Saturday, March 08, 2008

Detroit Must Get Their Priorities Right by Akindele Akinyemi

It is self-evident that only the people of Detroit can transform Detroit. The city is changing every day, and improving in SOME areas, but transforming Detroit into a financial market based on informed decision-making and substantive citizen democracy is vital to take Detroiters to the next level in our collective development. While there is no "perfect" government, Western Europe, Japan and North America would remain wealthy regardless of which politician X or Y occupied the Mayor's office. In contrast, Detroit must raise the quality of decision-making to meet our challenges. If the city's business, political and intellectual elite continue to underachieve and continue to be free of competition from political and economic entrepreneurs, we the people will continue to face unnecessary roadblocks to unlocking the economic potential of our city.

All of Detroit is officially controlled by the Democratic Party, but if victory for an all-encompassing party is not guaranteed then elections are rigged. Where the vote matters, the issues at stake are either pointless or simplistic, concepts that are popular but nevertheless unrelated to the hard task of managing a city after the polls. In the end, politicians need only serve the interests of a small clique (reflected in policymaking that yields dividends for the few, but fails to deliver public goods to the many), or indefinitely milk an emotional subject to remain in office long enough for absolute power to corrupt absolutely.

Substantive democracy as a tool to empower the people would be useless without an overhaul of knowledge generation. Bad information promotes individual and collective bad decision-making; the violence of ethnic separatists and religious extremists is difficult to stop because (whether we admit it or not) substantial numbers of ordinary people blame their socio-economic woes on other ethnicities and believe anyone outside of their religion to be an enemy of the Almighty. It is next to impossible to rally a populace behind the banner of substantive reform, because belief systems create fatalistic citizens who tolerate the intolerable, and treat avoidable negatives as though they were inevitable, unstoppable or (worse) desirable. Overhauling knowledge generation is the most vital of reforms; continuing failure to face this challenge leads to disgraces like the 2005 Detroit elections that gave Mayor Kilapatrick another term. As citizens, we are all responsible for creating dysfunctional societies, and the 2005 Detroit poll was a natural and organic by-product of our society as it is today.

Poor leadership and bad knowledge generation are behind the illusion that the City of Detroit developmental challenges are exotic and difficult to resolve, an illusion exploited by paternalistic outsiders who talk about us as if we were infantile and incapable of the simplest tasks of self-government. The default cry of Detroit's political, intellectual and business elite is to assert that when faced with the complexity of achieving social, economic and political transformation is to call for a new government to govern over Detroit.

It is also an excuse to refuse to think or act. It is a tool for the political, business and intellectual elite to justify their inaction on the things that really matter. Which is more useful to Detroit, a Mayor who exhorts us all to free market ideas, or a Mayor who does not promote free market capitalism but backs the gangs as well as illegal activity in the name of democracy in Detroit? In different ways, large and small, the rest of the elite has had every chance to do the things that would move us forward, but either omit (decline to do those things) or commit (do harmful things instead). Presented with their underachievement, they try to distract us with talk of continental government. I fear they spend so much time looking "up" at their daydream, to avoid looking "down" and "around" at the myriad issues festering around them.

Detroit have poor image and support when looked upon the rest of the world of because we make bad policy decisions, and not due to the lack of a true city government. You cannot know your rational foreign interest if you do not know your domestic priorities; our foreign and trade policy is run by the same nexus that has yet to come to terms with our domestic priorities. Detroit fights for improved conditions for the city's existing economy, yet the existing economy is tangled in so much distortion, contradiction, irrationality and illogic that no one can say they know what the Detroit economy would look like if it functioned properly.

Something is broken in Detroit, something that has been broken for a long time now, something we need to fix, something our elite are avoiding by misdirecting our attention to the daydream of a single continental government. We will not get to our dream Detroit by creating a regional platform for the relentless rent-seeking that hobbles us in our local and national communities. We need to unleash the entrepreneurial energies, political and economic, of the varied peoples of Detroit. We cannot continue this way, not if we want to actualize all of our aspirations.

Therefore, starting this year, we must begin to flush out every single incumbent in office who has betrayed the people of the City of Detroit. All of them must go in this year's state representative elections. Then we must flush out the Mayor's office and City Council. All of them must go.

The end of social politics and family domination is quickly coming to an end here in the City of Detroit. No longer we will vote on name recognition but vote on the free market.

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