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The return of the city-state

I’ve written before on how Toronto needs more autonomy and how I think there’s a huge opportunity to create a Third Coast Megaregion spanning from Chicago all the way to Quebec City—a region that could compete with the rising urban agglomerations of Asia and elsewhere.

The central theme around these arguments is that there’s clear evidence in support of a return to city-states.

Today, the 388 metro areas in the United States make up 84 percent of the nation’s population and an astonishing 91 percent of gross domestic product. The top 100 metro areas alone total two-thirds of the U.S. population and three-quarters of GDP.

And the reason why I say “return” is because, if you think about it, this is largely how the world used to operate before the shift towards nation-states. 

Ironically, given the nature of our high-tech, super-connected age, the future will look more and more like the city-states that ruled the world for millennia, from the days of Athens, Sparta, Carthage, and Rome, and that were last dominant 500 years ago, in such places as Venice and Florence, before the formation of most modern nation-states. Today, the shining example is Singapore, the city-state of 5.2 million people that, all by itself, has become an Asian tiger. The city-state of the future will not be sovereign, of course, but instead will act largely independently. “What we are experiencing is a metro-centered driving force of change. This is the center of the economic universe,” says James Brooks, program director of the National League of Cities. “The United States is not one national economy but a series of smaller metropolitan economies.”

If you’re interested in this topic, here’s the article by Michael Hirsh from which the above excerpts are taken. It’s called, “The Nations’s Future Depends on Its Cities, Not on Washington.”

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