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If Only Guardian Writers Understood Economics

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Arwa Mahdari tells us – with that perky little elfin grin – that it don’t matter if all the rich folk leave New York. We’ll still be culturally rich and diverse and havin’ a great time!

To which the correct answer is:

Late medieval Rome, as drawn by Piranesi – the sheep grazing in the ruins of the mansions – is what happens when the rich leave town. There ain’t no town to be culturally vibrant and diverse in.

The outpourings of rich guys who seem to think New York should function as their personal amusement park have been accompanied by a steady stream of articles predicting the end of the city as we know it. Now that it is clear we can work anywhere, why would you live in a dirty, expensive city?

But, of course, people don’t come to cities for jobs alone; people come to places such as New York and London to be around other people. They come for the addictive energy that you get only in places where millions of dreams are crammed together. And many of us – misfits and minorities – stay in cities because they are the only places we feel we can be ourselves. I always think it is funny when people talk about cities being dangerous: as a queer, mixed-race woman, New York is probably where I feel safest.

It would be dishonest to say that big cities are always wonderful places to be at present. It would be dishonest to say I have not walked past boarded-up shops and piles of trash and had moments of gloom and uncertainty about the future of New York and my place in it. Ultimately, however, there is nowhere I would rather be. Plus, I am confident that cities won’t merely recover, but will be revitalised – become better and, hopefully, more affordable than ever. I don’t know what is going to happen next, but I can tell you that rumours of the city’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Cities are coming back from this. And guess what? The rich will come back, too. After they wait for everyone else to rebuild things.

All of that is entirely lovely, of course it is. But here’s the thing about a progressive taxation system. It’s those rich paying for everything.

“The top 1 percent of earners who currently account for almost 40 percent of state tax revenues are highly mobile,” the Partnership said in a report that includes recommendations on how to recover from the COVID-19 recession.

Sure, that’s the State but NYC’s tax revenues are even more inverted pyramid given their own local income tax etc.

The argument about the rich leaving isn’t that the rich make the place, it’s that they pay for it. And who you gonna tax if those rich folk do leave? Medieval Rome did decline to perhaps 30,000 resident after all…..

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5 COMMENTS

    • Apologies. Just noticed. What I meant to say was ‘He only has to look 614 miles due west of New York to see what what the vibrant and diverse do to a city when the rich leave’.

  1. The Septics do so love to make verbs out of nouns.
    Here’s one: “Detroitification”.

    50 years ago, Heinlein was writing about “Abandoned Areas”. I thought the idea crazy. Hah. Yet again, he was far-seeing.

    And if Atlas Shrugged is any guide, pretty soon there will be laws preventing people moving or leaving these dead cities.

  2. That the self-satisfied twits don’t consider who really pays for their ambiance is remarkable. Spending all one’s time navel-gazing about being queer and mixed race must divert any thinking about how the world actually works. Probably picked this up at some expensive university.

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