The real lesson of Detroit: change or die

“The market ultimately forced the car companies into reform, restructuring, the occasional bankruptcy, and eventual recovery. The city of Detroit, however, lacking market constraints, just kept overspending — $100 million annually since 2008. The city now has about $19 billion in obligations it has no chance of meeting. So much city revenue had to be diverted to creditors and pensioners that there was practically nothing left to run the city. Forty percent of the streetlights don’t work, two-thirds of the parks are closed, and emergency police response time averages nearly an hour — if it ever comes at all.”

This is the direction the United States as a whole is rapidly heading, in the wake of nine decades of nearly unabated government growth. Once the richest nation in the world, the United States is in economic and cultural decline due to the complacency that all monopoly endeavors ultimately fall prey to. The nation needs reform, meaning a full rethinking or indeed dismantling of the national welfare state, in order to get the streetlights working again and do the things government is intended for: to protect people’s lives, liberty, and property against potential predation by others.

The lesson is clear. When government becomes the predator, as it did in Detroit and has to a great extent at the national level in the United States, it must change or die.

S. T. Karnick is director of research for The Heartland Institute and editor of The American Culture.