Business Week just published a list ranking the best cities in the world. These lists tend to be gimmicks, and the methodologies arbitrary, but I still thought it was interesting that seven of the ten "Best Places" to live in the world are within a 400-or-so mile radius in Central Europe. They are: Vienna; Berne, Zurich, and Geneva; and Dusseldorf, Munich, and Frankfurt:
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Drive a little further, and you'll arrive in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, which are also in the top 15. At least two cities each in Canada, Australia and New Zealand appear in the top 20.
American cities do not fare well. Honolulu and San Francisco are the highest ranked, coming in at 29 and 30 respectively. American cities are marked by inequality and sometimes seem to resemble cities in the developing world more than they do cities in the developed world. Los Angeles is a chaotic megacity more in the mold of Sao Paulo or Mexico City than of any city in Europe; if LA were a nation, its Gini coefficient would be closest to Malaysia and Venezuela; New York City's Gini coefficient is comparable to those of Brazil and South Africa, among others. Or as Andres Duany wrote of another American city: New Orleans is "not among the most haphazard, poorest, or misgoverned American cities, but rather the most organized, wealthiest, cleanest, and competently governed of the Caribbean cities."
Even metropolitan areas like Denver and the Twin Cities do not begin to approach the income equality prevalent in Western Europe.
The cities were ranked according to a methodology devised by Mercer Consulting. For reasons that aren't totally clear, Mercer designates "New York as the base city with an index score of 100."