Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Detroit is a Rorschach Test


Detroit, in many ways, is a Rorschach test for pundits and other commentators. People tend to look at this city and see as the cause of its failure whatever their favorite issue is.

What Do You See in Detroit?

For example, a certain documentary filmmaker who happens to have a degree in international relations proposed in her most recent project that Detroit's problems were the result of international trade policies. Never mind, of course, that a host of other industrial cities like Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh are doing much better than Detroit.

Several different urban planners have opined in one outlet or another that Detroit's problems were either the result of the way our streets are laid out or the fact that our utility lines are all above ground or the size/type of the housing stock in our neighborhoods. Never mind, of course, that Detroit is surrounded by suburbs such as Dearborn, Ferndale, and Redford with the same street layout, the same above ground utility lines, and the same size/type of housing stock. However, they are also doing much better than Detroit.

And then there are the political or economic conservatives who argue that Detroit's problems are the result of liberal economic policies. Never mind, of course, that Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Philadelphia all have notoriously liberal local governments. However, those cities are also doing much better than Detroit.

Quite frankly, I think we as a community need to take a step back. I believe that we need to ask ourselves a  few very important questions at this moment in our city's history.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by way of his Sherlock Holmes character, once opined that once one eliminates every other possible explanation for a certain thing than whatever is leftover - regardless of how utterly improbable it might seem - must be the truth.

Another wise man that I once knew argued in simpler terms. He believed that when nothing else makes sense then follow the money and one will begin to understand why things are the way they are.

After so many decades of failure, there comes a point in time where one starts to wonder if those in charge of this town really and truly do want things to rebound permanently.

One then has to ask: who benefits financially from the way things are today?
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