This Website, originally constructed in 2003 and recently reconstructed into a blog format, is inspired by Detroit’s several decades long economic decline. As a resident of the City of Detroit for most of this period, I, along with others, watched in horror decades of disinvestment and the consequent destruction of a multitude of lives in the Detroit Metro urban core.
The amazing people of Detroit deserve to have their story told. They did not deserve what they received in terms of commercial and residential disinvestment. The sad thing is, the same patterns of disinvestment, the same images, were and are to be found throughout most, if not all, of the Nation’s industrial centers. While there is currently an ongoing trend of gentrification in many of these communities, supposedly a good thing, the damage done to the lives of those left behind in these industrial wastelands will live on for generations. Detroit’s story reflects the highly dynamic nature of an economic structure, which, while it may maximize income, takes no account of the distribution of this income, or the externalization of costs associated with this expansion.
With this in mind, the Site, through the medium of photography, hope’s to provide a visual reminder of the devastation wrought on a community through the unbridled flow of private capital investment. Related essays hopefully inspire thought on this topic. The recent few years have seen a stabilization, perhaps even a reversal, of the destructive capital flows away from Detroit, which may leave one to consider the relevance of the continued portrayal of these rapidly disappearing images. The images, however, remain relevant.
The psychological, sociological, and spiritual damage wrought on a community by capital disinvestment are not immediately reversed with the removal of, admittedly, significant portions of the City’s accumulated blight. The construction of high-end entertainment districts and restaurants likewise fails to reverse decades of lost well-paying jobs. Some might find satisfaction in the return of capital to the City and suggest that this return of investment vindicates the free market model. I would suggest that if it takes 50 years to reach a state of market equilibrium which invites new investment that this is too long of a time frame and that the model is a lousy model: too many lives have been destroyed during the interim.
Furthermore, this is an ongoing project. Today Detroit, perhaps, is the poster child of gentrification or “urban renewal”, but rest assured, disinvestment is occuring in someone else’s community and lives in those communities will likewise be destroyed. This problem of “creative destruction”, a term coined by former Harvard Economist Joseph Schumpeter, is a problem of national and international scope.
The problem has intensified during the past 40 years of a neoliberal approach which increasingly relies on the private market as a solution to pressing social needs. The private market has obviously not provided these solutions and has, in fact, intensified the problem.
With this in mind, the blog portion of this website provides a critique of the current economic model, along with solutions in the form of federal jobs programs, a modest Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) and monetary reform. On monetary issues, this Site is largely aligned with the proponents of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), particularly the portions of their theory which promotes the Job Guarantee, but also on their perceptions of the money creation and destruction process and its potential inflationary impacts.
There is an additional theme on this Site which may seem unrelated to the above material but is, in fact, highly related to these issues. That is, the theme of pacifism. Not only does pacifism promote a theory of non-violence, it inherently suggests a civil approach to the issues which divide us. We can not move beyond our current divisions without a willingness to engage in civil debate and in this author’s view, civil debate is inherent to the pacifistic creed.
It is, however, also important to approach peace from the other side of the equation. It is safe to assume that more equitable societies are more peaceful societies. This evident truth has been on display throughout history, notably in Central and South America where extreme wealth and income disparity, much of it in the form of an extreme concentration of land holdings in the hands of a small number of families and also under the control of large western corporations, notably U.S. corporations, has led to much civil discord in the form of revolutions and fascistic responses to revolutions, which reached their height during the civil wars of the 1980’s. More recently, but talked little about in the U.S. press, the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa which occurred earlier this past decade, was arguably, largely the result of increasing inequality which followed in the wake up of neoliberal agendas imposed on these nations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other powerful international capital interests. The neoliberal agenda of privatization of state owned assets and harsh fiscal discipline created more wealth at the top of the hierarchy and more poverty at the bottom of the economic structures within these nations. So while it is important to stress the need for peaceful dialogue in the effort to bring about a more equitable society, it is also important to note that a more equitable society itself helps to bring about this peaceful dialogue. Peace and equality are deeply connected concepts. Hopefully this Website can make a small contribution to both.