Problems in Detroit include “dysfunctional American sociology” and lack of regional governance

One commentator focuses on the lack of metropolitan governance in Detroit and also mentions “dysfunctional American sociology.” Here is the bit on sociology:

And without widespread racism, there would have been fewer ghettoized African-Americans.

Hard to ignore this. See the work of scholar Thomas Sugrue in The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit.

Here is more of the argument for regional governance:

In a European-style metro Detroit, unified regional planning would favor reconstruction of the old city centre over new buildings and new highways in ever more distant locations. Some of the tax revenue raised in what are today separate affluent suburban jurisdictions would be spent in the centre of the city. With better roads, schools, police and services, Detroit’s slums would be less slummy and the culture of crime and despair would probably be less entrenched.

There’s actually no need to go to Europe to find better ways to arrange urban jurisdictions. As David Rusk points out in his book “Cities without Suburbs”, the American cities that have expanded their city limits along with their populations generally have stronger economies, less racial segregation and more equal income distribution than the mostly older cities with rigid borders.

The ethical issue can be reduced to an old question: who is my neighbor? Everyone, even economists who believe people should be selfish, recognizes that it is helpful to work together as a community. Almost everyone, perhaps excluding a few cold-hearted economists, would agree that the strong in a community have some obligation to help the weak. But how large is the relevant community?…

David Rusk, Myron Orfield, and others have made the argument for regional governance for decades but it has had difficult gaining traction, particularly in wealthier suburbs that do not see this as such a clear-cut ethical issue. Opposition to regional governance is rooted in longer issues between cities and less urban areas where cities are viewed as bad places full of crime, race, immigrants, densities that are too high, uncleanliness, and other “urban problems.” Why should people who made the choice to move to suburbs be held responsible for the problems of people in other communities? Ultimately, perhaps this is rooted in American individualism which views all moves to the suburbs as the result of individual merit and also tends to lead to an interest in government or control that is as local as possible.

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