New York on the Precipice
Modern Washington, with its vast powers and giant bureaucracies, was created in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression that followed. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal brought an end to New York City’s reign as the nation’s unofficial capital and gave Washington pride of place, which it has held ever since. FDR’s “brain trust” of intellectuals and academics quickly superseded the heavily starched class of bankers and stockbrokers who seemed to have brought the country and the world to the brink of permanent ruin.
That changed somewhat over the quarter-century that concluded with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Once again, bankers and stockbrokers came to occupy the high ground in American culture, while the standing of Washington policy wonks receded. The Giuliani-led recovery of New York and the city’s grace under fire after September 11 gave the city an unprecedented glow in the eyes of its countrymen. New York worked.
About the Author
Fred Siegel is a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.