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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Detroit means Elmore Leonard figuring out how his character can rob a liquor store and still get you to like him. Boston means being sold an official chartreuse Red Sox hat and a $200 seat atop a wall 400 feet from the plate because that’s what you’ve been told you should want to do since birth. In Detroit, if you can build a car with your own hands, you can’t get a job. In Boston, if you can deconstruct an Ezra Pound canto that nobody cares about, you get tenure.

    And now the Yankification of the BoSox is complete.Report

  2. Avatar Kim says:

    Have you read the Cleveland Fed’s Report on Detroit’s irresponsibility (It was doing a comparison of different rustbelt cities)? No, it is not unique. Because of that, we should pay attention.Report

  3. Avatar j r says:

    Too many of these folks have no foothold in today’s economy; their livelihoods no longer command enough value to sustain dignified lives. They are the human face of free markets’ “creative destruction.”

    I am sorry, but this statement is simply false, and more than a little sanctimonious to boot. It is shoddy moral intuition and a bad understanding of history and economics masquerading as empathy and social justice.

    What happened in Detroit happened because of corporatism and because of poor governance. That ain’t got much to do with free markets. Detroit prospered, in part, thanks to the unholy rent-seeking alliance of Big Corporations, Big Labor, and Big Government and the inability of that triumvirate to react to competition from foreign auto makers is what led to Detroit’s decline. The people locked out of opportunity in Detroit are the victims of a lack of creative destruction. They existed on the margins of a rigged game and when that game folded, they were left with not much.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Fed says otherwise. All due respect, but you don’t see the same pattern in Pittsburgh that you do in Cleveland and Detroit.

      Geography is Destiny?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        So, Kim, you’re saying the Fed claims it was the free market that hurt Detroit so bad? Give us the money quote or shut up and go home.

        JR’s right, of course, and the problem is that Conor, despite his PhD, which presumably equipped him with some real analytical skills, has fallen into exactly the public opinion writer’s trap that Nate Silver recently criticized.

        Plenty of pundits have really high IQs, but they don’t have any discipline in how they look at the world, and so it leads to a lot of bullshit, basically. … They’re not really evaluating the data as it comes in, not doing a lot of [original] thinking.

        “Free market” is a convenient trope anytime there’s an economic problem. No actual analysis, no looking under the hood, required. It’s lazy.

        I’m not sure I even get Conor’s point, beyond the idea that Detroit’s problem is systemic. Sure, but systemic in what way? You can’t attack a systemic problem until you figure out what systems are involved, and Conor doesn’t dig in and analyze that. It’s easier just to tell a story about suffering and opening day.

        If you look at a city with a staggering history of corruption, kick-backs, bribery, embezzlement and general misdirection of public funds, exactly what about all that is free market?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        “Overall, in growing cities, population density either remained the same or increased in most areas. In contrast, in shrinking cities, formerly high-density city centers saw the biggest drop in density, while the surrounding low-density areas saw an increase population density. In practice, this thinning out of high-density areas of shrinking cities is consistent with population movements out of urban areas and into the surrounding suburbs.”

        In practice, Pittsburgh’s housing has remained relatively constrained by geography (as that “pittsburgh robots” article mentioned in last linky friday commented upon). In contrast, Detroit’s housing has been much more free market — which has allowed “tax cheats” to flee into areas that are unsustainable (because they do not handle retirees well at all — mostly due to lack of services, but also due to standard death spiral affects — and the further problem of geographic fragmentation of workforce).Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        There’s nothing there that refutes JR’s point. Time for you to STFU. Long past time for that, really.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Also, there’s nothing about being constrained by geography or not that makes one place’s housing more free market or less. It just creates different free market effects. It’s hard to imagine the cognitive defects that lead you to think so.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        JR’s point and Connor’s, both focus on stuff that happened ages ago. In fact, a lot of the people in the lower income bands left, and went to other places.

        I’ll make the claim (the fed’s data will mostly back me) that Pittsburgh’s past looks remarkably similar to Detroit’s.

        Yet, we don’t have nearly the unemployment (nor infrastructure related problems)Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        “Overall, in growing cities, population density either remained the same or increased in most areas. In contrast, in shrinking cities, formerly high-density city centers saw the biggest drop in density, while the surrounding low-density areas saw an increase population density.”

        The Federal Reserve Tautology Subcommittee continues to do fine work.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        “Also, there’s nothing about being constrained by geography or not that makes one place’s housing more free market or less. It just creates different free market effects. ”
        … yeah, you’re right. assertion withdrawn.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Another part of Detroit’s problems has been the state reneging on its sales tax agreements with municipalities. Once upon a time municipalities collected their own sales taxes, then the state legislature suggested it’d be more efficient to have a single collector (it is better for merchants) and it would distribute to the cities what they would have received. Then with state budget pressures the state reneged, and used money intended for the cities to prop up its own budget. My town has been nearly devestated by this, but Detroit was in a much weaker position, much less able to absorb the cuts. Democrats and Republicans have been equal parties in this process.

        Analyze that however you like as good or bad public policy, but it’s still public policy, not free market.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      The statement is apropos to the frequent use of the phrase “creative destruction” by some. It is used a positive thing we should want by people who benefit from it and are insulated from the problems that stem from it. People are often hurt in CD. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen in some form, but the problems shouldn’t be dismissed either.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Fair enuff Greg but in Detroit’s specific case the assertion that JR makes is not the creative destruction isn’t sometimes destructive but rather that Detroit is a poor example of the costs of creative destruction because the city was devastate primarily by non-market forces; bad governance, corruption and racism to list a few.

        If I say that a person dying from arsenic is proof that chemotherapy is a fraud I’m making a leap too far. I’m afraid that Connor’s laying Detroit at the feet of the free market may be a similar leap; though his writing is beautiful and his love for the Team and the city is very evident.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        If he really loved the city, he’d take it to see a doctor, not a naturopath.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        North, the problem is that either side of the debate can always point to facts that support its proposition. Liberals will find market and corporate forcers at work and libertarians will find what they don’t like at work.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Was Detroit particularly Libertarian/Republican over the last X years? Is the balance about 50/50?

        If it turns out that Democrats were in charge more often than not, were they the “those would be Republicans today!” kind of Democrats?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        The people in charge of pittsburgh since the last Jewish mayor were actively financed by the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy.

        I guess that counts as “counts as republican/conservative?” It’s certainly not liberal nor progressive.

        Don’t know much about Detroit’s richfolk, or I might be able to wade through some filings.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Was Detroit particularly Libertarian/Republican over the last X years? Is the balance about 50/50?

        About as much as Colorado Springs being particularly left wing over the last X years.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Detroit hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1962. Of course, Democrats are capitalists too.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        The decline in the US auto industry dates to the 70’s and their inability to adapt to changing gas prices and also the foreign auto makers were more agile in adapting tech. Some of that is Creative destruction some of that is other things that lay at the fault of the car companies. As noted above its not like liberals in Detroit or Mich were communists. R’s and D’s are all capitalists with corporatism at their root.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        But Conor doesn’t provide any evidence for what he claims is the problem. And it’s impossible to look objectively at the history of Detroit and not recognize corporatism, corruption, and racism as primary factors.

        I suppose we could link white flight to free markets. After all, we didn’t pass laws limiting white’s legal freedom to buy houses in the suburbs. Of course what’s generally overlooked is the amount of black flight, which is substantial, also.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @jm3z-aitch, I think one can very well argue that white flight was a problem of the free market and a societal failure at the same time. Not much you can do about it. There was a lot of suburbanization in the very white cities in the North West though, so white flight isn’t exactly about racism.

        I think that for many liberals, corporatism is a free market problem because they associate any sort of business activity with the idea of free markets. Its not exactly true but thats how they see it. Thats why a liberal might see a failure of the free market while libertarians would see corporatism.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Greg, yes and if all of the midwests car centric cities and communities were suffering Detroit level ruin I think Connor would be on stronger footing. They are, of course, not- certainly not to the degree that Detroit is. I’m not saying that the “Creative Destruction” of the free market lies blameless in this but I would say that when the cold winds of the market blew against Detroit it was non market forces that had rotted the city out from the inside and left in unable to weather the storm.

        JR’s point, that bad governance, corruption, racism and corporatism (that last one is the chicken to all ideologies- libertarians point at it and say statism, liberals point at it and say capitalism etc) are the true killers of Detroit still stands as far as I can see.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        LeeEsq I’d assert that Racism played a somewhat unique role in Detroit. The city suffered quite a bit of racial animosity that heightened the degree of white flight which did serious damage to the city. Just as importantly cries of racism were very successfully used by a number of highly destructive and corrupt mayors as a deflector shield to keep them in office and the remaining voters bought it hook line and sinker.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I have to agree with @leeesq up above. When we talk about something like the history of Detroit, it’s disingenuous to make everything all about the free market or all about the government. It’s clearly a combination of both things (and many others) that drive the success or failure of a modern metropolitan city.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’m pretty sure pittsburgh lost a huge amount of population — it also had some suburbization.
        Thing is? Pittsburgh ain’t in Detroit’s situation Right Now. And I think that’s significant.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Yes Kimmie, but if the naked creative destruction of the free market was the only or the major factor in Detroits ruin we should see Pittsburg and other car and steel centered metropolis’s mirroring Detroits devastation. That we don’t suggests that Detroit had significant non market factors that contributed to or drove its decline.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I think Pittsburgh bottomed out about as hard as Detroit did. (maybe not in central city).
        I’m citing data above about Urban sprawl and the reasoning why Pittsburgh has recovered, and Detroit has not.
        I don’t think that creative destruction is really the problem here. (in fact, the removal of excessive and expensive infrastructure will probably do Detroit some good). Maybe I ought to have just stated that from the getgo.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I think Pittsburgh bottomed out about as hard as Detroit did

        Really? When did Pittsburgh declare bankruptcy?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Focusing just on population decline, you’re still wrong. Detroit’s gone from 1.8 million (I’ve seen numbers as high as 2.1 million) down to just over 700,000. Over 60% population loss; over 1 million people fewer. Pittsburgh lost about 50%, and a little over 300,000 people.Report

  4. Avatar Kim says:

    Detroit seems to be benefitting from governmental creative destruction, it seems to me: