Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities

Joel Kotkin contrasts New Orleans and Houston.

New Orleans was for much of its history the Queen City of the Gulf of Mexico, the cultural, economic, and commercial center of the Caribbean basin. Until well into the twentieth century, the city was an entrepreneurial cauldron, for blacks as well as whites, providing a greater degree of freedom and opportunity than virtually anywhere in the South.

Houston, in comparison, is a newcomer. In 1920, its population was barely a third of New Orleans’s, and its role in U.S. commerce was insubstantial. Since that time, the two cities have been heading in opposite directions. New Orleans has been living off its history, while Houston tore earnestly into relentless self-improvement. Its leaders dredged its harbor, improved drainage, and constructed state of the art industrial facilities that made it the great Gulf Coast port. Houston grabbed leadership of the world’s energy industry, and quietly built the most impressive medical complex in the world. With a gritty efficiency, the city transformed itself into a major global center.

In two essays, he describes the process by which cities succeed or fail.

HT Dan Weintraub

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