Comment 17051

By statius (registered) | Posted January 10, 2008 at 19:38:50

Ben,

I appreciate your kind words.

I agree with a lot of what Florida says. But I side with some of the more conservative academics who argue that (at least with respect to some cities) he has got the causality aspect of his theory all mixed up. For instance, great cities like New York and, even more to the point, London, are so immensely wealthy not because they have attracted high-salaried bankers, managers and professionals, but rather for historical reasons. In other words, capital has always been concentrated there. To paraphrase Simmel (who anticipated a lot of what Florida would later say in more facile form), London was not always the heart but has always been the money pot of England. The banks, corporations, law offices, etc. have always been there. That is why the well educated go there. That is why they went there even when London was an overcrowded, violent cesspool in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They had no choice. The same is true of Toronto to a good extent. Historical analysis shows the transfer of capital from Montreal (which at one time controlled about 95% of Canada's marketable capital) to Toronto beginning in the 1950s and culminating in the mad rush of the Anglo elite (along with their money) from Quebec to Ontario in 60s and 70s as a result of perceived political instability (i.e. FLQ crisis). In my view then (it is not an original view, I admit) there are really two classes of successful cities: those cities which have succeded because of thoughtful planning and lifestyle advantages (e.g. Portland, Vancouver, etc.) and those which succeed simply (or primarily) because they are (for historical reasons) primary centres of capital (e.g. London, New York, Paris, Toronto).

To illustrate: in my profession, if one does not want to work in Toronto, one simply has to accept a much lower salary. I was lucky enough to find a position in Hamilton which would pay me a lesser but still comparable amount to what I would make in Toronto and so I jumped on it, but this was sheer luck, and such positions are extremely, extremely rare. Half of the people I know are from BC, Alberta, Quebec, and the Maritimes, and they simply would not be in Toronto if it were not for the jobs and the money.

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