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Sending in the bulldozers

Talking of issues to do with property ownership, this Daily Telegraph article about how some of the old industrial cities in the US are shrinking caught my eye. The US authorities are encouraging, with the use of a bit of public funds, the idea of knocking down whole swathes of supposedly defunct towns and cities and returning them to their “pristine” natural state. It is, in one way, a part of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter once called the “creative destruction” that is vital to capitalism.

Except that I don’t see a lot of capitalism going on here, more a sort of hybrid of private enterprise and state involvement. If, as the article claims, hundreds of square miles of urban area in the US/wherever are no longer economically viable, and could be used for something more economically valuable, whether it be farmland, recreational parks, golf courses, boating lakes, race tracks, or so on, then why not leave it to property and land developers? I find it worrying that the US government, either in its federal or local forms, can decree that an area of land is no longer “economically viable,” and decide to send the bulldozers in. And I also cannot help smelling a strong whiff of anti-suburbanism in this article, at least according to some of the folk quoted in it.

I tend to find that it is a revealing about a person’s overall viewpoint as to whether they slag off suburbs or not. If you despise them, chances are that you are a member of the Enemy Class, even though such people hypocritically live in such places.

Maybe it is the garden gnomes, or something.

21 comments to Sending in the bulldozers

  • mike

    From some way down the article:

    “But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said. If the city didn’t downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, he added. Flint’s recovery efforts have been helped by a new state law passed a few years ago which allowed local governments to buy up empty properties very cheaply.

    Too few people to pay for services? The city would go bankrupt? Christ, if only certain people in Washington started thinking like that in relation to SS expenses. Except of course they’d still be a bunch of commie c*nts because it isn’t their money in the first place.

    “I find it worrying that the US government, either in its federal or local forms, can decree that an area of land is no longer “economically viable,” and decide to send the bulldozers in.”

    Absolutely Jonathan. Values cannot exist apart from the individuals doing the valuing. Here we have an example of government actually seeking to ‘downsize’ its’ operations in order to survive. Note the use of the term ‘city’ rather than ‘city government’. The implicit premise behind the decision to bulldoze is collective ownership, which is anti-American in spirit.

  • Kevin B

    I can think of a few places in London where we would all benefit if they were bulldozed to the ground. I’m thinking large parts of Westminster, White City and the South Bank. Throw in a few areas in Brussels and Washington DC and I reckon the world would be a better place.

    As for what to replace them with; I suggest a combination of Mausoleum for the previous inhabitants and a sort of House of Horrors museum to act as a dreadful warning to those who might be inclined to resurrect them.

  • Bod

    I think that the idea is that if people are, and society is perfectble, then why, of course, so is the environment in which those people live.

    As someone said recently on another blog that cited this little nugget of a news item, what can you expect from the kind of people who believe the world is simply a vast, 3D Sim City game, populated with compliant meat-puppets.

  • llamas

    Greetings form sunny Detroit, Michigan!

    A wonderful concept, indeed. I’m all-too-familiar with Flint, MI, as well – a town that only a really good prairie fire could improve.

    What the writers fail to grasp is that the corruption that is poured with the concrete in cities such as Detroit and Flint will simply not allow this sort of urban redirection to occur – simply because the collection of rubes, tubthumpers and good-old-fashioned criminals who control these places can’t turn a fiscal or political dime at it.

    The last time a serious plan was mooted to demolish some of the thousands of vacant eyesores that dot the city of Detroit, it got shot down in days. Reason? There wasn’t enough demolition work set aside for black-owned demolition firms.

    The city governments of Detroit, Flint and places similar swim in a deep pool of black-nationalist Kool-Aid, in which the only reason for the total collapse of their cities is the eeevil white racists in the suburbs. According to this belief system, if they can just hang on a little longer and fight the good fight, We Shall Overcome and these cities will rise from the ashes and regain their former glory.

    It’s a nice dream – but it ain’t happening. Beginning with the administration of Mayor Coleman Young in the ’70s, Detroit city government got progressively taken over by such an unbelievable string of incompetents, thieves, demagogues and Democrats (but I repeat myself) that the whole city was simply run into the ground. The schools are a running, bad joke, the streets and infrastructure are at a Third World standard, large parts of the city are effectively unpoliced, and the population that can leave – has left. Federal and State money has been poured into Detroit in a wide and endless stream, and it has all simply soaked away into the cracked and broken concrete. What wasn’t simply stolen or grafted away, was p*ssed away by the unbelievable incompetence of city government.

    Meanwhile, City Council haughtily rejects any and all overtures at improvement that might create economic growth and jobs, because (in the famous words of Detroit City Council Chairperson ProTem Monica Conyers) “those workers don’t look like us”.

    In a practical sense, the problem in Detroit is not the abandoned houses and buildings – nature is taking care of that quite nicely, all by itself. It’s that the entire city administration is both politically and socially incompetent to even concieve of such a new direction, much less put it into action. And it could never bring itself to do such a thing anyway, becasue to do so would be to admit that the city is contracting and their dreams of a black-run Nirvana like the wonderful Detroit of old – is just a dream.

    Detroit just got a new Mayor, David Bing – the last Mayor having just finished his prison term for perjury. Bing is a successful businessman and appear to be half-way decent and honest. He won’t last – it will take the city no more than a year or two to devour him and render him completely impotent. That’s excatly what happened to the last half-way competent Mayor, Dennis Archer – he served one term and packed his bags for DC.

    Detroit is a lost cause. Flint is a lost cause. Between the stupidity of the auto companies and the incompetence and corruption of their elected officials, they p*ssed it all away. Knocking down a few abandoned houses won’t make any difference.



  • JohnR

    The rotten fruit of Kelo.

  • llamas

    For out-of-towners who want a better idea of what we’re talking about:

    – here’s a photo essay of 100 abandoned homes in Detroit:


    It’s interesting, apart from the homes themselves, to observe the surroundings – large parts of Detroit are now devolving into this sort of urban savannah. I imagine the rough shooting would be excellent.

    – for the urban archaeology of Detroit, take a look here:


    You can take the tour, but also tab the TOC button and see what has become of specific landmarks of Detroit.

    This level of decay is nothing new, and it has nothing to do with the current downturn – parts of Detroit have been headed this way for 40 years.



  • llamas

    JohnR – the situations in Detroit and Flint have nothing to do with Kelo or any sort of eminent-domain practice. Long before Kelo, the administration of the City of Detroit had developed completely-effective methods for getting their hands on any piece of property they wanted, for any reason, without compensation and without consequences. Hopw do you suppose that they were able to build, for example, a full-size major-league ballpark and NFL football stadium in the very heart of downtown Detroit?

    If you like, I will tell you an example of just how they do it . . . No letters, no lawyers.



  • Brian

    They can’t govern themselves. This is not news.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    I agree with llamas’ estimate, with one possible caveat. If the Federal government is bringing in subsidies to do the destruction; yeah the crooks in charge are going to be able to skim off most of it, so it might happen. It is not like there is anything else left of value in those areas to steal.

    I remember reading in the last year, a private developer made a presentation to the Detroit City Council for an urban renewal project in central Detroit for which they were willing to commit hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money. When the presentation got to the point of talking about the number of well paying jobs it would bring into the city for the construction; they were shouted [actually screamed] down by the 40+ City Council-critters who were complaining that the jobs would go to white people, so they did not want the project. The presentation ended immediately, as did the proposed project.

    I have made conjectures elsewhere about the inhabitants of this new wilderness Pale; both two and four-legged predators. All over our country, we have a problem with the four-legged kind interacting with city folk. I live in a small town, and I have bears in my yard every year, a badger that lives nearby, and I hear mountain lions calling at night. Mountain lions patrol inside the town, and in one incident a couple of years ago one walked into a Catholic church during morning Mass. The service was suspended in favor of a visit by the Police and Animal Control.

    It is my understanding that the population of bears, mountain lions, and wild boars is increasing in the Great Lakes region in rural areas. The new wild zones will be natural corridors for wildlife. I read in a Detroit paper recently of someone who is making a living by illegally hunting and selling wild game near his home in one of the mostly abandoned areas of Detroit. In a gangbanger -v- bear incident, I would bet on the bear.

    As far as two-legged predators, having large areas of wild lands [probably re-forested by the eviro’s] running through the city, with no effective law enforcement within is going to lead to a cross between Burgess’ Clockwork Orange and the traditional barbarian -v- City Folk raids.

    All in all, it sounds like the Liberal Dream.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • why not leave it to property and land developers?

    Developers don’t want touch the land, because if they buy they become liable for cleaning up any pre-existing environmental messes on the law.

  • Many of those abandoned houses appear to be in some re-zoning situation, or a “project” thrown up (correct term, methinks) nearby has just rendered that large home of single occupancy as a non-sequitur.

    Some of them are mildly intriguing in an Addams Family/Munster/Lemony/Seuss kind of way, but I would need “hard” boundaries – brick walls, not these soft verges. Damnable.

  • llamas

    Some Detroit-related points:

    – yes, City Council is home to some of the most unpleasant racists you will find anywhere.

    For many of them, it’s the only card they have. Most of them couldn’t get elected dog-catcher in any assembly of functional adults.

    – It’s illegal to hunt with firearms within the Detroit city limits. Yes, folks, legal use of firearms is illegal. Illegal use of firearms continues unabated.

    – a couple of weeks ago, a motorist was seriously injured after hitting a white-tail deer on the John C. Lodge freeway – less than a mile from the center of downtown Detroit at Hart Plaza. It would be like hitting a deer at the Elephant and Castle.

    – I’m told that two icons of Michigan wildlife – ring-necked pheasants and morel mushrooms – are now abundant all over the city. So something good came of it.

    – I doubt we will see bears in Detroit – they’re very rare in the Lower. But deer (obviously), coyotes (obviously), foxes (obviously), and I would expect to see all sorts of ground game.

    – I’m told that there are sand-hill cranes nesting within the city limits, attracted by the large open spaces, open waters and lack of people. If true, this may be the furthest South and East in Michigan they have ever taken up residence – they previously were not seen East of Lansing/Fowlerville.

    – the problem with the idea of wild-land zones in the city is the infrastructures. There’s actually a significant functioning rail network, the Detroit water and sewer system extends far outside the city and many suburbs depend on it, and of course the bridge and tunnel are major transport hubs.

    It should also not be overlooked that what’s left of Detroit is actually home to a lot of economic activity. Drive down 8-Mile (yes, Virginia, there is an 8-Mile Road) and you’ll see thriving businesses along every inch of it. Other major corridors are much the same. I wouldn’t go there except on compulsion, but there’s still 800,000 people living in Detroit and they’re all doing something. You can’t just blast wildland corridors through all of that.

    – the reason that land developers don’t want the land is that they can’t build anything that anyone wants to buy, or can afford. Detroit has been losing population at the rate of thousands of people a week for years – there’s so much excess housing stock, that you get into the situation that:

    You can buy a nice house in Detroit, may need a little work but sound, on a large lot, for $1. One Dollar. The only reason it isn’t free is that you can’t convey real property for less than a dollar. Where’s a developer going to turn a buck?



  • K

    llamas describes the politics and problems of downsizing in Michigan.

    The idea of razing neighborhoods is both good and bad. It is good because parts of some US cities have become literally wastelands.

    The bad will come from the inability of US governments from the federal to the smallest to conduct any operation without waste, corruption, and quite often incompetence.

    If we adopt these programs as public policy then it will consume immense amounts of money, much of it in graft, and a permanent increase in government employment.

    As far as the specifics of the idea. After 1945 immense tracts of moderate cost housing began to surround US cities. They government provided very low cost mortgages and encouraged home ownership.

    Most homeowners worked in factories. That amount of industrial employment can hardly be imagined now.

    The homes tended to be from 900 to 1400 square feet, built on concrete slabs. Actually the construction was pretty good. And for decades these were nice enough places to live.

    But they are from 40 to 60 years old. The factories have closed. Many people have left for work elsewhere. Some old people, nearly all impoverished or anchored by family ties hang on. And a private economy hardly exists.

    The abandoned homes are plundered. Drug labs are set up, gangs take over. Taxes cannot pay for road and utility maintenance and minimal government services. The area drains money from Washington and from the states and from nearby stable cities (if any).

    It really is time to bulldoze thousands or tens of thousands of acres. Bury the scrapings in deep pits, reduce the city boundaries, and simplify, simplify, simplify. Let the land return to its natural form – in Michigan that would be dense woodland. Or farm it.

    That sounds like a lot of effort, but in reality it would be cheaper than anything else.

    I liked the term “new wilderness.” Right now we have a decayed urban/suburban wilderness of tens of thousands of acres. Clean it up and let a true wilderness return.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    It’s one thing to knock down the excess city and another to do anything with the land afterwards: we learned this fifty years ago with ‘urban renewal’, where the blighted areas were bulldozed but, somehow, the promised funding for new housing failed to materialize. With some justice, ‘urban renewal’ came to be called ‘negro removal’.

    What I’d expect from this program is not a ‘new wilderness’ but half-assedly cleared land, with more half-assedly cleared land created every year to boost the program’s numbers. ‘Clearance’ will be the criterion, not ‘renewal’ either of the city or of nature.

  • Many interesting points have been made here, but my brain is still reeling from what mike took from the article, “there are not enough people to pay for the services.” Who tf are they servicing then? Socialism at its absolute best.

  • Who tf are they servicing then? Socialism at its absolute best.

    Abandoned buildings still consume services. Someone has to maintain the roads, police have to patrol the neighborhood, if the building catched fire the FD has to come put it out, if a pipe bursts the water department has to come stop the leak…

  • Kim du Toit

    I’ll support the Gummint bulldozing vacant houses used as drug retail outlets only if the new inhabitants are first locked inside.

  • veryretired

    Shannon Love had a very pointed post about this situation last week at Chicagoboyz. The aspect of the problem that he brought out, and that I don’t see mentioned here, is that just a few decades ago, these very “rustbelt” cities were the economic engines that supplied the Allied forces in WW2, and then powered one of the great economic surges in history for the next 20 years or so.

    I am much obliged to llamas for his excellent information, but the true problem is even deeper than the endemic corruption and malfeasence he cites.

    I agree with Shannon that the true lesson we must learn is the economically devastating effects of the ultra-statist, progressive political and social policies that have reduced this once world class economic powerhouse to begger status within a lifetime.

    We are currently watching the fabulously wealthy states of New York and California, both ranked higher than many nations as world class economies, go bust after blowing through the tax receipts from some of the most vibrant economic entities in the country.

    New york was the world’s banker and stock broker. It is now destitute and begging for federal subsidies.

    California was home to the fabulously profitable high tech industry boom of the 80’s and 90’s. It is now bankrupt, and cannot come to any significant political decisions as to resolving its problems because the political decisions of the last few decades are the problem.

    Progressive, collectivist, statist give-away programs and relentlessly intrusive regulations are poison to any healthy economic activity. The evidence, for any not so committed to those policies that questioning them would amount to intellectual suicide, is clear and unambiguous.

    Britain has, and the US has a step behind, adopted these same destructive theories as national policies.

    Only someone suffering from delusional, magical thinking could possibly expect any different outcomes than the bankruptcy and economic collapse that have occurred anywhere and everywhere these theories of massive political control over the economy have been enacted.

    Unfortunately, it appears that delusion is more comforting to far too many of our populations than reality.

    As ye sow, thus shall ye reap.

  • mac

    You know, there is a way that these areas in Michigan could be restored without paying a Federal or State dime.

    Take a contiguous area and make it a free-trade, tax-free zone. Within its clearly delineated boundaries, make the laws of Michigan with regard to tax and labor regulation invalid. Provide access to Canada on a tax-free export basis. 10% flat tax on all income and no other taxes allowed. All property to be freehold with a 100-year guarantee stating any no changes will be made in the tax laws for any reason. Allow for the free use of firearms in self-defense against any and all threats within the zone, with no civil law recourse for criminals who are injured or killed. All violations to be tried by judges and juries resident in the zone.

    People don’t want to live in Detroit because they know they will be economically raped by the incompetent, racist black government and quite possibly killed by the black thugs. Lift the dead hand of government, give the inhabitants full rights of self-defense, remove the tax burden, and stand back! Such a place would grow so fast it wouldn’t be possible to believe it.

    What I’m describing is a modern-day Galt’s Gulch, of course, but it would work. Of that there is no doubt. Let free men defend themselves and keep the rewards of their own labor and something good will undoubtedly happen.

    What has killed Detroit is the governing idiots at all levels have allowed their hatred and lack of understanding to lead them to strangle the economic goose that used to lay the golden eggs. Eliminate that obstacle and there’s nothing but good times ahead.

  • Subotai Bahadur


    Of course it will work. Which is why it will never be tried. When dealing with decisions by the wanna-be dictators of the Democratic Party and its allies on the Left; Freedom is NEVER the answer.

    Subotai Bahadur