Perhaps America’s capitalism, red in tooth and claw will reveal what happens when a failed city gives itself back to nature, not in the space of 500 years, as Rome did, but within a lifetime.
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13 Responses to “Detroit before and after”

  1. Looking ahead at the future of LRT in Minneapolis ยป underdog of perfection [ a blog on technology and geek culture from room34 ] Says:

    […] Tonight has been a strange night of web browsing for me. I started off with a Daring Fireball post about Gary Hustwit’s (of Helvetica fame) new documentary Objectified. Then kottke.org led me to start thinking about geography, which is usually what carries me off on flights of link-clicking fancy. Even better, Kottke also linked to a fascinating post on oobject with before-and-after photos of cities, some good, like reconstruction of bombed-out European cities post-WWII, and others, well… pretty much the opposite. (Perhaps the eeriest thing about the exhibit was the similarity between Kabul and Detroit.) […]

  2. sean Says:

    I’m pretty sure Rome is still being used.

  3. admin Says:

    Its grown again, at its lowest point it was smaller than the Google campus.

  4. Dean Says:

    It’s not capitalism that did this but an oppressive and short sighted local government who thinks that business and individuals have unlimited resources to take. As often happens the businesses and individuals have enough of the local government and leave for better places.

  5. Paul Says:

    Seems there is plenty of blame for the mess. Isn’t the government just an abstraction of the people’s will?

  6. Dalton Says:

    I’m calling B.S. on your photo caption.

    Capitalism BUILT Detroit. Where’s the before photo of the prosperous Detroit? Unions and liberal politicians, both antithetical to capitalism, are what destroyed it. The empty blocks in the photo were once lined with middle class homes, owned by workers at evil capitalist Henry Ford’s factories. Unions made American cars unable to compete with foreign makers and forced the Big 3 to produce higher-profit margin trucks and SUVs, which are now falling out of favor. Race riots, and a succession of Black mayors who practically begged the remaining white populace of Detroit to flee through their inflammatory rhetoric, finished the job.

  7. doug Says:

    Amen, Dalton.

    I was born in Detroit. Also, I have lived in this area most of my life. Having witnessed the destruction of Detroit, you are close to spot on. There is almost no middle class in Detroit, white or black. The blacks with means have moved out too.

  8. Steve Packard Says:

    This is hardly an example of capitalism destroying a city. Capitalism built Detroit and it thrived when government kept mostly out of the way and allowed it to do what buisiness does. Things all went to hell in the 1960’s and got worse in the 1970’s. First it pro-union legislation that took away most of the bargaining the automakers could use and forced them to such high labor costs they could no longer produce low cost vehicles.

    Auto makers in the US must produce SUV’s and big expensive cars because the labor market and overhead costs are so high that it’s impossible to make a profit on smaller vehicles. But the government hit them with restrictions, fuel regulations and taxes that made it very very difficult to even stay afloat. The single biggest assault on the industry was the subsidizing of high risk loans that started in the 1990’s. The auto industry is very dependent on financing in order to support sales and because of this the upset in the finance market hit the auto makers extremely hard. Because of all the loan defaults, there wasn’t enough equity to back their financing.

    It’s disgusting. But it got even worse, because the city of Detroit has suffered even further due to years of failed government interventions under HUD.

  9. Oblivion Says:

    It wasn’t capitalism that destroyed Michigan, as the snide caption says. It was the liberal government, from the worthless and incompetent governor all the way down to the precints, same as what destroyed New Orleans. Capitalism builds, all socialists and liberals do is take what is not theirs.

  10. Matt Hooper Says:

    Detroit is a Statue, a Monument to Liberalism. Like a dozen other once proud thriving cities, Detroit is now a crime ridden drug infested pile of rubble. 200 years from now folks seeing these pictures will think an Asteroid hit Detroit. Wherever leftist policies have won the day—bankruptcy was ultimate destination. Other states where Conservative ideas were made into policy–they thrive. If you look real close you can see fingerprints on this once great city. They will match the Unions, Democrat governments and hate filled racism. Unbridled liberalism on parade.

  11. David MacMaster Says:

    It is perhaps ironic that looking at this I was reminded of Big Yellow Taxi.

    Don’t it always seem to go,
    That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.
    They paved paradise,
    Put up a parking lot.

  12. George Says:

    Wait a minute!. I had it drummed into my head throughout my school years that the “best and the brightest” always made it to the top because thety were the “best and the brightest”. Oh., wait., I forgot. Edward Kennedy had a much better idea. It was called affirmative action, equal opportunity, ad nauseum. Fifty years later you see the results of liberalism. This is the Democratic party at its worst. The only thing they are good for now is to pander to minorities in exchange for their votes by giving them freebies which the rest of us sweat to earn and fork over to “them” for past misdeeds. Screw the Democratic party I say. If we had the current crop of Democrats running the show during World War 2, guaranteed we would have lost, jailed or have been turned into lampshades. Congratulations liberals. You’ve achieved your wildest dreams. You’ve killed the goose the gtolden egg. It is now the end of America and the free world as we have come to know it thanks to you brain dead idiots.

  13. Timothy Takemoto Says:

    ” Unions made American cars unable to compete with foreign makers”

    I have been to a Japanese car factory. I am not exactly sure what it is but it seems to me that the guys on the line in the factory that I went to had a different attitude to their work. They did not seem to be skipping for joy at all, but they were really hard at it, almost operatic in their manoeuvres, or like a martial art. For some reason they don’t seem to mind, or even enjoy, putting cars together. They are thin, dedicated, and do not seem to need to hit the beers. I think that Japanese animism makes them feel much more proud of making a thing, perhaps because to a certain extent they feel that they are things.

    While Obama wants to make America a country that makes things again, I would advise against it. Asians always have and always will make *things* better (silk and spice in the past, iPhones, computers and cars now). Americans should stick to branding and selling Asian products (Apple) or selling soft products (MS, Adobe, Sun, Merrill Lynch) , products that depend upon a lot of software/logic/theory (microprocessors, medicines) and services that depend upon a system or manual (retail systems such as macdonalds). I think that Christianity and reason makes North Americans more proud to make stories, theories, systems, perhaps because they (North Americans) feel that they are stories.

    “Detroit is a Statue, a Monument to Liberalism.”
    I think that Adam Smithian liberalism could still work out, but the level of specialisation and interdependence with nations that have very different cultures is going to be very great.

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