Conservatism Works in Cities … If they let it   1 comment

If conservatism wants to transform our nation from the ground up, we first have to start at the local level. How to do that when 69% of the big city vote went for Barack Obama in 2012? Yeah, big cities often have large minority populations who historically vote overwhelmingly Democratic, but clearly the upscale white urbanist crowd isn’t comfortable with either Republican policies or conservative principles … or possibly both.

That bodes ill for Republicans, but it’s not good for the cities either. Communities that labor under a single-party system, liberal or conservative, suffer and America’s big cities are no exception. Chicago doesn’t have a single Republican member of its city council. Republicans dominated the suburbs at one time, but no more. In the meantime, as the state has gone solidly blue, state and city finances have cratered, leaving Illinois a national basket case. Clearly, the Democrats – unhampered by conservative policies – are failing at running the state.

The question is – could Republicans – or, better yet, conservatives — do a better job?

I think, if people were honest (and they aren’t) they would admit that liberals haven’t exactly done a stellar job in the cities. Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC … not exactly good advertising for liberal management of cities. On the other hand, Rudy Gulliani turned New York into the safest big city in the world (terrorist attacks being out of mayoral control).

Successful cities like New York and Houston surge with ambitious strivers and entrepreneurs who instinctively gravitate toward the GOP’s faith in private industry, economic freedom, competition and law and order. Many cities helmed by liberals have found private industry and economic freedom diminished (think, Detroit) and school quality lost, primarily because Democrats tend to be in thrall to the teachers’ unions who bear much of the responsibility for the failure of urban public schools. Conservatives and the conservative arm of the GOP correctly promote choice and accountability as key principles in making better schools. The monopoly that public schools hold on urban education leaves no incentive to excel or improve, letting schools get away with selling a lousy product. Private schools and charter schools (public schools that operate largely free of union contracts and other bureaucratic restrictions) can change that equation by break up the monopoly. Republican efforts in this regard have begun to make inroads in the cities, but they remain limited in number by law, which may largely speak to the GOP owing somewhat to the unions as well.

Free enterprise can offer a lot of good lessons to the education sector as well. For example, good teachers should be rewarded for their performance, skills should be developed and employers (the schools themselves) should be free to fire those employees who can’t improve. Currently, union contracts make all of the above difficult.

City dwellers naturally want and require greater governmental services than surburban and rural dwellers. It frightens them when conservatives talk about reducing city services. Yet there are examples (Indianapolis is one) where private companies have bid to provide services that had previously been monopolized by public workers. The success of these programs show that properly managed private provision can bring huge efficiencies and help reduce the daunting high labor costs that are bankrupting many cities.

Transportation congestion, which costs city drivers trillions of hours of time, is another problem where conservatives have had better policies. Most American cities operate largely on a Soviet-style transportation policy, providing free access to valuable city streets, creating traffic jams. In London and Singapore, market based solutions make drivers pay for the congestion they create, improving traffic flow.

Similarly, cities need market-based solutions for urban housing. In indigo-blue Massachusetts Democrats constantly proclaim their commitment to providing affordable housing for the poor, but Massachusetts remains one of the least affordable states in the nation for housing because its suffocating regulations restrict building, thus driving up prices. In Texas, a very conservative state where leaders rarely talk about affordable housing, residents enjoy lots of affordable housing. Texas’s housing affordability isn’t the result of any top-down government program; it reflects the might of the free market and the Texan aversion to regulation.

Cities succeed mainly due to private entrepreneurial energy, yet many American cities continue to impose arcane rules on would-be entrepreneurs, restricting the formation of new businesses. Cities like Cleveland and Detroit have imposed costs that severely stymie entrepreneurship and they show the decay of their economies as a result. Their economies will recover only if they’re able to attract new start-ups, which (among other steps for the government) means shredding every unnecessary regulation in sight.

Conservatives can do better at the local level than liberals. We’re proving that where we’re in the majority, and not just in rural and suburban areas, but also in cities such as:

  • Provo, Utah
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Wasilla, Alaska
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Mesa, Arizona
  • Clarksville, Tennesee
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Abilene, Texas
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Plano, Texas

Posted September 10, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Conservative movement

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One response to “Conservatism Works in Cities … If they let it

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  1. Reblogged this on Give Me Liberty.

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