Money, cities and greed!


Thomas Cook, the 180-year-old British travel group, recently ceased operations astounding the global market. Some have interpreted what happened as the result of not being prepared for the new and changing reality of the tourism industry and the latest technical developments, while others view the company’s collapse as a result of unlimited greed and capitalist savagery.

In the 1970s, Harvard Business School classrooms were called “noon darkness” because some were held in the basement at lunchtime and with very little attendance. In the 1990s, the situation changed as investment banks turned into the promised economic paradise. However, this was followed by financial meltdowns, scandals, abuses and crimes all of which involved a certain amount of greed and fraud.

Modern history in the business world in the West can be divided into three main epochs, the first from 1930 to 1970 being the era of the enterprise man when big companies were under the control of technocrats, who were influenced by the patronage of the state, and were concerned with job security, retirement and health insurance.

From the seventies onwards came the second era, that of the deal man, which was the product of deregulation, reduced legislation and the fragmentation of companies with new ownership that had a less sympathetic view of its social duties. There is now a third era of the communication man led by technology companies, as discussed by Nicholas Lemann in his book “Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream.”

There are also other reasons for the emergence of greed, such as the concentration of power in a particular city. This was historically the case in Venice, The Hague, Athens and Rome, and was later copied by London and Paris, as economic and political power was centralized in one place. In the same way Cairo was Egypt for the rest of the country and Damascus was the center of Syria.

The modern world is also aware of this and so in Germany the capital is Berlin while the commercial capital is Frankfurt and in the United States the capital is Washington, DC and the economic center is New York. In Italy the capital is Rome and the commercial center is Milan, while in Australia the capital is Canberra and the commercial center is Sydney.

I remembered this as I read three interesting books about the changing role of the city: the first “Why Cities Lose” by Jonathan Rodden, the second “Agent of Power” by Robert Carew and the third “City of Light” by Robert Christian. The three talk about the evolving role of the city under changing economic, political and social conditions. Greed is destructive and diversity is desirable in order to prevent the damage caused by the natural human instinct to amass as much money as possible.