Detroit’s decline, and Krugman’s explanation

Having to watch what bad government has done to my home city of Detroit is a bit like Princess Leia having to watch her home planet destroyed. The fate of the Motor City, writes John Steele Gordon, is America’s “greatest urban disaster that didn’t involve nature or war.” But wait: here’s distinguished New York Times columnist Paul Krugman to inform us that it’s not “fundamentally a tale of fiscal irresponsibility … For the most part, it’s just one of those things that happens now and then in an ever-changing economy.” Just one of those things! I reply — with a hat tip to Cole Porter — at Cato at Liberty. (& George Leef (“A tornado is ‘just one of those things’ because is has no human cause. When a city goes bankrupt, it has many human causes”), Ed Driscoll)

P.S. On the role of long-serving mayor Coleman Young, see pp. 12-13 of this Ed Glaeser/Andrei Shleifer paper (PDF). And here’s a HuffPo tag on Detroit corruption.


  • When we had a national rash of carjackings in the early 1990s, many police departments started using decoys– what looked like absent-minded and vulnerable drivers, who were in fact undercover cops backed up by other cops. Some carjackers, surprised by resistance, tried to shoot their way out of trouble and got shot themselves. In Detroit’s suburbs, the result was considered successful, putting a swift end to carjacking. In Detroit itself, however, it was considered terrible and the decoy program was stopped. Any suburban shoppers who had doubts before were now on notice to stay out of Detroit.

  • Krugman was my favorite economics columnist during the G.W. Bush years, mercilessly skewering the profligacy and flim-flam that had its inevitable denousment in the summer and fall of 2008. Since Obama came to power, however, he has become an administration flack ready with excuses for almost anything. But that is not a failing unique to center-left commentators.

  • Hugo, it appears you discount the likelihood that Krugman has not changed at all. Only “the administration” changed.