Arnold Kling  

Paul Graham on Cities

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He writes,

In DC the message seems to be that the most important thing is who you know. You want to be an insider. In practice this seems to work much as in LA. There's an A List and you want to be on it or close to those who are. The only difference is how the A List is selected. And even that is not that different.

Exactly. LA and DC are both name-dropper cities. In LA, the names to drop are those of leaders in the movie or TV business. In DC, the names to drop are those of key figures in Congress or the Administration.

Read the whole thing. Pointer from Megan's guest-blogger (Tim Lee), who offers his own insight.

The cliche here is that the first thing St. Louisans ask when they meet each other is "what high school did you go to?" The answer tells them about the speaker's social class and often his religious background.

Again, having grown up in St. Louis, I would say that this is spot on. The St. Louis elite is a remarkably closed, self-satisified set. The Merle Kling model of politics seems to apply particularly well in St. Louis. The game is for insiders there.

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The author at Roth & Company, P.C. in a related article titled DES MOINES, WHAT ARE YOU TELLING ME? writes:
    Paul Graham ponders what "messages" cities send: Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around... [Tracked on May 29, 2008 11:12 AM]
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I don't understand the point of all this. What is the utility of knowing A listers? I can't name a single thing it would improve in my life-- even film premiers suck; I'd rather pay and do it simply.

liberty writes:

I had always thought that it was about "who you know" and figured that I would never make it because I am terrible at that sort of thing, and don't know anybody (or didn't). Plus I don't have the usual credentials. But so far, I have gotten all my jobs, and now including my job at a prestigious think tank, without knowing anybody. I still don't name drop because most names fall from my brain before they reach my tongue.

It turns out that other stuff matters, at least in DC.

Bob Knaus writes:

"DC is LA for ugly people."

I do not know the source, first saw it on Wonkette maybe 3 years ago? It is now ubiquitous in the blogosphere.

David Tufte writes:

New Orleans is similar to St. Louis, although Don Boudreaux would be a better source on this than me.

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