New York and London are both palpably more creative when they’re in recession, as well as more likeable. It may be simply that economic constraint stimulates creativity (just as vile weather does, which is why climate and culture are inversely proportional). But the point is, cities are not principally for, and should never be measured principally in, pleasure.
The Time Out columnist Michael Hodges once wrote that grey, soggy old inner London “is a perfect place for the miserable … [but] it’s being miserable that gets things done. No one comes to the capital to be happy. They come here to do stuff.”
So as well as making us wealthier (obvious), healthier (counterintuitive but true) and more creative (see Richard Florida) cities also can, and demonstrably do, creative misery notwithstanding, make us happy.
This happiness is a side-benefit. The best, most lasting kind of happiness, the gurus say, comes from pursuing not happiness itself, but something bigger and more strenuous. This is what cities are good at.