Joel Kotkin of Foreign Policy waxes on about how suburbs, not cities, are the answer, because population alone doesn’t make a city World Class, especially when it’s marred with a complete lack of infrastructure and capital.
In short, he critiques the developing world’s contribution to urbanization by creating the world’s largest slums to date.
However, he’s only half right. Yes, Jakarta is no New York, but neither is Zurich.
Kotkin doesn’t realize that it is the heterogeneity that fosters the cultural zeitgeist of the Ur-city. Sure, you can have little economic powerhouses like western Europe, but they’re really just homogeneous suburbs of a different sort: Pushing the poor out of your jurisdiction doesn’t make your city better. It just increases class segregation – and that’s all suburbs are, segregated communities.
Yeah, it ain’t just population, but it ain’t just money either: Else-wise Tokyo would be on top, not New York. What’s holding the likes of Tokyo or Shanghai back aren’t that they’re too dense or that their respective countries are over-urbanizing, but that they’re monoliths demographically.