With the ongoing dissolution of Detroit, the right and left are engaged in their typical oneupsmanship, each pointing out (the right more correctly in almost every instance), to what led one of America’s once great cities to now resemble a place that looks made-to-order from a third world banana republic.
From the left, it’s the usual yadda yadda yadda of THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WITHOUT BIG GOVERNMENT. (Never mind that government is what led Detroit to this particular time and place). MSNBC propagandists Ed Schulz and Melissa Harris Perry both lamented, quite sadly, that what’s happening in Detroit is the endgame of anyone who advocates for small or no government, with Schulz calling Detroit a “conservative utopia”, while tampon earring-wearing idiot Harris Perry said Detroit’s fate is what happens ““when government is small enough to drown in your bathtub.”
Someone might want to point out that the left has effectively been in charge of Detroit for the better part of 50 years. And that’s exactly what Kurt Schlichter did, with his post at townhall.com titled “Conservatives Should Point and Laugh as Detroit Dies.” Written with the #caring that Schlichter is so well known for, he states the case that Detroit does need to go through that deep shock of total failure, and that conservatives, deservedly, should take some time to enjoy the proof of the left’s ultimately failed ideas.
Unfortunately, this partisan bickering doesn’t give voice to something that has been happening in Detroit for at least a couple of years now. Namely, the fact that Detroiters have been figuring out how to get on with their lives in the absence of any noticeable government, and, in many instances, the fact that these efforts are aimed at the entire community. People are getting done what needs to be done, and the consequences be damned.
In May, Reason ran a post about how “Spontaneous Order Experiments Take Hold in Detroit.” (FYI: Spontaneous order is the idea attributed to economist and thinker F.A. Hayek, which he used to describe how humans arrive at order free of central planners.)
From the Reason post:
When the system fails us, you have to become the system,” said Mitch Logan, a 48-year-old film producer who is part of a self-dubbed “Mower Gang” that mows neighborhood parks after they’ve finished their own yards.
In addition to the landscaping, a church group is boarding up vacant houses in the Brightmoor neighborhood, one of the city’s most distressed, to keep criminals out. And several neighborhoods are now hiring security to patrol their streets, supplementing an undermanned police department.
And while the above excerpt doesn’t attribute which private security firm is being hired, one of the most well-known in Detroit is Threat Management Center, a company founded in 1995, and focused on non-violent means to conflict resolution.
Transportation needs are also attempting to be met by Detroiters, with various groups working to make bus stops better, and also provide private transportation services. Karen DeCoster’s excellent blog Detroit: From Rust to Riches, highlighted 25-year-old Andy Didorosi’s “Detroit Bus Company”, a private company the young entrepreneur founded to meet transportation needs in the city. As far as the aforementioned bus stop improvement, 22-year-old Charles Molnar, together with a number of other similarly aged people, took it upon themselves to improve the bus stop conditions throughout the city, by building bigger and more comfortable benches at the bus stops.
Unfortunately for both young men, the last remaining vestiges of the state continue to try and stop their efforts.
Regardless, perhaps the most fun piece out there on government-free Detroit was chronicled at DeCoster’s blog. In a post titled The Spontaneous Order : Dining In Detroit, DeCoster describes a fun dining experience taking place in the Motor City these days:
On a recent Sunday evening, hundreds of people dressed in white converged on downtown Detroit’s Cadillac Square Park. They carried folding tables, chairs, white tablecloths, candelabras and food — oodles of it.
A swirl of white clothing and nappery quickly evolved into a formal flash mob dinner party in the urban canyon formed by the Compuware and First National Buildings.
Passersby gawked. The park’s security guard was nonplussed. When he asked people who was in charge of this gathering, the answer every time was “we have no idea.”
And they didn’t.
Finally, there’s this Free Detroit Facebook page that’s growing fast, having reached 1,000 likes in the few short days since the bankruptcy announcement last week. (h/t to them for the photo you see at the top of this post.)
All in all, the narrative here is the simple fact that people are working together, for profit or not, to repair Detroit. Either side could choose to see the beauty that seems to be going on here, but I rather fear they won’t. And that’s a shame, because what’s happening in Detroit right now is truly an American narrative and it’s one that deserves a home in the larger discussions of our times.