Move Wall Street to San Francisco
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 1/26/09
Legendary investor and commodities guru Jim Rogers says if you speak Chinese, go to China. He sees little hope for the Euro in the next 20 years.
That leaves us, here in the northeast, with a question: Which way should we head, East or West?
We have already answered that question. New York’s two important newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have each spawned a love child, indicating where their natural affections lie. The New York Times’ child is in Paris, The Herald Tribune. The Wall Street Journal’s is in Hong Kong, The Asian Wall Street Journal.
This week The Wall Street Journal has been running a series on the death of Wall Street. Wall Street should take this opportunity to pack up its few remaining belongings, saddle the bull and head to the Pacific shore where the action and passion in the next century will be. Leave New York to the quiet life of subsidy and brie and the nihilistic deconstructionist wanderings of the Europeanists. New York will never change. It is a set piece. It will always be a city that looks out only in one direction; backward, across the Atlantic.
Possibly it is impossible to look two ways at once.
Multiculturalism or “multi-centeredness”, and diversity, as it is practiced in the university nowadays, is an illusion as well. In diversity, the academy seeks and finds one of every race, creed and tribal origin from every possible global niche; so long as they all write and behave exactly as if they were all brought up tastefully in the Upper East Side. Like Pete Seeger’s little boxes; a red one, a blue one, a green one and a yellow one, they all come out the same. Anything actually other is a threat to the dogma.
Each time there has been a major financial disaster like the one we are experiencing now, the country morphed into a full change of culture. I believe we will this time as well. It is perhaps only a natural and organic turning of events. My grandparents came from Ireland to work in the factories of southern Massachusetts 100 years ago. The factories emptied out during the Great Depression. When I was a child the Depression had ended but the mills were still empty. The work had headed south and west and so did some of the more forward-looking workers. Others found different work. The empty factories of Fall River – beautiful visions of stone and glass – were turned into artist lofts, studio apartments and malls.
But what a century of action and passion it was. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution millions came across the Atlantic to New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The vast wealth that rose until the Second World War came from that collective regional experience and focused on New York City. But Roosevelt nostalgicos aside, that period is dead and it has been dead for decades.
We Americans are not a benign culture; quiet, contented and seeking the pension like Europeans. We are vital, restless and newborn. We live in a vast unexplored frontier and the best among us have always headed west.
But the East defaults to the old while the West opens to the new. And different cultural attitudes and economic patterns have resulted over the decades and centuries. As in any family, the old inhibit and even shackle the new and the new are burdened by the attitudes and orthodoxies of the old. Mitt Romney first stated this clearly at the Republican Convention: We are entering a phase of conflicting political attitudes, he said, correctly calling it East vs. West.
The country today is indeed experiencing a change in temperament. We will experience cycles of vast wealth again, but they will not funnel through New York City as they did between the early 1800s and 2008. They will fall on America’s Pacific shores where trade and commerce to and from the East in the billions and trillions will land in the century ahead, to build these places to greatness just as wealth built New York City in the early 1800s.
This time the wealth of nations will travel across the Pacific and find port-of-entry in coastal ports in southern California and points north in places like San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.
We today are at the quiet of a sea change. The sea is flat. Now is the time to pull up anchor. Wall Street’s financiers should lead the way, pull up stakes entirely from Manhattan and fly to the Pacific Coast. The forward looking in the entertainment industry did so long ago when they moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, leaving behind the bookish and the timid. Wall Street should follow suit today.