It’s always darkest before it goes completely black

10 06 2011

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. In Detroit’s case, that figurative dawn has been a long time coming–but the darkness has been made quite literal thanks in large part to the city’s stagnant, suffocating big-government culture. Though the power outage that crippled parts of Downtown yesterday is finally showing signs of abating, the civic dysfunction that made the outage possible is a long way from cured.

Why does a decaying city need the baggage of its own Public Lighting Department? Because it is in the nature of government to never, ever, downsize until the entire machine collapses under its own weight. Bureaucrats at all levels had best take note; the problems caused by Detroit’s oversize government are plaguing Michigan and, more broadly, the nation as a whole.

As unpleasant as a power outage is, it does crystallize and make tangible the very real issues that our leaders would rather sweep under the rug. There have always been voices of reason calling for downsizing, privatization, and economic liberalization in Detroit. In fact, the intrepid Mackinac Center addressed the lunacy of Detroit’s Public Lighting Departmentback in 2002. Now is not the time to say I told you so, but rather, to reintroduce these ideas before an audience that should be far more receptive (if only by necessity).

That the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center and other government buildings were the primary victims of the outage is symbolic, and even poetic. When a city cannot even maintain its bureaucratic functions due to its own incompetence, the time for change is nigh.

The crumbling of Detroit ought to serve as a stark warning to the bureaucrats and politicians who are driving us closer and closer to the brink. If Detroit is able to cast off the dead hand of government that has crushed prosperity, however, it will serve as a positive model for our struggling region instead of a national embarassment.

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