Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Solution For Detroit

Barack Obama, the President of the United States, waxed rhapsodic about a single criminal case last Friday.  The media swirled about his words like gnats on a summer day.

This week, one of America's storied metropolises filed for bankruptcy.  Not a peep.

Since 1960, the city has imploded.  This report which, no joke, 47 percent of Detroit residents would not be able to read,details many of the problems facing the city.

These include an hour response rate for police, 40 percent of traffic lights now non-functional, 80,000 houses abandoned, many housing drug gangs as squatters.  Over a million people fled Detroit for saner pastures as city government devolved.

Detroit has no choice but to declare bankruptcy, which would free it from significantly onerous pension requirements.  Look out California and Illinois state workers, your turn is coming unless you can hit on a formula for sustainable government. Several other cities have already taken this path.

A county judge tried to halt the bankruptcy proceedings by, among other things, claiming that bankruptcy dishonored the president and violated the state constitution.  A federal court, however, has ultimate jurisdiction.  All the city's creditors will likely take an enormous hit, not just those expecting lavish pensions after making lavish salaries. 

What can save Detroit?  A National Review writer suggested using Hong Kong as a model.  Create a free enterprise zone of limited taxes and regulations.  Incidentally, that was the original purpose of the modern city, as conceived in Central Europe in the Middle Ages.  Nobles controlled most of the lands while kings only directly ruled the roads.  At crossroads, kings established tax free areas where merchants could do business, while the king would derive revenue from tolls and fines.  Of course, such an arrangement would be up to the state, not the federal government, of course.

Normally the drop of land values to nearly zero would attract entrepreneurs.  Detroit's horrific school system, however, has not provided a workforce with even the rudiments of ability.  Widespread drug addiction and the inability to enforce basic rule of law also make serious businessmen hesitant to pull the trigger. Last year, the police union warned out of towners to avoid Detroit.

But there is, possibly, a solution if government can stay out of the way.

Colonization.  In a sense.

With the price of an acre somewhere below a six pack of Schlitz, a manufacturing firm could buy property for next to nothing.  Now the state or city would have to help to remove the squatters without facilitating bizarre legal challenges.

Next, government officials have to stop the green energy foolishness and draconian EPA regulations on power plants.  One of America's few remaining advantages in attracting manufacturing is cheap power.  So get out of the way of drilling and production. 

Manufacturing facilities, for a while anyway, in Detroit would have to look like their Third World counterparts.  Buildings surrounded by walls topped with razor wire, perhaps even containing dormitories where workers could live in safety.  Armed private security would have to patrol the site. Possibly such measures might make such a place too costly. 

The locals will not like it, but much of the workforce would have to come from outside.  Successful firms do not employ drug addicts or illiterate people. 

It goes without saying that Michigan would have to continue its move towards worker rights, despite union protests.

In other words, colonize Detroit with entrepreneurs and hard workers from other parts of the country.  Productivity and profit would attract satellite businesses.  Revenue from a fair tax system wisely used would help to rebuild city services.  This would be colonization in the Roman sense of the term.  Plant communities within a previously settled area to start a long term transformation. Over time, the city grows prosperous, safer, and offers a good quality of life.

It would have to happen without court battles involving environmentalists, community organizers, unions, and every other fool who thinks Detroit is currently just fine.  Business would have to be able to get quick permission to build, as opposed to conducting exhaustive studies. 

Unfortunately, nothing is easy for business in America.  Which is why Detroit and many other places like it are happening in our generation.

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