Cities - work better!

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Benjamin Barber, Walt Whitman Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Rutgers University,  said in an interview with YES! Magazine that municipal leaders can’t afford to be ideologues. “Their job is to pick up the garbage, to assure fire and safety services, and to ensure that police and teachers do their jobs.”

This pragmatism requires civility. “Mayors simply can’t afford to trade in bigotry,” he said. “A businessman like [former New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg has to deal with the unions, and a progressive like [current New York Mayor Bill] de Blasio has to deal with business and developers.”

Perhaps this focus on getting work done explains why nearly two-thirds of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center have a favorable view of their local government at a time when just 28 percent approve of the federal government.

Along with pragmatism, cities have the advantage of multiculturalism and the innovative spark that goes with it, Barber says. “Cities are points of intersection, communication, sharing, and travel,” he said. “And cities have always—to paraphrase Whitman—contained multitudes.”

Nations, on the other hand, are a more recent idea, more oriented around independence than interdependence, and more competitive. “The last 400 years of nation-states ruling the world has gone very badly, with war, genocide, rivalry, and very little social justice as a consequence.

Cities are solving problems while nation-states are failing. So it’s time to put cities in charge. Of the whole world.