Charles, this reminds me of debates I used to have over HBO’s series The Wire, easily one of the best TV shows ever made. The show’s creator, David Simon, was pretty much a member of the Naomi Klein/Noam Chomskyite school of leftism. The Left loved the show. Indeed, the Left loved the show so much, I used to hear from them that I was a fool or a hypocrite for loving it too (even though this magazine has a longer record of opposing the Drug War than most liberal and left-wing magazines and newspapers). And while David Simon may have intended The Wire to be a searing indictment of America, the show itself strikes a target much closer to home: blue-state urban liberalism. Virtually every character and institution in the series was part of the Democratic coalition: liberal-Democratic politicians, labor unions, teachers’ unions, big-city liberal newspaper editors, scummy criminal defense attorneys, graft-dealing contractors and fundraisers, bureaucratic social workers, bleeding heart academics, African-American community leaders and their flock. There was barely a conservative or conventional libertarian for miles around. The Democratic party and its lieutenants own Baltimore and its failures completely. And yet the blame for the plight of Charm City was supposed to fall squarely on characters and institutions that barely came up in conversation. Sure, changes to the economy that left residents of Baltimore behind, one could argue, were part of the cold impersonal forces of capitalism. But the actual leaders responsible for dealing with those forces were all liberals and Democrats. And yet, I am the fool for thinking that the bombshell hit its target squarely on the right?
As with the debates over Detroit. I’d expand on the point, but Kevin already did that work for us in his piece “Progressivism Kills“:
Detroit is what Democrats do. The last Republican elected mayor of Detroit took office during the Eisenhower administration. The decay of Detroit is not the inevitable outcome of the decline of the automotive industry: The automotive industry is thriving in the United States — but not in Detroit. It isn’t white flight: The black middle class has left Detroit as fast as it can. The model of Detroit politics is startlingly familiar in its fundamentals, distinguished only by its degree of advancement: Advance the interests of public-sector unions and politically connected business cronies, expand the relative size of the public sector remorselessly — and when opposed, cry “Racism!” When people vote with their feet, cry “Racism!” When the budget just won’t balance, cry “Racism!” Never mind that the current mayor of Detroit is the first non–African American to hold that job since the 1970s, or that, as one Detroit News columnist put it, “black nationalism . . . is now the dominant ideology of the [city] council” — somewhere, there must be a somebody else to blame, preferably: aged, portly, white, male, and Republican. No less a fool than Ed Schultz blamed the straits of this exemplar of Democratic single-party rule on “a lot of Republican policies.” Melissa Harris-Perry, “America’s leading public intellectual,” blames Detroit’s problems on its conservatism and small government, oblivious to the fact that Detroit maintains twice as many city employees per resident as do larger cities such as Fort Worth and Indianapolis, and three times as many as liberal San Jose.
The result of all that municipal “investment”? For children newborn through age 18, Detroit sees 120 deaths per 100,000 each year — a rate 26 percent higher than second-place child-killer Philadelphia. That’s nearly two and a half times the rate in Los Angeles, which isn’t exactly a leafy suburban paradise. Every time our progressive friends come to us with another idea for transferring wealth from the productive economy to them and their friends, they scold us: “Think of the children!” But those who resist their efforts to do to the country at large what they have done to Detroit are thinking of the children.
Capitalism didn’t kill Detroit or grievously wound Baltimore. Capitalism made those cities great. Urban liberalism dismantled the greatness.