Michael Barone has a short review of Charlie LeDuff's new book, Detroit: An American Autopsy. If you hadn't seen it elsewhere, the book is particularly timely as Detroit has defaulted on some loans, stiffing creditors, retirees and, perhaps, diversity consultants in the city's gay and lesbian outreach office. It's widely agreed that the place is a wreck. That means that all manner of shortcuts can be taken and we can get straight to the blame. Here's Mike's take.
Who is responsible for all this? LeDuff sometimes seems ready to blame just about everybody in authority-crooked politicians, political fixers, lazy judges, General Motors executives, union leaders, Wall Street. Looming over his narrative is the giant—literally giant; he is hugely tall and fat—figure of Kwame Kilpatrick, son of a (now former) congresswoman. He was elected mayor of Detroit in 2001 and 2005, and convicted of bribery in a trial replete with evidence of phone-sex texting with one of his top staffers. And there's no doubt Kilpatrick fostered a political culture that was rotten to the core.
But Kilpatrick didn't start it. I blame the ambitious liberalism of the Cavanagh years, which I believed in at the time, and the 20-year rule of Coleman Young, mayor from 1973 to 1993. Young was smart, funny, and politically ruthless, with a background in left-wing unionism.Why is it always people in authority that get the blame? Did they come from a different set of humans, a different species, perhaps? Do people in authority come out of a different box than we do? Are they marked at birth?
My good friends and mentors in the SLOBs might tell me that the problem was incipient socialism, but I'd suggest that it was an inseparable combination of socialism and cultural decay. Defaulting on loans, particularly in the case of a place like Detroit, is an indication that the people of the Detroit divorced having from earning and that's why they elected Peronist demagogues and socialist morons. It was as much moral relativism as it was childish, progressive economics that killed the city.
In a group email a while back, one of the SLOBs pointed to an address by Pope Frances that smacked of socialism. Here's part of what the Pontiff had to say.
"Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace," Pope Francis said. "But there is no peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth."When everyone claims his own rights, there's a natural tendency to vote for the guy who promises to take things away from people who have earned them and hand them to you.
And then there's my favorite hobby horse.
While clicking around the Interweb Tubes, I came across Data Driven Detroit, a site loaded with facts, figures and presentations. Here's a presentation on the state of children in Detroit. Things are pretty bad, but there's apparently no need to discuss behavior. The concept of illegitimacy isn't raised once. Moral relativism at work, perhaps?
A mind-blowing stat from the presentation: 80.6% of all children 6 years old and younger living in Highland Park live in poverty. Not surprisingly, 87.6% of all births in Highland Park are to single women.
Coleman Young, Kwame Kilpatrick and all the rest are undoubtedly swine, but they didn't drive around Highland Park wrecking the place themselves.