Why Are Liberal Cities Such a Mess?

Many major U.S. cities run by liberal Democrats are in rough shape. They are afflicted by the problems of homelessness, violent crime, gangs, and unemployment to a far greater degree than the country as a whole. Consider the following:

Chicago's violence and gang-related drug problems are well-known. What’s less well-known is that the city hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1927. The city’s finances -- like most Democratically-run major cities -- are in shambles. At the end of 2015, according to a 2017 report by the Fiscal Times, Chicago had assets of just $4.7 billion against liabilities of more than $14 billion, a funded ratio of barely 33%.

The homeless population in Los Angeles has risen from a staggering 33,000 in 2010 to over 55,000 in 2018. The city -- already dominated by a liberal super-majority of legislators -- has just recently pushed through massive local tax increases designed to address the homeless crisis.

San Francisco actually has maps so people can track where the worst incidences of human waste are on the sidewalks. The homeless population now approaches 7000 and there is no law prohibiting sleeping on the streets, sidewalks, or other public places. Discarded syringes are everywhere. San Francisco’s property crime rate is the highest in the nation and “smash and grab” thefts involving broken car windows are so commonplace that repair shops have waiting lists. The DA’s office no longer prosecutes “victimless” crimes like prostitution or drug possession, resulting in a massive influx of drug dealers into the city.

Frighteningly similar situations exist is nearly every other major Democrat-run city, all around the nation:

In New York City, Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Hartford, CT, Newark, Philadelphia and on and on, the story follows the same pattern: Homelessness, high crime, underwater finances, soft policing, lax immigration control (often sanctuary cities), high taxes, and business-averse regulations. It’s a guaranteed formula for failure.

As Investors Business Daily put it:

When Democrats are in control, cities tend to go soft on crime, reward cronies with public funds, establish hostile business environments, heavily tax the most productive citizens and set up fat pensions for their union friends. Simply put, theirs is a Blue State blueprint for disaster.

The question, of course, is why? Why do they choose to govern like that? Can anything about the efficacy and propriety of liberal governing doctrine be extrapolated from these examples?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” To boil down the essential difference between conservative and liberal governing philosophy into the simplest terms, it would be this:

  • Conservatives believe in equal opportunity.
  • Liberals believe in equal outcome.

The conservative’s view of government’s role in society (after fulfilling its fundamental responsibilities of national defense, common-sense safety/liability regulations, environmental protections and providing a basic social safety net for those in a temporarily disadvantageous situation) is to set up the game pieces such that those choosing to participate have a reasonably equal chance of winning. Not perfectly equal, perhaps, but a reasonable shot at success. In the conservative paradigm, individual initiative, hard work and a bit of luck can eliminate almost all the barriers to educational, professional and financial achievement.

In contrast, liberal doctrine stipulates an equal outcome for all people. Their view of government is that its responsibility is to ensure that every individual has at least a minimally acceptable share of society’s spoils (that share being quite arbitrarily determined by liberal politicians, according to their whims and the political exigencies in effect at the time). Liberal governing practices of wealth redistribution, punitive taxation, excessive regulations designed to impede runaway capitalistic profits and “cover every contingency” individual benefit programs all combine to produce -- in many instances -- the unintended consequence of short-circuiting personal initiative and ambition. Instead, these excessive giveaway programs essentially “teach” some people how to game the system and get the government to pay for their existence in society. That’s not the original intent, but that’s how it ends up playing out in many cases.

Liberal cities are governed by the guiding tenets of softness, misplaced “compassion,” and individual unaccountability. Examples include:

  • Hands-off policing style (NYC has long since abandoned the highly successful stop-and-frisk practices of the Giuliani years that led to low street crime).
  • Sanctuary cities, which give rise to higher incidents of crime, poverty, unemployment, and the wasting of taxpayer-funded public resources because of the undocumented population’s draining effect on the community.
  • The inexplicable decision of cities like Boston to no longer prosecute crimes such as shoplifting and breaking and entering, leading to urban stores not being able to remain open and be profitable (thus denying the community of a valuable resource).
  • Widespread locally approved abuse of the SNAP/EBT program, allowing its acceptance for alcohol and other nonessential items.
  • Explicit sanctioning of sleeping on the street or other common public areas and unrestricted public loitering.

Liberal policies have worked almost perfectly to degrade the quality of inner-city life for their residents to the point of abject unacceptability. Instead of raising the standard of living for all the city’s inhabitants, excessive giveaways (too often offered without requiring adequate, verifiable proof-of-need) and lax or missing enforcement of local laws and edicts have the opposite effect -- such governmental practice only teaches people that they are forever unaccountable as regards the purported norms of society and that they will be given their daily sustenance for free, without putting forth any commensurate effort on their part. In short, overindulgence by local city governments denies the notion of ownership over their own lives to the lower strata of society. That notion of self-ownership over the control and ultimate destiny of one’s life is absolutely critical to a well-functioning society. Without that sense of personal responsibility, there is no civilized order.

There is an old cliché that speaks perfectly to the societal dangers inherent when the individual does not feel the responsibility of ownership: “No one ever washes a rented car.” Liberal cities are strewn with the abandoned, rusted hulks of rented cars, their rotting carcasses a blight on the landscape, indisputable testimony to failed Democratic policy.

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