The population of Detroit is now 81.6% African-American and almost two-thirds down on its overall peak in the early 50s. The city has lost its tax base and cannot afford to cut the grass or light its streets, let alone educate or feed its citizens.
Law and order has completely broken down in the inner city, drugs and prostitution are rampant and unless you actually murder someone the police will leave you alone.
The only growth industry is the gangs of armed scrappers, who plunder copper and steel from the ruins.
Unemployment has reached 30%; 33.8% of Detroit’s population and 48.5% of its children live below the poverty line. Forty-seven per cent of adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate; 29 Detroit schools closed in 2009 alone.
So, what does the population do? Our much vaunted ability to pick up and move to greener pastures really only applies if you have some minimal resources to finance the move and skills which can be used where ever you move to. Otherwise you’re just sliding the problem around.
The current plan would demolish about 10,000 houses and empty buildings in three years and pump new investment into stronger neighborhoods. In the neighborhoods that would be cleared, the city would offer to relocate residents or buy them out.
I wonder if this is ambitious enough however. Rather than collect all the existing residents and herd them to new neighborhoods, why not take advantage of the huge tracks of abandoned land the city should soon have and start homesteading. Instead of warehousing the nearly 50% of people who are functionally illiterate (really let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we’ll be able to get them into the high-tech/green/next big thing job revolution that’s coming down the pike. It’s unlikely that Detroit is going to be able to (leaving aside the question of if it would want to) attract the types of businesses that would hire large numbers of untrained, uneducated people and so what’s it going to do with them?
How about, provide them training in farming (possibly animal husbandry), give them a plot of land under the condition that if they live on it and produce they get to keep it after a certain amount of time.
I have to admit Jefferson isn’t my favorite founding father (I’m more partial to Hamilton) but can you get more ‘agrarian republic‘ than this? You could sell it to the right as promoting bedrock ‘conservative’ values (self-reliance, family values derived from hard, manual labor, small business, getting people off the government dole, etc.), and to the left on social justice arguments (giving wealth to the most disenfranchised, improved living conditions, etc.).
Of course, Detroit isn’t the only city that would benefit from large scale urban ‘terraforming’. We’ve got a lot of old, industrial cities that have withered in the face of globalization and are kept on life support through bizarre schemes to build sports stadiums and other gimmicks in the hopes of drawing in huge numbers of tourists who will all crawl over themselves in their mad attempt to spend every last penny they have on the surrounding community.
Of course, tying your community to something as fickle as the tourist industry is a dicey proposition fraught with peril. Whereas, build an agrarian society that’s self sustaining and the tourism might just take care of itself.