“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." ~ George Santayana
Mario Loyola has a great column on NationalReview.com that takes a look at two cities and their different approaches to similar circumstances.
What Houston did for itself is not merely a model for any city facing the danger of sudden economic decline: The policies that Houston and Texas have followed are proof of concept for the conservative vision of government, which is, essentially, to keep the government off the people’s backs and let a free society find its own way to prosperity.
Detroit, conversely, is proof of concept for the liberal vision of government, which seeks to solve every problem through government, to shape economic development through government, to redress grievances through government, to attain social justice through government, and, finally, to insinuate government into every aspect of our lives. The problems Detroit faced in the latter half of the 20th century would have been enormously challenging no matter what policies it embraced. But it embraced the worst ones and so plunged recklessly down the slope of decline.
Each city has offered a nearly pure exposition of a particular philosophy of government and a vivid demonstration of the results. In the degree of collusion between business and government, in the power of labor unions, in the method of economic development, in the burden of taxation and regulation, in the tolerance for diversity — in all these ways and more, the two cities stand as diametric opposites in the choices a society can make.
Loyola then recites the histories of the two cities, citing their problems and how government officials responded to them. He concludes:
As the next election looms, Americans should consider how rapidly we could unleash the power of American industry and bounce out of this recession, if instead of taking our cue from Detroit, we follow Houston.
But there is a message for Toledo as well. Many have called us 'little Detroit' - and not in a good way. We've not been as reliant upon the auto industry as Detroit was/is, but we still depend upon it as one of our major employers in the area.
Unfortunately, our political leaders are more like Detroit's than Houston's. They tend to adopt the liberal vision of government, "which seeks to solve every problem through government, to shape economic development through government, to redress grievances through government, to attain social justice through government, and, finally, to insinuate government into every aspect of our lives."
If you don't believe me, I challenge you to find any example where our political leaders and the local paper (an opinion 'pusher') have ever embraced a 'leave it alone' approach to anything.
We have two very clear examples with plenty of historical facts and measurable outcomes in Detroit and Houston. We can repeat Detroit's mistakes or we can grow by copying Houston's approach.
As Loyola writes, the choice - and the outcome - is up to us:
But as Oscar Wilde lamented as he languished in Reading Gaol near the end of his life: “I must say to myself that I ruined myself, and that nobody great or small can be ruined except by his own hand . . . Terrible as was what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more terrible still.”