In prepping for some of the posts over the last week or so, I came across this map of South Africa, showing the average taxable income level by province:

Thanks to SARS and the National Treasury 2014 Tax Statistics
Thanks to SARS and the National Treasury 2014 Tax Statistics

Looking at this kind of thing, you notice just how much Gauteng (read: “Johannesburg”) contributes to the fiscus.

And then I found this, after which the above map made a lot more sense:

Thanks Worldmapper
Thanks Worldmapper has a team of cartographers that have spent a stack of time using population census data to build country-specific maps showing the distribution of population within a country’s borders. And I found myself thinking about urbanisation, and how it’s changing the way that we do things.

It also made me think about an interview that I listened to some time ago (on the Freakonomics podcast) with Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. At the time, I remember thinking how bizarre it was that Boris was considered a real candidate for Prime Minister of the UK. He was “just” the mayor of London (although as of 2015, he is now an MP again). It just seemed like too rapid a promotion. Almost as though you shouldn’t be going from running a city to running a country, because he wasn’t even a member of parliament, and that’s too big a leap. Or something.

But then he started talking about global mayors, and the influence that their cities have, and the role that they play in them. And I changed my mind.

Some City Numbers, according to McKinsey in 2014

  • As of 2010, half the world’s population lives in cities.
  • Cities account for 80% of the world’s GDP.
  • According to the UN, by 2020, two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities.
  • Already, the top 100 cities accounted for 38% of global GDP in 2007.

Also, this astonishing line:

In 2025, [the McKinsey Global Institute] reckons that the top 600 cities will have nearly 60% of global GDP and 25% of the world’s population. These same 600 cities already have 1.5 billion people who produce well over half of global GDP.

In many ways, the political structure of the future won’t be national – it’ll be municipal.

So going back to Boris:

population cartogram united kingdom

Well of course he could be Prime Minister. He’s already running the “country” of London.

Some more examples:

population cartogram canada population cartogram zambia population cartogram russia population cartogram india france population cartogram china population cartogram USA mainland

Basically, we’re seeing the rise of new City-States. Right now, they’re locked into Federations – but I wonder how long it will be before the biggest differences will no longer be between nations, but within them?

Thanks Wikipedia
Thanks Wikipedia

Just a thought.

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at Or both.