Friday 25 June 2010

Detroit and Glasgow

On my first ever visit to North America I flew from Gatwick (via Prestwick!) to JFK on Laker Airways. This was back in the days when New York was scarier than London and I remember being ever so slightly nervous when shortly after arrival I took an evening trip on the Subway. All was fine however and three days later I travelled on a Greyhound bus via Boston to Montreal. After visiting Toronto I headed back into the US with Chicago being the next port of call. But I had to change buses in Detroit...

Back in the nineteen seventies the Detroit bus station wasn't the most welcoming of places at 7am. I guess it would be slightly more worrying nowadays:

"neighborhoods literally falling apart"—through streets that look like "a hurricane has recently swept through, destroying nearly everything on its path." Thousands of houses have been abandoned—in many areas 50-60% of the houses are in foreclosure. Some blocks have only a few homes left standing. A thousand people a month are leaving what has been called " America ’s fastest dying city."
Reading this, I immediately thought of Glasgow. Not so bad as Detroit perhaps, but getting there.

Sadly the writer of the piece on Detroit gets it completely wrong:

The productive forces in society—natural resources, technology, the creativity and knowledge of the people—are all held back and constrained, by the private and exploitative nature of capitalism. They are fettered by the need of capital to constantly produce for profit—not to meet the needs of the people.

This basic rule of capitalism—that the whole point of production is to make profit—means that people are treated as things to be used or tossed aside. It means the system considers thousands of Black people, especially the youth, as just so much surplus that can’t be profitably employed. It means the system, through its armed enforcers, must come down with even more repression against this socially combustible and potentially rebellious section of society. And it means poisonous ideological assaults that justify such attacks and blame the people for the oppressive situation the system has put them in.

Detroit is a painful and clear example of how we need a whole new way, a whole new system, a whole new society. And we need revolution to bring this into being.

Doesn't that sound just like the politicians and pundits who have impoverished Glasgow? The writer doesn't seem to realise that it was capitalism that built Detroit into America's premier industrial city. And it was capitalism that led to Glasgow being world champion in shipbuilding and locomotive manufacturing. If the politicians of Detroit and Glasgow wish their cities to be world-beaters again it behoves them to create the necessary conditions. Not subsidies and socialism but low taxes and free markets. As that great fan of Adam Smith once said: "There is No Alternative."

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

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David Farrer

28 June 2010, 10:21:15 GMT+01:00
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Colin Finlay
Capitalism certainly, DF, made Glasgow's shipbuilding industry pre - eminent. However, from a Libertarian point of view, the evil - twin of our erstwhile Empire's enterprise culture was protectionism in the draconian form of Imperial Preference.

28 June 2010, 09:30:23 GMT+01:00