Interview: Kevin D. Williamson on What Doomed Detroit


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:

(24 and half minutes long; 22.4 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 4.20 MB lo-fi edition.)

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