Detroit’s Government-Private Dilemma: Moderation is the Key!

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Each time this cliché is thrown out, I wince. “Moderation” may be the world’s second most abused term, with the first place winner being the word “natural.” As an appropriate follow-up to this post I just published on Detroit’s latest news in the government vs free market domain, Detroit Free Press writer John Gallagher has noted that, wait … let’s not celebrate the lack of big government in Detroit, and let’s not cheer on the entrepreneurs to the point where it’s deemed excessive. John writes:

Amid the general celebration of billionaire Dan Gilbert’s remake of downtown, critics mutter about the dangers of letting one private businessman control so much.

On the opposite end of the ideological bandwidth, free-market zealots want to eliminate government entirely from the process of reimagining the city, advocating to turn it all over to market forces.

The best public policy lies between the extremes. In Detroit, as in many other cities, progress comes through a rich blend of both public and private engagement. Getting that mix right is the art we need to master.

I guess I qualify as the “free-market zealot.” I like John Gallagher a lot. He has been a great advocate for this city, he has written books about Detroit, and he has a keen eye and keen mind for understanding this city’s renaissance. I met him at Detroit Eastern Market last year, and we had a nice conversation and I thanked him for his  consummate dedication to the city. He’s a producer with boundless work ethic. However, John believes that government can centrally plan, as long as the right people are in place and the “needle” pointing to public or private is perfectly adjusted so as to moderate between two “extremes.” Yet it is folks with opposing political interests who are in charge of the “needle,” hence the reason that coercive politics can never be managed for best outcomes.

While government planning and corruption destroyed this city and turned it into the most despairing city in the U.S., it is all market forces that have turned the tables and made this city a renaissance zone and media darling. Next time I see John out and about, I’ll have to give one of my favorite journalists an anarcho-pitch? Cross-posted at Detroit: from Rust to Riches.

6:10 am on June 4, 2013
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