08 August 2008

An Obituary for Detroit

Detroit was once the leading industrial center of the world and was a cultural mecca, as it was the city in which Motown was born. Automotive assembly plants in the 20s lifted many immigrants and folks migrating from the Deep South out of poverty, and the city's industrial epicenter was crucial during the war effort against the Axis. So what the fuck happened to make it one of the "fastest-dying" cities in America according to Fortune magazine (note: this is not a new label for Detroit).

I'd say the riot in 1967 scared a lot of people and businesses off. The UAW getting too greedy coupled with the big three auto makers shipping jobs overseas probably didn't help matters either. Plus there was the "Nightmare on Crack Street" epidemic in the 80s, which not coincidentally, came around the same time that Devil's Night became famous (widespread arson on the evening of Oct. 30th). But the worst of all of Detroit's problems has to do with the politicians (no surprises there). Former mayor during the 70s and 80s, Coleman Young, had overly-aggressive affirmative action plans and taxed the bejeezus out of businesses to build botched projects like "The People Mover", which did not help the city of Detroit, but made people flee en masse. Kwame Kilpatrick seemed to be much more friendly to business, but his shenanigans finally landed him in jail today. Should we trust any politicians anymore?

Unless you are an anarchist, we can all agree that we need to elect folks to enforce the Rule of Law. However, putting too much faith and trust in a person in charge of administering our government will inevitably lead to an abuse of power. Fortunately, the information age has allowed the average schmoe to become much more aware of what is happening in the sealed off chambers of city hall. For every crook on the left (like Kwame who's a Dem), there's a hypocrite on the right (see story about Missouri legislator indicted in teen sex scandal), and partisan politics coerces people to only view the faults of one side. We need to get over this bullshit and search for what Matt Welch once descibed blogging as:

"I’d say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s…a readiness to admit error [and] a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review."

Right now with all the election hoopla, this paradigm is looking pretty far off. Anyone up for more talk about Paris Hilton and tire gages?