Why Are You Running?

One of the aspects of the contemporary political world that I have found fascinating is the attempt by a great many nations to move their capital cities. This is not exactly a new phenomenon, after all. The idea of creating planned capitals for areas is by no means a new one. In American history, one finds the creation of Washington DC, that of state capitals like Tallahassee and Harrisburg, and other such cities as means of finding relatively central locations (at least initially) for capitals. In ancient history, one finds the building of repeated new capitals to be a phenomenon that was common, for example, in the Egyptian and Assyrian empires over the course of their histories.

While it is not always clear what sort of motives prompted some of the changes of capitals in ancient times, those of modern nations are more clear. By and large, what we have seen over the past few decades is a flight of capital cities from large and often overcrowded cities to new virgin sites that offer more space and far less overcrowding, at considerable expense. So it is that Egypt is building a new planned capital outside of Cairo in the Eastern Desert, but close enough to Cairo, at least to be in the area. So it is that Myanmar built a new planned capital that is largely barren to the north of vulnerable Yangon. And so it is that Indonesia is looking to abandon crowded and vulnerable Jakarta in search of a planned capital in remote Borneo. These do not exhaust the various relocations that have taken place in recent years or are taking place currently, but they are rather emblematic of trends involving the moving of capitals from crowded cities in vulnerable locations to locations that are less vulnerable to natural and political disasters.

Unfortunately, such efforts seem to be doomed to fail. The reason why many capitals are terribly overcrowded with people is because capitals are where the power is. If you seek to centralize power, people will go to where that power is centralized who seek power. People who want things to be done that require the support of those in government will go to capitals. Those who want to work in government will go to capitals. When these things happen, capitals become overcrowded. To move those capitals to another place simply means that the courtiers and lobbyists and hangers on and would-be bureaucrats and all of that assorted riff-raff, along with their families as well, will eventually find themselves to those capitals, and they will once again be overcrowded places vulnerable to political disagreement. The only people left behind in the old capitals are those who are too poor to move to the new capital, or those who have become attached to the place and not to the power that was once wielded there. And, to be fair, those are people whose presence is more to be enjoyed than those who will travel to wherever power is held because they want to share in it themselves.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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