The Outstater

April 25, 2022

Defund the Regulators

COULD IT BE that the resentment and envy that is Black Lives Matter, Defund the Police and Racial Reckoning have run their course? If so, there are solid options from which community leaders could choose, options that open up neighborhoods to commercial opportunity.

But somebody will have to fight for them. The experts in urban renewal will stand in the way, telling us it won’t work. And yes, that is encouraging, for these are the same experts who have been managing our cities for the last few decades.

To start, we can stop constructing unsustainable showcase projects in the underdeveloped quarters. Economics by press release, a friend calls them. The author Joseph Epstein claims they are built by “the Good-Intentions Paving Company.” Whatever, they have been thoroughly tested and have failed miserably. 

A shopping mall was built in south Fort Wayne in 1969, duplicating almost brick for brick the successful north mall. The political class, steeped in the new social justice, pushed the project. The gesture, however well-meaning, had to be bulldozed — literally.

Even as their mall was reduced to rubble, the city brain trust was gathering up other people’s money to try it again. This time with a subsidized subdivision (looks just like a real subdivision) and a government-run grocery story (looks just like a real grocery store).

And naming bridges and streets after George Floyd in places with half the average household income and twice the chance of getting robbed hasn’t worked either.

Instead, community leaders can try what could be called indigenous commercial gumption. They can go to city hall and stand in front of the appropriate democratic representatives until they are afforded their rightful opportunity to start a business in a neighborhood that has been freed of crime, oppressive regulation and ludicrous zoning.

Going further, they can ask that that freedom be extended until their neighborhood gets on its feet — enterprise zones, they use to call them. It makes no sense to “regulate” businesses that do not exist, that do not exist in part because of the regulations themselves.

In Indianapolis, here is what the Institute for Justice says it takes to start even a restaurant:

If you want to stand up and say that is necessary for the safety and well-being of the citizenry, you are some kind of comedian.

Assuming the will to control crime — a big assumption — alleviating regulatory costs and zoning prohibitions for neighborhoods like Martindale, Concord, the Westside and near Northside would allow those there with smarts and energy to own a business, particularly small grocery stores, restaurants, flower shops, greenhouses, hardware stores, etc. These define the character of a neighborhood. Again, government should not require permits to create jobs and services where there are no jobs or services.

Won’t that be unfair to other more prosperous neighborhoods, prejudicial even?

Absolutely, but the others can fend for themselves, make their own plea for regulatory relief. It is a matter of urgency. Meridian-Kessler doesn’t need more investment right now or a more effective police presence; Martindale and Concord, they do. — tcl


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