Over the past century, the vast majority of our citizens gave up their land holdings to move to the cities and suburbs for the purpose of advancing our nation materially through the collective purpose of industry, the hubs of which were in our cities. Our economic, legal, transportation, and educational infrastructures were then developed to enhance this now concentrated workforce’s ability to produce for the good of the nation.
Beginning earlier but certainly more pronounced in the late 1970’s, our cities began to feel the effects of a systematic gutting as our captains of industry fought back against the power of unions to insist on a larger share of the economic pie, and found offshore communities welcoming their investment. As industrial era jobs moved offshore, a nation that had long ago given up family farms remained in the cities, vulnerable to the plight that would fill the void.
As legitimate means of sustaining families began to diminish and the impact of three decades of sustained wars made their social impact with a nation not able to manage the needs of an inundation of returning vets, as a post war society now titillated by the stimulation of violence and drugs searched for meaning in the void of purposeful work, as a now unionized society clung to last vestiges of power, seeking to gain advantage for its members as all the while businesses were retreating offshore, our cities slowly began to wither under the weight of a crumbling tax base.
Some cities diminished services. Others raised tax rates, exacerbating the abandonment of the cities by elites that were able to pick up entire industries and move them to more hospitable locales. Yet as cities were losing their financial resources, their social service needs to compensate their growing plight increased. As industry moved out, those unable to care for themselves moved in and cities became the refuge for the homeless and infirmed, socially handicapped and newly formed gangs and criminals.
Programs to help with the social disorder poured into the cities from state and federal governments yet little was done to fix the underlying problems that were caused by having our people move to cities over multiple generations to support industries that moved out of our cities in a generation.
Our cities are now obsolete in their original purpose, but not because of natural impediments. They still are developed around our best natural resources transportation corridors. They still have basic infrastructure needed to support industry. We just have placed constraints on our industries which we do not place on others outside U.S. boundaries. We are happy for instance to buy products that might kill people in communities in Malaysia as long as we can buy them more cheaply than if they were produced more cleanly here.
We can eliminate the artificial constraints we have placed on our cities and they will come back to life as quickly as Lake Erie did that was once declared dead and that is now teaming with abundant life. Our cities are underutilized assets that have collected negative attributes that are draining the nation of its resources. Let’s repair the blight, eliminate the artificial constraints, place them on equal footing with any other nation that we might buy products from, rebuild their purpose, and prosper as we realign our cities with our national goals.