London for the English.
posted by JPD at 1:33 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, "Should Britain let go of London?" is a stupid way of phrasing the question. Scotland and Wales are slowly letting go of London, but Britain too. They have a path to self-government and are happy to take more, even if they stop short of independence. It's the rest of England which can't run away.
posted by Jehan at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


It was interesting to see that NYC and London are the only Alpha++ cities.

I expect that's somewhat based on Western bias. Tokyo and Hong Kong arguably belong on that line as well.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:36 PM on March 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


How on Earth is Chicago an Alpha+ city?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:38 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


World finance depends on London and New York, Hong Kong not so much. Tokyo would be an Alpha ++ city, except that it doesn't have as strong a cultural voice. Nobody pays attention to what the Nikkei Shimbun is editorializing about, but NYT, WSJ, the Times, FT etc etc shape opinion on a global scale.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's tricky to measure, but they also seem to pay more in taxes than they get back in government spending.

Arguments like this are ridiculous because it's even more tricky to measure than the author realizes. What would London's economy be and how well-off would its citizens be if the UK-funded services weren't there? If London had been a separate entity for the last century how would they have fared without nationally tax-sponsored services and infrastructure that came largely from the manufacturing and resource centres? (i.e. not London).
In most cases the people who use government services and the people who benefit most from their existence aren't the same.
posted by rocket88 at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


How on Earth is Chicago an Alpha+ city?

Apparently it offers advanced service niches for the global economy. And apparently turning Chicago into a global city was a large part of Mayor Daley's agenda.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The various articles in The Economist's 2012 Special Report on London are worth checking out - especially in this case for its coverage of global city vs rest of the UK tensions.

This is one interesting bit - London shrugged off deliberate government efforts to limit the city after 1939 and losing 25% of its population by the late 1980s - and then underwent rapid growth from the 90s onwards:

In 1939 its population hit 8.6m. By then the belief that London was at once too rich and too poor, as well as too powerful, had taken hold. So whole neighbourhoods were bulldozed to clear slums; a Green Belt was established to stop it spreading; the construction of offices in central London was, in effect, banned. Meanwhile war battered the city, driving out people and industry. Manufacturing started to decline. The docks, London's core industry, were destroyed by container ships too deep for the river and by militant unions. The city went into a vicious cycle of decline. Schools emptied, crime rose and aspiring people left. By the late 1980s it had lost a quarter of its inhabitants.

Then the population started rising again. Nobody really knows why. It may simply be that the economic factors that had caused it to shrink—the closure of the docks and the disappearance of manufacturing industry—had run their course, the policies designed to empty the place out had been abandoned and the gravitational pull of a great city had reasserted itself.
posted by Bwithh at 1:44 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It should also be borne in mind for those outside the UK that there's so little local government in England. Most funding and most policies come from Westminster, and local government is often little more than managing those services along central government lines. The cities outside of London are hugely stifled by lack of political power.
posted by Jehan at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoah. I just discovered my current home of Omaha is a sufficiency city. I should know better than to underestimate this place.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:48 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article assumes that the current forces driving London's growth are sustainable. I don't know enough about the city to have a fact based opinion on that, but it seems unlikely that property values will keep rising forever, or that London will continually maintain its status as a foreign tax haven. At some future time the bubble will pop and the foreign rich will leave. London's property will then be hugely overvalued, and the dominance of the finance sector will pull the rest of its economy down. It probably won't be as bad as Cyprus, but the current era in London's history can't last forever.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think most huge cities face this same issue. NYC is nothing very much like New York state these days. The only thing keeping Toronto from being so distant from the rest of Ontario is that because it's such a latecomer there's essentially a massive sprawl and you could easily define Toronto as going as far west as London (Ontario). San Francisco and Los Angeles are entirely different worlds from the geographic bulk of California. I think London is a combination of being a globally huge city and partly from being the Western ur-City - it had a head start on everyone else.
posted by GuyZero at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would now like to read an SF novel about the Zeroth World, where loosely allied groups of city-state arcologies full of 1 percenters go about their tax-shielded, high speed traded businesses.

Does that book exist? It must.


After this and the comment about primate cities, I want to see this book about A PLANET WHERE APES EVOLVED FROM DAY TRADERS?!
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:03 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The BBC article doesn't do enough to explain why the rest of Britain is "second rate" compared to London.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:05 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would now like to read an SF novel about the Zeroth World, where loosely allied groups of city-state arcologies full of 1 percenters go about their tax-shielded, high speed traded businesses.

Does that book exist? It must.
I feel like Stephenson's The Diamond Age touched on that a little bit. Metatropolis (short story collection edited by Mefi's own JScalzi) had independent plutocrat arcologies present in the background of a couple stories, though definately focused on the response of 99 percenters to the dissolution of nation-state based rule of law.
posted by midmarch snowman at 2:10 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would now like to read an SF novel about the Zeroth World, where loosely allied groups of city-state arcologies full of 1 percenters go about their tax-shielded, high speed traded businesses.

Oath of Fealty is sort the start of that story but there's only one arcology.
posted by octothorpe at 2:19 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The BBC article doesn't do enough to explain why the rest of Britain is "second rate" compared to London.

London's economy grew at twice the rate of the rest of the country. "growth" is pretty much a moral measure in these sorts of articles.
posted by GuyZero at 2:21 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lets give it to the Palestinians.
posted by edgeways at 2:29 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Atlanta?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:31 PM on March 26, 2013


Re: Primate cities, Wikipedia lists Luxembourg and Monte Carlo as examples, which strikes me as cheating.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:32 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


apparently turning Chicago into a global city was a large part of Mayor Daley's agenda.

I wonder if his solution to this was just editing the wikipedia page?
posted by emptythought at 2:39 PM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Unshackled from the rest of Britain, a London governed by the City of London Corporation (which is elected by multinational corporations, each one's vote proportional to its global headcount) could hold its own against the Dubais and Singapores of the world in the new age of post-democratic neoliberal city-states.
posted by acb at 2:43 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


London is probably the most provincial city in the UK. There is so much guff here which people care about that nobody outwith the M25 could give a stuff about.

Outside of the capital, a 'pop-up shop' is one of those places that appears in a vacant high-street premises to sell Christmas decorations in November and closes by January, and it's all the better for it.
posted by mippy at 2:46 PM on March 26, 2013


Atlanta?

Coca-Cola, CNN.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:49 PM on March 26, 2013


Atlanta also serves as a major air and transport hub, doesn't it?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:51 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just a heads up to people who recently discovered global city rankings: They're a dime a dozen. Take them with a grain of salt. From what I've seen, they're usually driven by particular interests who have a strong idea of what their list is going to look like before the 'objective' measures are applied.

In general: Think about the people you know. Now try to rank them in terms of broad concepts like 'success', or 'creativity', or 'power'. If you're honest, it's probably not as easy as you think. Now if you think this excercise was silly, as I think you probably should, ask yourself if it's any more sensible to try to do similarly rank things which are as complicated and manifold as large cities.
posted by Alex404 at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, and Alpha/Alpha- cities "are cities that link major economic regions into the world economy".

Atlanta is definitely the link to the world for much of the South.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


wildcrdj: that explanation makes sense to me.

The Coca Cola, CNN, airport thing is exactly what they said in that Futurama episode. :)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:11 PM on March 26, 2013


Detroit is apparently a Beta- city but doesn't have sufficient services to sustain itself.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:15 PM on March 26, 2013


Chicago has commodities exchange markets, that's why it's alpha+

I think Panama City should be ranked higher and Washington DC should be ranked much lower, personally.
posted by empath at 3:17 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looking at that whole Alpha++ chart, it seems like most countries that have an Alpha-something city have that and nothing else. It's not that England is unique in having London and nothing else, it's the US that is unique for having New York and something else.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:19 PM on March 26, 2013


Just a heads up to people who recently discovered global city rankings: They're a dime a dozen. Take them with a grain of salt. From what I've seen, they're usually driven by particular interests who have a strong idea of what their list is going to look like before the 'objective' measures are applied.

of course power/knowledge, bias etc etc, but for what it's worth, the main rankings under discussion in this thread (cited in the Wikipedia article) is from this international seems-to-be-unique academic initiative.
posted by Bwithh at 3:19 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


How on Earth is Chicago an Alpha+ city?

Apparently it offers advanced service niches for the global economy.


It's also huge in commodities and futures trading and is the transport hub for the midwest.

Atlanta?

Nice. Banking, transport and communications hub for the SE US. Major military infrastructure and a Federal Reserve. Headquarters for 6 Fortune 100 companies. Georgia Tech, Emory and a dozen other Colleges and Universities. 5.5m people in the metro area. If Miami and Boston are Alpha-, Atlanta surely is.
posted by kjs3 at 3:22 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


London is probably the most provincial city in the UK. There is so much guff here which people care about that nobody outwith the M25 could give a stuff about.
Had I the money to commission such a poll, I would ask folk from all over England the following things: how many times have you been to London? when did you last go? when do you think you will go again?

I'm willing to bet that a lot of those thinking London is the middle of everything will be surprised by the answers.
Looking at that whole Alpha++ chart, it seems like most countries that have an Alpha-something city have that and nothing else. It's not that England is unique in having London and nothing else, it's the US that is unique for having New York and something else.
England has a little over 50 million people, or one sixth the population of the US. If you compare the US to the EU, then they're about the same.

Even so, this whole "global city rankings" derail is just threadshitting, so everybody should cut it out.
posted by Jehan at 3:23 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


kjs3: Yes, it has a lot going for it. So does, e.g. Seattle. Every major city has a lot going for it.

It's not a personal dig at your city. I'm just confused that it's in the ranks with places like Vienna, Zurich, Istanbul, Taipei and New Delhi.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:28 PM on March 26, 2013


Just a heads up to people who recently discovered global city rankings: They're a dime a dozen. Take them with a grain of salt. From what I've seen, they're usually driven by particular interests who have a strong idea of what their list is going to look like before the 'objective' measures are applied.

Well yeah, but then again this is a topic the every geography survey course at the undergrad level covers - the relationships between cities and economies.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:29 PM on March 26, 2013


Chicago is the most important city in North America if you're looking at a railroad atlas. I suppose that's less important now than it was in the past, but that legacy surely still has an impact.
posted by ryanrs at 3:31 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


i thought it was funny that in that alpha scale for Germany, Frankfurt is the alpha city, while Berlin is a beta city. There is 6 to 700.000 people in Frankfurt, compared to Berlin's 3.5 million. Frankfurt has the banking industry and a couple of skyscrapers, while Berlin is the cultural, political and tourist capital.
So I'm not entirely convinced that this is a scale that should be taken seriously in any way.
posted by ts;dr at 3:33 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having lived roughly half my life in London, and the other half between various other UK cities (Edinburgh, York, Norwich, now Nottingham), I am still amazed by the extent to which: A) Every Londoner loves London and dislikes most other places and B) Non-Londoners could not give a monkeys about London and often dislike spending time there. While I identify strongly as a Londoner, I still maintain a sort of distance because I grew up in the Scottish capital, which despite feeling a fraction of the size still has that peculiar pride of being designated a capital city.

Anyways, I agree with KokuRyu - considering that it has been a well-acknowledged thing that London receives a disproportionate amount of attention and analysis compared to the rest of the English provinces, it is a little disheartening that here is yet another fluff-piece about the London economy. Meh, maybe I'm just grumpy having recently found out that Nottingham is one of the worst-affected UK cities in the recession - a new outlet of Costa Coffee had 1,700 applicants for 8 positions, including more than one of my PhD candidate peers.
posted by dumdidumdum at 3:51 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


They should move the government to Manchester and become a proper republic.
posted by humanfont at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or at least a federal state, with a Canberra/Brasilia-style federal capital. Possibly located somewhere equidistant from all components and well connected; perhaps repurpose some economically depressed industrial-revolution city not too far from the Welsh and Scottish borders?
posted by acb at 4:02 PM on March 26, 2013


i thought it was funny that in that alpha scale for Germany, Frankfurt is the alpha city, while Berlin is a beta city. There is 6 to 700.000 people in Frankfurt, compared to Berlin's 3.5 million. Frankfurt has the banking industry and a couple of skyscrapers, while Berlin is the cultural, political and tourist capital.
So I'm not entirely convinced that this is a scale that should be taken seriously in any way.


Why not? Berlin has only been the capital of Germany since, what, the mid-90s, and it's been underpopulated for much of that time.

Frankfurt, on the other hand, is a financial and transportation centre. Remember, the ranking is not a popularity contest (I know MetaFilter hates those popularity contests!), but rather a gauge of how integrated a city is into the global economy.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:04 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Looking at that whole Alpha++ chart, it seems like most countries that have an Alpha-something city have that and nothing else. It's not that England is unique in having London and nothing else, it's the US that is unique for having New York and something else."

There was some debate about the desirability and naturalness of this when I was in college (studying poli sci), whether it's more normal to have a "unipolar" country where cultural, financial, and political power is concentrated in one city (like London), or whether it's more normal to have it spread among several cities (like the U.S.). I remember because my professor who was involved in this debate kept claiming the U.S. was completely unique in this regard and that the U.S.'s capitals were political = DC, financial = New York, and cultural = San Francisco. Nobody could convince him there was culture in New York (or Los Angeles, for that matter). He would literally laugh when someone claimed there was art or culture occurring in not-San Francisco.

Anyway, there's some interesting comparisons to be drawn out; Illinois and New York have a lot of political machinations in common with their Chicago/Springfield and New York City/Albany dynamic, where a massive city that is NOT the state capital dominates the entire rest of the state; they share things in common with Japan and Brazil. Georgia, where Atlanta is the state capital, has a different set of issues, more similar to the U.K. and London. Wisconsin and California are both multipolar states with several similarly-important cities (no accident their state university systems have several very good campuses, for example); Germany was an example often used for a country (I'm not sure if it still applies, this was not long after reunification and I don't know how things have changed); I think Canada might be another one, with Toronto and Vancouver creating multiple poles.

Anyway, it's not a universal explainer but you do see a lot of similar political PROCESS issues in places with similar polar structures. London can learn something about itself by looking at other countries (or states, or provinces) massively dominated by a single city.

"Or at least a federal state, with a Canberra/Brasilia-style federal capital. Possibly located somewhere equidistant from all components and well connected; perhaps repurpose some economically depressed industrial-revolution city not too far from the Welsh and Scottish borders?"

THERE WAS TOTALLY A BBC DRAMA ABOUT THIS, The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard!!! Supermarket manager creates own "Purple Party," becomes Prime Minister by running on "common sense," debates moving Parliament to Bradford. Series gets cancelled, more's the pity.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:28 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not exactly the same, but Singapore is an example to consider.
posted by gimonca at 4:31 PM on March 26, 2013


I think Canada might be another one, with Toronto and Vancouver creating multiple poles.

Toronto is a de facto primate city. Vancouver has no head offices, no stock exchange (delisted because of fraud; miners are real sneaky), no pool of capital to influence things.

Toronto has all of the head offices, it's the headquarters of the broadcasters, the stock exchanges, has an actual creative industry that generates actual content, Toronto has the museums and the people willing to fund art, all that stuff.

If commodities don't collapse, Calgary may give Toronto a run for its money; Calgary has already eclipsed Vancouver.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:58 PM on March 26, 2013


Canada's poles have shifted considerably over the past 40-ish years. What was once Montreal and Toronto has become Toronto and Calgary. Vancouver, while lovely and expensive, has indeed never really been a seat of trans-Canadian power.
posted by GuyZero at 5:06 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Relevant: "Why have the white British left London?"
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:11 PM on March 26, 2013


This has nothing to do with London, but Tennessee Williams is supposed to have said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

I choose to see that as a compliment to the Capital of the North Coast of America.
 
posted by Herodios at 5:24 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I, for one, love my epsilon- city. You alpha++'s and alpha+'s and alphas, etc. have no idea what you're missing. (With apologies to Aldous Huxley...)
posted by smrtsch at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


London just needs to let go of the the City..
posted by srboisvert at 5:54 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


A PLANET WHERE APES EVOLVED FROM DAY TRADERS?!

I think you mean devolved, no?
posted by doctor_negative at 6:31 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't see Brockway, Ogdenville, or North Haverbrook anywhere on that list.
posted by FJT at 6:48 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Given the rate of urbanization, road-building and the fact that it has bedroom communities as far out as the coast of Norfolk, London and SE England are on track to be coextensive in, oh, give it a few more hours.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:19 PM on March 26, 2013


You haven't really made it in the social sciences until someone who has never looked at your data set accuses you of bias.
posted by Winnemac at 8:05 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


One way to judge a city's power is by how many people are within its sphere of influence - that is, for how many people the city is the closest city of that size or greater. Chicago is the closest city of its size for a huge chunk of the USA, from Minneapolis all the way to Detroit; if you have to put only one of something in that entire region, you pick Chicago. Atlanta serves the same role for the South, and NYC does for the Northeast. Philadelphia, though, has almost no sphere of influence since its closest larger city is right next door.

That's just one way to measure a city's importance, but it's yet another on which London does very well. For almost everyone in Western Europe, London is the closest city of its size.
posted by miyabo at 8:07 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Behind the obvious headline/flame-bait in suggesting that London unmoor itself it from England/ Britain, there's an interesting point in there about London being connected to every town out there, but the links *between* the towns not being that good. (Which strongly corroborates my experience as well) There's a tale in there that's not talked about often, namely that the North-South divide is also a North-North-West and a North-North divide too, so to speak.

What is not unique, however, is the spectre of a single city overwhelmingly contributing towards a nation's GDP. Karachi contributes 60-odd percent of Pakistan's total tax revenue. Mumbai is responsible for about 40% of India's GDP (it has been coming down, thanks to the boom in Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and other places). The story is even more stark within states in India; in ten short years, Hyderabad has started being responsible for two-thirds of Andhra Pradesh's state GDP, and is bigger than the populations of the next nine largest cities in the state combined. You'll see a similar story in Maharashtra, UP (Noida is where the boom is) and other places.
posted by the cydonian at 8:16 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jim Hacker: Why did we get two really good roads to Oxford before we got any to the ports?
Bernard: Because nearly all our Permanent Secretaries went to Oxford, Minister, and most Oxford colleges give very good dinners.

-- Yes, Minister
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:42 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is not unique, however, is the spectre of a single city overwhelmingly contributing towards a nation's GDP

See also every capital city in Central America, which was exacerbated by the civil wars there and people fleeing the countryside.
posted by empath at 10:25 PM on March 26, 2013


What is not unique, however, is the spectre of a single city overwhelmingly contributing towards a nation's GDP

What about cities that contribute to global GDP? Tokyo or Seoul get nuked by North Korea, or if the Big One hits Tokyo and a tsunami wipes out the Japanese Pacific seaboard, it will be grave times for every economy in the world.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:13 AM on March 27, 2013


If you moved the capital to Manchester you would have an immediate civil war for dominance of the North, with Liverpool, Newcastle and Yorkshire in a four-way struggle with the Mancs, allowing Birmingham and the South-West to go their own ways without effective resistance, although the latter would have its own Cornish independence problem. And that's just England.

Really, if these places resent being ruled by London, you think they'll accept the dominance of Manchester?
posted by Segundus at 1:21 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


i thought it was funny that in that alpha scale for Germany, Frankfurt is the alpha city, while Berlin is a beta city. There is 6 to 700.000 people in Frankfurt, compared to Berlin's 3.5 million. Frankfurt has the banking industry and a couple of skyscrapers, while Berlin is the cultural, political and tourist capital.
So I'm not entirely convinced that this is a scale that should be taken seriously in any way.


ts;dr: The Berlin - Frankfurt comparison is unfair and an artefact of German city development. Berlin is somewhat unique in being well separated from any other German cities. Most of them are actually centres of large urban populations with a well-defined border, so the region around Frankfurt contains 5.6 million people, but Frankfurt is only 700,000.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_Rhine-Main

It is the same in the Ruhr, where the largest city (Dortmund) has 600,000, but the region has 12 million - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruhr
posted by DamPots at 1:43 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Berlin is especially a special case due to its existing as a four-power-managed city during the Cold War, bisected by the Berlin Wall. While West Germany and the Allies retained Berlin for symbolic purposes (it was certainly a strategic liability), corporate and government headquarters couldn't be there for mostly obvious reasons. The hinterlands around Berlin were all East Germany. Finally, the city maintained an open residency policy (details from someone in .de), encouraging an influx of hippies, punks, and other subcultures. The city's demographics were thus skewed away from economic and political elites. Rebuilding after the wall fell also began in fits and starts, with redevelopment of key areas delayed for years by stakeholder wrangling and only recently hitting its stride. Ask again in 2020 and 2030 and I expect Berlin to inch upward, but it's still dealing with a Cold War hangover.

Chicago is the most important city in North America if you're looking at a railroad atlas. I suppose that's less important now than it was in the past, but that legacy surely still has an impact.

Indeed, it owes its existence to the precursor of the railroads, the Erie Canal. It is no longer a top-ranked North American port, even with the Seaway, but combine the transportation nexus with its history as a commodities market, reflected by the financial exchanges, and it's clear why it developed its importance.

What's less clear is why it's retained so much even as urban population has fallen and industrial headquarters have migrated, but while it's lost things to both coasts, it's also drawn them in from lesser regional capitals of the past such as St. Louis.

Atlanta is definitely the link to the world for much of the South.

I think it's interesting how the South has several "capitals", if you will, of somewhat peer stature, rather than one major one (anymore, that is: It used to be New Orleans by far). Houston is huge, but even its Texasness is diluted by Dallas (well, DFW) and San Antonio; Atlanta acts as an air transport hub, and has some media/cultural power to augment that; Miami is a link to the Latin American world (and something of an exo-capital for that region apart from its role domestically; Nashville's cultural role has surpassed Memphis's commercial one. There really isn't a Southern capital in the way that Los Angeles is the West Coast's and Chicago is the Midwest's, at least not in my perception.

Anyway, London -- there's a particular legacy there, largely colonial in origin, that has made that city a hub for a number of vibrant cultures and countries around the world. For historical reasons, Madrid can't be the same for the Spanish-speaking world (it lost its colonies mostly prior to the 20th century), and for Portuguese in many ways the hub moved to Brazil long ago (not the least due to the Imperial seat moving there for a time). France does have a smaller but similar dynamic to London, but with a more fractious relationship towards its ex-Empire, and there is less diversity (much of it being North and West African). One could go on (Amsterdam, Istanbul); I think London is a very interesting special case in that regard.
posted by dhartung at 2:55 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Segundus: if these places resent being ruled by London, you think they'll accept the dominance of Manchester?

The devolution referendum in the North East failed partly because Sunderland et al. didn't want to be ruled by Newcastle, but mostly because Northerners would rather be ruled by London (and be able to grumble about it) than waste money on politicians.

Up until age 20 I'd been to London a couple of times and didn't have any particular desire to go back. Then I discovered there were some jobs there.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 3:22 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


London is becoming increasingly dominant in the UK and is causing a widening north/south divide in the UK.

The property markets are a great indicator of this widening gap. London seems to have its own rules. With 10% growth (more in the highly affluent areas like Chelsea and Knightsbridge) London is completely at odds with North where property prices are falling.

But while London is a dominant force causing inequality in the UK that's no reason to "let go". London adds a turbo to the UK economy. It is a powerhouse. But just as importantly in cultural terms London is a fantastic City and should be embraced by Britain and the world. The mixture and the diversity is wonderful. London's greatness is underscored by the widely traveled who - almost always - rave about its unique vibe.
posted by yourhomepm at 4:32 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


London rocks. So does New York. I have lived in both cities. I am a lucky boy.

In other news, Manchester is a bag of shite.
posted by Decani at 8:17 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well that's a different Manchester to the one I know.
Manchester is awesome made from lots of awesome.

Though if you're from London, then you should know that I'm lying, it's pretty much as horrible as you imagine, and there's categorically no reason why you should come up here and have a look around. Just trust me. Not even worth your time.
posted by zoo at 8:56 AM on March 27, 2013


One way to judge a city's power is by how many people are within its sphere of influence

This reminds me of the idea of topographic prominence, which measures a mountain's importance not by its absolute height, but by its independence from other peaks.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:26 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Atlanta is definitely the link to the world for much of the South.

More than that. Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world.
posted by seemoreglass at 10:38 AM on March 27, 2013


This reminds me of the idea of topographic prominence

Yeah, it's exactly the same. A city of a million people surrounded by farms is much more prominent than a city of a million people surrounded by other cities of a million people.
posted by miyabo at 11:33 AM on March 27, 2013


Roman Abramovich, Richard Rogers and the desecration of London
London has been a magnet for the international rich for more than 500 years. The Medicis were sending bankers to London in the early 15th century. Nothing wrong in that. But it’s only in recent decades that expat millionaires — along with a fair few domestic ones, like Richard Rogers, the starchitect who turned two neighbouring Chelsea houses into one echoing white void — have started tearing up the city’s old -fabric.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2013


A Slice of London So Exclusive Even the Owners Are Visitors
posted by homunculus at 10:27 AM on April 6, 2013


« Older Good photos of cool rich midcentury Americans on y...  |  The two aspects of empathy, co... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments