Urban imperative:
Cities recruit.  Thriving cities always have people moving in.  In any other context it would be immediately obvious that this is a law of nature.  That which always happens must happen.  Even lacking a mechanism, we must infer a law that compels a given outcome in a given situation. 

A law begs for a mechanism.  Bode’s Law of the distance of planets from the sun is an empirical observation for which no mechanism has yet emerged beyond a bit of hand waving and the inference of resonances between orbits and something about a limited number of degrees of freedom I cannot fathom.  Yet it is a law or at least a rule.  It does not work for Neptune or Pluto.  It does predict a planet at the position of the asteroid belt.  The multiple moons of large planets tend to be in an orderly sequence but not to follow Bode’s Law exactly.  A single star has been observed that has enough known planets to suggest their distribution may be regular.  As more known extra-solar planets accumulate, we shall see if Bode’s Law or a more general rule crops up again.  The point is that these observations have been discussed.  Of the fact that cities must recruit, there has been little discussion. 

Yet that one fact is just about a stand alone proof of our basic theory.  There may be a formal definition of “city,” but generally it means a large group of people living in a crowded area with buildings, streets, freedom of the bulk of the people to move around among those buildings and the presence of commerce.  In short, a city is a big bunch of people.  So the observation is that any big bunch of people must recruit.  The corollary is that any big bunch of people cannot in the long run have enough babies for survival.  And the only conceivable mechanism that would apply everywhere must be genetic.

Cities must recruit.  In response to this imperative, cities have done remarkable things.  In order to recruit the best talent, it is necessary to appeal to lofty motivation.  So cities have come up with concepts like the Rights of Man, Patriotism, Humanitarianism, Great Men, heroic architecture, Great Literature, Liberation of Women, so that “Man” becomes “Humans” and “Men” becomes “People.”  The capital letters become oppressive, but make no mistake.  These concepts are treasures.  Together with science and technology, they are the treasures of civilization herself.  For time out of mind, they have lured high minded and capable people out of tiny villages and into the rich mix of urban life.  These were won at terrible cost.  On average and unwittingly, the people who were drawn to the high ideals and possibilities of civilization sacrificed their own offspring.  Personal ambition led them into an environment where those offspring would not be able to replace themselves completely in further generations.  Treasures won at such cost should not be risked as we are risking them now in creating a global city. (Of course cities do terrible things, too.  I am sure you have a favorite list of urban sins.) 

On the other hand, while spreading propaganda about the glories to be won in town, cities have tended to sneer at those who remained in the villages.  Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan in 1651 described the life of a person in the absence of a centralized government as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”  Many centuries earlier Plato had quoted Socrates as saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  These were great men.  At the time they lived, the bulk of humans had little interaction with a central government or the leisure to ponder, “What is it all about?”  Slamming them like that seems downright boorish.  O, I’m sorry.  “Boor” means “farmer,” and the Dutch would pronounce it “bore.”  Other words for a small farmer are churl, lout, clown, bumpkin, clodhopper, hick, yokel and rube.  You gather the flavor I trust.  That is pure hate mail.  That is vindictive propaganda. 

The voice of urban life has not always spoken with that voice.  Jean Jacques Rousseau, who I take to be the first anti-itellectual took the position that there was no moral purpose to be served by the classics.  Everyone is supposed to have the instict to know exaclty what is right and wrong.  That instinct gets distorted by exposure to civilization.  Therefore the unspoiled independed is the true moral standard of the world, the Noble Savage.  His ideas led in part to the Terror of the French Revolution.  Yes, I think he was being silly when be was not being dangerous, but at least he didn’t come down hard on people in rural life.

There are a number of effective ways to form an opinion.  One can join the conversation of civilization as a Great Thinker, and without irony there have been great thinkers.  One can simply believe what everyone else believes, which may be the safest approach on average.  Or one can look at the evidence.  The willingness to do so, rare as it is, is one of our treasures.

During the 20th century people began actually looking at life in the “natural state.”  They found a group of authentic hunter gatherers, living for all the world as if the last eight millennia had never happened.  I believe it was in the western Amazon basin.  Do not hold me to the numbers, but I believe infant mortality was high.  Maybe fifteen percent did not make it to adolescence.  Teenagers have a lot of survival value everywhere.  But losses to about age 55 were still high.  Maybe another ten percent of the people lost.  From that point on, their survival rate was just as good as the survival rate of their age mates in a rich modern society with the best possible health care.  So the “short” pronouncement of Hobbes did not indeed pan out.  Incidentally, it turned out that just about all of the older people had back trouble. 

I am quite willing to accept that life under such circumstances might seem tedious in the extreme.  But a city is no sure cure for boredom.  I once knew a young man from Tennessee, who was probably the best photographer I ever met.  His photographs of life in Appalachia were a bit dark but carried a sense of the sturdiness and resolve of people who were not rich.  There was one unforgettable print he showed a few of us.  It was of a healthy looking middle aged woman sitting at the window of her modest apartment in what had to be a city or a large town.  One of the young women who saw it later told me that any woman would find that picture terrifying.  She looked bored and lonely and looked like she had been there a long time and would stay there a long time.

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By the way, I recently was venting my distaste the Sigmund Freud and how he got accepted at a Great Thinker in an age where science was well established even without a shred of evidence that his theories and treatments were of any value.  I now read (In Brief, Charles O. Choi, Freudian Vindication, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 299 no. 6. December 2008 page 44 referring to October 1 Journal of the American Medical Association) that there might be something to it.