On Sunday, I flashed back to the Morgenthau Plan. As I wrote, it was a scheme for post-World War II Germany that was viciously punitive, if understandably so, and crafted by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., FDR’s Treasury secretary, around 1944, designed to de-industrialize Germany, to prevent another outbreak of war:
The memorandum concluded “is looking forward to converting Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character.”
As that Wikipedia page goes on to note, cooler heads eventually prevailed after the war. Otherwise, just as East Germany traded one totalitarian regime for another, West Germany would have traded the nightmare of Hitler’s scorched earth policy when he knew the war was lost for the Allies’ own scorched earth policy afterwards. Wikipedia quotes former president Herbert Hoover, who reminded advocates of the Morgenthau Plan in 1947 that “There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a ‘pastoral state’. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it.” West Germany would go on to become an industrial powerhouse, albeit one with a US military base located within it, just in case…
At the Climate Policy Network today, “Green Energy Transition: Germany Fears De-Industrialisation,” translates a page from Handelsblatt, a German business newspaper:
As a result of Germany’s green energy transition, electricity prices are exploding. Consumers and businesses are paying the price while Germany faces gradual de-industrialisation. Economists estimate that the cost of the green energy transition will total 170 billion Euros by 2020. This is more than double of what Germany would have to write off if Greece were to withdraw from the monetary union. “The de-industrialization has already begun,” the EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has warned.
Meanwhile, those on the left who enjoy Earth Hour, an annual celebratory preview of the joys of de-industrialization cooked up in 2007 by the World Wildlife Fund and Australia’s Fairfax Media Limited, should hightail it to Detroit, where the lamps will be going off all over the town, according to Bloomberg News: “Half of Detroit’s Streetlights May Go Out as City Shrinks.” And Detroit isn’t the only failed Blue city where this is occurring:
Detroit, whose 139 square miles contain 60 percent fewer residents than in 1950, will try to nudge them into a smaller living space by eliminating almost half its streetlights.
As it is, 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are broken and the city, whose finances are to be overseen by an appointed board, can’t afford to fix them. Mayor Dave Bing’s plan would create an authority to borrow $160 million to upgrade and reduce the number of streetlights to 46,000. Maintenance would be contracted out, saving the city $10 million a year.
Other U.S. cities have gone partially dark to save money, among them Colorado Springs; Santa Rosa, California; and Rockford, Illinois. Detroit’s plan goes further: It would leave sparsely populated swaths unlit in a community of 713,000 that covers more area than Boston, Buffalo and San Francisco combined. Vacant property and parks account for 37 square miles (96 square kilometers), according to city planners.
“You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population,” said Chris Brown, Detroit’s chief operating officer. “We’re not going to light distressed areas like we light other areas.”
Detroit’s dwindling income and property-tax revenue have required residents to endure unreliable buses and strained police services throughout the city. Because streetlights are basic to urban life, deciding what areas to illuminate will reshape the city, said Kirk Cheyfitz, co-founder of a project called Detroit143 — named for the 139 square miles of land, plus water — that publicizes neighborhood issues.
Naturally, the Obama administration views both the 21st century Morganthau Plan in Germany and Detroit’s lights-out policy as how-to guides, not warnings.
Because he’s so real world, you know.
Update: At the Tatler, Bryan Preston writes, “If a private enterprise decided on its own not to service certain parts of a city, we would never hear the end of it. But government doing it is ok. The victims of all this will just keep voting the same people back into office decade after decade.”