Monday, March 12, 2012

What's the Matter with Detroit?

For some time now Walter Russell Mead has been keeping us all apprised of the failure of blue state policies.

He has been analyzing what happens to American states and cities when a blue state mentality takes hold. That is, when the citizenry becomes overcome by the strange compulsion to vote Democratic, no matter what.

Yesterday, he offered some comments about the pending bankruptcy of Detroit. It would, he explains, merely be the final chapter in a story of systematic civic decline.

In his post, he makes the most politically salient point. Why do the people who are suffering from the failure of these policies continue to vote for the politicians who implement them?

Mead marvels at the fact that leftist intellectuals—he is thinking of Thomas Frank, author of the book, What’s the Matter with Kansas—believe that the people of Kansas, who tend to vote Republican more often than not, ought really to be voting Democratic.

According to Frank working people do not know what is good for them. It follows, as the night the day, that the media, and Fox News in particular, has brainwashed these good people into voting for a political party that represents the interests of the 1%.

The bottom line is that the people of Kansas should not vote as they wish but should vote as Thomas Frank wishes.

In fact, they once did. They gave the nation Kathleen Sebelius. How’s that working out for everyone?

Here’s Mead’s excellent analysis:

Leftie intellectuals spend a lot of time analyzing the “false consciousness” that keeps American workers voting for Republicans who (in the view of the intellectuals) support anti-worker policies. We don’t hear nearly as much from these incisive social thinkers about the false urban consciousness that keeps voters supporting policies and politicians that have ruined the cities, but there you are. Many of the policies that are dearest to the hearts of powerful Democratic politicians are responsible for wrecking the lives of many of their most loyal supporters, but the loyal supporters turn out year after year.

When American cities embraced the high cost, high regulation statist model two generations or so ago, they were often the richest and most dynamic places in the country. Increasingly “progressive” policies, with higher wages for unionized teachers, bigger bureaucracies enforcing tighter regulations, more “planning” by qualified technocrats and more government services and benefits to improve the quality of residents’ lives were supposed to take the American city into a new golden age.

It’s hard to think of many social experiments that have more disastrously failed. Now many of these once flourishing cities are hollowed out shells, while around them suburbs and increasingly exurbs flourish away from the deadening influence of urbanist politics. None of this affects the hold of progressive and urbanist ideology on true believers; if anything, they believe even more passionately in the cause.  Obviously the problem is that we haven’t spent enough on enough tenured teachers, haven’t written enough new regulations and established enough new bureaus to enforce them, haven’t published enough white papers by enough credentialed planners, haven’t extracted enough taxes and provided enough services. If we could just tax the suburbs and exurbs more heavily and spend more of the money in the cities, all would be well.

1 comment:

n.n said...

The Republicans need to moderate their ambitions. The Democrats need to step to the right. While the Democrats support policies which are sponsors of fundamental corruption, the alternative can also be followed to an extreme and is capable of mimicking the same corruption.

That said, it would be helpful to distinguish between cause and effect. The dynamic which drives progressive corruption can be clearly observed when referencing similar historical and global contexts. The dynamic that exists among conservatives, and classical liberals in general, is not nearly so clear, since both fundamental corruption (i.e. coercive), for all intents and purposes, coexists with corruption in the exception.

Anyway, as most underdeveloped and languishing locales, Detroit suffers principally from authoritarian distress. It didn't help that their economy had a shallow foundation (similar to "mining towns"). It doesn't help that they want instant gratification and our government is supporting their delusions.

Corruption and sabotaged character development go hand in hand.