Conversations in City Building

by Glen

My friend, Bharat Punjabi, a Visiting Doctrinal Fellow specializing in the field of political economy, sent me some information about a group called “Rethinking Economics.”  Based in Britain, they are a student-based movement determined to start a new conversation.  We’ll be talking about them more in a future post.  I love their set of three conclusions:

  • We are thirsty for new ways of thinking.  The economics we have been studying does not fit the economy we are living in.
  • We need to ask new questions to get new answers, and we need a greater diversity of ideas in economics.
  • We deserve new explanations and new responses to the economic, environmental, and social crises evolving on our planet.

You’ve got to love this stuff – the language, the chutzpah, the audacity, the dream.

Just this past weekend another group of rising thinkers and activists gathered in London, Ontario, and if you would have asked them, it’s likely they would have held out a set of aspirations close to those listed above.  Called “PreX,” the day-long event was hosted and organized by Emerging Leaders.  Their goal was simple: how to we create an energized city that brings in new dynamics while respecting the successes of the past.  You can find out more about it by watching the brief video above.

I used social media a lot while there, but at one point I tweeted: “Personally, I feel this is one of the most vital meetings I have participated with in London.  It gives me hope – and it’s coming.”  It was clear to me that what was happening was not just the rising presence of the next group of leaders, but the fact that institutional players were there to help open doors to a new kind of future that our city desperately needs.

Former head of Canada’s Privy Council, Alex Himelfarb, was there and opened the event with some interesting news: across the economic spectrum, people of various persuasions are requesting a new discussion on the subject of taxes.  What had once been a term banished to some kind of economic archipelago, a new consensus is emerging on the requirement for prudent public investments that comes with taxes.  It wasn’t so much a revelation as it was a kind of collective release.  Suddenly, through Himelfarb’s timely book, Tax Is Not A Four Letter Word, it’s permissible to talk about the public space and citizen/corporate investments again.  Himelfarb, with all his experience, opened the door to a subject those present at the conference had been wanting to talk about openly for a long time. Check out his words in the video.

Regardless of where our community heads in the future, without public investment we will never get there.  So, yes, I felt it was one of the most fundamental meetings I have ever had the privilege of attending.  Suddenly everything is on the table, and just as suddenly a new future is emerging.