Detroit's death by democracy

Here, where cattle could graze in vast swaths of this depopulated city, democracy ratified a double delusion: Magic would rescue the city (consult the Bible, the bit about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes), or Washington would deem Detroit, as it recently did some banks and two of the three Detroit-based automobile companies, “too big to fail.” But Detroit failed long ago. And not even Washington, whose recklessness is almost limitless, is oblivious to the minefield of moral hazard it would stride into if it rescued this city and, then inevitably, others that are buckling beneath the weight of their cumulative follies. It is axiomatic: When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. …

Detroit’s population, which is 62 percent smaller than in 1950, has contracted less than the United Auto Workers membership, which once was 1.5 million and now is around 390,000. Auto industry executives, who often were invertebrate mediocrities, continually bought labor peace by mortgaging their companies’ futures in surrenders to union demands. Then city officials gave their employees — who have 47 unions, including one for crossing guards — pay scales comparable to those of autoworkers. Thus did private-sector decadence drive public-sector dysfunction — government negotiating with government-employees’ unions that are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it wants to do: Grow.