Ed Driscoll

Let's Make MSNBC's Wish Come True


No, that’s not a headline I’m apt to type very often, but when someone at MSNBC loads a script into the Teleprompter, and a talking head there blurts out that “Detroit is fast becoming the most libertarian city in the United States,” well, perhaps he’s onto something:

Detroit’s fiscal ruin and subsequent bankruptcy was actually the result of the city being pretty much a “conservative utopia,” Ed Schultz informed us. It’s what happens when “government is small enough to drown in your bathtub” and “exactly the kind of thing many Republicans would impose on us,” insisted Melissa Harris-Parry.

You might have thought that MSNBC couldn’t possibly have any more pearls of wisdom left to cast, dear readers — but you’d be wrong. So wrong.

[MSNBC’s Art Melber:] Detroit’s debt is $18 billion. … While it suffered for years under mismanagement and corruption under many Democratic officials, today Detroit is fast becoming the most libertarian city in the United States. In many areas, there are basically no public services besides decaying roads and bombed-out infrastructure. 40 percent of the streetlights don’t work at night, and that leaves a troubled city stuck in the dark. Even police and emergency services have literally become optional. Think about it like this: Across the country, a call to police brings a response in about 11 minutes. In Detroit now, the average is 58 minutes, and many times it takes much longer if the police come at all.

As Moe Lane writes in response, “The fascinating part is the way that a progressive network so casually went for the disemboweling stroke on libertarians, there:”

Which is unsurprising: the alternative is to face that Detroit is the way that it is because the most rabid ideological elements of Democratic party had no opposition to its will and desires there for a half-century. And dear God, but it shows.

It shows so badly that in Sunday’s London Telegraph, Daniel Hannan described the rusted out engine block of the Motor City as Ayn Rand’s dessicated city of Starnesville “come to life.” In contrast, Barkha Herman asks today at Ricochet, “Detroit as the Galt’s Gulch — Could it Work?”

Mises has an article on how to save Detriot — by making it a “Free City”.

All that Detroit really needs is economic freedom and secure property rights. Give Detroit its freedom from all manner of government, including the federal government. Declare Detroit a free city. (You can rest assured, Detroit, that America will come to your rescue if those bloodthirsty Canadians attack!) In other words, no one would pay any federal taxes whatsoever or be subject to any federal regulations whatsoever. Wouldn’t it be nice not to pay federal taxes, not even Social Security and Medicare taxes? Do the same with Michigan taxes. No taxes BUT also no federal or state aid either.

“Imagine no Federal Government. No taxes, too…. Imagine all the people living life in peace…..”

Our own Michael Walsh concurs. “Free Detroit City!”

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.

Detroit has been a laboratory for increasingly leftwing theories of urban governance for half a century. Perhaps it’s time to try something different. If anybody on the left questions the idea, just tell them that it’s MSNBC-approved.