There should be a much smaller Detroit


"And it shows: According to Mr. Orr’s report, Detroit has more than 78,000 vacant structures, 66,000 vacant and blighted lots, thousands of non-functioning street lights and a demoralized police force that takes nearly an hour, on average, to respond to 911 calls.
This is an unspeakably sad situation for Detroit’s 700,000 remaining residents, only a third of whom have jobs. It’s a crisis rooted deep within the history of a city that, for many years, rose and fell economically with the auto industry — while poverty, racial segregation, crime and official corruption festered.
Wisely, Mr. Orr focused not on how Detroit got to this catastrophic crossroads but on where it goes from here. He leavened his dire picture of the present with a hopeful plan for the future. It calls for a 10-year, $1.25 billion investment in public services that would remake Detroit’s institutions, root and branch. The only way to finance this plan for rebirth is to seek concessions — deep concessions — from the public-employee unions and private investors that have claims on the city in the form of pensions and municipal bonds."  Washpost


Detroit will not recover.  The statistics cited above are really reflective of a post-mortem situation.  To try to resuscitate the city is merely to pour good money down the drain in a vain pursuit of an industrial revolution that has deserted the place for more business friendly environments.

IMO, The state of Michigan should formally revoke the city's charter, seize what assets the city possesses and proceed to demolish large parts of the city.   Wrecking crews, grass seed and retraining programs for that portion of the city's remaining population that can be encouraged to relocate; These are probably a recipe for the rebirth of a much smaller town.

That kind of town could construct a new economy based on some form of enterprise that is essentisally unrelated to motor vehicles.  pl 


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50 Responses to There should be a much smaller Detroit

  1. Tim Bassett says:

    Facetiously one could point out that Rome fell from a population of 1 million at the height of the empire to around 20,000 in ad 1,000 and made a comeback but realistically I think you are probably correct.

  2. Or just declare a tax free city and admit 1M Chinese under 35!

  3. steve g says:

    You mean a tax free enterprise zone
    like Jack Kemp suggested for Harlem
    and other parts of NYC during Reagan’s
    time. We know how that worked out.
    Just another campaign brainstorm.
    Not to say it would never have succeeded.

  4. harry says:

    Or if you really want to make things interesting offer visas for 1mn Chinese women. Given China a headache (see how all those only child boys feel about the shortage of chicks, and make Detroit irresistible for American men with “yellow fever”.

  5. nick says:

    Along those lines, Detroit has been an ongoing entity since the turn of the eighteenth century. Michigan has only been a state since 1837, by comparison. Detroit’s not over, just moving on to its next incarnation, albeit painfully.
    I think the big take away from this article is the challenge to the sanctity of the general obligation bond. Michigan doesn’t have state provisions for municipal bankruptcy, ie: chapter 9. The Governor has the power to declare a financial emergency and impose a financial ‘czar’, like Mr. Orr, to fix the problems. Suddenly the decisions made, reflect not just upon the municipality, but the state as a whole.
    Traditionally, municipal defaults on general obligation bonds have resulted in recovery rates of nearly 100%. Boiled down: even if the general obligation bond you owned defaulted, you were nearly certain of getting 100% of your principal back in the recovery.
    If Detroit’s state overseers let the city default and are able to impose recovery rates of pennies on the dollar, this would be a huge precedent. It would effect the ability of the entire state to borrow. As pointed out in the article, which I thought was quite good, this has national implications for the risk assessment of all municipal bonds.
    It’s worth watching.

  6. Steve says:

    Why not some sort of enterprise zone for truck farming and orchards? Seriously, Detroit has some relatively affluent suburbs that might pay a little more for locally produced organic tomatoes, melons, potatoes, apples, peppers, and more exotic stuff, etc.
    On a small scale, urban farming is a big deal in some places.
    Just make sure the regs are written so that a giant agri-conglomerate doesn’t end up owning 10,000 acres.
    Maybe draw from the old homestead act with parcels of 20 acres or so.

  7. CK says:

    Detroit just needs to import a new people.
    It is working wonders for the rest of the USA.

  8. Tyler says:

    They just need to export the people they currently have.
    The Paris of the West has become this wreck.
    This is what is coming to a major metro center near you.

  9. Dr. K says:

    What do you mean?

  10. John Minnerath says:

    Export the unwanted excess where?
    Big cities are in decline everywhere.
    There are no jobs, the industries that employed huge labor forces have gone and the frustrated youth go deeper and deeper into a culture of drugs and handouts.

  11. bth says:

    There is a lot of good engineering talent and machining or tooling capability in the region. But the area can’t survive the structural overhang of supporting 78K abandoned buildings and 66K debris covered lots. If around 200-250 lots or buildings were cleared per day it would only take about 2 years to create some enormous parks or green spaces. Until those structured are removed i don’t see how the area will move forward.

  12. ked says:

    I was there 2 weeks ago… downtown & in the suburbs. while it certainly exhibits lotsa badness, the overall vibe was not as bad as I was lead to expect from recent years of bashing. yes, it has overextended itself & imploded, yet there remains a core built of past drive & near-future potential that, with some decent leadership & a bit of patience, might even yield a new flavor of Midwest urbanism. & the local auto industry seems to be doing ok…

  13. Ramojus says:

    “Detropia” a fascinating documentary about the city and its inhabitants.
    Pay special attention to the owner of “THE RAVEN LOUNGE”. I think that he says it all….

  14. eakens says:

    We just need to import some better weather

  15. Al Arabist says:

    Maybe it’s time for people to depend on themselves and not bend over backwards to be global citizens, an empty category in so many ways.

  16. Fred says:

    Governor Snyder is already asking for 11-B visas and special tax breaks for immigrants – the current residents evidently get to foot the bill – and spent the past week in Israel supposedly looking for investments – maybe we can get some of that $3 Billion/year back.

  17. The Twisted Genius says:

    Old Detroit will not return. That’s not that unusual. Isn’t the West full of ghost towns? My old hometown was a manufacturing center in the early 1800s. As a child, I played in the long vacant foundations of those factories surrounded by the New England forest. Life goes on.

  18. Jose says:

    Miami has better weather, but is not in any better shape. Perfection example of “Statist” mentality making things worse. None of those investments that caused the current mess paid off, PL is correct neither will the new ones.

  19. cal says:

    The gutting of American industry is nearly complete.
    From GATT in 1965 to the latest TTP today.
    Next up–gut the population.
    I am consdering New Zealand.
    P.S. Would the last American out of the country please bring the flag.

  20. Thanks Steve G! Perhaps instead an outright sale to China or Canada?

  21. mbrenner says:

    Here’s an alternative to consider. Redirect to Detroit, Cleveland, etc. the tens of billions of federal dollars that lay the foundations for the modern economy of the Southwest via NASA, Sematech, sundry military bases, the Hoover Dam, the Central California Water Project`- among others. Allow Southern California, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston, etc. revert to their natural state of sage, cactus and mangrove. Re-establishing an ecologically sustainable environment will require that a substantial portion of the immigrant population take their barbecues back up North – or, if addicted to sweating, to move across the border to Sonora and Chihuahua. A further benefit to the national economy would be a sharp reduction in the health care costs for treating the current epidemic of melanoma.

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think immigration to New Zealand requires one to be younger than 40 years of age.

  23. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That is fine but where would all these people who have now become redundant go?
    Since being a private servant to a household is no longer acceptable in the United States, the surplused population cannot be hired as maids, nannies, gardeners, cooks etc.
    This is in contrast to Brazil or India were the surplus population can eke out a living serving others.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Weather in Destroit is still more clement than Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Colorado, and most aother areas of the United States.
    Rome is on the same lattitude as Detroit – and it is a much nicer place.
    In Rome, girls do not get raped in high-schools and people can walk around during day without fearing for their safety and security.

  25. CK says:

    In Dr. Putnam’s opus Bowling Alone, he finds that: in places where racial diversity is high, community is uniformly low. But only in certain areas where racial diversity is low is community high; in other specific areas of low racial diversity there is also no community.
    There is a marked difference between the community sense in places like the Dakotas, Idaho, etc. and prevailing community attitudes and behaviours in Detroit, Chicago, Magic City etc.. Tyler has the right of it but it is not currently fashionable to see certain things as Tyler sees it. Fred is correct also.
    We are approaching 40 years of the Detroit experiment. It has failed.
    The USA has been importing a new culture since 1965, Latino is not a race it is a culture, it is not a culture compatible with the Northern European cultures that built the USA, nor does it appear to be a culture appropriate for the “information age economy”. Our rulers and the hostile intellectual minority that controls our cultural discourse, our legislative assemblies and infotainment industries have decided that making the USA a minorities nation is a good thing. I expect it to be as successful as Iraq.

  26. mbrenneer! The Ogalalla Acquifer dropping 10-100 ft per year depending on location. Millions of years in the making and tapped for good the last 100 years. No reprieve in the buffalo lands.

  27. Jose says:

    Government can not save those that can not save themselves.

  28. Tyler says:

    Married to a Kiwi.
    Its very difficult to immigrate to NZ, unless you’re Chinese/Commonwealth. We have to domicile for two years before we can even think about applying for citizenship.
    Maybe I’ll take up farming on the South Island with all the Afrikaaners.

  29. Jose says:

    I believe if you significant assets, you are always welcomed. lol

  30. Edward Amame says:

    excerpt from “Wall Street’s War Against the Cities: Why Bondholders Can’t – and Shouldn’t – be Paid” by Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri and author of “The Bubble and Beyond”
    …Although it is Wall Street that engineered the bubble economy whose bursting has triggered the urban fiscal crisis, its lobbyists and their Junk Economic theories are not being held accountable. Rather than blaming the tax cutters who gave bankers and real estate moguls a windfall, it is teachers and other public employees who are being told to give back their deferred wages, which is what pensions are. No such clawbacks are in store for financial predators.
    Instead, foreclosure time has arrived to provide a new grab bag as cities are forced to do what New York City did to avert bankruptcy in 1974: turn over management to Wall Street nominees. As in Greece and Italy, elected politicians are to be replaced by “technocrats” appointed to do what Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair did to England: sell off what remains of the public sector and turn every social program into a profit center.
    The plan is to achieve three main goals. First, give privatizers the right to turn public infrastructure into tollbooth opportunities. The idea is to force cities to balance budgets by leasing or selling off their roads and bus systems, schools and prisons, real estate and other natural monopolies. In the process, this promises to create a new market for banks: lending to vulture investors to buy rights to install tollbooths on the economy’s basic infrastructure.
    Elected public officials could not engage in such predatory and anti-labor policies. Only the “magic of the marketplace” can break public labor unions, downsize public services and put tollbooths on the roads, water and sewer systems while cutting back bus lines and raising fares.
    To achieve this financial plan, it is necessary is to frame the problem in a way that rules out less anti-social alternatives. As Margaret Thatcher put matters, TINA: There Is No Alternative to selling off public transportation, real estate, and even school systems and jails…

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    If I had significant assets why would I go live in New Zealand?
    I could think of lovely places in Switzerland, Italy, and Spain.

  32. steve says:

    The Detroit Red Wings owner wants the city to cough up $283 million for a new hockey arena.

  33. Edward Amame! No profit centers will be built. These banksters are really just asset strippers in disguise. Rape the commons for private benefits.

  34. optimax says:

    Canada won’t even take Americans without significant assets. Third Worlders are welcome and at the rate our country is declining, we will soon be eligible.

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You cannot be serious; for as long as the (paper) profits were flowing nary a single soul was complaining – barring Dr. Doom (Nouriel Roubini), Pat Buchannan, Paul Sweezy (the Marxist Economist) and lastly Harry Markopolos (the Madeoff Whistle Blower).
    Now that it has hit the fan, everyone is at fault except self.
    You might like to read the story: “Gentleman from Krakow” by I. B. Singer.

  36. Fred says:

    Those folks go to work in fast food places, they get ripped off by their employers there too:
    This was a good write up of the difficulties of living on minimum wage in the US: “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” written by Barbara Ehrenreich.

  37. Fred says:

    Yes, as if his wife were not getting enough tax breaks for Motor City Casino, which she owns; and by some further legalistic illusion is not of course in any way associated with the owner of the Redwings (her husband) thus there’s no violation of NHL rules on owning businesses focused on – shock – gambling.

  38. On a serious note, corruption is behind much of the collapse of Detroit and IMO [ofter wrong] the Dearborn Club and Detroit’s industrial leadership was not immune.
    Focus by the beancounters on the so-called “bottom-line” and their predominance over the engineers led to a huge market failure a number of times. David Halberstram’s book “The Reckoning” is instructive.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think what destroyed them was that they lost sight of what they were there for, namely produce products that people wanted to buy and enjoy using.
    Instead, for 40 years it was more improtant to fight their political fights internally and winning; that is how they got promoted.
    It was not for lack of internal or external advise either; many many outsiders wanted them to succeed and advised thme to the best of their knowledge and ability.
    But there was no leadership, in my opinion.
    And the unions, with their destructive labor practices, were not helpful either.

  40. Tyler says:

    Am I going to be the first person to mention how Coleman Young was the beginning of the end for Detroit?

  41. CK says:

    I am not sure what it is that I am not serious about. Dr. Putnam’s work is available with a mouse click. He sat on his results for over a decade trying to massage them into a politically correct narrative. He couldn’t do it. Diversity in a democracy=dilution of culture and destruction of community.
    Detroit has not shown a profit, paper or people since the mid 60’s. The creators and the productive left and allowed those as demanded power to have the power.
    Nary a soul except for 4 serious souls.
    And truly myself is not at fault. Detroit did what it did to itself without asking me for my permission nor taking any account of my non-Michiganer’s opinions. The USA is currently re-doing to itself as injury as invidious and cancerous as the one it did intentionally in 1965; again without asking me for my approval or input.
    Mr. Singer’s fiction is probably as apt for the current USA as Ms. Rand’s n’est pas?

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    What I am saying is that as long as the debt-financed economic prosperity was lifting all boats, all these issues could be swept under the rug.
    So Detroit received its $ 400 million from Clinton and they were happy as a clam.
    What is there to show for that money?
    Handouts were being given to any and all – thus removing the pnecessity of working with others in the community; everyone could withdraw into the safety of their own world – I think.
    Did anyone protest that level of funding?
    I think not.
    Yes, there is a marked sense of community in some God-foresaken part of Georgia when you are not served because you are a (White) couple from “outside”.
    On the other hand, in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Dallas, Houston, Austin, LA and other places where there is – I hope you would agree – no sense of community – the stranger, the outsider, the non-conformist etc. is safer and more at ease.
    Diversity is not the issue, in my opinion, isolation is – that is; creating the conditions which isolates diverse people from one another – say through re-districting and creating “safe” districts – obviating the need to make colations and working together.
    Detroit is a microsom of US – in my opinion – every problem in Detroit area is a concentrated one of elsewhere in the United States.

  43. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The racial riots were – not Coleman Young – who is almost like a saint to African-Americans in Detroit.

  44. SAC Brat says:

    Young’s successor, Dennis Archer, appeared very clean, clean enough to get federal aid for the city. I had hoped he would have stayed in politics.
    Anyone have any negatives for him?

  45. CK says:

    Jerome Cavanaugh was the mayor who failed to successfully end the riots in 1967. A disingenuous white liberal before the term became commonplace, his failures led directly to the successful growth of the suburbs of Detroit and the eventual placement of a new majority in Detroit.

  46. CK says:

    It appears you and I will not be in agreement.
    Forced diversity is the issue, is causal to the deterioration of urban areas. Being able to freely choose who you wish to associate with and who you do not was fundamental to the USA. Today, attempting to choose your friends or your neighbours is frowned upon.
    There are many places in the USA that do not display the Detroit illness and lacking the generators of the Detroit illness will avoid that illness.

  47. Fred says:

    The riots had allot more to do with the mass migration of the middle class out of Detroit.

  48. Ian says:

    Canada briefly took possession of Detroit in 1812 when the 2200 strong American garrison shamefully surrendered to 1300 British and Shawnee troops. Canada’s tried Detroit on for size, and despite the fact that it’s a great hockey town we don’t want it back.

  49. turcopolier says:

    Good thinking. We don’t either. pl

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