Acton Institute Powerblog

Detroit: A Collapse of Real Integrity

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Douglas Wilson has an interesting take on Detroit’s bankruptcy: “like a drunk trying to make it to the next lamp post.” Why this analogy? Wilson says we first have to understand that Detroit is inevitably in a defaulting situation; the question now is what kind of default.

The only thing we don’t know is what kind of default it will be. The only thing we don’t know is who the unlucky victim of our defaulting will be.

Government does not make wealth. If government has wealth, then this means it was taken. The only way that the government can acquire the means to pay its obligations and debts is by taking it. The only question left before the house is “who will they take it from?”


He reminds us that the government does not create; it takes.

Here are the basic ways in which such a taking can happen. The government can wage war on other countries, and take from them. The government can raise taxes, and take that way. The government can debase the currency, and take that way. The government can run up a big debt which it finds itself unable to pay, and take that way. And of course, given the realities of the ongoing political circus, the government can stagger between these options, like a drunk trying to make it to the next lamp post.

Wilson also has some thoughts for those in the evangelical realm who have embraced “leftist economics” (Jim Wallis, are you listening?):

You think that businessmen who know how to add and subtract are those who are in the grip of mammon-lust. You don’t like the hard lines of clear thinking, and the blinking sums on their calculators do nothing but harsh your mellow.

Do me a favor, and look at Detroit. Look at the failure of all the compassionate nostrums. Look at the collapse of real integrity. Look at the grasping and demented idiocy of the unions. Look at the abandonment of government’s true functions. Look at the wreckage of human lives. Look at the ruin of a once great city. Look at what aching greedlust does. Behold the handiwork of your compassion.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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