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What is the capital of the world?

Which city deserves to be the Capital of the world?

If an alien asked you “What is the capital of your planet?”, what would you answer?

Off the top of your head, you would probably consider the following options:

Potential candidates

New York, Washington D.C., London, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, Brussels (capital of the EU), Rome, Bern, Stockholm, Moscow, Istanbul (a bridge between the Western and Muslim worlds), Mumbai , Delhi , Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Mexico city, Lagos, Cairo, Alexandria or even Miami (a city that brings Latin and North American cultures together).

What does google say?

Then you would probably google: “What is the capital of the world?” or “What is the capital of the planet Earth?”. The answer would be clear: London, in UK, is the world’s capital.

Historic perspective

In all likelihood, you would take history into consideration, and assume that in ancient times it was Babylon, Athens, Memphis in Ancient Egypt, Rome for the Roman Empire, or Karakorum (the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire), or even Toledo (the capital city of Spain at the height of its empire), Constantinople for the Ottoman empire, or Paris, the city of lights and, for many, the quintessential European city… or even Buenos Aires (which was a rich city in times gone by) and of course London for the British Empire.

Democratic perspective

If you care about fundamental rights and democratic values standards (e.g. fulfilment of human and civil rights, separation of powers, participation processes…), then you could sift through your results and would probably end up choosing an European or North-American city, depending on what you rank higher: social justice or economic freedom.

The language perspective

Needless to say, language is a key factor when deciding on this issue. The most languages represented in the city, the higher it ranks as the capital of the world. The official language of the city is also a key factor. As we saw on “10 most useful languages according to the World Economic Forum“, English is the current international language, and it is very likely that it will continue to be in the foreseeable future. So it is a central element that can’t go unnoticed. The top 10  languages in the world by number of speakers are 1. Mandarin Chinese 2. Spanish 3. English 4. Hindi 5. Arabic 6.French 7. Portuguese 8. Bengali 9. Russian and 10. Indonesian. But as we saw on the aforementioned post, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these are the most influential.

What about New York?

Even though it is not even the capital of the United States, New York is an obvious candidate, because it boasts an important number of international institutions (most notably the United Nations Headquarters and the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation), Wall Street and so many people from so many different countries live there… The downside is that it is a major city of a superpower and it would be hard to reach a consensus.

What about Paris?

Paris is another obvious candidate. Institutions like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have their headquarters in the city of lights. According to the World Economic Forum, French is still one of the most influential languages in the world, specially for diplomacy, and it is, along with Venice, the most romantic city in the world.

What about the capital of a small country?

If you thought outside the box before answering the question, you might consider a city from a small or medium-sized country, since it would be way easier to reach an international consensus (see position 10 in the ranking below). Cities like Brussels, Singapore, Wellington, Lima, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Montevideo, Vienna, Asuncion, Bern, Doha… could be perfect hosts for a hypothetical world government.

This is the capital of the world

Finally, the moment that we were waiting for… (drum roll). With a population of 8,136 million, London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, a real melting pot of ethnicities, languages and cultures, with English as the official language, home of Amnesty International, the Commonwealth of Nations, the International Maritime Organization, the Bank of England, the Socialist International, HSBC, Barclays, the city where so many world-famous writers set so many novels and stories, one of the world’s capitals of digital media and, to top it off, one of the world’s financial capitals… In a sense, although it’s one of a kind, it is also the bridge between North-America and Europe. Furthermore, it probably builds a robuster consensus than New York or Shanghai. It is a vibrant and dynamic city. As Dr. Samuel Johnson put it ” When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”.

… But this could change overnight

However, London could lose the first position on the list after Brexit. Very likely, indeed. Many argue that Britain shot itself in the foot and that it will hurt it in many ways and at many levels, though whether Brits will find a way to roll with the punches and finally succeed making a virtue out of necessity, it remains to be seen. What does look pretty obvious is that London — starting with the City — will lose power and influence. Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Berlin may be the first to profit from this circumstance in the European Union, New York in America, and Shanghai in Asia. So this ranking is subject to changes.

Top 10 candidates

The following cities have been ranked according to a number of items, such as population, influence in diplomacy and politics, economy and finance, history, current and future prospects, democratic standards, degree of consensus on their candidacy, international institutions headquarters, historical factors, environmental awareness, geostrategic situation, languages represented, influence of its official language, state of development of the IT industry… among 30 other factors.

  1. London
  2. New York
  3. Paris
  4. Shanghai
  5. Berlin
  6. Mexico city
  7. Tokyo
  8. Moscow
  9. Seoul
  10. The capital of a small country (Brussels, Singapore, Wellington, Copenhaguen, Montevideo, Vienna, Asuncion, Bern, Doha…)

So give your two cents! What do you think should be the capital of the world?

More rankings

(See also “Most expensive and cheapest cities in Europe“; “Most expensive and cheapest countries in Europe” and “Most useful languages according to the World Economic Forum“).