A shift in power to cities is the legacy of the depression. And it’s already starting to happen in the US. Why? 90% of educated workers, advanced industry jobs and patent creation are located in cities. And cities are ‘in tune’ with how economies and society function today – through networks of government, industry, universities, civic leaders, community organisers and social entrepreneurs. So here’s the big idea – the nation state will do much less in the future, just focusing on a small number of national priorities. Cities will do the rest. The interesting question is how this division will play out? Do States get to keep defence? What about a common social safety net? Who gets responsibility for infrastructure? Or education?
A common safety net requires a common solidarity across the nation, and a big bureaucracy of paying in and paying out. It may be this shifts to the local level – though parity across the nation would go out the window as a consequence. And what about infrastructure that connects cities? Will the self-interest of cities mean they broker this between themselves?
Whichever way, it does appear that local authorities are getting the picture – with the LGA recently calling for a mass scrapping of government departments and more spending power to be delegated. Unsurprisngly not greeted with enormous enthusiasm at central government, but the arguments are starting to be made more consistently now.