Monday, October 28, 2013

More of the Same Old Detroit

I'm re-posting this from the New Clarion where I posted it yesterday.

Ever since Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July of this year there has been a flood of articles in the media on the suggested causes of Detroit's demise and almost as many on suggested solutions. The solutions invariably call for more of the same poison that made Detroit sick in the first place: a political institution, city government, trying to provide economic services--something the marketplace is supposed to provide if left free to do so.

Let's remember that government is force. It has nothing to offer citizens except the management of force. It is not an economic entity. It cannot provide anyone with economic benefits unless it takes them from some citizens and doles them out to other citizens. On net balance the city does not gain anything.

You would think that someone would stop and say hey, lets re-examine this basic notion that government (force) is the only or at least a good way to provide economic services like roads, lighting, schools, parks, libraries, recreation and others. But no one is even hinting at having that conversation. Instead, judging by the endorsements for Detroit Mayor and city council members in the Detroit Free Press Sunday Oct 27th paper, the candidates are offering more of the same old tonic: a top down control of everything with only minor tweeks in the forced dosage.

According to Freep writer John Gallagher's article mayoral candidates Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon "Each candidate says he believes that better management of existing city resources will lead to success." In other words same old/ same old just under new management. Mr. Gallagher continues: "Duggan says he will appoint a single Department of Neighborhoods to oversee all service delivery, while Napoleon said a police officer assigned to every square mile of the city will act as an ombudsman for neighborhood needs and complaints, with the mayor's office still responsible for coordinating service delivery."

Wow! That's all Detroit needs is another bureaucracy needing taxpayer funding--this one consisting of little neighborhood czars (evidently following Obama's czarist formula). Folks, this is how the politics of buck passing works in a mixed economy. Duggan will pass the buck to the Department of Neighborhoods and when it fails in a few years (next election) he will call for a better manager. Napoleon will pass the buck to the poor cop patrolling one square mile by himself for which he will need not a squad car but a tank. And when he fails to give the mayor the right data he'll get replaced too.

Other cities in financial trouble have privatized some if not all economic services and have or are returning to balanced budgets. There are benefits to be had from privatization. You see privatization introduces the profit motive. When people are free from the initiatory force of regulations they will offer the best quality for the lowest prices. It is in their interest to do so. Politicians and their bureaucrats have no skin in the game. They have nothing to lose for doing a bad job and, because of that, have no point in doing a good one.

If Detroit had a laissez faire economy the Detroit Institute of Arts would be privately owned and there would be no need to sell off its priceless works of art. Selling off such art is just one example of the unintended bad consequences of politicians with allegedly good intentions. Just look at the cell phone and iPod industries which are only lightly regulated. The quality keeps going up while prices keep falling. Detroiters can have that for their city services. How?

Whichever of these two men, Duggan or Napoleon, become mayor, it is up to the citizens of Detroit to demand he privatize, privatize, privatize. It won't be easy because the desire of politicians to be the providers of our daily bread (crumbs) is irresistible to them. It is the citizens who must tell them they no longer want their daily bread from them but rather, the political and economic freedom to provide their own.

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