Smart Thoughts

Whenever I remember to read Good magazine, I’m always happy that I found my way there. Today’s foraging found two interesting, intelligent stories on the blogs.

First, a reflection on the role of cities in America’s economic landscape:

Most Americans simply don’t understand the role that cities play in their own economic well-being. Citified swells make for satisfying whipping. In fact, Americans often view themselves as small-town creatures even when they’re not. In a survey commissioned by the Brookings Institution, a D.C.-based public policy think-tank, 50% of respondents believed they lived in a metropolitan area; 82% of them, however, actually did since, based on commuting patterns, a metro area encapsulates both a city center and the surrounding counties that depend on it.

Let’s clear the air about what cities do for our economy: Brookings recently found that America’s 100 biggest metro areas hold 65 percent of our population, while accounting for 76 percent of knowledge-economy jobs (positions in anything from architecture to electrical engineering), 78 percent of all patents, 75 percent of graduate degree holders, 81 percent of R&D employment, and 94 percent all venture funding. In short, cities churn out the innovations that produce growth.

Also found, thoughts about the press treats moral issues:

In looking at over 500 editorials and opinion articles written from August to October of 2002—a time bookended by Bush’s first gee-I’m-feeling-invade-y announcement and Congress’ sure-do-whatever-you-want vote—Porpora and Nikolaev found that journalists appeared to consistently diminish legal and moral concerns, while focusing on the so-called “prudential” (or practical) aspects of the proposed war. So mentions of weapons of mass destruction, potential terrorist threats, and Saddam Hussein’s human rights record far outnumbered questions regarding whether or not we had the actual moral right to enter Iraq.

Prudential discourse, by its nature, is self-centered. Prudentially, your humble columnist may have sound reasons for locking up a naughty mailman in the basement for one of grandma’s homemade exorcisms. Legally and morally, justifications for going postal in this particular fashion are harder to make. But the prudential viewpoint is only focused on means and ends, and it’s very utilitarian—i.e., what’s in it for me (or, in this case, America).

Good stuff, indeed.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.