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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4105/can-government-build-cities/

Can Government Build Cities?

September 18, 2005 by

A disturbing trend after Katrina was summed up in George Bush’s promise to have the federal government completely rebuild the Gulf Coast better than before the storm, and do so with taxpayer money. Clifford Thies asks: Can we really expect government to create quality cities using redistribution, government programs, and regulations? He further shows that the worst cities in America are those that depend on government money and tax everyone to pay for it. FULL ARTICLE


Steven K Peterson September 18, 2005 at 11:08 pm

Interesting article. I have one question: there is one outlier city that is identified as “conservative”. Any idea which city this is?

Bruce September 19, 2005 at 9:14 am

Even a casual glance at the graphs shows that the results are scattered all over the landscape. This impression is confirmed by the low regression correlations, which suggest that “liberalism” is an inadequate explanation for the unemployment rates and crimes rates in these cities. The data presented in this article is fascinating but it doesn’t really substantiate the thesis.

Tom Austin September 19, 2005 at 9:41 am

Yes, there is a correlation between liberal voting tendencies and unemployment rates. However, the analysis does not clearly explain the cause-effect relationship. Does liberal voting cause higher unemployment? Or does high unemployment cause liberal voting? Perhaps the answer can be found by studying the history of Detroit’s liberal voting tendency versus its unemployment rate over the past 30 years.

Matthew Armstrong September 19, 2005 at 10:31 am

Steven – My guess was Salt Lake City. The Bay Area for Voting Research makes a list of all cities available, the most conservative city is Provo. The list is available here:


MLS September 19, 2005 at 2:18 pm

Interesting article, but it is obvious that liberal voting does not cause these things.

Voting for politicians and having them create various policies are different things.

Liberal ideology bastardizes the market process, and causes these things to occur. The people would normally leave the city if there was better opportunity for them elsewhere. Wealth distribution causes people to stay. Places like New Orleans, Detroit, and Philadelphia have all experienced serious population decline since the 50′s.

This is a normal process that should not be distrubed. IIRC, in 1830, the largest cities in this country were all in New York state because of the new Erie Canal. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if current liberal ideologies existed back then?

I don’t even know why they had to do this study. One can clearly see in every election result in the last 40 years that the BLUE counties are typically city areas.

Conservatives elected to office have been known to execute liberal ideologies as well.

BRL September 20, 2005 at 1:16 pm

One of the main problems with this article, as with most social science, is that it presumes a causality which may not exist. The writer makes the implicit assumption that liberal voting patterns CAUSES the deterioration found in these cities. Although there may be a statistical correlation between two variables, this does not prove that one causes the other. It may be the case that normal market forces rendered the existing metropolitan infrastructure obsolete, the rich people who could left, and the poor who could not afford to leave consistently look to government to enact policies to reverse the downward trend because they see no other recourse.

NKT September 21, 2005 at 2:56 am

Interesting article, but I agree with the flaw mentioned. These things are NOT independent. There are theories out there that can explain why all these are the case. My favorite is that eveything can be tied back to personality. This site (http://www.friesian.com/types.htm) explains a correlation between personality and politics, which I’ve found to be amazingly accurate. It explains why cities tend to be ‘blue’ and rural areas ‘red’. Simply, that the same type of person (SP) that craves the excitement of cities tends to vote liberal. The ones that respect family units more (SJ), feeling connected to tradition tend to be more industrious (lower unemployment), and be conservative. The ‘SJ’s tend toward occupations like police and military (lower crime in conservative cities, and why the militiary votes republican), and the ‘SP’ tend toward occupations like acting (explains Hollywood’s general bias).

Daniel Palos September 21, 2005 at 6:56 pm

Unfortunately, I do not subscribe to the mutual exclusivity of the terms “pro-government or “pro-individual liberty”, instead my own view of the matter is contained within this quote:

As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality. – George Washington, 1st US President.

My reasoning for this philosophical view is that, in our current, modern times, it is very difficult to be pro-individual liberty without, also, being part of a government (State). With that disclaimer, I tend to view the terms in question as technical terms for the sake of discussion
and not necessarily within the context of generally accepted usage.

While I would agree with some of Libertarian philosophy only to the extent it is embodied in the quote above; my concern in dealing with
socialism in its truer form is due mainly to the politically induced economic inefficiencies that are inherent in such forms of government.

Given all that, I hope to present an alternative view on the advantageous use of socialistic concepts for the public good. I use the
term public good, here, to mean the minimization of social costs while maximizing social benefits. (i.e. Public good = least amount of social
costs + most amount of social benefits.)

Simply in terms of economies of scale, one would think that the public sector would be hard to beat when taking on any project (whether
military or civil). The question, in my mind is whether to use the Warfare-State model or the Welfare-State model. Here the public sector
is ideally suited to being the provider of infrastructure development (i.e. natural monopolies such as roads, rail, water, telecommunications, power, and misc. city services) and leaving to the private sector to
provide “content” (i.e. non-natural monopolies such as private autos, freight, phone service, etc.)

I believe there is room for debate on whether an “official” unemployment rate of zero percent is impractical as a form of public policy as it
depends on the implementation of such a policy. One policy that might mitigate the negative effects of full employment; would be, to subsidize
people to not provide labor input to the economy – effectively resulting in zero official unemployment – since people would be paid to keep the government on track by providing for the public good (a social benefit).

In my view, government (The State) of some sort is a practical and necessary evolution from a less developed form of intra-State government such as Anarchy or an anarchistic view of Minarchy; none of which, as a matter of practical consideration is concerned with the elimination of all forms of government.

billwald September 22, 2005 at 11:37 am

Wasn’t the unemployment rate during WW2 over 1%?

Second, his data is all over the map. One can’t conclude anything from it.

Third, most city crime is a direct or indirect result of the ultimately victimless activities of prostitution and drug use which the majority of city people wish were off the books. In other words, the red areas have “criminalized” the social contract of the city people.

Fourth, the city people are subsidizing the red people’s choice of living 30 miles into the country and driving their SUV into the city to work. The Afgan and Iraq oil wars are commuter subsidies.

N Mulcahy September 26, 2005 at 7:24 am

The Center who produced the original study noted that:

“The goal of this research was to rank America’s most liberal and conservative cities based on the voting returns of the 2004 United States presidential election.”

So Mr Theis produces a whole bunch of scatterplots showing “correlations” between these liberal cities and their crime rates in 2002, unemployment rates in 2000 and population changes from 1990-2000. Those evil liberals sure can do a lot of harm but I’m not sure they’ve yet worked out how to affect the past by getting people to vote for them in 2004.

This is either work done by the guy’s 5 year old son, or right wing rubbish, or both.

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