Creative destruction, outer coverings and other meanings

The Finnish economy isn’t doing so great (either). But where could one find an economy that WAS doing great? It’s bad news whichever way you look, and plenty of people have already become accustomed to calling what we now have for economic policy “zombie capitalism” or “zombie neoliberalism“, as in, something that should by all accounts and rational assessments have died long ago and given way to something more viable, but that instead persists (scarily) in rising from  the brink of death.

It’s not just the Greeks and europeans-in-general who are in trouble, the cuts have reached Finland. Investment in new housing in the Helsinki area is to be severely cut back in efforts to balance the city’s ailing budget. Jussi Pajunen (of the Kokoomus a.k.a. Coalition a.k.a. conservative party) and his city government announced that they’ve run out of funds to build the massive amounts of new homes that they have been trumpeting since the Port of Helsinki was moved from commercially interesting city-centre sites to Vuosaari.

We hope that in yeras to come, investing in the city will resume, since Helsinki’s charm has a lot to do with the way it’s taken care of, in the way people have invested in it and left a layer-cake of wonderful buildings and places for us to enjoy.

The word “investment”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is not primarily about putting money down up-front in expectation of returns or benefits at a later date. It’s about dressing someone or about “an outer covering, an envelope, a coating”! Then there’s this definition: “The surrounding or hemming in of a town or fort by a hostile force so as to cut off all communication with the outside; beleaguerment; blockade.”

But finally we get this: “The conversion of money or circulating capital into some species of property from which an income or profit is expected to be derived in the ordinary course of trade or business. (Distinguished from speculation, in which the object is the chance of reaping a rapid advantage by a sudden rise in the market price of something which is bought merely in order to be held till it can be thus advantageously sold again.)

We here at JHJ are not economists, but we are interested in how our shared household (the city) manages its wealth. We are beginning to get interested in what, if anything, distinguishes the way you run a city from the way you run a company. Like, do cities really compete the way the gurus say they do? What happens when a city goes bankrupt? What happens to dead cities or dead shopping malls …? What will happen to Helsinki if public investment falls massively?

For now, rumour has it that the controversial renewal of Helsinki’s Senate Square area is going ahead but with far less “investment” going in which translates, we gather, into less of the creative destruction that urban development has been about. So, could one “invest” by not innovating?

By the way, we learn from Arkkivahti that the Senate Square’s public role (which has really energised this blog!)  is, for once, being staunchly defended by the City (and her source is The Usual). It just refused permission to use the square for a ticketed concert. Well done!


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