I have spent most of my 70 years living in and outside of Detroit. I’ve watched it go from a booming town to a near ghost town with jobs and people and of course money, leaving for greener pastures. In its earlier years if there was a problem, there was no problem. Somebody would step up examine the problem and fix it. Detroit’s leaders never feared facing a dilemma and tackling it.
But what can be said about leaders who look right at the problem then turn their heads away evading the obvious? Who even correctly identify the problem in concrete terms as Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson did in his Sunday 3/24/13 editorial “Revenue and spending all out of balance” but fails to examine the premises underlying the malady. Mr Henderson correctly cites in a nutshell the obvious concretes: Detroit government can no longer afford to provide economic services that it used to provide.
But instead of calling for a discussion on the question “What is the proper role of a city government? What services are it Constitutionally required to provide? Which ones are not so required? Mr Henderson and most other leading intellectuals are calling for new ways to raise money in order to keep doing the same old thing. In fact, on the same editorial page professor George Galster calls for a regional solution. Translation, hit the suburbs up for more money. But no one is asking the question why does the City have to provide all these economic services? Most are not political services like police and courts which are constitutionally required. So why not let others provide them?
What do us ordinary folk do when the paper boy keeps throwing the paper in mud puddles or worse, or when the auto repair shop has fixed our car 4 times in the last two weeks, or the trash pick up guys keep destroying our cans, throwing them around like cardboard? Well, if complaining doesn’t work, most of us start looking for someone else to provide these services. This I submit is what Detroit must do to keep from sinking lower on the desirability scale: get someone else to provide these economic services. Let competition and a freer market provide them.
Look at the Information Technology industry like cell phones, I pods and such. The IT industry is one of the least regulated industries in what’s left of our semi-free market. Thus people are still free (relatively) to come up with new ideas, market them and enjoy the rewards. Almost daily the quality of smart phones, I pads and such goes up while the costs fall. Isn’t this what we all want for our schools, roads, EMS and other services? Quality rising and prices falling?
But Detroit can’t get there from here by following the same failed policies of the past or by evading the consequences of its adopted premises. If city economic services can be sold or auctioned off and deregulated to the level of IT, Detroit will once again explode with prosperity.