The City

by Steve Lancaster2/25/17
The streets are crowded with immigrants who live in tenements with entire families in one room. There is no fresh water to drink or bathe and garbage, feces and urine are dumped into a street already filthy from the waste of animals. Disease is endemic in the poorer areas, with typhus, smallpox and measles killing thousands annually. To travel the street is to experience a powerful smell of the waste of thousands of people and animals, mixed with the ever-present smell of smoke from thousands of fires cooking food. Political leaders have established a dole to citizens ensuring that a basic minimum will allow them to starve slowly, but without the boorish rioting and looting food riots engender.

Fire is a constant danger and some areas have organized volunteer fire brigades, which charge the owner to extinguish a fire. Crime is widespread with gangs in every area extorting the merchants for protection money and engaged in all sorts of criminal activity. Gangs have more direct impact on the lives of the average citizen than government. In fact, they serve as a quasi-government mediating disputes and effecting judgement and punishment. Prostitution is open and unregulated, except by the gangs. The brothels are everywhere with some prostitutes plying their trade in dark corners of the street. Everyone drinks and taverns are as numerous as brothels, most doing double duty.

Those who have made some money move away from the hoi polloi into communities with walls, gates and guards. The wealthy owners rarely see their business directly, leaving their administration to managers. Yet, people continue to move to the city from the latifundia by the turn of the century the population of Rome will exceed one million. Fresh water will be brought into Rome by a series of aqueducts. Public works changing the course of the Tiber will control flooding and sewers will take waste away, although the river will become polluted the streets of Rome will be cleaner in the 3rd century CE than in the 1st century BCE. London will be the first Western city to reach this population but until the early 19th century.

However, this is as good as it gets for 1700 years. If we were to take Marcus Tuillius Cicero out of 55 BCE and drop him into New York in the 1840s he would see that city life had not changed. Over the next 100 years the paradigm of the past is changed in a dramatic fashion. Not only do the institutions of civilization adapt to the challenges but the technology to effect the changes is developed and utilized, more in America than Europe, but both cultures making the modern city more, safe, healthy and crime free than ever in human history.

Today, some of our cities have fallen back into the morass of the 19th century. It is not that we lack the technology to solve the problems of Detroit, Chicago or Oakland. What is lacking is the political will to do so. For selfish political power, democratically elected leaders have chosen to encourage a culture of exploitation, servitude and crime. Capitalism can and does solve these problems, but without the political will to do so these cities and many like them will continue to sink back into the squalidness of ancient Rome, but everyone will have a flat screen TV and an IPhone. • (990 views)

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14 Responses to The City

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I suspect even our worst cities have a long way to go before reaching third world status (which probably would match that description of ancient Rome). Of course, importing large numbers of third-worlders is likely to speed up the process. But (as Ayn Rand noted in Atlas Shrugged), as long as the bosses maintain their power, what do they care?

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I have never visited Detroit, but I have visited Calcutta, Bombay and New Delhi before the BJP changed their names. I was in places as far flung as Nanning, Surabaya, Jakarta and Rangoon before the great economic leap of the last thirty years changed much of Asia.

      In those days, the poverty was sometimes overwhelming for Westerners. But it has improved overall. The picture accompanying this piece is of Pudong across from the Shanghai Bund. It has changed beyond recognition. The only thing I can identify from some twenty or so years ago, is the tower with the ball midway up the structure.

      What is interesting is how places like San Francisco and New York City have become rattier over the same period of time.

  2. Steve Lancaster says:

    The problem is not third world status but the disintegration of the civilization concurrent with the decline of some of our cities. London, Mexico City, Singapore, Beijing and New York have populations that Cicero would not believe possible and despite the human mass manage to keep the face of progress moving towards a better, safer and healthier life for their citizens. In contrast the cities above are declining to a standard we, as Americans, left behind. In my humble opinion the further from market capitalism the worse.

    Consider, do you go to bed any colder than Donald Trump, or Andrew Carnegie? Is your diet any less healthy? Can you communicate with friends and relations across the country or even internationally? It may be that you don’t eat as healthy as you should, or talk with friends or even go to bed in a cold house, but if so they are life choices, not necessarily the result of action by government or business.

    In the modern American city we have groceries with products from all over the world, fruit and vegetables from Chile, Avocados from Australia, meat from Argentina, Oranges from Israel and we drive in automobiles with parts made in Japan, China and Korea. The death of once proud cities like Detroit, Chicago, Oakland, Stockton, Cleveland, Saint Louis, New Orleans, Memphis, Baltimore, Philadelphia and even Little Rock is attributable to generations of political leaders of both parties that have chosen to kick the can as far down the road as possible and avoid the blame. I hold these men and women personally responsible for the dicsentergration of civilization in their cities, just as I hold Obama responsible for the decline of American culture and civilization over the last 8 years. May the man be forever cursed.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Most of these cities have been run by the Plunderbund for decades, though their states have had some Republican governors. Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia — no Republicans have run them since the ’60s or even eariler (maybe since the ’30s for Chicago). It’s probably about the same for some of the others — Oakland, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Memphis are unlikely to have had Republicans mayors within my lifetime. Cleveland is different, and Stockton may be as well (though I doubt it).

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Cities are many things. Today they are the centers of commerce and art…as well as crime and depravity. A city is an artificial thing which is probably why people inside these things can believe many artificial things. If our basic means of life are subject to being crafted as we wish — food, clothing, and shelter — then why not everything else?

    They say a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. But this is rarely true these days. We read regular reports of women in Europe, for example, who are raped by Muslim yutes but apology for apparently being female and in the wrong place. We see blacks in the cities with a similar attitude. They would rather hold onto their grievance and racial views than join the family of man whose goals are peace, commerce, decency, hard work, education, and equanimity.

    One thing Steve gets right in terms of offering the free market as a solution is that many Americans have taken hold of noxious ideology to their detriment. It would be better for many to believe nothing with vigor and earn their daily bread.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      From ancient times to now, there has been a tension between those who promote the City and those who don’t. The Greeks argued about it. Jefferson hated cities and was a proponent of a mythical country yeoman state.

      Like just about everything in life, the question is more complicated than simply countryside good/city bad.

      One reason the faults of a city stand out is that the concentrating of people magnify them or focus the problems in one place. Something like the sewage problems a city faces are more difficult than those faces by a farmstead. In one place a lot of waste is concentrated into a small area, in the other a small amount is spread out over a large area. But both product waste.

      On the other hand, I am called to mind of a remark by Sherlock Holmes about the unreported crime which probably takes place in some of the sparsely populated isolated countryside abodes he and Watson are passing as they travel by train to a new case. I believe this was in the tale, “The Adventure of Silver Blaze.”

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I believe it was “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”, which is the last story in the Adventures. He and Watson were heading out to a small town to meet Violet Hunter, who was very concerned about her new job. (It’s also been noted that she seemed to have a little more than that in mind, and Watson would express regret at the end of the story that it didn’t go anywhere.)

        It’s true that having a large number of people means that there will be a large number of crimes without necessarily being worse. IF one compares the murders in a tribal village of 1000 with those in New York City, the village might go a few years without murder — and still be more violent than the mega-city.

        Brad is right about the increasing liberal tendency to rationalize being a crime victim. I first noticed this with mugging victims. Liberal ideology has become so deranged that even reality often can no longer derail it.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I believe it was “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”

          You are probably correct. It certainly fits the mood/build up to the climax of that story better that “The Adventure of Silver Blaze.”

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Overcrowded rats in a maze. The concentration itself changes the dynamic, often for the worse.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          And it is pretty clear that the larger a city gets, the more leftist it becomes. It is clear that a major reason this is the case is that cities develop around employment. Manchester, England is a perfect example. Manchester was a little place before the Industrial Revolution and it grew to the second largest city in the country, as I recall.

          Factories needed workers and workers are unlikely to be as protective of property rights as owners. It must be noted that Engels had Manchester as an example when he an Marx worked together.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Dickens surely wrote much about the often harsh conditions of factory workers. Whether he balanced this by pointing out that this was an upgrade for many who would otherwise starve in the country or sell themselves in prostitution, I do not know.

            Cities are marvels of order. And the propensity for disorder quickly overwhelms the Progressive/Leftist inclination to never blame the perpetrator and instead blame “society.” Realists such as Rudy Giuliani bring the crime rate down. Those raised on the devil for whom “compassion” means letting loose on society the worst elements (such as de Blasio and his ilk), you get higher crime.

            If you don’t flush the toilets, the sewer will backup. But because cities are so big and the evil ones can so easily separate themselves via gated communities (or buildings) from the mob that they create, reality doesn’t necessarily provide the necessary balance.

            One of Mussolini’s claims to fame was making the trains run on time. Forget the fascist element for a moment. Every city and state needs someone who can beat back the chaos and make the trains run on time. You can’t have civilization without that. To a large extent, Trump represents someone who will get past the clutter of ideology (as commonly defined by the mainstream semi-informed) and make the trains run on time. And that’s a good thing. We’ve had the Left’s ideology up our butt for far too long. Just make the damn trains run on time. Drill baby drill. Lower taxes. Get rid of the Nazi red tape of the unelected bureaucracies. Protect the country from foreign invaders. Etc.

            In reality, the ideology amongst typical city folk is so thick, they no longer know what’s good for them. They want their Utopian bubble and have no interest in hearing that their naiveté and wishful thinking are no substitute for buttressing the walls. This is the ongoing story of Europe. It has placed its strange ideology above the nuts-and-bolts of maintaining a civilization.

            Cities, to my mind, are full of artificial people. They match their surroundings quite well now.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Much of the degeneration of the cities can be attributed to the welfare system. Before this was introduced, our cities generally worked much better than many do now. It also led to total control by far-left Demagogues such as Bill de Blasio and the various black radicals who’ve run Detroit for over 40 years.

              Mussolini was a socialist, but he also decided that Italy needed capitalism to develop, and encouraged this. Once this development was completed, he probably would have reverted to his socialist inclinations. The Nazis also had a large wing (oriented around the Strassers) who took the socialism part of national socialism seriously. Ernst Röhm and Josef Goebbels were among the most important.

  4. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    Brad is right about the increasing liberal tendency to rationalize being a crime victim.

    Crime victim. Did someone say crime victim? I’ve been a crime victim ever since I was old enough to work. The amount of money that the US government has stolen from me in the form of taxes and social security is enough to make a grown man blubber like a baby. Who said slavery was abolished? Liars!

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