The Tragedy of Detroit: "It Didn't Have to Be This Way"

Author Harry Veryser on how Austrian economics can fix Motor City.


"Detroit developed best when it was bottom-up," says Harry Veryser, economist and professor at University of Detroit Mercy. "When small communities, small parishes, small schools were formed… that's when Detroit prospered."

Veryser, author of It Didn't Have to Be this Way: Why The Boom and Bust is Unneccessary and How Austrian School of Economics Breaks the Cycle, sat down with Reason TV to talk about his experience growing up in Detroit, what went wrong, and how to fix it.

Approximately 5 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Tracy Oppenheimer.

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  1. "Detroit developed best when it was bottom-up," says Harry Veryser, economist and professor at University of Detroit Mercy. "When small communities, small parishes, small schools were formed... that's when Detroit prospered."

    That's crazy.


    1. Doesn't this fool of a professor realize how vital the guidance of Top. Men. is? If something bad happened in Detroit then clearly the right people weren't in charge or were obstructed by saboteurs and hoarders.

    2. Well, eventually there's going to be smaller and smaller communities, if only because everyone is leaving there.

    3. Madness. A true city must development and zoning, and redevelopment, and urban renewal, and abuses of eminent domain.

      It is known.

  2. The Tragedy of Detroit: "It Didn't Have to Be This Way"

    Yeah it did.

    1. And they still haven't learned. We'll have to lose more cities and California long before big government is blamed.

      1. Excuse me? Government to blame for California? Perhaps you've never heard of a little deadly virus called "Proposition 13"?

        1. Please drop this canard. Californians have been in the top 5 of state and local tax burden for a very, very long time. Additionally, back when the budget had a surplus in the end of the boom, they didn't have to go spend it all, but they did.

          1. It's not a Canard. Progessives have pinned California's problems on Proposition 13 since I was just a wee bairn. Are you suggesting that the Progressives have been misleading us?

            1. Misleading us is what the incompetent Blowbama d*ck sucking Libtards do best. Grow up, a$$wipe.

              1. No they don't! Welcome to Hit & Run!

  3. Needs more Tracy Oppenheimer

    1. Yeah, I think she should be required to do a cameo in front of the camera in every story she does!

      1. You can say that again!

    2. Yeah, I think she should be required to do a cameo in front of the camera in every story she does!

  4. Also as a complement to this article, I spotted this video of John Stussel with Charlie LeDuff, a reporter for the Fox affiliate in Detroit and author of the book "Detroit: An American Autopsy".

    1. More food on the table: a post on Time magazine who mentionned the decline had already beginned in 1961 before Jerry Cavanagh with the 1958 Eisenhower recession and this article from New Geopraphy

      1. And one guy posted this video from ABC Primetime live broadcasted on 8 November 1990 about Detroit in 2 parts, here the 2nd part.

        Could had been filmed like it was another video from Charlie LeDuff about Coleman A. Young.

  5. Couldn't we say to the British they were right after all, it is part of Upper Canada? AIUI the British after the War of 1812 agreed to abide by the terms of the Treaty of Paris as generally understood, but never conceded that that reading of them was correct.

    1. They don't want it either.

    2. Maybe if Canadians throw rockets at Detroit & send suicide beavers while demanding an end to occupied Southern Canada, the treacherous Thirteen Colony rebel occupiers could propose a Two-Province Solution that would give back Detroit to their rightful owners.

  6. The Tragedy of Detroit: "It Didn't Have to Be This Way"

    Or, as we like to call it, "How Democrats created a Libertarian Paradise"

    1. That reminds me of a post I saw on City-Data

  7. my roomate's mother-in-law makes $62 hourly on the internet. She has been fired for 8 months but last month her income was $19895 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read Full Article================


    1. Why does your roommate have a mother-in-law? Are you living with him and his wife? If so, wouldn't you just say your "roommate's mother"? Get your shit together, bot. If you want me to be sucked on to your marketing scheme, make it compelling and don't flub the simple stuff. You're better than that.

      1. No, he's not!

  8. Detroit's black population in 1960 was 16%, and it was a good place to live.

    Detroit's total population today is 84% black, and it's a shit hole.

    Demographics trumps economics. Trumps politics too.

    1. Fuck you, mercan

    2. DIAF you racist shitbag.

      1. Those are facts. Don't get so emotional over facts. You sound like liberals.

        1. "Demographics trumps economics. Trumps politics too."

          That is not a fact, nor is his insinuation that the change in demographics is the cause of the city's downfall.

          Don't assume that correlation always equals causation - you sound like a liberal.

          1. Bingo. Correlation is NOT causation.

            For every Detroit, there are multiple minority-majority cities that are doing just fine (but, of course, do not make the news precisely because they're doing nothing newsworthy).

            Detroit's ills have much more to do with the collapsing automobile manufacturing industry than anything having to do with demographics. Economics, in the end, always trumps everything else.

            1. Unions, democrats, feral children all took down Detroit. Sometimes correlation is causation.

              1. Concerned Citizen|10.8.13 @ 4:51PM|#
                "Unions, democrats, feral children all took down Detroit. Sometimes correlation is causation."
                No, it never is, and you've sorta skipped right on by your racist claim, didn't you?

                1. Blacks are like 90+ percent Democrat so they love all that shit. Racism validated.

            2. [there are multiple minority-majority cities that are doing just fine]

              Indeed. Benton Harbor, Flint, Allen Park, Ecorse, and Pontiac in Michigan alone. All majority black and Democrat to the bone.

              1. You sure those places are really 'doing just fine'? I just googled Benton Harbor and read this: "...His assignment was to work with community leaders, businesspeople and other local residents to come up with ways to address some of the ever-worsening problems ? poverty, violence, white flight, racial strife ? that had been plaguing the city for years"

            3. The automobile industry has not collapsed it is doing perfectly well in cities with little to no unions and very few zoning rules. In fact in cities where there are few zoning rules are the locations of some of the greenest manufacturing plants

        2. A bit off-topic but I spotted that article about 2009 who mentions then how Compton got its groove back

          Then I saw this other article written in 2009 "Can Latinos Save Detroit"?

          Is it politically incorrect if we could imagine what if Detroit pull a Compton?

    3. This statement is only racist if you think the black race, and not the black American lower-class redneck culture & the liberal victim industry that strips them or personal responsibility, is what caused these problems.

      1. I don't think the victim industry strips people of personal responsibility. And it isn't racial either.

        The same complete lack of personal responsibility could be found in every Communist country. It is the welfare state and central planning that strips people of personal responsibility.

        People forget that before we started hollowing out cities with large black populations, we hollowed out a LOT of rural hamlets; Appalachia was their first target. The progressive obsession with helping the poor has only dehumanized them for over 80 years and now we have ghost towns small and large due to their efforts. Nobody is better off.

        1. I was actually referring to the way black Liberal leaders automatically blamed everything on racism/white people, and accuse people of racism if they criticize black culture. This I get from reading Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams anyways.
          I know the progs are the problem but black progressives have this extra layer of stupidity

      2. "the black American lower-class redneck culture"

        I'm pretty sure black people's necks are brown or black, not red.

    4. And correlation continues to not be causation. If you weren't trying to say something cute about the spades ruining the neighborhood, you might have made the more salient point that Detroit had atypically high rates of black home ownership up until relatively recently. No offense to renters, but home ownership correlates strongly with stabilizing factors like well-paying, steady employment, families, investing socially and economically in the community, etc.

  9. ""Detroit developed best when it was bottom-up," says Harry Veryser, economist and professor at University of Detroit Mercy. "When small communities, small parishes, small schools were formed... that's when Detroit prospered.""

    No, it's better to kill it then to let it thrive bottom up. We can't have people believing that's any way to run a society.

  10. The answer is simple: quit claim Detroit to Canada. Or, any other country foolish enough to take it. Cuba? Nicaragua? North Korea?

  11. And Mexico can have California back. We're done with it. Sorry it didn't work out. We'll come visit as long as Disneyland is still open.

    1. Seriously? You ACTUALLY believe this? To think that America would be better off without California is seriously some short-term and completely idiotic thinking.

  12. File this one under 'No SH*T, Sherlock'...this is EXACYTLY what hap-pens when you allow reckless, irresponsible, INCOMPETENT brain dead Blowbama d*ck sucking Libtards to hold office. Spend spend spend. Bankruptcy. Logical conclusion. DO NOT allow the DUMBocrat a$$tards to rause the debt ceiling. We know the logical conclusion of this once-great country. THINK DETROIT INCOMPETENCY.

  13. San Diego was until recently set up the way Detroit was set up when it supposedly prospered: the central city government had fairly weak powers and was divided between the elected city council and mayor and the unelected city manager (an unusual setup for a city of its size) and the city's neighborhoods were provided with a great degree of autonomy (who would guess La Jolla is part of San Diego when visiting?). Neighborhoods, even with the move to a "strong mayor" city government, are still provided large amounts of power over local affairs. On top of that, it has a diversified economy (it's no longer just a Navy and tourist town).

    That didn't stop the city from being incredibly mismanaged financially and nearly filing for bankruptcy in the mid-2000s.

    1. I lived in San Diego for over 25 years until 2007. That bankruptcy was directly caused by greatly expanding their pension benefits for city & county workers in the early 2000s. It didn't take long before they were way underwater and drowning. Pension reform must be part of every city, county, state & federal government overhaul.

  14. To learn of why Detroit is a sewer, simply watch a few episodes of "Hardcore Pawn" on TruTV.

    You will be astounded. You will be left with your mouth agape. You will puke.

    You will see how animal punk-thugs like Coleman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick were elected all of those years.

  15. It will never happen. There are too many dependent on government and nobody wants to give up their benefits, their jobs or their power.

    I can unfortunately envision the whole of the USA starting with CA first going the way of Detroit.

    Progressivism creates members of a crowd with no originality or voice of his own. One who speaks or repeats only what he has been told. A tool. A cretin. It creates dependents who cannot do for themselves. These are people who would jump off the bridge if asked. Social agendas with no money to pay for them -- see CA and Detroit. Until there is a great hurt in the pocket book of many, then maybe people will listen. Even Detroit, the liberal press has abandoned any stories and for many it is a city too far away that it will not happen here syndrome has kicked in.

    This is cultural impasse that will make it very hard for any future change.

    Only a long, deep era of destruction (creative or otherwise) will change anything.

    1. Hold on. I used to be a progressive. Even at my worst, I wasn't a progressive 24/7, and you can never completely shut down the logical part of your brain. Also progressivism can become a victim of its own success as, to paraphrase Princess Leia from Star Wars, the more it tightens its grasp the more people fall from its nihilist fingers.
      Oddly enough, I used to think I was smart. Liberalism slowly warped my thinking going from open-minded & rational towards emotional, paranoid & self-censoring. Then I met some libertarians, read up on economics, became a political burnout and slowly became aware of this.

      From afar they look like a unified, powerful front but deep down they're more vulnerable to persuation than you might think, which is why I believe libertarianism & pro-capitalism is the way of the future

  16. Tony better get in here quick, before this gets out of hand.

  17. Liberals may have caused Detroit, but libertarians can't forget that they still have Somalia on their record. Imagine what Detroit would've looked like if the government had just kept it's hands off!

    1. Funny thing about that is Somalia has improved economically, at least measured by export/import trades. Also the piracy market is really booming. Somalia is a great argument for a minimalist state.

      1. Almost all the the violence in Somalia is near Mogadishu. The northern area is peaceful. I've heard it said that this is an example of the violence of the state far outlasting the state itself.

  18. I politely differ on the role of neighbourhoods as prime economic movers. Neighbourhoods were vigorous because manufacturing wages were high, and not the other way round.

    In Detroit, property taxes are worse than the city income tax. I do agree that city income taxes are silly when the cost of relocating employers out of the city are low. I do suspect that the Federal mortgage nannies may have played a significant role in the asset stripping of Detroit's housing stock.

    The problem that goes unmentioned in this video is that the UAW made southeast Michigan a very costly place to build motor vehicles. When plants reached their use-by date, they were abandoned and production was shifted to right to work states. Concentrating motor vehicle manufacturing in one corner of one state no longer makes sense. Detroit put all of its eggs in one basket, and then the basket broke.

  19. SE Michigan is not a local peculiarity; the Detroit disease has reached Toledo. There is a Rust Belt, that begins as far east as Pittsfield MA (maybe even as far east as Providence RI), then includes all of PA west of the Blue Ridge, upstate NY, West Virginia, all of Ohio except Columbus and maybe Cincinnati, northern Indiana, most of Michigan and Illinois, some of Wisconsin, and the cities of Duluth MN, St. Louis and East St. Louis. 43 Rust Belt MSAs have lost population since the 2010 Census.

    A fair bit of Chicago is a Rust Belt ruin, although the Chicago metro area still has a per capita income that places it in the top decile. A Rust Belt city that lost half of its population but has managed to reinvent itself as a city based on white collar work, is Pittsburg.

    Detroit is merely the city hardest hit by the decline in the USA's manufacturing belt that emerged during the Second Industrial Revolution (1865-1920). St. Louis, Youngstown OH, and Cleveland have undergone %age population declines similar to Detroit's.

  20. Turning Detroit around will require a lot of demolition, and encouraging unemployable current residents to move elsewhere. The resulting vacant land can then be sold to the sort of businesses that have developed the Detroit suburbs since WWII. But people and small business will not return to Detroit until the millage rate and income tax there is the same as in Macomb and Oakland counties.

    Legacy pension costs make Detroit city and Wayne county completely unviable. Responsibility for the first 45K/year of the pensions of current and former Detroit employees, police, fire and teachers should be shifted to the PBGC. All employees of the new Detroit will have to accept defined contribution plans.

  21. Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Toledo have been hit very hard by a massive decline in the number of high paying manufacturing jobs that could be filled by the functionally illiterate and innumerate, and by people who had never done an apprenticeship, community college degree or the like. Some of those jobs moved to other parts of the USA, but many are gone for good.

    Employment in all private sectors of the American economy is now roughly equal to what it was before the GFC, with two glaring exceptions: construction and manufacturing. Value added in construction is very low, because construction is in a depression. But value added in manufacturing is doing well. A major unremarked consequence of the Great Recession has been a dramatic surge in labour productivity in the USA private sector, up about 10% since 2007. This suggests to me that millions of low skill jobs are gone for good. What's left of Detroit will simply have to deal with that fact.

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