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Unlike most of the world’s great cities, Washington, D.C., was not established merely because of its geography; it was created to serve as the national capital from its inception. During the Compromise of 1790, the Founding Fathers agreed that the federal government would pay each state’s remaining debt from the Revolutionary War. In exchange, a new national capital in the agrarian center of the country was established to appease the South, which was critical of the debt deal. Thus, a great city was born of politics, for politics.

Washington is a prime example of proximity to power leading to prosperity; six of the 10 wealthiest counties in the United States are suburbs of D.C. The city’s designation as the capital of a global superpower brings many lucrative jobs in government, contracting, and other professional services vying for federal contracts and influence over policymakers.

For more on the nature of American power — and how it has almost nothing to do with the nature of American governance — see Chapters 4 and 5 of The Accidental Superpower.