Monday, February 16, 2009

I've been thinking about a lot of stuff for the past week, but apparently I've not been posting any of it.

Tomorrow I'll try to give a run down of the restaurant that Lindsay and I went to for Valentine's Day.

Today, however, something caught my eye in an article I was reading about towns that went from boom to bust.

"Motown has been on the empty side for decades. An industrial boomtown during the first half of the 20th century, Detroit's population swelled from 285,000 in 1900 to 990,000 in 1920, reaching a peak of 1.8 million in 1950.

But starting in the 1960s, Detroit began a precipitous decline. Detroit's population is now 900,000--half what it was in the middle of the century--and many of its neighborhoods languish in varying states of decay. Most scholars blame rapid suburbanization, outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, and federal programs they say exacerbated the situation by creating a culture of joblessness and dependency.

Yet after more than half a century, countless scholars, politicians, community organizers developers and nonprofit workers have been unable to come up with a solution to fix Detroit."

The most interesting part to me is the "Most scholars blame ... federal programs they say exacerbated the situation by creating a culture of joblessness and dependency." You mean the kind of programs that don't force you to go get a job? The kind that reward you for having more and more children? The kind that give you everything that you need to barely subsist but never enough to actually get out of the rut you're in? I do believe that the government wants it just that way. The government wants to be your provider. Your parent so to speak. The more you depend on the government the more power they have over you.

So how do we break that? A lot of people have tried and failed. They've thrown billions of dollars at the problems only to see them get worse. What they haven't tried yet though is turning off the money spigot. People tend to get motivated when they're told they won't be getting any more handouts. Either that, or they starve. The problem is, in Detroit and other places, they're doing both. They're getting handouts and are still starving. The government is not the answer. Money is not the answer to all of lifes problems. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. Sometimes things have to get a lot worse before they can get better. Well, we think it can't get much worse in Detroit, but I guess we'll see for sure.

Cleveland has been on the decline for 30 years. We've never managed to replace the huge manufacturing base that has been vacating steadily during that time. There's promise and plans out there, but there's too much hand wringing and bureaucracy to actually get anything done. I suspect that's where Cleveland and Detroit have a lot in common. It takes private money to revitalize a city. There's no way that federal, state, or local money alone can get it done. How many billions poured into New Orleans to rebuild it only to see that half of the population simply isn't coming back? You've got to have big plans and keep having big plans until they eventually take root. You can't just take one swing, not hit a home run, and then go home.

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