This week’s New York is dedicated to the question that’s been weighing on all of us since 1776, “Which is better, New York or London?” First off, we just want to say that this is one of the main reasons sovereignty shouldn’t be challenged, because it creates inferiority complexes like the one being played out right now, and secondly, that I’m sorry to that guy I hit with my white van back in January. Anyway, besides who is more “real-estate obsessed” (us), who’s got “freakier fashion” (them) and who has better sex (the Japanese), New York would like to know if we’re “no longer the world’s financial capital,” though it seems to have already answered yes, as inhabitants of the world’s most arrogant cities are wont to do.
One of the reasons we’re apparently being (or already have been) eclipsed Brits of the City is that our cockiness is so inflated that it blinds us from addressing our real handicap, which is that we’ve failed to master fourth grade geography:
New Yorkers often imagine their city, like the famous New Yorker cover, at the center of the world. But it isn’t—London is. Look at a map. America is on the left, Asia on the right, and in the middle is Europe.
Command of this information is something we feel confident in demanding of all first-year analysts at all of the top banks in NY, as it seems like something our competition across the pond is likely expecting of its bright young things. (Knowledge—it really is power! Which is why we refuse to let Carney read books—he’s uppity enough as it is).
Another one of our problems is that New York’s just too damn boring. Huw Jenkins, who worked in London until the late eighties, then Hong Kong and our fair city for seventeen years until returning the City finds that “[London] is a much more appealing place for a young international nomad to live. New York is a lot safer than it was but perhaps a bit less cutting-edge in terms of arts and food.” This point we actually must contend with, as just last week a homeless man exposed himself to us at one of the Starbucks on Wall Street—it doesn’t get much more cutting edge than that.
But speaking of being vanilla, would you believe it if we told you that one of the ways we can once again be the financial epicenter of the world would be to start thinking outside of the box a little more, in terms of how we kill people?
The modern City of London is certainly exotic. After the U.S. security crackdown following 9/11, billions of dollars in Middle Eastern oil money were transferred to London, and many Russian and eastern European billionaires also hold assets there. The fatal poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy, with polonium-210, in London in November showed that it is home to plenty of intrigue.
Then there’s the issue of the she-beast that is Sarbanes Oxley and the fact that she’s got her tentacles wrapped rather tightly around all U.S.-listed companies. There’s also her sister Eliot Spitzer, who stayed young by sucking the blood of local banks.
Finally, there’s the fact that, above all else, we don’t seem to give a baker’s fuck about all of this. “Americans as a culture are insular and essentially hold the point of view that the way we do things is the best. The U.S. market is deep enough and the country is big enough that, in many cases, they can go about their business without worrying…the U.S. has been complacent in allowing London to outflank it as a cosmopolitan city.”
But who cares about that—it doesn’t really matter if we’re the best, only if we perceive ourselves to be the best, and offer unmitigated smugness optimism like, “Look out of the window,” the chairman of one investment bank says dismissively. “There is money everywhere.” And if that doesn’t work, we can always fall back on the fact that New York has deemed London more like to be attacked by terrorists. The world’s financial center by default is still the world’s financial center.
Are We No Longer the World’s Financial Capital? [NYM]