hard heads soft hearts
Friday, June 14, 2002
I don't know if you have seen Michael Moore's "Roger
and Me", but whatever you think of Moore's other work
or ideas, its a very funny, moving documentary of the
economic pain the people of Flint, Michigan went
through after GM moved its Flint plants to Mexico.
For me, the most interesting part of the movie was
watching Flint's politicians try to get the city's
economy moving again. Their attempted, and disastrous,
solution was to attract tourist dollars (A common
response of local officials everywhere, I think).
Then they more or less gave up, content with
attracting celebrities to give pep talks (Ronald
Reagan's (not bad) advice: "Move to the Sun Belt,
where jobs are plentiful")
So here are my questions: What should Flint have done
after losing so much of its economic base? And what
branch of economics, if any, do questions like these
I once asked an economist (Gavin Wright, an economic
historian from Stanford, a nice man) the Flint
question, and his reply was along the lines of "That's
more a question for an MBA rather than an economist.
Basically, the City Fathers have to get together and
ask: What Are we good at? What can we do?"
When I suggested that the City Fathers of Flint could
have used some help, he smiled ruefully and said "Yes,
well, good public officials are always a useful thing
So is Prof. Wright right? Is this not an economic
question? And does this mean the people of New York
made the right call in electing an MBA rather than a
public policy major?
On an unrelated note, I have to say your polemical
columns are much better when they have numbers in them
than when they don't. Anyone can make qualitative
assertions. You're one of the few who can give readers
a sense of the relative magnitudes involved as well.