The inner-city dilemma

The New Yorker has an article titled ‘Forced Out‘.  It’s subtitled ‘For many poor Americans, eviction never ends’.  It’s not a bad article as such things go, pointing out the reality of hardship that faces far too many people in our affluent society today.  However, it completely ignores many of the factors that put them in such a position in the first place.  They include, but are not limited to:

  • The ongoing breakdown of the nuclear family in inner-city environments, meaning there’s no strong, cohesive social unit to provide mutual support in the face of hardship.
  • The lack of focus on personal responsibility in schools and our education system, so that far too many people grow up with an expectation of entitlement;  “Someone else must do it for me – I can’t do it on my own.”  Students aren’t taught the life skills they can no longer learn at home, because the majority of them no longer live in families where such skills are practiced.
  • The lack of focus on personal goals and priorities.  The article has some examples of this, such as the renter who asked for some of her November rent back so she could buy Christmas presents for her kids.  The landlord’s reply:  “You’ve been knowing Christmas was coming eleven months ago.”  Sadly, that’s not inappropriate.  Living day-to-day has become a way of life, with no effort to plan for the future.
  • The breakdown of social welfare systems that were intended to help those down on their luck until they could get back on their feet, but have become ‘revolving door’ bureaucracies that often merely perpetuate the problems they were originally created to solve.

There’s also what some (including myself) call ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism‘:  the urge to derive maximum profit from one’s investment even if that’s at the expense of causing misery to others.  That’s what many slumlords do, in a lower-level version of the societal extortion practiced by the banksters.  They charge exorbitant rentals for properties that are run-down, grimy, dilapidated, and in some cases actually dangerous to health, but they never plow back any of that money into improving the properties.  They pocket it, or use it as seed money to fund other investments elsewhere.  They appear to have no sense that the right thing to do would be to put something back into the communities where they make their money.  That’s in the grand tradition of the ‘robber barons‘ of the 19th century, of course;  but it’s in stark contrast to others, such as Robert Owen or Henry Ford.  I’m not arguing for socialism or anything like that, but a more welfare-oriented capitalism isn’t out of place, IMHO – particularly for those who claim to be Christian.  Not all the blame for the eviction crisis can be laid at the feet of deadbeat renters.

Be that as it may, the article is a useful look at the root of what’s wrong in our inner cities.  Given that reality, it’s no wonder that urban despair finds an outlet in rage, crime and gang violence, as evidenced in so many cities around the country.  The problem is, I don’t see any solution to those root causes.  No-one’s willing to tackle the issues I outlined above, and no-one’s willing to take responsibility for fixing them.  What sort of future can there be for such suburbs and those who live in them?  And how can we prevent that future spreading out to engulf entire cities?  Your guess is as good as mine.

That’s one reason among many why I no longer live in a big metropolis, and hopefully never will again.  I’ll do my best to stick to smaller cities and towns where the problems are more manageable, and things are local enough that people still care.



  1. So, let's talk about what a "more welfare-oriented capitalism" would look like. My concern with ideas like that is that history shows us that the camel's nose is only a very small part of the camel, and when you give the State a small power to seize private wealth for public purposes it rather quickly expands that power.

  2. A "More welfare oriented Capitalism" only works when the recipients can benefit from it, otherwise it is a waste of money.

    For most of these people, if you gave 'em $50K, they'd still be broke 90 or so days later. And they destroy properties and then move. They'll take whatever handout you give 'em. but won't use it to better themselves. Poverty is a disease…not an economic one, but a social and behavioral one.

    Ford wasted his money trying to change people.

  3. @Rusty Gunner: I agree. The thing is, the original 'welfare capitalists' provided the 'welfare' themselves, without involving the government; and they provided it to those who were willing to work for it and prove themselves 'worthy' of it. It wasn't run by the State, and it wasn't handed out to all and sundry. By making sure that it wasn't, the originators of the idea tied it to personal responsibility and a moral sense. That's notably lacking in almost every State-run welfare or 'entitlement' program that I've come across.

  4. I sometimes wonder if the part of the problem (or trend) is the increased mobility of our society. Real estate is rarely held for more than a generation now, which tends to discourage the long term community investment. Mobility, the break down of the multi-generational family, the estate tax, etc. all factors.
    Our solution to communities we dislike is to pick up and move. Which is alright when only a small percentage of the population does it; but when everyone does it…it changes things.

  5. I'm continually frustrated by the attitude amongst modern "capitalists" that any form of welfare (even non governmental welfare) is bad. Adam Smith would be disgusted by how some business owners treat their clients. At its heart, capitalism was never about exploitation, merely an understanding of where money comes from, and how we can all benefit from an economy that allows everyone (through hard work) access to capital.
    Trump and his ilk are as anti-capitalistic as any Leftist European politico

  6. "…particularly for those who claim to be Christian" In Acts, the followers of The Way VOLUNTARILY gave of their money to help those less fortunate; at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We now expect the .gov to do it for us.

    Money IS power. The more .gov takes, the more power they have. It needs to be as far from benevolence as possible. It's not benevolent, it's amassing power, and can't help but wield it.

    Taking care of the poor and unfortunate should be local (family first, church). But the disfunction of the church (most don't know why they exist) has blunted that avenue as well.

    Revival is needed in this world. But Ichabod is writ large.

  7. The way I see it:

    If we are depending on humans to solve this logically and peacefully, it will not happen. The insatiable lust for power and money guarantees no government on earth will come up with any sort of solution. The problem has grown beyond the capability of any government or organization to successfully handle it.

    Something has to push the re-set on our failing civilization before we stumble back into another stone age, which may happen anyway, triggered by any one of the below possibilities:

    -1) Super volcano.
    -2) Massive asteroid strike.
    -3) Worldwide pandemic.
    -4) Worldwide starvation.
    -5) Total nuclear war.

    3, 4, and 5 may actually be planned for and triggered by the worlds rich and privileged.

    The world today has far to many human parasites offering no help whatever to a solution, since they are the problem in the first place.

    But be of good cheer, this problem will get solved one way or another. The method will not be kind, gentle or caring. It will reduce mankind to a fraction of our present numbers, and then the survivors can try again.

    Whistling past the graveyard is of no use. Thinking we can fix the unfix-able is unrealistic and only gets in the way of you preparing for your survival.

    The fast approaching disasters facing us from the pressure of seven billion(and growing) humans cannot be escaped from. The very best scenario is that the entire world will slide into a third-world reality and civilization – as we know it – will not recover for centuries.

    Very bad times are coming. The rich and the privileged know this and are preparing. They are creating safe and defensible enclaves for themselves and their progeny.

    Billions may die, no matter the cause, and if you are under fifty years old, you may well witness the greatest die-off mankind has ever seen.

    Those who do not prepare will not long be missed or remembered.

  8. These folks were deliberately destroyed by the leftist welfare state to create a permanent voting block.

    Make them dependent on government money, make most of the money conditional on having no father in the home.

    All the rest of these woes stem from this, like ripples in the pond from a tossed stone.

  9. Those slumlords you mention? They exist because of rent control laws, or anti-development land use regulations. In Left-governed cities it isn't economical to build new housing stock, due to the local laws, so there's a massive shortage of houses and apartments. That means buildings which, in better-governed places, no one would choose to live in, are sought out by desperate renters because no other options exist … and landlords can get away with not maintaining their properties, and are even better off personally if they don't. Thus all rental properties tend to decline to slums.

  10. Can something be done to change the culture?

    Some key foundation issues:

    1. Education
    2. Jobs
    3. Acting white
    4. Glorification of violence
    5. Marriage
    6. Minimum wage
    7. Marshmallow issues – idea of delayed gratification

    Ways to change this:
    1. Welfare reform on marriage
    2. Minimum wage – higher reduces jobs
    3. School choice / vouchers
    4. Making gerrymandering unconstitutional
    5. Reducing student loans – amazing how many poor have student loans for bs vocational schools.
    6. Require all biz to truly verify employees. This would destroy a lot of illegal immigration. Make business liable for hiring illegals.
    7. Make it so gov workers can't unionize. The unions create a vicious feedback loop, with a huge negative impact on governance.
    8. Stop putting everyone on a college track that often teaches worthless skills. Figure out how to bring back vocational education.
    9. Publish employment, wage, and loan rates for all colleges, not just private.

    Another anon

  11. Speaking as one who has been accused of being a slum lord. We just discovered that one of our tenants left, without paying what was owed us after the manager had the audacity to point out to said tenant that since her son had damaged several walls in the unit and brag to his baby sitter that he had done so, she would be liable for the repairs. We are in the process of spending most of the rent that was paid to us in fixing the damaged walls leaving no profit and the prospect of pulling more money out of my retirement rather than adding to it. It won't take too many experiences like that to discourage anyone from trying to make repairs. "why bother, the next tenant will just tear it all down again.

  12. LBJ created the current welfare system, to acquire the black vote for DEMs in perpetuity. (Well, he stated for fifty years, but that is forever to a politician)

    He knew exactly what the consequences of setting it up would be, and didn't care. Votes were all he was concerned about. That he would be destroying the black family, and it's culture, was exactly what he desired.

    Add that to the damage done by property redlining in the first half of the 20th century, and they were well and truly screwed.

  13. There is another factor that can drive the creation of slums, or at least magnify the effect. That is the courts bias in favor of renters. I've seen this effect on both east and west coasts. Democratic controlled areas, of course.

    When you take a destructive tenant to court for restitution, and the judge rules in favor of the tenant who deliberately damaged the property, most owners soon learn that it is not cost effective to deal with the system.

    They quickly learn to not put any real money into general maintenance, especially on areas of appearance. Of course, the quality of future renters tends to degrade somewhat, depending on various factors. This all tends to spread to nearby properties, and the effects bounce back and forth within the neighborhood.

    Throw in the possibility of gangs being attracted to the area, for further degradation of the total environment.

  14. As stated, the slumlords are a product of the rent control laws. The government-set rent is below the maintenance costs of the buildings. A decent owner trapped when the law goes into effect sells the buildings to avoid being drained. Those who buy are the less scrupulous who are willing to let the buildings decline, usually by also paying off the city officials for good measure. When the buildings are condemned, they end up as non-rental redevelopment or at market rate depending on who paid off.

    The rent control brings in the bad landlords because the law makes it impossible to operate the buildings even at non-profit basis. There is always shortage, high price and decline in quality when government sets prices independent of the market as the market is the only system with feedback on cost and pricing. Now, the city could mandate plumber, electrician, carpenter maximum wages. Then also fix the prices of piping, wiring, wood, asphalt, nails, screws. But wait, the wage restricted tradesmen would need prices held down for hammer, saws, drills, etc. Which will then require fixing the prices of steel, motors, plastic, etc.


    Wait a minute? Damn, that's state control of the means of production even if just by price fixing.

  15. My experience with rental property correlates to "B"s comment. I fixed up a property, new drywall, trim, kitchen, bathrooms, carpeting paint etc. It was a new house more or less… first renter paid the rent for a few months, then became slower and slower to pay, evading me when I tried to collect rent etc. Meanwhile, I hadn't been going into the house on visits and I should have. Her teen daughters had squirted chocolate syrup on the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, they'd had a dog which had defecated in numerous places on the carpet and their solution was to lay a paper towel over the pile. Long story short after spending plenty of money and 4 months trying to evict her, she abandoned the place and most of her belongings… I paid a helper for two days to help me clean the place out, and had to replace doors, the carpet, some trim and a lot of re-painting after about 6 months of collecting rent. Seeing her in public, you would never suspect any of this, she was a neatly dressed paralegal for an area law firm of all things… I had somewhat similar experiences with two consecutive, subsequent tenants before giving up and just flipping refurbs, so I can't offer much sympathy to people that complain about landlords not plowing money into their properties. People, seemingly as a rule, won't take care of it, and the courts are pretty much loath to help the property owner out…(and honestly, you can't "squeeze blood from a turnip") Just my two cents.

  16. Anon @2:05 makes an important observation about how incompetent people are these days at cleaning and maintaining a home. Add in their lack of a sense of responsibility for their living area/home, and it becomes an indictment of the children of boomers, and their children.

    I'm a boomer, and my siblings and I were raised to be clean and to take care of our quarters. However, too many of the boomer generation seemed to embrace a slovenly lifestyle after leaving their parents, and/or allowed their few children to live without being required to be responsible for anything. It has only gotten worse over the years.

    I'm shocked at the percentage of renters who don't own a vacuum cleaner. You cannot clean carpet without one. Carpets did not get attached to floors until vacuums were invented. You had to be able to roll it up and take it outside to beat the dirt out of the weave, prior to then.
    I would make ownership of vacuums a test question for renter qualification. If they can't be bothered to already own a vacuum cleaner, you can be sure they have NO intention of taking reasonable care of your property.

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