NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 3, 2006

Rather than improving conditions for average residents, many urban politicians and interest groups have promoted policies that actually exacerbated a metastasizing underclass, says Joel Kotkin of the New America Foundation.

This modern liberalism veered far from the traditional progressive visions of politicians like Theodore Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia. Those leaders believed in the basics: building up the economic infrastructure that government has long been responsible for (like ports and transportation), efficient and honest provision of services like education and policing, and mainstream, even conservative, social policies, says Kotkin.

Certainly New Orleans followed a very conventional program of urban liberalism:

  • The city's leaders held a conference just a month before Katrina promoting the idea that a cultural strategy of fostering edgy arts and boutique entertainment districts was a promising way to bring in high-end industry.
  • However, by neglecting the fiscal and regulatory basics of encouraging business activity, policy makers lost high-paying core industries, such as port and energy trades, to the far more business-friendly and efficient city of Houston.

The major consequences of New Orleans' liberal political decisions include:

  • Urban cores with nothing but largely vacant office towers, lousy public schools, ineffective police departments and blocks of decrepit neighborhoods where residents depend more on government checks or criminal activity than on paid employment.
  • Hostile environments for the working- and middle-class families with children.
  • Increased hardships for lower-income black people; the best local job options may be a low-wage position in a restaurant or hotel with few prospects for advancement.
  • Alarming illegitimacy; nearly all of New Orleans' inner city black births now come out of wedlock compared with nationwide illegitimacy rates for black births trailing close behind at 70 percent.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Ideological Hurricane," American Enterprise, January/February 2006.


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