Speaking of Detroit (see yesterday’s main post), I listened to a podcast on Saturday about building strong towns and urban renewal (go here for podcast). The interviewee is an urban consultant who emphasizes the need for non-macro redevelopment. Rome, he likes to point out, didn’t get the Colosseum and then build Rome: “The Colosseum was the byproduct of centuries of success.” Likewise, the idea that cities should undertake mega-projects in order to stimulate development is wrong-headed and results in massive problems across the scale: economic, cultural, societal.
But his observations about Detroit are what I found really interesting (emphasis mine):
Detroit is in a state–and this is the other part of Detroit that I find fascinating–of essentially contracting back to something that would be manageable, or defensible, to use a military analogy. If you go right now, today, to the core of Detroit, it’s actually one of the most exciting places in the world. And largely because of the absence of government. There’s nobody there telling people: You can’t open this business, or, You have to get a permit to do that or inspections to do this. There are very few barriers for young people to start a business and get things going. There aren’t the large corporations that are competing and kind of raising up the initial cost of entry. So downtown–like the very core of Detroit–has some really fascinating things going on right now in terms of business startup and economics. But yeah, the rest of Detroit is kind of a scary place in ways. I think our challenge, really, if I had to define our challenge for this generation, is to make the transition to what the core of Detroit is today, this kind of vibrant place where a lot of great stuff is happening, without going through what the rest of Detroit has gone through. To me it’s like the cities that can do that are going to be the ones that are going to be really successful places.
Long-time TDE readers might remember that I suggested back in 2008 that Detroit be wholly abandoned by government and turned into a laboratory of extremist libertarianism, just to see what happens. My rationale: The extremist libertarian arrangement couldn’t do any more harm to Detroit than the government arrangement had done.
No one, obviously, took me up on my proposal, but it sounds like libertarianism is sneaking in anyway. The government is bankrupt. It can’t even mow its own yard, much tell other people to mow theirs . . . and much less tell some small business that it can’t do X, Y, and Z without jumping over hurdles A through Q. And just as large swaths of Detroit are returning to nature, batches of Detroit are returning to the free market.
Also worth noting: It’s a free market that distributists like Chesterton and Belloc would’ve loved. It’s a truly free market of small businesses, just doing their little things, unhindered by Hudge and Gudge.
Perhaps Detroit isn’t a laboratory for libertarianism, as much as a laboratory for distributism. Then again, I’ve long maintained (albeit in a loose way) that libertarianism and distributism, once all the anti-Rothbard rancor is wiped away, are essentially the same thing.
For more about Detroit’s micro-economic revitalization, check out this 2013 blog post at Lew Rockwell. You can find the blogger’s Detroit: From Rust to Riches blog here. She’s a libertarian who holds high hopes that this could be Detroit’s moment.
Aside: I honestly believe that Detroit is a potential (metaphorical) goldmine for young people who are willing to take a risk, both bodily and financial, just like San Francisco was a potential (literal) goldmine in the 1840s. It’s just a belief I have, and Detroit still has a long, long way to go (check out stunning pictures of decay here), but if it didn’t have a long way to go, it wouldn’t be a potential goldmine.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList