Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I typically think of the crisis in Spain as being more akin to the crises in Nevada, Arizona and Florida -- housing prices go nuts, the market gets oversupplied, the people are up to their eyeballs in debt, and everybody resists taking the hit needed to get back to normal.  They're typically thought of as setbacks more than long-term declines.

Detroit is more like what I've heard about northern England -- cities dependent on certain industries, industries decline for a variety of reasons (some natural, some political, etc), and the area falls into a deflationary spiral.  They're typically thought of as long-term declines.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 09:17:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that's basically it.

There was never a huge bubble in Detroit or a lot of other cities in the Midwest.  It's just a long slow decline. I'm not even sure that Northern England captures it either.  In 1970 Detroit had 1.5 million people, now it only has 714,000.  The city's population declined by over half.

That sort of absolute collapse hasn't really happened in Northern England.  The closest case is Liverpool, and even that's more like a 15-20% decline in population in the same period.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 10:32:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True.  There were also some factors that helped to cushion the blow there -- immigration, a fair amount of government money being pumped in, a long housing bubble, etc -- that weren't present in Detroit.

But that's why even people who don't live in the US reference Detroit when talking about urban collapse.  Most big cities have areas that look Detroit-ish.  Even wealthy ones like New York and London.  But Detroit is other-worldly in the scale of it.

Even the 1.5m figure understates it a bit.  Didn't Detroit peak in 1950 at about 2m?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 10:55:35 AM EST
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There a book of pictures taken in Detroit that I find extraordinary:
by Xavier in Paris on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 02:09:33 PM EST
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Detroit is ground zero for the failure of US post-WW2 urban policy:

  1.  Encouragement of Suburbia: check
  2.  White Flight: check
  3.  City government run by corporations: check
  4.  Failure to maintain public infrastructure: check
  5.  Idiotic "re-vitalization" schemes: check
  6.  Low population density per acre: check
  7.  Elimination of Public Transportation: check
  8.  Failure to maintain Public Services: check
  9.  Appalling educational system: check

and on & on & so forth.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 04:37:46 PM EST
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In other words: Every bad thing about a US city you can say in the second half of the 20th Century is present -- and an order of magnitude worse -- in Detroit, without any of the bounce-back other cities have experienced in recent years.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 06:07:48 AM EST
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O my God! This is so scary! And how people manage to live amongst these ruins? Couldn't they find some use for them? I see a lot of them are in city centre...Unbelievable. They probably do not care any more...you know like when one is so poor and can't afford decent food he starts not to care about anything else around. Really sad and scary...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 08:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those photographs remind me of those by Camilo Jose Vergara. He is one of the great photographers of the recent (post civil rights) changes in cities like Detroit, New York and Camden, NJ with several excellent books to his name. Another place to look is the well-named site the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.

The first time I was in Detroit, aside from transiting through the airport, I drove in from pleasant little Windsor, Ontario. Coming off the bridge, I felt like I got smacked in the face. There was the abandoned Michigan Central railway station, once the tallest train station in the world, now vacant and gaping, largely devoid of all windows, standing like a head stone over the city that never was and never will be. I was in awe.

by Jace on Sun May 22nd, 2011 at 08:30:54 AM EST
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The collapse happened in the towns and villages around the cities - usually the ones that relied on mining. But it was softened by the UK's safety net, which made it possible for some people to stay unemployed for a long time - often with a sideline in the black economy - and not lose their homes.

So prices are lower than the UK average, but there was no crash to rock bottom, and the population outflow was more of a trickle than a panicked or forced exodus.

It was still socially devastating at the time, though.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 11:55:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, isn't part of the problem the rather strong decentralisation of public services such as schooling, hospitals, etc... ? Once the Detroit City administration starts bleeding money, all the services become deeply underfunded so that it's a good bet to commute from the next county rather than live there ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 17th, 2011 at 04:35:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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