Detroit decline

There was another story about the slow demise of Detroit, though this time it was in the context of how the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has fought back from the brink of disaster, with help from the suburbs.  Does the relative success of the DSO mean that Detroit city will also climb back to its former glory?

Sadly, no.  The story itself, reported incompletely as it was, touched upon the real reasons why Detroit will fail.  Not only Detroit, but many other older US cities that suffer the same structural defect.

As students of behavior, we must look upon the political entity we call City as a form of living thing.  And we must know how all cities are constructed, politically speaking.  The most successful cities, both here and abroad, are those that have become their own political kingdom.  Essentially, they are their own state.  Manhattan is one.  Columbus is another.  Shanghai, Paris, many others follow this formula.  In this way the city managers have greater resources to use for planning and execution of grand plans.

Not so for Detroit.  Poor Detroit, and many other US cities that were created in the 1800s, have many political entities to deal with.  Detroit is in serious problems because the “inner city” is desolate, without jobs or decent infrastructure.  The “suburbs” are in fact different political entities – they are not Detroit.  Yet, for you and me, when we look at the map, we are quite happy to call the entire thing Detroit.

And so should they.  The suburbs should be absorbed.  The larger metropolitan area should become its own county.  The suburbs have enjoyed the benefits of the city without having to shoulder their share of the burden, and now they are reaping the rewards of their neglect.

But will they?  This is the fun part of being an impartial student, a scientist.  Part of me wants them to succeed, and I know exactly how they should proceed to succeed.  Follow other successful examples.  But will they?  Can all those entrenched politicians and small suburbs commit political suicide for the greater good?

The bets are on!