I was once an adherent to the liberal narrative of government growth and economic planning. Lucidity and literacy, however, changed my mind. Simple comparisons, at the municipal and state levels, of alternative models of government settle the case – California versus Texas, Illinois versus Wisconsin, and the story of two cities that provides the basis of my new column for the Indianapolis Star – Indianapolis versus Detroit.
As Detroit’s promises of remuneration for public sector employees became unrealistic, its taxes became punitive, its regulations became unnavigable and incomprehensible, and its government became bloated to the point of obesity, the home of the American automotive industry and Motown Records went bankrupt. The once rich, populous, and culturally vibrant city now fails to offer its residents basic services, has an official unemployment rate of 20 percent, and a housing market comparable to undeveloped countries.
In the 1960s, journalists gave Indianapolis the unflattering nickname of “Nap Town.” “There is only one thing to do in Indianapolis,” the joke went, “take a nap.” Its downtown resembled an abandoned movie set. Businesses, along with families, fled the city, and the situation seemed hopeless. Now, it is considered a “sports capital” of the country, its downtown is busy, full of commercial, social, and recreational activity, and its unemployment rate is lower than the national average.
Many factors account for the revitalization and resurrection of Indianapolis, but the politically undeniable aspect is a consistent fidelity to low taxes and deregulation. Indianapolis leaders, from both the Republican and Democratic parties, intended to incentivize investment and entrepreneurship, attract business and home owners, and create a legal system to encourage risk, rather than punish it.
The sights outside of the window as one takes a drive through each city – one a clean, efficient, bustling, and growing center of commerce and community, and the other a dangerous, dilapidated, and dysfunctional home of corruption and crime – makes the political conclusions obvious to all but the most ideologically stubborn .
Read the column here.