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Unexamined Premises

Free Detroit City!

July 23rd, 2013 - 4:15 am

I mean it: stop sneering. As Adam Smith famously observed, “there is much ruin in a nation,” and Detroit has just about exhausted its supply. The fortune built up over a century of commerce and enterprise — as recently as 60 years ago, Detroit was, per capita, the wealthiest city in the country — has been squandered on nothing; civic aspirations have been mocked and trashed; and now the jackals are circling the town’s cultural patrimony, seeking to seize it and sell it off … to pay expenses that no rational, self-respecting, and self-reliant society ever should have incurred in the first place. It’s time for civilization to fight back:

[Detroit] can and should be saved, and the bankruptcy filing (which will happen, no matter what some local judge says) is the first step. There is much left to save in Detroit, including the city’s superb cultural history, its distinctive neighborhoods, its beautiful natural setting and what remains of its post-industrial infrastructure, but it’s going to require a completely new civic model — one that casts aside the crude and tired labor vs. management Manichean reductionism, the bloated, employer-of-last-resort “civil service,” the whole notion of public-employee unions, and the absolute fiscal insanity of paying people handsomely not to work (whether as retirees or welfare recipients) just as the decidedly unpaternalistic wolves of the New Economy show up at the door, huffing and puffing and … you know the rest.

Forget “innovation zones” — the whole town (as James Pethokoukis points out on the home page) needs to be an innovation zone, with all the normal rules and assumptions of bien-pensant contemporary civic thinking eliminated in favor of bottom-up creativity.One example: Real estate could not possibly get any cheaper, and in a functioning free-market economy, young people and immigrants would be flocking to the Motor City to snap up bargain digs, set up shops and businesses. But the city’s absurd real-estate tax structure — observed only by the honest or the solvent — discourages any rational person from investing there. Since there’s no money, no paid workforce and no services, why not declare a prolonged tax holiday and leave the rest to human ingenuity? It’s not like things could get worse. Detroit needs less government, not more.

As the song goes, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, and brother is Detroit ever busted. (Where did all that money go?) To continue to view it via the old leftist, class-struggle paradigm does a great city a great disservice — and obscures the bright future it might yet have if both the vision and will is there — and if politicians of all stripes would just leave it alone to find its own way.


To protect and serve — with love?

That’s just what finally seems to be happening in Detroit City. And it starts with the one thing government should be able to attend to, but obviously cannot: personal safety:

Detroit is absolutely bankrupt. The city faces a cash shortfall of more than $100 million by June 30. Long-term liabilities, including pensions, exceed $14 billion. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder wants to bail out Detroit’s city government even further. Thanks to the financial situation of Detroit, emergency services like police and fire departments are being severely cut short. 911 is only taking calls during business hours. Homes have been abandoned making parts of the city look like a ghost town.

If our public servants are right and wouldn’t dare lie and try to scare us, then chaos, anarchy and lawlessness should reign in Detroit now, right? Well, not exactly.

Dale Brown and his organization, the Threat Management Center (TMC), have helped fill in the void left by the corrupt and incompetent city government. Brown started TMC in 1995 as a way to help his fellow Detroit citizens in the midst of a rise in home invasions and murders. While attempting to assist law enforcement, he found little but uninterested officers more concerned with extracting revenue through traffic tickets and terrorizing private homes with SWAT raids than protecting person and property.

In an interview with, Brown explains how and why his private, free market policing organization has been so successful. The key to effective protection and security is love, says Brown, not weapons, violence, or law. It sounds a bit corny, yes, but the results speak for themselves.

Read the whole thing. You may not initially agree with the premise that all you need is love — but it helps. Sure, it was in part “greed” (the leftist word for the profit motive) that built Detroit, but it was also love, a love for America and her aspirations, a willingness to risk and to build in order to create something to leave behind for future generations to enjoy and improve upon. But we have become so corrupted by the Marxist blatherings of the Frankfurt School and their baleful ilk that we have in part accepted the left’s argument that things like symphony orchestras and museums and art galleries are examples of unearned “privilege.” (Who, one might well ask, was the Prime Mover of this imaginary “privilege”?) Their childish, immature and wholly resentful notion of “critical theory” — which basically amounts to a prolonged cry of “Whaaaaaaaa!!!” — has infested academe (where no idea, no matter how absurd, is treated with respect as long as it’s “progressive”) and corrupted the minds of several generations of students, some of whom are now political leaders. In fact, I can think of one right off the top of my head …

Above all, dignity

The majesty of the presidency

If the Right really wanted to seize this moment, they would make Detroit a symbol of two things: what once was, and what could be again, if only we allow Detroit to return to first principles: people, acting independently, create spontaneous order, out of which comes government. And not vice versa. As Rahm Emanuel famously said, never let a crisis go to waste. Conservatives can play that game, too.  So … go for it.

Take advantage of the bankruptcy to allow Detroit to throw off nearly all its governmental shackles. Reduce the city government’s footprint to a bare minimum. Privatize the cops, the schools, the trash collection. Reduce the property tax rate to near zero. Pay as you go for services you want and opt out of those you don’t. Eliminate public-employee unions and pensions; if you want to work in public service, you do so with the understanding going in that you are a “servant” and not a master. How is any of this any more radical than the leftist nostrums that have brought the Motor City to its knees?

And open the city up to everybody. As Veronique de Rugy writes on NRO:

What is required here is immigration and fundamental labor-market reforms. That probably means getting rid of rules and regulations, various union requirements, cronyism and corruption of city officials, and all the things that get in the way of having a flexible labor market and dynamic economy.

Detroit is effectively dead, having been killed by the heavy hand of government; as Kevin Williamson put it: the parasite has outgrown its host. So why not fight back in the way American have always fought back — by fighting for freedom? The only thing Detroit has to lose, to quote Marx himself, is its chains.

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Top Rated Comments   
Detroit is the rotting corpse left behind by leftism's state-eating disease.

How do you "save" a corpse? You can't. You CAN save the people who must live near it, by removing its ability to spread the plague it carries.

Detroit is no longer a viable entity. It is a shell, harboring merely the maggots and bacteria left behind by runaway "revolution"...while mindless twits continue to tell us how beautiful "socialism" is and communism would be "in the correct hands".

THIS is what "beauty" means to the Permanent Revolution. Behold..."transformation" in its final stages.

You can't fight to "save" Detroit. So, showcase it for the plague carrying symbol it really is.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Democrats easily win the Most Fiscally Irresponsible award hands down. They desperately cling to their mistaken belief that an ever bigger unionized government alone can become a sufficient service industry and employer base to sustain an urbanized megapolis, so long as there exists an employed taxpayer and dues paying hostage class to ceaselessly extort of more revenue needed to pay for extravagant promises to the unemployed dependent class of entitlements that are made in return for more votes that secure a permanence of a government to eventually fulfill those expectations.  Local governments, however, unlike the federal government, cannot create its own revenue source to generate the circle from the printing, the paying out, to the taxing of funds necessary to sustain their schemes.   Stockton, CA, and Detroit, MI are but just two recent examples of Democrat bankruptcies; Chicago, IL may also be on the brink.  Conversely, Madison, WI and Indianapolis, IN and Charlotte, SC are examples where Republican governors have shown capable of reversing the same trends.  But, nationally the Obamanistas in power now, unfortunately for the rest of us, are driven by his vision that a centralized federal government can lead the way to such Democrat nirvana and never you mind with the Detroit example of how they're taking us all to hell in a hand basket.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Detroit would be a great place to attempt "nation building". The functional illiteracy rate is astounding, the corruption astronomical not to mention you'd need hundreds of Diogenes' to search for a functional nuclear family. Oh, and moral values, work ethic, and .. the list goes on.

I'd start by working a deal to swap the folks living in Detroit with the population of Haiti. It'd be a better start.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (55)
All Comments   (55)
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Detroit had been destroyed by a surfeit of government.

For Detroit to live again, government must be removed. I recapitulate Paul Rosenberg's six-point plan herewith:

(1) "The federal government (in writing) forbears taxes, regulations, laws, and impositions for a hundred years to the area of the current municipality of Detroit and to all persons and commercial entities resident there.

(2) "The government of the state of Michigan forbears taxes, regulations, laws, and impositions for a hundred years to the area of the current municipality of Detroit and to all persons and commercial entities resident there.

(3) "All municipal government agencies within Detroit are disbanded.

(4) "All state and federal offices within the city of Detroit are disbanded.

(5) "The federal government guarantees that entry and exit to/from Detroit will remain unchanged from the current conditions, and that no obligations will be placed upon residents of Detroit in any other place.

(6) "Federal and state governments immediately cease all payments to residents of Detroit. (They may resume payment to those persons if and when they are no longer resident in Detroit.)"

That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less, either.

"Think of Hong Kong, but easy to get to.

"Businesses would begin to relocate the next morning. Hundreds of them, thousands of them. The people who still owned and lived in their homes would be offered lots of money for their properties.

"Libertarians and conservatives, disgusted by the gang in DC, would load up and drive to Detroit.Productive former residents would return. Thousands of opportunity-seekers, anarcho-capitalists, and pot-smoking hippies would be gathering their money and buying property.

"Detroit would, within only a few years, become the coolest city on the planet – by FAR."

Rosenberg concludes:

"The truth, of course, is that the state and fed guvs will never agree to a plan like this one, for a single reason:

"Because they fear it would succeed.

"They’ll let every last person in Detroit rot before they’ll let a group of producers live free of their chains.

Detroit returned to its natural state would expose the great lie of the government game – that we can’t survive without them."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It might be providing a service to burn the worst parts of Detroit. Save the architecturally important parts and restore them as a new Williamsburg. Specify non-union workers for the restoration work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Detroit, in its current form, cannot be saved. Any knight in shining armor who rides to the rescue with billions of dollars to invest will be surrounded by thieves and parasites; activists, bureaucrats, union bosses, lawyers, all lining up with their "requirements".
You need a zoning variant for that, and approvals and permissions for this.
You'll need union drivers for those vans.
You'll need to pay "living wages".
You'll need us to approve your Affirmative Action program.
You need to give something back to the community.

They'll suck the life out of anyone who tries to rescue them, and when the exhausted, depleted Knight gives up and goes home, they'll blame the knight for being greedy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
(Not to mention the "normal" thieves.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I must respectfully disagree with the author's innately Conservative reaction to a monster problem. That is 'fix it'. Don't fix it, back up the salt trucks and complete the ruination of the last vestiges of civilization. Then, hang Detroit's lifeless carcass high as a warning to others. If you fix Detroit, the Left will take credit, for they care not about the truth and are shameless in their intellectual harlotry. Further, it is not possible to fix any community where the parasites vastly outnumber the producers. Bulldoze the entire city and use the ruble to build the world's largest waste disposal landfill. Retain only the 'Welcome to Detroit' signs on the edge of the dump and publish photos in every civics textbook as a warning to future generations about placing the parasite class in charge. In a 1000 years, we can build a shiny city on that hill of wasted dreams.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If anybody is thinking about buying some of that famously cheap real estate in the city, keep in mind that you will b e buying land that needs to be cleared of debris in order to rebuild. Good luck getting the demolition and construction permits out of the city.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What made Detroit look like a Mad Max movie set were liberal Democrat policies, union involvement, and black leadership. WAIT A MINUTE! That is what we have in Washington, DC now. Come to think of it, the same thing has started happening around the country, especially in Democrat-run states. Yikes!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"If the Right really wanted to seize this moment, they would make Detroit a symbol of two things: what once was, and what could be again, if only we allow Detroit to return to first principles:"

If we get involved IN ANY WAY with this debacle, we will NOT be allowed to succeed. We will simply become the scapegoat for the final collapse.

The media will talk about nothing but what conservative ideas did to Detroit. "It could have been saved but for YOU guys! LOOK WHAT YOU DID!"

You'll hear it from every media outlet, every pundit, every "expert".

It will be the ONLY message most of the world ever hears. It will become "The Truth".

Touching an IED with a 10 foot pole would be prudent compared to getting involved in the rescue of Detroit.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think that Mr. Walsh nails it here. Conservatives (and I am one) are engaging in a wee bit too much schadenfreude over the fate of Detroit. It's easy to do but ultimately pointless. I live just forty miles south of Detroit (go Tigers!) and have been witnessing it's steady decline for years. I remember when I was a kid "a trip to Detroit" was something you eagerly anticipated. Now the prospect is about as welcome as a visit to a Green Zone in Lebanon. The bankruptcy of Detroit is not just a tragedy for Motown but an embarassment for anyone calling himself (herself) an American. Conservatives need to propose solutions and engage in the sort of creative outside-the-box thinking that "progressives", weighed down by their feudal allegiances, simply cannot do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Detroit's 2012 estimated population 701,475

Number of Detroit abortions in 2012 5,693
2012 murders 379

If you kill off almost 1% of your population each year, you won't continue. We saw this in the first few centuries AD in the Roman empire, too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What's the birth rate?
You only kill off the population if you kill them faster than they reproduce.
Detroit's shrinkage is emigration, not death.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think the ideal way to deal with Detroit's bankruptcy is to publicly announce the names and home addresses of all the politicians, both past and present, who made the unsustainble promises of bloated pensions and benefts in exchange for votes. Let the retirees, who are now in danger of losing those pensions, know exactly who was responisble for lying to them. And let the retirees vent their frustration on the people who actually created - and benefited from - this problem. Of course, truth be told, a large part of the problem is the public employees themselves, who apparently quite willingily, kept returning these con artists to office. Making them co-conspirators, so to speak. in their own demise. But let's deal with first things first and go to the politician's homes for some "social justice", first. Hmmmmm?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Detroit delenda est!

Do you REALLY think that "saving Detroit" will result in any positive gain for conservative values and free-market principles? Not in THIS country with THIS media.

Like the foreign policy of the Carter Administration in re the Soviet Union,(or Clinton's with North Korea), all you will do is create better-fed and housed enemies who can now afford more weapons to shoot you with.

No....if Detroit is to be "saved", it is the citizens of Detroit that must dom it. And if that means that Leftists have to get their minds right with God and Adam much the better.

And if they don't...well, if they're happy living on a dung-heap, who are WE to object?

As long as none of our monies are taken away from cities that are struggling on the good path and fed into that crap-house of a city.

Detroit is far more valuable to the Conservative movement just the way it is.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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