Many cities have struggled with the decline of key industries, from Philadelphia’s shipyards to New York’s textile industry, but Detroitwhich is now in bankruptcyis both a victim of the decline of the Michigan automobile industry and a cause of it. A city with a history of civil disorderit is the only American city occupied on three separate occasions by federal troopsits poisonous blend of race-based politics and union domination has left it impoverished and diminished. Once the fourth-largest city in the country, it is today smaller than Fort Worth. Once the nation’s most prosperous city, it is today the poorest. Even in its reduced state, it is the largest U.S. city ever to file for bankruptcyand yet its city payroll maintains twice as many government employees per resident as does San Jose. More terrifying is the fact that the imbalance between public-sector consumption and private-sector production that helped make Detroit what it is today is by no means limited to the Motor Cityin fact, there are four large U.S. cities that are in arguably worse shape. Detroit is not just a case study, but a portent.
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About the Author
Kevin D. Williamson is an editor at National Review , the author of the forthcoming The End of Politics (And What Comes Next) , and a columnist for The New Criterion. He began his journalism career at the Bombay-based Indian Express Newspaper Group and has worked as a reporter, columnist, and editor at a variety of newspapers. He directed the journalism program at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.