The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., And the Fate of America’s Big Cities
by Fred Siegel
Free Press, 1997 260 pp $24
At several points in reading this book, I had the curious feeling that Fred Siegel and I were living in different countries. In Siegel’s America, powerful but naive liberals and leftists have dominated urban policy since the sixties—and they have run the cities into the ground. “Under the influence of a dizzying mix of guilt, fear, and hubris,” liberals have demoralized the urban poor with vast amounts of federal largesse and strangled economic development in a sticky web of regulation. Meanwhile, they have virtually deregulated personal behavior—winking at crime, drug dealing, and illegitimacy. Among other things, this has ushered in “an extraordinary transfer of responsibility from the family to the state.” As a result, families have disintegrated, dependency has soared, and violent crime has (at least until recently) risen. There is change in the air, however, as growing numbers of elected officials (and others) are rejecting the destructive blandishments of liberalism and looking to markets, rather than government, to save the cities....
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