Come On, Detroit, Maybe You Can Do It-You’re Still Kind Of Beautiful

-James Panero at The New Criterion: ‘Detroit Chronicle

‘This is not to say that the arts will “save Detroit,” as some have suggested. The sociologist Richard Florida, who wrote The Rise of the Creative Class in 2001, has staked much on this messianic and largely unproven claim for rustbelt renewal. Instead, cities work best when the planners get out of the way of artists rather than attempting to use them as tools of gentrification. Basing your urban future on jet-setting bohemians coming to town for a Matthew Barney film shoot is no way to keep the lights on and the water running, or, more to the point, strengthen the local cultural fabric.’

As previously posted:

Via Curbed Detroit. (via David Thompson)

70 photos of the abandoned, foreboding Temple.  Mysterious symbols and a certain sad grandeur that’s come to represent Detroit these days.

-Photographer Ben Marcin has a series called ‘Last House Standing.’ Solitary row-homes…the only ones left on the block.

From Buzzfeed: ‘Why I Bought A House in Detroit For $500:’

How did Detroit get here? Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

More from Megan McArdle on the behavior that comes with pension bonuses.Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself?  See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

Modernism At The Movies

You Can Have It

My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.

The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.

Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,

and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labours, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?

All night at the ice plant he had fed
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I
stacked cases of orange soda for the children
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time

with always two more waiting. We were twenty
for such a short time and always in
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty.

In 1948 the city of Detroit, founded
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died,
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace,

for there was no such year, and now
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers,
calendars, doctors’ appointments, bonds
wedding certificates, drivers licenses.

The city slept. The snow turned to ice.
The ice to standing pools or rivers
racing in the gutters. Then the bright grass rose
between the thousands of cracked squares,

and that grass died. I give you back 1948.
I give you all the years from then
to the coming one. Give me back the moon
with its frail light falling across a face.

Give me back my young brother, hard
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse
for God and burning eyes that look upon
all creation and say, You can have it.

Philip Levine

There’s definitely some Spanish influence here, by way of Antonio Machado.  Perhaps there’s also some labor/alienation sentiment for the working man on the factory floor, but hey, it’s Detroit and it’s a well-crafted poem.

Just because I love to highlight the generally Left-Of-Center political philosophy over at PBS and NPR, there’s a link to this PBS piece about life on the factory floor and Levine’s poem.  Here’s a Paris Review interview with Levine.

A lot of breathing, technique, and multiphonics going on here.

The Economist On Detroit ‘A Phoenix Emerges’

Full piece here (soon behind a paywall…addition: As a friends puts it: The neo-liberal eye of The Economist has passed over you, Detroit citizen, as an illuminating beam cast over the economic seas from lighthouse London upon your listing freighter of a city. Be grateful for its brief warmth and piercing wisdom. Behold and rejoice.)

‘After a judge approves a bankruptcy plan objectors have 14 days to file appeals. Yet appeals are unlikely at this stage as the tough battles with retirees and creditors have all been fought. Many are now optimistic about Detroit’s chances for recovery. “It can be done,” says Mr Spiotto. His colleague, Mr Pottow, compares the city to an alcoholic who has sobered up. The question is whether Detroit will have the strength and support to avoid past temptations of profligacy, mismanagement and corruption.’

Best wishes, Detroit, but you’ve got to clear out the rubble.

Via Curbed Detroit. (via David Thompson)

Visit the DIA and see what they have.

Over five years ago, when GM stock was selling at $2 a share and the debt-holders had been wiped out, this blog put up the video below.  Here’s a brief 2:00 min explanation by Bill Ackman of Pershing Square on why the GM bailout was likely a bad idea.

Politicians reward their friends, and some of the same Detroit ideas we’ve taken national.  Americans in general are likely not going to think well of their politics for awhile, but we could first stop the bleeding, create less incentive for those looking to oversee the spoils, laws, and regulations, and figure out how to grow the economy at a faster rate:

————

You Can Have It

My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.

The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.

Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,

and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labours, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?

All night at the ice plant he had fed
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I
stacked cases of orange soda for the children
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time

with always two more waiting. We were twenty
for such a short time and always in
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty.

In 1948 the city of Detroit, founded
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died,
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace,

for there was no such year, and now
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers,
calendars, doctors’ appointments, bonds
wedding certificates, drivers licenses.

The city slept. The snow turned to ice.
The ice to standing pools or rivers
racing in the gutters. Then the bright grass rose
between the thousands of cracked squares,

and that grass died. I give you back 1948.
I give you all the years from then
to the coming one. Give me back the moon
with its frail light falling across a face.

Give me back my young brother, hard
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse
for God and burning eyes that look upon
all creation and say, You can have it.

Philip Levine

There’s definitely some Spanish influence here, by way of Antonio Machado.  Perhaps there’s also some labor/alienation sentiment for the working man on the factory floor, but hey, it’s Detroit and it’s a well-crafted poem.

Just because I love to highlight the generally Left-Of-Center political philosophy over at PBS and NPR, there’s a link to this PBS piece about life on the factory floor and Levine’s poem.  Here’s a Paris Review interview with Levine.

Also On This Site: From Buzzfeed: ‘Why I Bought A House in Detroit For $500:’

How did Detroit get here? Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

More from Megan McArdle on the behavior that comes with pension bonuses.Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself?  See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

From Bloomberg: ‘How Automakers Became More Equal Than Others’

Full piece here.

On that GM bailout and the $10 billion loss to taxpayers:

‘The administration gave the UAW billions more than bankruptcy law calls for. Typically, bankruptcy reduces union compensation packages to competitive rates. However, GM’s existing union members made few concessions on pay. As the UAW put it, the contract meant “no loss in your base hourly pay, no reduction in your health care, and no reduction in pensions.’

So, what’s the strategy for American growth and prosperity here in the face of manufacturing decline?

I mean, just look at Detroit.

Over five years ago, when GM stock was selling at $2 a share and the debt-holders had been wiped out, this blog put up the video below.  Here’s a brief 2:00 min explanation by Bill Ackman of Pershing Square on why the GM bailout was likely a bad idea.

Politicians reward their friends:

————

David Harsanyi at Reason wrote more here.  Non-union employees pensions got raided and taxpayers foot the bill, so that Obama and the UAW can maintain power.  Cronyism on the taxpayer dime at its finest.

How did Detroit get here? Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

More from Megan McArdle on the behavior that comes with pension bonuses.

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

From Bloomberg: ‘Detroit Recovery Plan Threatens Muni-Market Underpinnings’

From The Detroit Free Press By Way Of Via Media: ‘How Detroit Went Broke’

Full piece here.

Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

‘Other cities also have profound problems today — Chicago, Providence, R.I., Baltimore. But only Detroit is in bankruptcy court.’

A sad tale that didn’t have to end up here:

Even by the late 1950s, the signs of strain were showing in industrial cities. Population and housing values peaked in Detroit in the 1950s and began their long and seemingly unstoppable decline. The urban riots of the 1960s, including Detroit’s, accelerated the process.

By the 1960s, in Detroit as in city after city, the process was well under way. And mayors and civic leaders, here and elsewhere, began their long, anguished battle against decline.

The more people that left, the more the city leaders raised taxes and drove more people out until it became a wasteland of decay, increasing mismanagement and corruption.

America:  Tackle your pension problems and municipal debt issues now to help avoid this cruel fate.  The pie needs to be growing.

See this piece from Urbanophile:

‘The last thing Detroit teaches us is that America too often doesn’t learn from its mistakes.  Detroit’s troubles have been evident for quite some time, yet it’s hard to see that many other post industrial cities have managed to carve out a different path.  Rather, they pretended that Detroit’s fall was somehow unique due to its auto industry dependence – and managed to ignore other failed cities as well – while embarking on the same turnaround strategy via conventional wisdom and silver bullets.

Another quote, this time from Ira Stoll:

‘Indeed, if there is a single fact that sums up the state of American political economy at the present moment, it is this: the Boston office building once home to Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, which chronicled and celebrated small and fast-growing businesses, is now the headquarters of a publication called “Compliance Week.”’

Will the tech sector fill the hole?  Fracking, low-taxes and new investment in industry?  An information and knowledge-based economy?

How close are we to drifting into a higher-tax, heavily-regulated, less dynamic, federally managed State of affairs?

Nationalized and potentially socialized health-care?

Take him to Detroit:

———————–

Some links on this site: Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself?  See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

A garage sale for the city’s art? Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Detroit’s Van Gogh Would Be Better Off in L.A.’From The Detroit Free Press: ‘DIA’s Art Collection Could Face Sell-Off To Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

From Bloomberg: ‘Detroit Recovery Plan Threatens Muni-Market Underpinnings’

From The Detroit Free Press: ‘Detroit Files For Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Amid Staggering Debts’

Full piece here.

Well, it’s official, as Detroit cannot avoid bankruptcy any longer:

‘The filing begins a 30- to 90-day period that will determine whether the city is eligible for Chapter 9 protection and define how many claimants might compete for the limited settlement resources that Detroit has to offer. The bankruptcy petition would seek protection from creditors and unions who are renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt and other liabilities.’

As written before: The industry went away, but also, the Model Cities program as part of LBJ’s ‘Great Society‘ helped incentivize the city so that its politics became a system of patronage and its treasury like a cookie jar. It was a slow, increasingly corrupt decline, with many of the people who could leave having left (serious white-flight, some black-flight). The ones who did stay continued to argue over a shrinking pie as the tax revenue dwindled and the lights eventually shut off.

Detroit has been extrodinarily poorly managed…more to come, no doubt.

Addition: Over four years ago, when GM stock was selling at $2 a share and the debt-holders had been wiped out, this blog put up the video below.  Here’s a brief 2:00 min explanation by Bill Ackman of Pershing Square on why the GM bailout was likely a bad idea:

————-

Exactly the kind of civil service, bureaucracy, and vast redistributive apparatus that helped lead to Detroit’s decline is likely being implemented with Obamacare right now.  Eventually you run out of other people’s money, and many of promises made to push the bill through hid costs.

Addition: Michael Barone reviews Charlie LeDuff’s book, and discusses how growing up in Detroit in the 60’s turned him into a conservative (Barone).

Some links on this site: Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

A garage sale for the city’s art? Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Detroit’s Van Gogh Would Be Better Off in L.A.’From The Detroit Free Press: ‘DIA’s Art Collection Could Face Sell-Off To Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

From Bloomberg: ‘Detroit Recovery Plan Threatens Muni-Market Underpinnings’

From Via Media: ‘Detroit’s Failure and the Blue Model’s Shame’

Full post here.

It seems no one really wants to look at Detroit anymore, a once-great industrial power become something like a failed-state:

‘Detroit’s residents can no longer count even on the most elementary social services: people have started to plan for a life in which the paramedics and police just stop showing up.’

The industry went away, but also, the Model Cities program as part of LBJ’s ‘Great Society‘ helped incentivize the city so that its politics became a system of patronage and its treasury like a cookie jar.  It was a slow, increasingly corrupt decline, with many of the people who could leave having left (serious white-flight, some black-flight). The ones who did stay continued to argue over a shrinking pie as the tax revenue dwindled and the lights eventually shut off.

There were jokes made about it for years:

———————–

Mead suggests this is emblematic of the failure of the ‘blue model’.

The frustration and bitterness that fills American politics these days reflects the failure of our current social, political and economic institutions and practices to deliver the results that Americans want and expect.’

The ground has shifted beneath our feet, and I suspect if you support economic growth, income-inequality to be met with a growing pie, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.  There are deeper problems than the culture wars, but politics often follows culture, and a lot of people in our culture are not exactly embracing free-market solutions.

Are you optimistic?  Pessimistic?

Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself?  See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Some links on this site: Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

A garage sale for the city’s art? Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Detroit’s Van Gogh Would Be Better Off in L.A.’From The Detroit Free Press: ‘DIA’s Art Collection Could Face Sell-Off To Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

From Bloomberg: ‘Detroit Recovery Plan Threatens Muni-Market Underpinnings’

From Bloomberg: ‘Detroit Recovery Plan Threatens Muni-Market Underpinnings’

Full piece here.

‘Richard Larkin at Herbert J. Sims & Co. said there’ll be “hell to pay” for local bond issuers because of the default.

“It will certainly affect all the debt of struggling governments in Michigan, if not nationally,” Belle Haven’s Lowin said.’

Someone’s gotta pay for it.  More here from Reuters by Cate Long:

‘Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr predicts that the chances of Detroit entering bankruptcy are about 50/50. But if we consider what the major participants, bondholders, public employees and retirees are likely to do, it’s almost 100 percent certain that Mr. Orr will be entering the federal bankruptcy court house on West Fort Street in Detroit.’

The bondholders will have to fight for as much as they can, as folks are stripping Detroit for anything of value, much like the abandoned and dilapidated houses inside city limits.

Detroit has a richer history, but since the auto and industry boom, and I’ve heard partly due to the Model Cities Great Society programs, it’s been downhill ever since.

The Bay Area had a tech boom, finds itself in sunny, dreamy California, but there are some common threads.  From Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, here’s Chuck Reed, mayor of San Jose:

‘The problem, he explains, pre-dates the most recent financial crisis. “Hell, I was here. I know how it started. It started in the 1990s with the Internet boom. We live near rich people, so we thought we were rich.” San Jose’s budget, like the budget of any city, turns on the pay of public-safety workers: the police and firefighters now eat 75 percent of all discretionary spending.’

and:

‘There’s a corruption here. It’s not just a financial corruption. It’s a corruption of the attitude of public service.”

Addition:  Obviously, this goes deeper than a partisan or ideological issue, and is indicative of larger changes going on in our society, due in part to technology, globalization, and which our current politics won’t be able to entirely solve.  It’s up to us, and I prefer free-market solutions, voluntary associations, and finding our way forward by keeping the pie growing.

Charlie LeDuff’s youtube channel here.

I tend to agree with Reason Magazine, that it’s cargo-cult economics to expect to build a train and then….profit, which California is still trying to do and Detroit wanted to do.  Boondoggle time.

—————————————

Hardly the time to be building new high-speed rail projects, eh, California?

—————————————

Addition:  A reader points out High-Line Park, that reclaimed former elevated rail-line in Manhattan which is actually quite well-done, and is bringing in revenue through tourism and re-development along its course.  The word ‘community’ gets thrown around a lot in the video below, but I applaud the vision of those two guys who saw it through.  NYC has tourism, trade, finance and private money enough and turn an abandoned rail-line into a park, not build an actual train in the hopes of generating revenue.

—————————————

Addition:  Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Detroit’s Van Gogh Would Be Better Off in L.A.’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.

From Via Media: ‘An Important Day For Detroit’

From The Detroit Free Press: ‘DIA’s Art Collection Could Face Sell-Off To Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors’

Full piece here.

The city’s finances are worse than realized, the corruption deeper, the rot more thorough, leaving many interests still unwilling to face bleak reality.  It’s been a long, slow decline, and it may come down to hawking the city’s art collection:

‘The DIA is unusual among major civic museums in that the city retains ownership of the building and collection while daily operations, including fund-raising, are overseen by a nonprofit institution.’

Many collectors who donated to the museum have put restrictions on their donations, so if it gets that far along there will be much confusion as to what can and can’t be sold, and where the proceeds would go.

Detroit’s industry is gone, and unlike New York City, which still has a diversified portfolio and a tax base to squeeze during tough times, Detroit has virtually nothing to fall back on.  It’s a ghost town:

“New York went into receivership, (and) nobody forced it to sell Central Park,” Nowling said. “We’re certainly going to make that argument that they’re jewels of the city that are just inherent to the city itself that we need to have. But people need to be prepared.’

Be prepared.

Detroit’s not too big to fail, the argument a delegation of mayors pleading to the Federal Government and the Ford Administration made for the Big Apple back in 1975:

————

Perhaps this is why Mayor Bloomberg got so angry recently when the taxi deal got blocked. The budget he’d prepared relied on similar gimmicks. Even NYC can probably only placate some voting blocs for so long with limited revenue.

***As for budget gimmicks on the national level, green schemes and union deal failures have been swept quietly under the rug.  Our deficits are getting scary.  Unemployment remains high.  Our politics remains deeply partisan, and by many appearances, nearly dysfunctional at the moment.

Addition: As a reader points out, the NY metro area is growing.  Yes it’s growing, but its politics is badly in need of updating, and like other major American cities, has its share of patronage, rot, and cronyism.  It is a world city as well.

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.

Via Youtube: Ric Burns—New York: A Documentary Film – Episode One: The Country and The City (1609-1825)

A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

Fareed Zakaria At Foreign Affairs: ‘Can America Be Fixed?’

Full piece here.

‘The danger for Western democracies is not death but sclerosis. The daunting challenges they face — budgetary pressures, political paralysis, demographic stress — point to slow growth rather than collapse. Muddling through the crisis will mean that these countries stay rich but slowly and steadily drift to the margins of the world.’

Zakaria has been arguing that America would no longer get to be the ‘director,’ and that we are seeing the rise of the rest, especially Asia.  In the new piece above, he’s now arguing that we may become little more than bit players.

Here are some previous Zakaria articles, for those interested, as I think he is a deeper analyst with a wide ranging mind, who’s hit a slightly more liberal, mass audience, sweet spot:

‘Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?

-“How To Restore The American Dream

Where he’s coming from, on this site:  Fareed Zakaria At Foreign Policy: ‘Remembering Samuel Huntington’

There was the plagiarism kerfuffle a while back.

——————————————–

If we focus in on just America, the demographics are better than Europe and Japan, but perhaps on a similar arc.  We’ve seen the slow decline of institutionalized religion, traditional marriage, and a rise in delayed decisions by many women to have children.   The boomer generation is retiring en masse and we’re stuck with entitlement programs in drastic need of reform, where some mix of more tax revenue (flat tax?) and less spending will be necessary.

Politically, in the meantime, under two terms of Obama’s leadership, we’re extremely polarized and subjected to an ever-growing sclerotic State.  Many Americans are becoming angry at D.C.  As for my dogs in the hunt, I’d humbly argue that the rise of feminism, post-modernism, environmentalism and multiculturalism have grown in influence in our culture and institutions, and incline toward Statism, and generally point Europeward.  This is accelerated under progressive leadership.

Yet, we’ve also seen a steady rise and growth in the size and scope of government before Obama, stretching back for decades.  Perhaps we’re at the end of the ‘greatness’ model, as technology, globalization, and other forces are pressuring us to change, where we’ve been taking our supremacy and economic prosperity for granted.

See Also On This Site:  Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People..Repost-Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?

America in Decline?: Fukuyama seems to think so, but maybe he’s still reeling from the Iraq war…From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?…Richard Lieber’s not necessarily convinced:  Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

Robert Merry At The National Interest: ‘Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy’

Full piece here.

Is the West in decline?  Is it in decline relative to the Arab world’s exploding birthrate?   Is it in decline relative to the rise of Asia, after having downloaded the West’s “killer apps“?  Are we in inexorable decline having passed the point of empire and will we increasingly feel the temptation to tyranny?

Merry takes a look at Oswald Spengler:

‘So it is with America and Europe. Hence, an analysis of American decline must lead to questions about Western decline. And an analysis of Western decline must lead to Oswald Spengler, the German intellectual who in 1918 produced the first volume of his bombshell work Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West), followed by the second volume in 1922. Spengler’s thesis forced his readers to look at history through an entirely new prism. They did, and he enjoyed a surge of influence. But the man and his work are in eclipse today, and there’s little evidence that scholars pondering American decline have consulted the dark musings of this German romantic or his overarching theory of history’

Perhaps we can view Spengler partially as a product of his age, influenced by the Great war and a strong romanticism that rejected a more thorough rationalist framework of “linear” science guiding historical analysis while making his own more polemical framework (the trap of Continental Europe we can avoid).  He seems to have made grand and sweeping pronouncements within the scope of his own thinking while deploying history, the arts, symbolism, anthropology, culture and German nationalism and idealism.  He was in a Germany increasingly feeling the pinch.

Yet he’s had a lot of influence, and some prescience:

‘As John Farrenkopf points out in his Prophet of Decline: Spengler on World History and Politics, Spengler’s Decline beguiled numerous prominent men of ideas and action in post–World War II America. They included George Kennan, Henry Kissinger, Paul Nitze, Louis Halle, Hans Morgenthau and Reinhold Niebuhr. Kennan read Spengler in the original language during a stay in Germany in his youth. Kissinger’s undergraduate thesis at Harvard focused on Spengler, along with Toynbee and Kant, and he once confessed to a “perverse fascination” with the German’s thinking, although Kissinger ultimately rejected the idea of inevitable decline.’

Lots of food for thought, including mention of Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama:

‘ And isn’t the great foreign-policy debate of our time—whether America should continue its post–Cold War policy of interventionism in the name of American exceptionalism and Western universalism; or whether it should abandon that mission in favor of a more measured exercise of its military and economic power—fundamentally a debate over whether Spengler had it right?’

Well worth a read.

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***As an aside, and a possibly feckless exercise of the type you can find on this blog:

Just to contrast the Anglo and German approaches towards nihilism and the arts, the idea of tragic decline, and the movement of the individual artist isolated from society in the West, one could possibly contrast Werner Herzog’s deep, gloomy, serious German approach (and excellent filmaking):

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….with what I would call more the Anglo tradition on this blog:  a similar nihilism and existential lament of the individual up against the void and the meaninglessness of life…but expressed through a more lively punk and rock music scence, the American talent for advertising, T.V. and movies and all of this occurring inside a framework of the Anglo genius for law and governance, the focus on capitalism and commercialism, religion and sports etc.

Here’s Walter Russel Mead discussing his ideas on the successes of America and Britain, which I submit highlights the Anglo/German divide a bit:

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Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’…

Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“ and…

Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.

***I should add that Herzog’s ‘Into The Abyss‘ was worth my time.  Herzog is probably not a proponent of the death penalty, but I thought he left me to decide what I thought, and he didn’t flinch from the crime, the tragedy and the loss.

Related On This Site:  Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

Samuel Huntington’s page at Harvard here.

Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews)available.

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Was Leo Strauss on the other side of the Anglo-German divide, perhaps missing some important liberal traditions that Germans (like many Arabs) simply mistake for decadence in the Anglosphere?  How did the Strauss of his youth, at one point steeped in Nietzsche and Nietzsche via Heidegger, find a way to escape the paroxysms of the German State, the narrowing vision of that state under German idealism, and the possibility of a non-fascistic German conservatism which could accommodate a German Jew? Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’…

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft…Kant often leads to a liberal political philosophy:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant…Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Hilary Putnam On The Philosophy Of Science:  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube