Monday, July 29, 2013
Henry Ford U?
Wise and worldy readers, what do you think? If Henry Ford had followed the example of Leland Stanford, would Detroit still be viable today?
Detroit's economy might even have taken down a halfway decent Catholic university, the University of Detroit (once a basketball power) that merged with Mercy College sometime in the 1980s. Marquette in Milwaukee or Loyola (pick Baltimore or Chicago) might not be immune from external pressures. influences.
Cleveland has Case-Western Reserve; I'm not sure about the size of its impact. (There is a med school.) Baltimore has Johns Hopkins, and the Hopkins Hospital could be the largest employer. Brown U in Providence is affiliated with a few hospitals, and there is also Providence College (more basketball).
The physical expanse of Detroit could certainly be an issue, as many have mentioned. Even in the 1990's there were sections that had an aspect of "what if one built a city and no one came?"
Captha humor: "phatme"
There were parts of Detroit with that "and no one came" aspect in the 1970s. It was a slow motion train wreck that spit out a new pro baseball field, new pro football field, and (apparently, even mid-bankruptcy) a new pro hockey arena while the city faded away.
Corruption is only part of the story. New York City has been known to be a bit corrupt in the past with its own "distinctive" leadership. Cities can work around that.
On your point about private schools, I was immediately reminded of the former General Motors Institute (Kettering University), which is in totally dead Flint. Its relatively narrow focus on engineering and business management did not help Flint any more than the U of Detroit helped Detroit.
With medicine being the new growth industry, perhaps the real problem for Detroit was, indeed, the move of the U of M to AA. Its medical school and facilities pulled the center of that industry well away from Detroit. You might not even need a private university if you have private money. The medical complex on the other side of the state, in Grand Rapids, was fostered by private money and the medical school followed (moving from East Lansing).
PS - I LOL'd at the mention of "odd miles" between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Nor is having an industrial monoculture a prerequisite for urban collapse (e.g., Newark and Camden).
I think the interaction of a diverse industrial culture and a world-class private (or public--see Columbus, Ohio) research university is perhaps more important.
Detroit was destroyed because all Americans looked away from those corrupt politicians, letting them get away with it, for fear of being labeled "racist."
Against that background, a "Ford University" would have been utterly pointless.
There's a great piece in today's Wall Street Journal op-ed page on the depths of Detroit's dysfunction even today, but it's behind the paywall.
Yes of course Detroit's failure is entirely and exclusively due to white guilt, and Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is here to tell you about how Those People can't be trusted to manage their own affairs.
The systematic destruction of the American manufacturing base due to shifts in industrial policy couldn't possibly have anything to do with it. White racism and unwillingness to accept African-Americans as equals (the riots) couldn't possibly have anything to do with it. No, it was the subhumans shitting their own beds.
Conservatives, man. Conservatives.
Urban redevelopment may have been the wrong solution to what ailed Detroit after the 67 riots, and the income tax pushed people out of the city if their factory job was outside the city, but no story is complete without considering the leadership of Jerome Cavanagh during the 67 riot. The failure of Detroit might have been inevitable after that disaster and the criminals involved with HUD.
Yes, a university would have helped. So would a bunch of other businesses. I remember the Lynds, in their latter Middletown book, explaining how the teachers' college helped Muncie get through the Great Depression. All that money passing through and no one built the necessary institutions. It was a missed opportunity, but I think the sheer success of the motor car meant that too many other possibilities were squeezed out.