Canary In The Coal Mine

Detroit, once a great American city, is filing for bankruptcy.

Draw your own conclusions; I’m not going to spell this one out for you.


  1. the one eyed man says

    Canaries require an unusually large amount of oxygen to survive, which is why they are used in mines to warn of potential danger. I live near Palo Alto and I often drive by the Stanford Linear Accelerator, where cows live above SLAC to fulfill the same purpose. Why cows are suitable for the early warning of radiation leaks is something I have never understood.

    However, neither cows nor canaries are appropriate symbols for Detroit, which is sui generis for lots of reasons, besides the fact that it is the only American city to have Canada as its Southern neighbor. It’s been a mess for years, as the upper class and then the middle class has steadily left for suburbs like Birmingham, Dearborn, and Grosse Point. It has a miniscule tax base and enormous fiscal obligations left by the country’s worst and most corrupt political leadership. (We’ll see if that claim of shame survives intact after Mayor Weiner and Comptroller Spitzer are elected.) I’ve spent a lot of time there, and it’s always been a cluster situation which makes Newark look like paradise in comparison. Bankruptcy is the inevitable consequences of decades of steady decline, and using it as emblematic of other American cities is like predicting that the bankruptcy of MCI would cause AT&T and Verizon to go belly-up as well.

    Posted July 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink
  2. the one eyed man says

    An interesting take on why Detroit failed:

    Posted July 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink
  3. Matt says

    The thing about Detroit is that the city center is in lousy condition, but taken as a whole the metro area is reasonably functional. No doubt this is due to segregation–the talented types are out in the suburbs where all the industry/commerce have gone. The city center is mostly populated now by the leftovers of this flight.

    There are also large-scale changes that have taken place over the last 50 years of which Detroit has been on the wrong end, mainly dealing with outsourcing.

    That said, incompetence and corruption have taken their toll as well.

    Posted July 19, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink