Perhaps most important, the city (London) has adopted a guiding creed that belongs neither to the political left nor the right: openness to change. “London has flourished not because it has sorted out its transport, or its city management, but because it opened its borders,” argues Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics. These days, there is nothing particularly British about London, bar its tolerance of chaos. It has embraced globalisation to become an international city, while Paris has remained unapologetically French.
Nearly 700,000 extra foreign-born people have made London their home since 1997, bringing the capital’s total foreign-born population to over 30%. Not counting illegals, Paris has fewer foreigners (about 14%) and, crucially, it is the more educated ones, whether from India or Poland, who head for London. (In total, Britain has attracted more skilled and professional immigrants: 35% of them have a college education, according to a recent OECD study, against just 18% in France.) The energetic renovation of newly fashionable districts such as Hoxton and Shoreditch is not only spurred by sky-high property prices elsewhere; it also owes something to the friction and renewal of London’s messy, cosmopolitan mix.
“Creative types don’t want bourgeois homogeneity,” says Mr. Travers. “They want edginess, and space to grow.”
In the fashion typical of my favored news magazine, all sides of the coin are duly considered, and I’m not in lock-step agreement with every aspect of the story.
Also, it is worth conceding that analogies are treacherous, especially when considering two major world cities on the one hand and places like New Albany on the other.
The last sentence in the preceding excerpt aptly summarizes the New Albany conundrum for me. Bourgeois homogeneity does not lend itself to creativity, which is what we need more than anything else, and in large measure this creativity must be pried from the cold, dead hand of bourgeois homogeneity, which has proven to be entirely unwilling or unable to offer solutions to problems beyond expressing eternal contempt for creativity and the necessary things that stem from it.
For me, there is nothing more indicative of bourgeois homogeneity than the recurring insistence that the sole value of a human being lies in his or her willingness to pay taxes.
Unfortunately, the past year’s public discourse in New Albany and in Indiana has been predicated on precisely this misreading of the social contract. New Albany’s bloc of Luddites will continue to babble phrases misappropriated from the likes of Ayn Rand, and I – quite possibly alone, which is fine by me – will continue to respond that the task of the local politician is to serve all the people, not just those whose participation in a civil society is defined solely by incessant threats to drown government in a bathtub if their narrow interests are not properly addressed.