Now that Michigan governor Rick Snyder has declared a financial emergency in Detroit, paving the way for an emergency financial manager to come in and clean house, a polarizing debate has occurred over the last week over what to do about the fallen city. Instead of coming down on one side or the other on whether an emergency manager is a good idea, let’s examine the three perspectives on how to fix Detroit.
Perspective 1. More liberalism
Most of the media supports this, academia supports this, and most importantly, the city council and the people of Detroit support this. They agree that Detroit is a badly underserved community which needs way more funding for schools, police officers, fire fighters, and all the other municipal services. They argue that Detroit public schools are only failing because of insufficient per-pupil funding. They want that funding to be provided through higher income taxes on the “rich” who live in the suburbs.
Their arguments are accompanied by a racial view which asserts that “privilege” followed whites to the suburbs when white flight happened in the 1960s. In other words, public schools and municipal services work for whites because the system is “racist” against blacks. Whites are supposedly “segregated” from blacks by government and housing lenders, which allows all-white communities to form in the suburbs. As Richard Rothstein and Mark Santow of the Economic Policy Institute argued in an August 2012 report:
“In reality, living and land-use patterns are not the result of unencumbered individual choices or free markets, but the result of explicit policies by government to separate the American population by race.”
It must be emphasized that Rothstein and Santow were referring to today’s patterns, not the redlining patterns of the 30s and 40s.
The “more liberalism” perspective can be summarized like so: Detroit needs more taxes, more spending, and the government-driven elimination of “white racism.” Liberals think money and whitey are the problems, and they want to steal money from whitey in order to save the city and right past wrongs. Their “eye for an eye makes the world go blind” mantra only applies to the death penalty. They firmly believe in eye for an eye when it comes to punishing “white racism.”
Perspective 2. Less liberalism
This is the go-to perspective for conservatism today. Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation support this, the Tea Party supports this, and ordinary everyday conservative citizens support this. They argue that Detroit is proof-positive of the failure of liberal policies on the economy, education, and law enforcement. They want Detroit to cut taxes, cut spending, and most importantly, implement school choice. (They also wouldn’t mind a Rudy Giuliani style crackdown)
School choice is their most important issue. They think that inadequate teachers are to blame for the jarring failure of Detroit’s public schools, and they also blame teachers unions for keeping Detroit students in those failed schools. They imply that if Detroit students could use vouchers to attend private and charter schools (presumably in the suburbs), than the racial gap between white and black students would be closed.
In summary, they want Detroit to adapt free market policies on both the economy and education. Less liberalism is synonymous with less government in this context (law enforcement notwithstanding). If the city council, teachers unions, etc., would get out of the way and take their hands off businesses and schools, than Detroit would be saved.
Perspective 3. End black rule
This is the third position, the alternative position, the position that only a few courageous souls in the mainstream media have touched (most notably Walter Williams). Because it’s so politically incorrect, it is shunned by liberals and most conservatives. It can only be found by reading the work of Paul Kersey or VDARE’s Patrick Cleburne (among others).
These folks argue that liberalism is neither the cause nor the solution. They point to Portland, Oregon as a deeply liberal city that still thrives as a middle class metropolis because it is 76.1 percent white. Their argument is based on genetic determinism, which is tied with IQ and the other aspects of the nature vs. nurture debate. They reject the notion that “white racism” is the problem, but they also reject the notion that school choice is the solution. They argue convincingly that nature trumps nurture, and that humans are not created equal in terms of potential, intellect, and a whole host of other personal traits and behaviors.
As a result, they are loathed by both liberals and most conservatives. Ironically, liberalism and conservatism are very much alike in the sense that both believe in nurture over nature – the idea that the environment shapes people as opposed to people shaping the environment. They offer opposing solutions to Detroit’s problems, but their solutions are grounded in the same fundamental principle. That principle – nurture over nature – is in turn grounded in the core belief that all humans are created equal: Nobody is any different than anyone else in potential, intellect, etc.
What would ending black rule in Detroit actually look like? Probably nothing more than a return to 1950s policy. But that’s “racist,” so nobody in the mainstream considers it even though it worked. The Overton Window continues to move to the left. Conservative positions of yesteryear aren’t even recognized as conservative anymore by the modern torch-bearers of conservatism.
If conservatives or anyone else opposed to liberalism want to save Detroit, than common sense must trump expediency. More importantly, conservative morality can’t be based on “human equality” if it expects to defeat liberalism/progressivism in Detroit or anywhere else. To rephrase Mark Levin from Page 194 of his bestseller, Liberty and Tyranny:
If the bulk of the people reject time-tested truths for fanatical notions of “equality,” preferring fairy tales and feel-good euphemisms to reality and morality, then the end is near anyway.
Detroit does indeed need an emergency financial manager. Said manager will run things better than anyone on the city council possibly could. But an emergency manager ultimately just attacks the symptoms. The root cause is left unchanged. Is Southeast Michigan willing to acknowledge that root cause? Is America as a whole willing to acknowledge it? The answers are no and no. Political correctness and pavlovian fears of the r word reign supreme.