We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

By the time Detroit declared bankruptcy, Americans were so inured to the throbbing dirge of Motown’s Greatest Hits — 40 percent of its streetlamps don’t work; 210 of its 317 public parks have been permanently closed; it takes an hour for police to respond to a 9-1-1 call; only a third of its ambulances are driveable; one-third of the city has been abandoned; the local realtor offers houses on sale for a buck and still finds no takers; etc., etc. — Americans were so inured that the formal confirmation of a great city’s downfall was greeted with little more than a fatalistic shrug. But it shouldn’t be. To achieve this level of devastation, you usually have to be invaded by a foreign power.

- Mark Steyn.

30 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    The left (including the international media – not just the BBC but all of them, bar FNC) are doing a tap dance about “industrial decline”, as if it was a natural process (like the weather).

    Detroit is not the victim of some natural process – it the victim of “Progressive” thought.

    Specifically two things – being chosen (in the early 1960s) as the site of a vast experiment in government planning and government spending (the results of this experiment are not obvious – but the academic elite still carry on with same doctrines), and UNION POWER (itself the product of government statutes such as the Wagner Act).

    Government planning has failed – yet the elite demand more planning, government spending has failed – yet the elite demand more spending (the Treason of the Intellectuals continues).

    As for Union Power – it has both undermined manufacturing, and it has helped cripple public finances (it is no accident that most governments, Federal, State and local in the United States, that are in serious danger of de facto bankruptcy, are UNIONSED under Collective Bargaining doctrine).

    Even Franklin Roosevelt (“FDR”) who did so much to push the unionisation of private business, was opposed to the unionisation of government.

    Mr Roosevelt had little or no experience of private business – but he had a lot of experience of government (local, State and Federal) and he understood that unionised government is hopeless (radically dysfunctional).

  • llamas

    The occupying force was the monolithic Democrat machine that ran Detroit for 50 years. The combination of stunning incompetence and rapacious greed was so overwhelming that even Detroit could not withstand it.

    I’ll tell my favorite Detroit story.

    About 10 years ago, I drove a semi-truck to downtown Detroit to deliver a man-lift – one of those big cherry-pickers on wheels. My destination was a 5-storey apartment block, a few blocks from the Fox theater. The owner of the apartment block was having some brickwork repairs and window replacement done.

    I won’t mention the name of the building – their memories are long and that man still does business in Detroit.

    The building was just gorgeous. Constructed in 1912, it contained a perfect mixture of one- and two-bedroom flats, ideal for young working singles and families starting out. You could walk to downtown Detroit. The building still had its original curved glass bay windows, stained glass transoms and awesome woodwork. It was in plain but effective condition, and it was fully-occupied. The man charged a fair rent (considering the location) and had no trouble getting good renters.

    It was also The Last Building Standing on the block. The only reason he rented a man-lift was that he had no problems accessing all sides of his building. In times past, he would have had to erect scaffolding, but the city took care of that for him.

    And – as the man told us – it would not be there much longer. The city wanted it as part of the new stadium complex (Comerica Park/Ford Field) and they had already approached him with a derisory offer, which he had rejected. He knew what was coming. And he was right.

    In a twelvemonth, it was gone. The city blitzed him with inspectors and regulators – health inspectors, building inspectors, fair-housing inspectors, you name it – and they told him that he had to do so much to his building, and appear for so many hearings, and respond to so many letters, and pay so many fines, that he just said ‘screw it’ and walked away from the building. His tenants went – who knows where? – and the city siezed and demolished the building in record time. They ended up getting it for free. Meanwhile, the city made sure that the renters were happy to leave, by suddenly enforcing things like parking and trash ordinances on this Totally Abandoned Block with the petty vindictiveness that only a Detroit city functionary can muster.

    All so that the Lions can play 13 games a year and the solons of the city and state Democratic parties can hob-nob with the wealthy and the wise in their skyboxes at Comerica Park. They literally p*ssed away their city and its citizens so that they could play their political games and line their pockets.

    That’s how they do it in Detroit.

    Even-more amazingly, they brainswashed the citizens who stayed into believing that none of the collpase is their fault. On the streets of Detroit today, you can still find plenty of people who adamantly support past leaders like Kwame Kilpatrick and Monica Conyers, depsite their prison sentences for the most petty, venal and contemptible corruption. All are united in the firm belief that the whole thing is the fault of the banks that lent the city money and some vague coalition of white racists.

    The current titular leader of the Detroit City Council is (effectively) on the lam following allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy. The old line about how you’d have to be caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy to lose the support of the voters doesn’t apply in Detroit anymore – even this is (according to the received wisdom south of 8-Mile) a sinister plot by racists to unseat the democratically-elected leader of the city.

    You gotta admire their sand.

    llater,

    llamas

  • RRS

    Let me suggest something that is totally non-PC – Profiling:

    Profile:

    Detroit

    St. Louis

    Washington DC

    Cleveland (which also incurred a default)

    and a few others.

    Consider the transformation of the citizenry of those cities and of the other “communities” which are in marginal conditions in the United States. Consider all the other factors of “civil” life within those cities and the degree to which it is reflected in the “political” life in those cities.

    These suggestions do indeed explicitly reference the impact of forms of racial dominance, but they are not “racist,” they are based upon class levels which have been largely, but not entirely, determined by racial membership. Reference can be made to “Fishtown” in Coming Apart by Charles Murray.

    The motivations of the citizenry are reflected in the nature of the social order of any grouping. Comments have been made that indicate the processes which have contributed to changes in the motivations and the transformation of the citizenry. However, those transformations have been relatively consistent for a large class of Americans. They have been more extensive and intensive in urban concentrations. In some areas they have been overridden (to some limited extent) by repopulation from classes composed of individuals with motivations formed by the social order of other groupings. That latter process has been designated as “re-gentrification.” In Washington DC it met with some initial (some fatally violent) resistance. It is not an alternative easily available given the scope of the profiles.

  • I urge everyone to read this, and would like Llamas’ input on the veracity etc – thanks.

  • RRS

    A bit of humor:

    In the comments to an opinion piece in the WaPo today on the decline of Detroit:

    “If Obama had a city, it would look like Detroit.”

  • …’and if he had a country, it would look like Nigeria’.

  • RAB

    He does, and it will Alisa. He has three more years to make it so.

  • Uncle Julius

    By the time Detroit declared bankruptcy, Americans were so inured…that the formal confirmation of a great city’s downfall was greeted with little more than a fatalistic shrug.

    From a literate resident of the city, the shrug might properly be accompanied by the question, “Who is John Galt?”

  • llamas

    @ Alisa – I know of Dale Brown, but have never met him.

    There’s no question that his outfit offers a level of security that DPD does not. All of the swanky riverfront apartment towers and the other tiny enclaves where all the movers and shakers on Detroit city government live are protected by TMC.

    From what I hear, he’s a little bit full of himself, but there’s no denying that his organization is doing a much better job for its customers than most of DPD. Ever since the days of Chief William ‘Poker Stash’ Hart, the position of DPD Chief has been a political patronage gift of whoever’s in power in Detroit, and as the chief goes, so go the troops. From Assistant Deputy Chief Ken ‘Krugerrands’ Weiner to Chief Ella ‘Do you know who the f*ck I am?’ Bully-Cummings, the department has had a train of leaders whose venality is only matched by their incompetence. There’s a lot of good street officers in DPD, but a lot of lousy ones too, and the whole command is just a complete cesspit of corruption and cronyism. You only have to look at the recent incumbents and the endless stream of corruption and vice investigations of the department to know that it’s a hopeless case.

    It ain’t funny. I don’t go to Detroit without an exit strategy that includes a gun, a second, and a cell-phone to call someone I trust to come get me. For damn sure I don’t go there for anything that you might call non-essential purposes. mrs llamas is just as good with a pistol as I am, and she never goes there, period. I feel bad for some of the people who have no choice but to live there.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    Llamas lays the blame for Detroit’s condition on “the monolithic Democrat machine that ran Detroit for 50 years”, which is true enough but doesn’t tell the whole story. The rest of it is that Detroit has been under exclusively black rule for the last 40 years (beginning with Coleman Young in 1974). One or two of those mayors may have been marginally competent, but most were venal and thoroughly corrupt. But of course the people of Detroit are trying to blame anybody and everybody else for the city’s current condition. Detroit’s problem is racism, but it is black racism: its residents will vote for a black over anyone else, regardless of competence. And it’s the same problem in other major cities, Washington DC being a prime example.

    Racism is a problem in this country, but it is not the racism the MSM and liberal intelligentsia would have you believe. Yes, there exists white racism against blacks, but there is little of that left; over the last 40 years most whites have made a serious effort to transcend race. But a substantial majority of blacks are overtly and unapologetically racist against whites, which is never discussed. It’s difficult to find more vile racists than Louis Farrakhan or Jesse Jackson Jr., but they are leaders in the black community. Until blacks make the same effort to transcend race that whites have, and disavow race-baiters like Farrahkan and Jackson, the problem will remain. And cities like Detroit, Newark and Washington will continue to decline.

  • Snag

    It’s difficult to find more vile racists than Louis Farrakhan or Jesse Jackson Jr., but they are leaders in the black community.

    I can think of one – Al Sharpton.

  • RRS

    It’s difficult to find more vile racists than Louis Farrakhan or Jesse Jackson Jr., but they are leaders in the black community.

    No, they are “constituency builders;” not “leaders.” They have constituencies (which appear to be stagnant and eroding); but, those constituencies and their members have interests and influences (particularly in the political processes) which continue to have disproportionate effects.

    A major issue is WHY?

  • Kevin Jaeger

    Llamas is quite correct when he points out the effects of the corrupt and thuggish Democrat machine in Detroit.

    But let’s not forget the individual contributions that have made Detroit what it is today. Every business that was vandalized and robbed, every car that was broken into or car-jacked, every streetlight that is out because someone gathered the copper wire for scrap – all the trash that has been thrown around, the buildings set on fire and the gunfire in public places. All these things were done by hundreds of thousands of individual residents as they shaped their home city into something that reflects their morals and values.

    Detroit didn’t become the crime-ridden open sewer that it is today just by official channels. It took a sustained effort by hundreds of thousands over several decades to make Detroit what it is today.

  • llamas

    @ Laird – with all due respect, I think you over-play the part that black racism played in Detroit’s collapse. It’s a big part of the problem today, but it isn’t what started it.

    What started the rot, back in the 60s, was the institutional and unrepentant racism of large areas of Detroit city government. Chief among many was the Detroit PD, which housed as nasty a crew of racist thugs as you would find anywhere outside the Deep South. Institutionally unable to adapt to the changing demographic of Detroit, many of these billy-club swinging dinosaurs just went on doing, like they’d always done, until the pressure for change could not be held back.

    Change came in the shape of a crew of well-meaning liberals who honestly sought to right past wrongs but with no clear idea of how. The absolute exemplar of this bunch was MaryAnn Mahaffey, a well-meaning but profoundly-naïve professor of social work who served on the City Council for almost 40 years. A sucker for every liberal Kumbaya-singing idea to come down the pike, she and her fellow useful idiots were easy marks for the combination of race hustlers and simple crooks who came behind them.

    Soul-Man Cole-Man Young wasn’t actually that bad a mayor – he fought tooth-and-nail for the city. He just figured out early on that the best and easiest way to get people to roll over and give him whatever he wanted was to appeal to their white liberal guilt – the race card, which he soon found couldn’t be limited out and kept working no matter what he (personally) did.

    All that might have been well-and-good if the auto industry (managed almost exclusively by white males) hadn’t taken such a spectacular pratfall in the 70s and 80s. Detroit actually didn’t have too many big auto plants by this time – most of the work, and so most of the workers, were already in Warren and Sterling Heights and Dearborn, and so it didn’t take much to put the tax base onto a short ride off a tall cliff. By this time, the city’s leaders were almost entirely in thrall to the State and Federal government for an endless stream of big-ticket items that brought State and Federal aid and grant money to the city by the bushel-basketful, but none of which actually did squat for the health of the city. So we got the RenCen that couldn’t give away office space, the PeopleMover that nobody rides, and a thousand more like it – all of it on Coleman’s card, that never ran out. So what if the income and property tax base was leaking away and people were abandoning the city by the 100,000s a year? We’ll just get another Federal program, another State development project – and point the business to our cronies. Everybody’s happy!

    That’s when the corruption and the corrosive black racism/black nationalism really got going. When everybody’s gaming the system, pretty soon, they split into tribes, the better to game each other. As Detroit transformed into a majority-black city, one tribe came to predominate. Only one way that’s going to end. And here we are.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Uncle Julius

    So what if the income and property tax base was leaking away and people were abandoning the city by the 100,000s a year? We’ll just get another Federal program, another State development project – and point the business to our cronies…

    But llamas, note the people leaving were mostly white; shouldn’t blacks have fled as well? Your narrative misses a vital fact: it was the Supreme Court that initiated white flight from Detroit. The government intervened with force to desegregate the public schools. That was the beginning of the financial decline, not racial conflict or official corruption. Just as greed was not the prime cause of the 2008 recession.

  • Laird

    Llamas, I defer to your greater knowledge of Detroit and its (disgraceful) recent history. And perhaps I did overstate the role black racism played in the city’s decline. But it is clearly an important factor, and not just in Detroit, either.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    If Obama has a country? I think Nigeria is a tad too charitable. Isn’t Zimbabwe a better example, since it provides evidence of black oppression against minority whites?

  • The Wobbly Guy

    The slow but steady glimmers of truth start to poke out from under all the slime of political correctness.

    Race does play a part too. And when racial average intelligence is less than a certain number, you can’t expect them to make consistent good decisions individually, based on long term goals and delayed gratification. The moral calculus of individuals devolves into asinine and perfunctory reasoning just like Trayvon Martin’s (can’t let that cracka diss me!).

    Just like what Kevin Jaeger had described: Shootings, stealing, even simple things like not clearing out the trash. It takes a lot of individuals with certain tendencies to sustain a modern civilization. Many blacks just don’t have it.

  • Mr Ed

    The question really is, ‘when does socialism lead to cannibalism?’. 1930s Ukraine being an example.

  • Bogdan from Australia

    One has to laugh (bitterly though); In 1900, Henryk Sienkiewicz, the most prominent Polish writer and an author of Quo Vadis which has received Nobel Price in 1905 and was made into a movie by Hollywood, visited Detroit and was enchanted by it. He wrote: “I have never seen such a beautiful and lively city in my life. I couldn’t even dream that the ordinary people could live so well.”

  • Wasn’t this all predicted in Robocop?

  • PeterT

    What is the likely immediate future for Detroit given that the bankruptcy has been stalled by the courts? Big Federal bail out to keep it going for a few more years? Or bankruptcy, catharsis, renaissance?

  • WG: yes, Zimbabwe does sound more like it.

    As to your second comment: what a load of crap. Yes, we get it – Africans are genetically stupid, and that’s the root of all their problems. So, where from here?

  • llamas

    @ PeterT – O, to be in Michigan, now that Bankruptcy’s here. The chatter is of nothing else but What Now.

    The state court manouverings are nothing but partisan smokescreening. The Ingham County circuit court judge who granted a stay on the bankruptcy case cited as one of her reasons the ‘fact’ that the bankprupcy petition does not ‘honor’ President Obama. It’s been a few years since I studied bankruptcy law but I do not recall that failing to ‘honor’ an individual or a public office was grounds for disqualifying a petition in bankruptcy.

    Emergency manager Kevyn Orr is trying his damndest to get the city into Federal bankruptcy court, where some vestige of fiscal sanity and a nodding connection with grade-school arithmetic may yet prevail.

    The city’s unions, and Micigan unions and the Democratic party generally, are doing their damndest to keep it out of Federal bankruptcy court – for the same reasons.

    There Ain’t No More Money. Orr recognizes this and has done his best to get to a place where the basic disconnect between promises made and an empty bank account can be settled.

    Those who oppose him are looking for yet another way to kick the can down the road some more, and they see their best chance of getting yet another massive bailout is if they can keep it within the state, where judges and voters are more-friendly.

    My prediction? In a week or two, Kevyn Orr will be travelling with police protection (if he isn’t already) and in a month or two, he will be gone – either dismissed by a state court judge, or by his own choice because he cannot break the impasse. With 2014 elections looming, Michigan (and specifically, Detroit) is too important a Democratic stronghold to be put at risk, so a combination of State and Federal bailout fubnds will be contrived to let it limp along another year or two.

    On the ground, nothing will change, and the same crew of thieves and incompetents will be handed back the city so they can screw it up some more.

    But maybe I’m wrong.

    llater,

    llamas

  • llamas

    @ Bogdan from Australia – oh, yes indeed, that cite has been getting plenty of play around here lately.

    It’s hard to grasp just how f*cking amazing Detroit and SE Michigan must have been, back in the day. When I’m riding around in the service van down there, we always remark that the trade to have been in in Detroit 75 years ago was brick mason – block after block, mile after mile of beautifully-built brick homes, some real gems of residential architecture. You can still see miles of this in the ex-urbs like Birmingham and the Grosse Pointes. What’s amazing in all of the popular ‘ruins pr*n’ about Detroit is not that these houses are falling down, but that so many of them are still standing.

    Detroit was one of the few cities in which blue-collar and white-collar neighborhoods were so totally intermixed, and where a man could work at a gritty factory job all day, take a ten-minute ride on the interurban, and find himself living in a semi-rural suburb. The city planning was so enlightened, and yet down with such a light touch, that it created a way of living that may never have been developed before or since. The only analogue I can think of is some of the developments around the aviation industry in SoCal.

    The education system was world class, both instructionally and socially, with huge schools like Cass Tech and Country Day just churning out legions of skilled and accomplished graduates to staff the myriad of industries. The region was just lousy with superb universities and colleges. The opportunities for recreation were limitless. How many hourly-paid factory workers in the UK in the 1950s could golf in the summer and ski in the winter, hunt every fall and fish every spring? In Detroit, these were practically birthrights. Millions upon millions of acres of fields and forests, lakes and streams, parks and preserves, all within a couple of hours driving and all there for the taking.

    And they p*ssed it all away.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Tedd

    PeterT:

    There’s a simple solution to Detroit’s constitutional problem. They just need to adopt their own currency.

  • Mr Ed

    NEWSFLASH!

    Canadian man gets drunk, and swims to Detroit.

  • Tedd

    Canadian man gets drunk, and swims to Detroit.

    And back! Or, at least, it appears he would have made it back if a neighbour hadn’t intervened. I hope the neighbour offers to pay half the fine.

  • Laird

    In case anyone missed it, the bankruptcy judge has (properly) ruled that his court has exclusive jurisdiction over all legal issues relating to the bankruptcy, and has permanently stayed all legal proceedings in other courts. This disposes of the order recently issued by that political hack county judge (which had already been stayed by her own appellate court) and disposes of this issue. Now the real fun begins!

  • llamas

    @ Laird – not so fast! This is Michigan, or, more properly, this is Detroit – where, not so very long ago, the City’s corporate counsel brought and continued a state-court action against the Governor in direct defiance of her instructions from the City Council and the Mayor.

    Normal rules don’t apply here.

    Expect a bliizzard of state and Federal suits which challenge every single jot and tittle of this entire process. My bet? First in court will be challenges to the propriety of EM Kevyn Orr bringing a bankruptcy petition in the first place for (name any one of 23 different obscure procedural causes) and/or to Governor Snyder for approving it.

    This is just the beginning. This is the hill that the solons of Detroit city government and the city’s unions have chosen to fight on. They’re still not done with a half-a-hundred lawsuits which challenge the validity of the EM statute to begin with.

    Years. This will take – Years. And many lawyers will become even-richer as a result. I will wager good cash money that it will be 12 months before a Federal bankruptcy court hearing addresses the first issue of substance in this petition.

    I’m reminded of when Maurice Micklewhite was charged with the accusation that he had appeared in some real stinker movies. His reply? ‘Yes, I watched those movies. And they were awful. But I’ve seen the house they paid for, and it’s beautiful!’ Most of the players in this long-running soap have/will have absolutely no personal skin in the game. I just feel sorry for the large numbers of honest, hardworking Detroit residents who are (once again) senstenced to burn while their leaders fiddle.

    llater,

    llamas