Houston: From Moron Metropolis to Genius City In Two Short Months

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Two months ago, the Daily Beast ranked all American cities according to their estimation of each place's municipal IQ.

They measured how many residents had bachelor's and graduate degrees, nonfiction book sales, the ration of institutions of higher education, and political engagement, as measured the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in the last presidential election.

Houston fared badly.

In fact, we came out 46th of 55 metros of over one million. Our civic IQ was listed as 66, which original IQ inventor Lewis Terman classed at the top end of the "definite feeble-mindedness," "mildly retarded" range.

What a difference a couple of months and a different test administrator make. Two days ago Forbes came up with its list of the World's Smartest Cities. Business-friendly urban seer Joel Kotkin helped devise the methodology, which measured metropolises on not just their livability and infrastructure, but "economic factors" as well. (HairBalls was unable to find a detailed explanation of Kotkin's methodology.)

Kotkin has a big crush on the Bayou City, mostly because of our bidness-friendly, growth-at-all-costs ethos, so it's little surprise to find that Houston is in his view the seventh-smartest city in the whole wide world.

Here is what he has to say about us:

Houston's close tie to the Caribbean, as well as its dominant global energy industry, thriving industrial base, huge Texas Medical Center complex and first-rate airport, all work to its long-term advantage. Arguably the healthiest economically of America's big cities, Houston is also investing in -- not just talking about -- its green future; last year it was the nation's largest municipal purchaser of wind energy.

So wow, call us the Albert Einstein of cities. One week we're borderline retarded, the next we're a super-genius.

As for the rest of the top ten of Kotkin's genius cities, Houston beat out such thriving hubs of sophistication as Calgary; Huntsville, Alabama and Charleston, South Carolina, and came in right behind Seattle, which trailed Amsterdam, Monterrey, Curitiba, Brazil, and Hong Kong.

Which brings us to number one: Singapore, that bastion of liberal values author William Gibson once called "Disneyland with the death penalty." In Singapore, Kotkin's smartest city, chewing gum and homosexuals are banned, oral sex is forbidden (except as foreplay), and possession of 17 ounces of weed is a hanging offense. Maybe finishing near the top of this class isn't such an honor after all.

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