MEGACITIES FOR PRIVILEGED FEW
 


The Chinese now lead the rush from the soil to the city, which has been a feature of 'civilisation' throughout history. In 2007 for the first time more of the world's people (4 billion) lived in cities than in the countryside.

Why cannot people whose ancestors existed in small self reliant communities continue to live and lead improved lives (with jobs, education, health care etc) in towns smaller than say 100,000?

Are mega cities of over 10 million (over 20 of them by 2015) like black holes sucking all life into them? Is it economic, political, scientific and/or some other magnetism causing this? For example in London - my dad's home for 40 years - is it possible that 1 million or even 2 million new jobs are being created in under 10 years? Will - like in New Orleans - half a million new homes have to be built on Thames flood plains? This sucks - literally! It sucks the ground water from the clay on which London is built, threatening everyone with inundation.

Yet elsewhere in Britain there are many locations with surplus cheap
houses.

Why, even in London, are there such low paid jobs that only immigrants (who send savings home to Manila or Katowice) will take them?

Why is the oldie "free" market not creating higher paid jobs in London and the rest of UK which we UK citizens would rush to (internally migrate)? We don't wish to remain benefit taking losers! Or do we?!
It seems most UK oldies have given up on wealth creation, so for us to survive we need to shift power our way. Higher education is supposed to be our training for wealth creation in new 21st C firms. Yet we're stuck with our debts, in permanently low paid jobs looking after wealthy oldies, sheep, parents, children or serving their restaurant dinners.
SMALL is POWERFUL
Two authors who analysed the success of small states (or city states) are Jane Jacobs and Donald Livingstone (Professor of Philosophy, Emory University, Georgia) [1].

I quote Livingstone:
"There is more economic freedom in small states because they must trade to survive and thus must allow fewer regulations on the economy. Large states contain a greater diversity of skills, labour and resources, and thus they can afford to impose onerous regulations that benefit special-interest groups at the expense of others. As the population of a city increases arithmetically, space required increases geometrically. Problems of transportation, water, sanitation, crime, poverty and corruption, which were easily handled on a human scale, increase dramatically as the population of a city moves into the millions. Expensive, privileged bureaucracies are erected. Assets become lightly - but labour heavily - taxed. Corruption grows."
The history of small states such as Athens and Florence and today's Singapore and Switzerland indicate that large scale political integration is needed neither for economic or cultural success. With respect to defence, federations of tribes or city states have defeated empires. Afghanistan is tribal yet will defeat US efforts to centralize the state in Kabul. It will defeat the US militarily despite NATO help and Russia staying aloof, despite 20 years ago being betrayed by US support for the Taliban.

In this 21st century, bad political choices in Westminster have made ministerial Whitehall - and the financial City and Canary Wharf - sitting ducks for terrorists. A giant city is best called a megalopolis, a monster which consumes resources (especially precious "free" time - spent in travel), leaving most citizens alienated and separated from the cultural luxuries that are a reason for the polity in the first place.

Inevitably "high culture" becomes state funded and debased.

Megacities are not inevitable. Contrary to the opinions and bogus statistics of London-centric oldie economists, London is not subsidizing the north or Scotland. (see LONDON).

Bad-economist tax policies suck wealth from outside into London, a process analysed since Rome's egocentricity destroyed the state 2000 years ago. You can read about this within the free on-line book "Land Grabs" in chapter 1, ROME (see Land Grabs).

The larger the city, the greater the number of politicians and officials chasing their own special interests. At first large cities prosper due to increased trade, but inevitably the political establishment will initiate restrictive practices like zoning and tax laws that benefit only their own kind. In particular the establishment seeks to control all the prime residential and commercial districts of the city.

The larger the city, the greater the establishment's aim of establishing prime geographic control with the benefit of special privileges. Outside these areas of opulence live the excluded citizenry distinguished by ordinary dress instead of togas/suits. These hordes of ordinary citizens must live wretched lives, yet by their millions of hourly endeavours, make life easy and cheap for the privileged.
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MEGACITY MIRAGE


To be young without dreams is to be without a future.

You can't choose your parents. Only rarely can you choose where your parents live. You might have a devoted mother, but with a failed lifestyle. You watch her painting day after day in a dreary wet Welsh valley and wish you were with your mates in a London TV show.

An African kid Tariq in Dodoma in Tanzania learns about London from free English books donated by a missionary society. Being bright by twelve, he is working for an uncle five hundred miles away in Darussalam. There he stays until one night he tries out his English on a group of English gap year students. They will be in Dar for weeks and he offers to show them around. Tariq, Bill and Bob, Betty and Liz share their dreams.

Cities and megacities are like economic magnets to us. Oldies complain and tell you they are like economic black holes that suck out your vitality.


But we want to live the dream - the megacity mirage beckons.

However, in reality people coming to big cities face huge problems - none greater than higher cost of living - which forces them to move to poor districts (even slums), with prospects of only low-paid (even no) jobs. Today one billion of more than 4 billion people living in the World's urban areas live in slums, 90% of them in developing countries. These people lack any access to proper medical services and higher education, putting themselves and their children in far more difficult positions than they started.

Megacity natives see migrants as inferiors: unsophisticated, stupid, dirty, sad. They are ghettoised and discriminated against. Megacities end up having lots of unpaid migrants, dust, dirt, overcrowded slums and street children. Especially this is applied to low-skilled migrants, who came to a big city with the hope of better lives.

Migrants are seen as a threat to many native citi-zens, especially the lower-skilled. They are The Other. Their diversity, including ethnic and racial variety, brings huge changes in culture, which can affect social cohesion in different ways. Fear causes each group to crowd together for mutual protection: diverse groups living separately can lead to social conflict.

Migrants also strengthen competition in the labour market, especially for lower skilled jobs. This brings new pressures on native citizens especially in times of economic crises of 2008-2010 with its high rates of unemployment.

Climate change is connected to the rise of megacities around the globe. Climate is expected to increasingly shape and be shaped by cities, most of which tend to be in low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to sea-level rise. Power demands for air conditioning in large buildings, commuter travel, transport of food inwards and manufactured products outwards, across vast sprawling congested suburbs, adds to greenhouse gas emissions. The "heat" effect of all this carbon-consuming activity can raise temperature in a city by 3-6 degrees.
This presents an enormous challenge to megacity governments. Investment in public infrastructure such as transport, water supply and waste disposal, unless planned for strategically and managed competently, becomes excessively burdensome for residents and entrepreneurs.
It is important that the state becomes responsible for the situation as a whole, ensuring the necessary land is allocated for this infrastructure, as well as houses, workshops markets and factories - creating conditions for a "stable world".
Of course all the while as mega-cities grow, one thing is certain: Rents and land values steadily rise, far above those of the rural areas which migrant mega-city dwellers left behind. Like in toga wearing Rome, rich citizens will pass laws which allow them to confiscate this wealth. Eventually like ROME every megacity will self destruct.

Either from outside forces or internal such as epidemics. The only chance for megacities is a policy to put a big share of the property wealth into infrastructure. Where this happens (all too rarely but Hong Kong and Singapore are examples) it can be said of the mega-city: "the future works" By their measure of success, London is already a failing mega city.
In 1975 a typical central London home owner paid annual levies into the Council pot equal to about 3-5% of home value. By 2005 the percentage had shrunk to 0.3-0.5%. This makes oldie London home owners amongst the most stingy, selfish, smug and greedy mortals on the planet. Their propaganda includes the pretence that their stupendous wealth creating efforts are being creamed off to subsidize the idle northerners and Scots!!!
Yet the truth is that unlike the Chinese in Singapore and Hong Kong - where about a third of Government revenue is from land values - Londoners will not even reinvest their own hoard of property wealth in London's tubes, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure to keep the city on the rails.
Those millions of Londoners who serve the property-endowed suffer long, costly often 2-hour bus and tube journeys to work, lousy schools and flats in their areas and are 10 times more likely to be crime and ill health victims than those who live in well connected and policed areas. Of course the property endowed of London rarely make a trip to see how and where their cleaners, waiters and other workers live, except by car when exiting London for their second homes where over a gin and tonic they complain of endless traffic jams being mainly caused by buses.