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Ed Driscoll

Interview: Kevin D. Williamson on What Doomed Detroit

November 26th, 2013 - 6:41 pm

williamson_detroit_cover_11-26-13-1

Has there been a more spectacular downfall to an American city than Detroit? As late as 1965, Jerome Cavanagh, its then-mayor, the first of what would be to this very day an unending series of Democrat party officials leading the city, could say with some honesty, “frequently called the most cosmopolitan city of the Midwest, Detroit, today, stands at the threshold of a bright new future.”

And the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable as well, right up until she left the Southampton docks.

The riots of 1967 would be Detroit’s equivalent of the iceberg; the 1974 election of Coleman Young as the city’s mayor for the next two decades would cement its doom permanently, until ultimately, it was forced to declare bankruptcy this past July. And in addition to the city’s institutional reverse-racism, its fiscal mismanagement has been spectacular as well. As PJM’s own Richard Fernandez noted back in September, inside Detroit’s City Hall, from 1985 through 2009, “the pension trustees were draining the pension because they were so sure, so absolutely certain that the taxpayers would have to refill the pot they felt safe helping themselves to whatever they wanted… What could go wrong? To everyone’s amazement something completely unprecedented happened: City Hall went broke. ‘They didn’t reckon with the possibility,’ [Megan McArdle wrote in Bloomberg News] ‘that the city would simply run out of money, and the state would decline to step in, leaving them with no deep pockets to make up for their mismanagement.’ And so the Detroit pension is bust unless they find something they can siphon off to replenish it.”

To borrow from one of Glenn Reynolds’ recurring leitmotifs, a paraphrase of economist Herb Stein, something that can’t go on forever, won’t.

Or as National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson sums up all of the above in the new Encounter Broadside edition, What Doomed Detroit, Detroit is a case of the parasite having outgrown the host.”

To understand how it all happened, in our latest interview, Kevin will discuss:

● Has the end come for Detroit?

● What caused Detroit to fall apart, and how quickly did the rot set in, once it did?

● How did Coleman Young’s lengthy tenure as mayor impact Detroit, and how is his legacy still impacting the city today?

● How Detroit is an extreme example of public-sector employment becoming a supplementary welfare state.

● How did a failed Soviet computer experiment predict today’s Obamacare debacle?

● Could Bill de Blasio’s administration slowly doom New York into becoming the next Detroit?

And much more. Click here to listen:

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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

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Top Rated Comments   
As with many media and academic commentators Williamson gets Detroit partly right. Yes, Coleman Young did help destroy city, but Rome wasn't built in a day and Detroit wasn't destroyed by one person (it takes a village!). What struck me was his bizarre assertion that Polish Americans or Irish were in control of Detroit and didn't let the blacks in...hence the racial tensions. Irish presence in Detroit wasn't that significant and Poles were at or near the bottom of the economic ladder. There was a cynical effort to play off the blacks and the white ethnics against each other. Neither liberals nor conservatives want to remember how the big automakers used (i.e., specifically recruited) blacks as strikebreakers against east European ethnics. It just doesn't fit today's racial narrative. Conservatives don't want to here how the big automakers stoked racial tensions or how the police were in the pockets of the big three for years. Liberals don't want to hear stories of black violence or of liberal judges who took housing from white ethnics who they hated more than blacks. No the real story of how Detroit became such mess is way more complicated, messier and uglier than most people could imagine. Anyone who writes the real story will end their academic career.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great interview.

The comment that caught my ear was that the welfare state isn't about the recipients of the largess at all; it's about guaranteeing security for the administrators. Hadn't heard that before but it rings so true.

Witness: Washington DC. As the country approaches the abyss, DC becomes the center of wealth.

The United States is Detroit, circa 1960.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (24)
All Comments   (24)
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I can't help but wonder if the downfall for Detroit can be traced to the same metrics as those of Oakland, CA. In Oakland, the deterioration of the city greatly accelerated once government aid exceeded local tax revenue. Once the primary source of income for the city was state and federal programs, the city went to hell quickly.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oakland is coming back. I hate to say it, but as blacks move out to the ex-urbs young whites are moving in. It is sad, but it is reality. The powers that be want inner cities to be liberal playgrounds with lots of homebrew and nice restaurants. They will work in the design and info tech jobs with blue collar types out in the outer suburbs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mr. Williamson is very honest, but there are a few aspects to this question that were not included. What really devastated this city was Hate, Corruption, Greed for Power and money, Ignorance and above all-
Crime.
After the Riots , the White population did not run. They didn't want to leave the homes and lives for which they had worked so hard.
They had established good and productive lives; however, the infiltration of the Black population into the schools brought violence and crime where none had existed, and that was the last draw. They were left without a choice. The calibre of the education, also, started to deteriorate.
The crime and corruption and anti-White ideology under Coleman Young, who was accruing quite
a 'nest egg' for himself and a home in the Bahamas, while the city leaders were doing everything possible
to build up downtown and maintain the cultural and manufacturing entities of the city didn't matter.The Racial Hate proliferated unabated. The city departments became entrenched with corruption that is so deeply embedded
along with an attitude that anything in relation to the whites was to be dismantled. The incompetency and preferences proliferated throughout all city departments, and were implanted into the Detroit Library system, the Board of Education and the entire school system, and those were connected to the Mayor's Office, and the Police Department. The Reverends of the various black churches were at the helm like the Muslim structure in Iran.
Whites were not hired, regardless of their talents and competency. A law was installed that anyone who lived outside of the city limits was not permitted to work in the government sector and many others. There was a culture of theft within these departments. Time and again, substantial Federal funds were acquired in grant form with the prerequisite that within a certain amount of time ( years, usually)they had to be used for what the grant stated, or returned in full, and they were not always used, or inappropriately, so. This was the case in regards to
the funds received to clear out the destroyed homes, which was never used. The election process, needless to say, was always tampered with by a woman, whose name I can't remember, who was ahead of the system, and made sure of the outcome. The income tax returns were another story.
Unclaimed bank accounts were layered over the years and buried 18-20 trata deep. It's very similar to what has and is transpiring in DC., now.
Billions and billions have poured into Detroit that have been stolen, unused, and lost off-shore. I don't believe, those who have grown up in this culture understand it is wrong.
What is tragic are the little ones for whom so much has been appropriated and never were the recipients as intended. The adults have stolen from several generations of helpless little ones, who cannot find , or know, what security means.They are shot in the streets, in the schools, and lying on the couch in their homes when some drug dealer shoots in a drive-by incident.
Driving down the expressway to an event, or concert, at various times , could get you shot. The street lights have not been working for decades. It goes on and on.
The real story of the Detroit Riots has never been told. It's too long and for another time.
Lastly, in answer to Motown's move, Gordy left in the middle of the night after reassuring everyone that he wasn't moving, to go to L.A. to make films.
He continued recording out there, and brought several of those who actually created the recordings out there as well. 'Hitsville' was turned into a museum,
and draws hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world every year. Amazing. Really.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In other words, the black undertow brought down Detroit. Aided and abetted by the liberal socialist democrats. Was it not democrats who "managed" Detroit from about 1965 onwards? I think so.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Feminism Killed Detroit.

http://classicalvalues.com/2013/11/nature-men-and-women/

Socialism is all about transferring resources from men to women. ObamaCare is just the latest. (Social Security - women live longer than men. ObamaCare - women use more medical resources than men)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mr. Williamson is far too optimistic and insufficiently cynical, when he says we have long experience and settled law on city bankruptcy.
We had even longer experience and even more settled law on corporate bankruptcy, which did nothing to slow Obama's abuses in the Chrysler and GM failures.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ditto. Mr. Williamson seems to believe that all the bankruptcy procedures will be on the up and up in Detroit. I fear they will be as corrupt as the people who direct them and those that direct them from Washington, D.C.

The other blue states, which went belly up via unions and corruption, will deal with their bankruptcies the same way.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan when Coleman Young became mayor of Detroit. One of his first acts at the time was his nomination of his girlfriend to a post for which she was ill-qualified. A lot of people were upset at his choice. I also remember that a judge, who presided over cases in the Detroit area, had made some questionable decisions. I suspect that others with similar mindsets were also put on the government roles and the result was the bankruptcy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As with many media and academic commentators Williamson gets Detroit partly right. Yes, Coleman Young did help destroy city, but Rome wasn't built in a day and Detroit wasn't destroyed by one person (it takes a village!). What struck me was his bizarre assertion that Polish Americans or Irish were in control of Detroit and didn't let the blacks in...hence the racial tensions. Irish presence in Detroit wasn't that significant and Poles were at or near the bottom of the economic ladder. There was a cynical effort to play off the blacks and the white ethnics against each other. Neither liberals nor conservatives want to remember how the big automakers used (i.e., specifically recruited) blacks as strikebreakers against east European ethnics. It just doesn't fit today's racial narrative. Conservatives don't want to here how the big automakers stoked racial tensions or how the police were in the pockets of the big three for years. Liberals don't want to hear stories of black violence or of liberal judges who took housing from white ethnics who they hated more than blacks. No the real story of how Detroit became such mess is way more complicated, messier and uglier than most people could imagine. Anyone who writes the real story will end their academic career.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's an achievement of sorts to discuss what doomed Detroit and not once mention race. But I guess if you want to have a career and not be trashed and sidelined as one of those benighted bigots you have to will yourself blind to the five hundred pound gorilla in the middle of the road
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It would be interesting to hear what Barry Gordy has to say about Detroit, and his decision to leave that city and move to LA. Of course, he would never tell the truth, but if you could get him under sodium pentathol, what was the straw that broke the camel's back in that decision. He brought his big stars with him -- Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson -- but left most of Motown's worker bees behind.

LA has a vibrant music and recording industry, but Motown never seemed to do too much after Gordy landed here. So essentially he retired.

People always talk about the flight of the middle class and of the auto makers, but they never mention the millions of dollars in taxes Detroit lost when black-owned Motown dumped them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great interview.

The comment that caught my ear was that the welfare state isn't about the recipients of the largess at all; it's about guaranteeing security for the administrators. Hadn't heard that before but it rings so true.

Witness: Washington DC. As the country approaches the abyss, DC becomes the center of wealth.

The United States is Detroit, circa 1960.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hate i.e. listening to "community organizers" is doomed Detroit.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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