The X Factor

What’s stopping Detroit from becoming a new Hong Kong? asks James Pethokoukis. After all “Out of options, it might just make the China choice.”

From the appallingly realism-afflicted comments thread that follows:

Patrick Harris: The problem with this theory is that Hong Kong is populated by Hong Kongers, and Detroit is populated by Detroitera.
chinacat26: and your meaning is?
[Note: ‘Detroitera’ appears to be the more sensitive and politically correct term for human detroitus.]

ADDED
: Salvation is just a free-market revolution away! (Have American conservatives always been this fricking psychotic?) Once again, the comments thread contributes the strait-jacket.
ADDED: The force of Schadenfreude is strong in this one.  “The agonizing death of Detroit is cause for celebration. It’s the first of the liberal-run big cities and states to fall, and we should welcome its collapse with glee.” Delicate reality-editing aside, it illustrates the truly delicious aspect of the Detroit story — aim even vaguely in its direction and shoot, you inevitably hit a left sacred cow.
July 24, 2013admin 23 Comments »
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23 Responses to this entry

  • Misha Says:

    Hong Kong was a shitty swamp island before it was populated by hong kongers

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    If Detroit could raise itself to the level of a “shitty swamp”, it might have a future

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 24th, 2013 at 4:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    …Detroit spent decades trying to counter the decline of the auto industry by building things — a monorail, sports arenas, office complexes — rather than “trying to attract smart, wealthy, entrepreneurial people.”

    The Keynesian will simply argue that they didn’t build enough idols to John Frum, white man who brings “cargo.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Cargo burn good

    [Reply]

    Manjusri Reply:

    Yet smart, entrepreneurial people like to live where the amenities and living conditions are best. Sure, some adventurous souls will head for the oilfields of North Dakota… but most prefer Silicon Valley, Shenzhen or Singapore. Silicon Valley still attracts talent despite California generally being a horrible place to do business- because it has the best support system for technological innovation in the world. In China, building infrastructure to prepare the way for these people was a big part of the boom.

    It seems that it wasn’t building that was the problem for Detroit, it was WHAT they were building. Building the institutions that would have helped create an innovation incubator like Silicon Valley would have been a much better way to spend money than a sports arena.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 24th, 2013 at 4:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • James Says:

    I don’t think that the large negro population is an insurmountable obstacle to improvement, because there have been desirable negro countries such as Rhodesia.

    What’s disturbs me about articles like this by someone called Pethokoukis is the casual absolutism:

    “Remake Detroit, or empty it”; “We should restructure its entire government into a free-enterprise zone, or encourage people to leave.”

    He speaks as though some entity can and should transform an American city from above, and dictate the lives of its citizens in an arbitrary way. This is euphemised by misuse of the pronoun “we”.

    A disturbing phenomenon amongst libertarians and conservatives is the foundational idea that capitalism is good and socialism bad. A much better foundational idea is that rule of law is good and arbitrary power is bad. There is so much to be learned about how arbitary power can be constrained.

    Markets are something that would flourish in any polycentric order, but if they are to be administered here and there by some unchecked elite, inevitably the same polity will be oppressive and unpleasant in many ways. The commenter who says that the United States has set a course for Chinese “state capitalism” is correct.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “I don’t think that the large negro population is an insurmountable obstacle to improvement” — the racial factor considered abstractly is far too indefinite. In Detroit there has been almost half a century of extremely intense negative selection, filtering the populations down to its dregs. Thus, any comparison with Rhodesia, is unduly flattering. In any case, a civilized social order was not permitted to endure in Rhodesia, how much less likely would it be, then, in the United States? ‘Unimaginable’ captures the prospect best (and if cities have to die in succession, that’s a sacrifice that will be made).

    [Reply]

    Alrenous Reply:

    @Land:

    Dude, you should have said this bit in the first place:

    “In any case, a civilized social order was not permitted to endure in Rhodesia, how much less likely would it be, then, in the United States? ‘Unimaginable’ captures the prospect best “

    That’s the key part.

    @James:

    “He speaks as though some entity can and should transform an American city from above, and dictate the lives of its citizens in an arbitrary way. This is euphemised by misuse of the pronoun “we”.”

    I’m glad Land provoked this from you.

    However, while rule of law is good, all attempts at restraining arbitrary power have failed. Rather, arbitrary power goes from formal to informal. It also seems to be strongly correlated with fragmentation.

    In the end, attempted restraints function as fig leaves, excusing arbitrary power.

    Put another way – humans make the rules. Humans implement the rules. It is always rule by some human.

    Might as well make it official. At least, when there’s some single arbitrary ruler, the people (formerly voters) know not only who to blame, but that there’s someone to blame at all.

    A similar good, unified power doesn’t expend its power competing with itself; only fragments do that.

    (Dislcaimer: I’m in favour of a bank-military-legitimacy split. Unified internally but opposed externally.)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “That’s the key part.” — if ‘civilized order’ is being understood with sufficient sophistication, I agree. Crucial to that is the recognition of social selection effects.

    Thanatos Reply:

    “A disturbing phenomenon amongst libertarians and conservatives is the foundational idea that capitalism is good and socialism bad.”

    Well, who would have thought that libertarians and conservatives would think capitalism was good and socialism bad. Highly disturbing, and totally unpredictable,indeed.

    Socialism is bad. Not in a you-have-to-sacrifice-an unbaptised-child-to-Satan-to-join-this-club kind of way, more in a “This sounds really good on paper to morons, but in practice leads to state-sponsored murder” kind of way.Other than medicine,it should be illegal to practice a “scientific” discipline on creatures that can feel pain or who can have an awareness of their own mortality.

    It always leads to humiliation,degradation, and dehumanizing treatment of the subjects (The same thing they were called in some of the most abusive governments in history,I note).

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    James’ statement disconcerted me, too, but I think what he is arguing is that — rather than building-in the superiority of a social model axiomatically — the advantages and disadvantages of different concrete systems should emerge as consequences of a more basic, neutral framework. If this understanding is correct, it amounts to a demand for grounds of debate, so that one might say (for e.g.): ‘capitalism is demonstrably superior as a route to an ordered society.’ Even under this conception, the argument remains controversial (I would rather see socialist ideas implemented within a fractured geodynamic space, and fail horribly, than see energy wasted in arguments — or political struggles — against them).

    [Reply]

    James Reply:

    “State-sponsored murder” is exactly what doesn’t happen when sound ideas about polycentric order are in circulation. On the other hand, there’s ample leeway for totalitarian oppression within a broadly capitalist ideology. Our elites already claim to be pro-market, or even very pro-market—or did I imagine something about Tyler Cowen.

    Thanatos, as well as all “libertarian” and “conservative” fans of Bryan Caplan demonstrate the problem: that if elites find an even more pro-market formula for centralised oppression, as things stand there would be little ideological defence against it. The elite would be “opening markets” abroad when they want to topple a regime, “removing barriers to trade” when they don’t like a certain domestic institution (whether or not _you_ think it’s anti-capitalist or has anything to do with markets), etc.. Socialism is just one historically important formula of oppression.

    (In addition, as the Hutterites show, communism can work on a small scale. This leads to the ironic situation in which a progressive BBC filmmaker critiques a Hutterite leader on the basis that he is a “communist” who prevents his colony from enjoying the trinkets of mass consumerism. But the point is not to deny that prevalent markets are necessary to civilisation.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 24th, 2013 at 5:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    Well, after filing for BK, they decided all their civic problems were solved and thus spent their copious free time on this:

    The Detroit City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution calling for a federal investigation to see whether civil rights charges are warranted against George Zimmerman…

    You cannot make this shit up. Get a load of JoAnn Watson, another fine specimen of “big government..”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    If only one could say “unbelievable” …

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 24th, 2013 at 8:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • Matt Olver Says:

    I laughed, but Gnon cackled fiendeshly in an oddly pleasant way. Now where’s my remote to watch How I Met Your Mother.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 25th, 2013 at 4:58 am Reply | Quote
  • Discipline Says:

    Believing that one could remake Detroit with nothing more than a change in policy is an example of theory-poisoning, common to professors who spend their lives staring at either books or bored undergraduates.

    This has oddly enough, been tried, by Paul Romer and those influenced by him: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-politically-incorrect-guide-to-ending-poverty/308134/

    Lack of attention to culture and biology coupled with fanatical faith in policy are the basic illnesses of the professoriat. The hope that one only needs to design the perfect system and then to implement it, as if men were computers, is shared among too many.

    Theory isn’t magic. This one particular disease also exists even among some of the most sophisticated libertarians.

    [Reply]

    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    I would argue that a lot of former libertarians (i.e. neoreactionaries) continue to suffer from this disease.

    “They constantly try to escape from the darkness outside and within
    By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”
    — T. S. Elliot

    http://www.worldofquotes.com/author/T.-S.-Eliot/1/

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 25th, 2013 at 5:43 am Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    A good way to prove liberal theology is true would be to rebuild Detroit by sending ever more blacks to live there. Make it a black reservation 30 million strong, and see what happens. Ignore the economic growth in all the places the blacks are shipped from.

    [Reply]

    Scharlach Reply:

    Actually, this could be a more generous experiment than you imply.

    Import blacks from a variety of backgrounds. Amidst the mass relocation of the American black underclass, migrate some upper-class mulattos, some rich Kenyans, and maybe a few East African Muslims. It could be a great experiment to see which population of “black” does in fact possess higher IQ than the others.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Those would be the ones who get robbed most aggressively, wouldn’t they? (Unless they go into machine politics, of course.)

    [Reply]

    Discipline Reply:

    This is how the US set up the Liberian colony and it worked OK until the franchise expanded to native Africans. Even then it didn’t become Hell until decolonization.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Even from the very little I know, it’s clear that the history of Liberia is utterly fascinating: do you have any special reading recommendations?

    Posted on July 26th, 2013 at 4:40 am Reply | Quote

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