From Mises Wiki, the global repository of classical-liberal thought
Jump to: navigation, search

Detroit is a city in southeastern Michigan, U.S. It is located on the Detroit River (connecting Lakes Erie and St. Clair) opposite Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It was founded in 1701 by a French trader, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who built a fort on the river and named it Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit in honour of his patron (the French word détroit meaning “strait”); later the British called it simply Detroit. In the 20th century the city’s name became synonymous with the American automotive industry.[1]

The expansion of the auto industry fueled a growth spurt that made Detroit the fourth-largest city in the country by 1920, a place it held until 1950, when the population peaked at almost two million. In 1970, it was 1.5 million and the city lost further 300,000 by 1980. The population fell to 713,777 in 2010. Detroit is the only city in the United States where the population has climbed above one million but also fallen below one million.[2]

Voluntary efforts

As Detroit’s budget crisis drags on and the city government is unable to provide the most basic of services, residents have started a number of experiments in spontaneous order.

  • a self-dubbed "Mower Gang" mows neighborhood parks after they've finished their own yards
  • a church group is boarding up vacant houses in the Brightmoor neighborhood, one of the city's most distressed, to keep criminals out. And several neighborhoods are now hiring security to patrol their streets, supplementing an undermanned police department.
  • On the wealthier side, the philanthropic Krege Foundation coordinated with automakers and local businesses to purchase 23 new ambulances and 100 new police cars.[3]
  • Using reclaimed wood from demolished homes, the initiative Sit On It Detroit started building bus stop benches, equipped with bookshelves to hold reading material to help pass the time for riders as they wait. The idea is to put these at bus stops used by local high school students to encourage literacy. They were told by the Detroit Department of Transportation that they couldn't because they didn't meet the city's standards. A public outcry over it and a meeting with city officials allowed Sit On It Detroit to get the city's blessing.[4]
  • The Detroit Bus Company is a private bus service that uses beautiful vehicles with graffiti-laden exterior designs that match the heart of the Motor City. There are no standard bus routes; riders can load up the route on any smartphone and see the buses in real time.[5]
  • Some residents, tired of waiting for permission or a plan, have repurposed vacant land. The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit group that works with local growers, estimates that there were more than 1,000 family, school and community gardens in the city in 2011. The gardens operate as small, nonprofit, volunteer-based plots on which residents grow fruits and vegetables. In most cases, the food is donated to food banks, given away to neighborhoods or consumed by the growers themselves. In emptier parts of Detroit, some residents have fenced in the vacant lots next to their houses to create suburban-size parcels. They create gardens, children's playgrounds, parking for cars, toolsheds or other structures.[6]

Private policing

In Detroit, the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the country. There is a spike in murders and an increase in justifiable homicides. Citizens are taking the law into their own hands, arming themselves with guns and guard dogs to fend off criminals. Residents in wealthier areas also often hire private security firms to patrol their streets in armored trucks. Business owners at Threat Management Group and Recon Security, which patrol neighborhoods, said business is booming.[7]

The city is bolstering its police department by having unarmed citizens patrol the streets in a program that costs less than annual salaries and benefits for three officers. Neighborhood patrols document break-ins, vandalism, suspected drug dens and "strippers" who rip metal from homes to sell as scrap. They’re to call 911 if they see a crime in progress.

Citizen patrols aren’t the only effort to bolster the force. One business district will in 2013 pay about $200,000 to hire off-duty officers, armed and using city cruisers, to guard a main thoroughfare.[8]


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica. "Detroit", referenced 2013-08-18.
  2. Katharine Q. Seelye. "Detroit Census Confirms a Desertion Like No Other", The New York Times, published: March 22, 2011. Referenced 2013-08-18.
  3. Scott Shackford. "Spontaneous Order Experiments Take Hold in Detroit", May 9, 2013. Referenced 2013-08-18.
  4. Jon Zemke. "Sit On It starts crowd funding to build 200 bus benches", Startup News, August 13, 2013. Referenced 2013-08-18.
  5. Allison T. McCann. "A Private Bus Company Debuts in Detroit", Popular Mechanics, May 7, 2012. Referenced 2013-08-18.
  6. John Gallagher. "Taking the land into your own hands", Detroit Free Press, October 8, 2012. Referenced 2013-08-18.
  7. Jennifer Madison and Mark Duell. "Wild West Motown: Vigilante justice on the rise in Detroit as 'justifiable homicides' jump 79% after police budget is slashed", Mail Online, 7 February 2012. Referenced 2013-08-18.
  8. Chris Christoff. "Detroit Citizens Protect Themselves After Police Force Decimated", Bloomberg, 2013-05-31. Referenced 2013-08-18.