A press conference this morning about an Economist Intelligence Unit research report that ranked New York as the world’s most competitive city afforded Mayor Michael Bloomberg an opportunity to share his thoughts on the relative benefits of democracy versus communism. Though the report had New York in the top spot, it also showed Asian cities, specifically those in China, are experiencing far more rapid growth than cities in the West. In terms of economic strength, 12 of the top 20 cities on the EIU’s list were in China. A reporter asked Mayor Bloomberg if he thought the more centralized government allowed by China’s communist model helped its cities grow.
“The grass is always greener, there are other forms of government and they have their advantages and they have their disadvantages,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “I don’t think you can blame democracy for our problems. In the end, the public gets the government I suppose that they deserve. All things considered, I would rather have our democracy than other things.”
Though he conceded, autocratic government models may be more efficient, Mr. Bloomberg pointed out the downsides.
“If you want to play roughshod and go right through, don’t worry about the environmental impact, don’t worry about people getting hurt and that sort of thing, yeah, a dictatorship would work better,” he said.
Mayor Bloomberg cited the career of the mid-20th century developer Robert Moses, who created many of New York’s most important infrastructure projects, to further illustrate his point.
“Go back to the Robert Moses days. Today, you could not do most of the things that Robert Moses did, just couldn’t do it. You would never get through an enviromental impact statement and we have something called participatory democracy today in a way we did not have in the Robert Moses days. He decided to put a road through the Bronx and just send in the bulldozers. Can you imagine that happening today? No,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
In the end, Mayor Bloomberg said he prefers democracy even though it’s often messy.
“We’re still building, we’re still doing things. It’s annoying, it takes some time and that sort of thing, but I don’t see democracy as being a problem,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “I think you can argue, on the balance, it’s a strength.”
New York may not be growing as fast as Chinese cities, but for now, it still held the top spot on the EIU report. Mayor Bloomberg said high quality of life, strong public safety, good schools, vibrant cultural institutions and affordable housing all help New York attract “intellectual capital” that helps the city compete. In addition to the quality of New York’s workforce, he cited the economic and ethnic diversity as factors that help the city stay competitive in the global marketplace.
“We’re delighted that the Economist Intelligence Unit has confirmed what I think New Yorkers already know,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “If you want to start a business, or you want to create, test or market a new product, service or idea, this is the city where you have to be.”