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The first part of recovery is admitting you have a problem. This happened in Youngstown, OH circa 2000 and in Detroit only quite recently.

The second part of recovery, unfortunately, is harder.

It's interesting to think about whether or not a modern city could just fade away and become uninhabited. I am not aware of any examples, but we have, for the past few hundred years, been going through an unprecedented expansion of the world's population, which now seems to be ending. Perhaps that expansion is the reason that I can't think of one modern city of any size that has disappeared. Mining towns, yes, when the ore runs out. Perhaps the slowing of the population expansion means larger cities could disappear now.

In ancient times, there are plenty of examples of cities that disappeared. Often this is attributed to environmental things like a harbor silting up. But with modern transportation, most cities have no real reason for being where they are except that they are already there. If infrastructure decays too much, could we get into a death spiral where the decay leads to further loss of population which leads to further decay until the whole thing is as abandoned as ancient Ephesus, for example?

Back when the Outer Isles of Scotland (like St. Kilda) became greatly depopulated, there would be an evacuation and the remaining islanders (many old and dependent) would be moved to the mainland. It would be terrible to see that happen to a once propserous city.

Paul Friesen,

Varosha, in Cyprus, was abandoned and cordoned off by the Turks in 1974. Under UN order, it cannot be resettled except by the original inhabitants, so for 40 years it has been abandoned.

Chernobyl is a more famous example, except it hasn't been totally abandoned as some people still live there.

In both cases, however, there wasn't a gradual fading away, but rather some catastrophe that led to a sudden abandonment.

If you went back 1500-years or so, you could get a sense of the gradual disappearance of large sophisticated cities as a result of the gradual collapse of the Roman Empire. I'm thinking of Londinium, which went from a city of, say, 70,000 to being abandoned for two centuries before being re-settled by Saxons. Granted, Londinium was the Roman equivalent of a jerk-water burg compared to Rome or Alexandria, but then what's Detroit relative to New York or Chicago?

I don't imagine our American cousins would appreciate that comparison.

While it's true that the population of the political city of Detroit has cratered, that may not be the best way of looking at the economy of the Detroit. Since 1970, for example, the population of the Detroit metropolitan area has barely changed (about 4.4 million in 1970, about 4.3 million in 2010). In fact, it may well be the case that the fiscal problems of the political city of Detroit are a consequence of the dispersion of the area's population out of Detroit and into the rest of the metro area.

This is a common problem in older metro areas. For example, take Indianapols, where I live. (This gets a bit difficult, because the political jurisdiction of Indianapolis changed dramatically in 1970.) The core of the city had a population in 1960 of about 333,000 people; by 2010, that had declined to about 142,000--about a 60% decline. Yet the metro area had seen its population rise by about 60% over the same time period, and the county in which Indianapolis is located has seen a population increase of 30% (from about 700,000 to about 910,000.

Which of those is a better representation of the health of the metropolitan economy? I conclude that our focus on old political cities keeps us from understanding regional economic dynamics well, and causes considerable strain because of out-dated definitions of political responsibilities for governance.

London England has nowhere to grow. In the past, efforts where made to curb growth that worked too well. London is the only part of England tolerant to immigrants. That is part of why the Scottish Enlightenment cities thought so well in the 1700s.
They are talking about breaking up their greenbelt. Seems a bad idea. If anything grow cattails and pines and dandelions for civil defense food. Their airport would be smaller with Musk's vertical takeoff jets concept. Probably too expensive for everywhere, but in lieu of 1950s-era lack of international flights taxes (globalization to fight Communism?), forced airline industry R+D would help cities in Asia and London be more liveable.
I'd guess England needs to pick a 2nd city to be world-class to get the spillover past 10M residents. They have lots of universities and lots of industrial conglomerates like Boeing; they underlying economics works good. I'm not sure which UK city. I might be motivated in the next few days to research this beyond Olympics magazine articles.

Paul Friesen, in ancient times cities disappeared because they got conquered. At least every 300 years a city got obliterated. It looks like often many of the people just started up a nearby city or went to an existing one. Especially in India they went back and forth everytime someone got conquered.

I've learned to follow around a few researchers and get tangential spilloffs. Zettl, E.Musk, J.Melosh, B.Gates's Foundation. Here, Musk's vertical takeoffs jets would help most large cities, and B.Gate's battery investments might arrest the next generation of Detroit as wind turbines are a potential retool product from cars.

Ephesus in what is now Turkey was the third city of the Roman Empire and it was abandoned starting in the 500's as its harbour silted up. It's been excavated and can be visited just like Pompeii, but without the crowds. I was there, it's great.

...oh yeah, lots of other reasons. Climate change affects harvests and rainfall, and plagues were bad without knowledge of microbes and hygiene. Turkey was at the eastern fringe of the biggest land bloodbath around. It is tricky to get out of that conquering mentally and towards R+D. I'd guess the printing press, the Magna Carta, and England, esp Scotland, geography were key advantages 500AD Turkey didn't have. Perhaps the diversity of Bible authors is an advantage; the contradictions maybe led Holland to say to Hell with it we'll trade and get rich.
A millenium before, Turkey wiped the Phoenicians off of Syria and Israel, relegating them to a ring of ports around the Mediterranean. This left them vulnerable to defeat by Rome. Then Rome wiped out the Greeks and conquered until were conquered. Here, Christianity maybe helped Martel unite W.Europe.
Eventually Europe came to the Enlightenment after the Reformation, but matching with more weapons. Scotland was educated instead of soldier-disciplined, and got self-respect with the Crowns uniting, and previously got a King to build cities, and drew the intelligentsia. And The British Empire (gun rights and murders not so prominent) helped disperse that human capital efficiency and technical aptitude throughout the "developed" Empire and the USA; and we are still with Watt's engine (without the carbon tax): Detroit's foundation.
I forget the prdogious Chinese Engineer: Wang.
I know how a computer works and am learning microbiology. There will be a need for taxes to fund education either for draconian WMDs sensors (probably much like computer peripheral market but smaller) and brain behavioural sciences, or for longevity research. Or both. Maybe Detroit could compete with Bombardier and build a hyperloop? It is too bad the Chicago School of economics won in the 1960s in the USA.
Detroit should've built up a rainy day fund with which to (re)educate. The Axis didn't start another WW, the Germns became the best precision engineering and the Japanese made cars with their post-WWII chips on the shoulders.

By 500AD Rome ran out of places to conquer and loot. It takes a lot of local food to feed an army. We got rice from India, but I don't think by 500AD. And galvanized steel didn't happen until 1930. Turkey was good for diffusing from Iraq to the Eastern Mediterranean, but got conquered lots.

"Turkey was at the eastern fringe of the biggest land bloodbath around. It is tricky to get out of that conquering mentally and towards R+D. I'd guess the printing press, the Magna Carta, and England, esp Scotland, geography were key advantages 500AD Turkey didn't have."

"Turkey was good for diffusing from Iraq to the Eastern Mediterranean, but got conquered lots."

By 500 AD Rome was a sleepy provincial backwater (that had recently been sacked by the Vandals, and would shortly be sacked again by the Ostrogoths). Even the Western Roman emperors didn't spend much time in Rome by 500AD (preferring to keep the imperial capital at Ravenna). The center of western civilization in 500AD (and for several centuries afterwards) was Constantinople (now Istanbul... in Turkey). And it took the Muslim armies of first the Arabs then the Turks the better part of a millennium before they were finally able to conquer the Roman empire's last Anatolian bastion.

"A millenium before, Turkey wiped the Phoenicians off of Syria and Israel"

Hmm, might want to check your history on that. The Turks originated in in central Asia north of the Caspian and Aral seas and didn't make their appearance in what is now the middle east until they conquered Persia in the 11th century. They didn't show up on the Levant until 1500-odd years after Israel and Syria had become Roman provinces. Turkey, as we now know it, is a decidedly recent construct.

This makes me appreciate the Bible as a historic text. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great
Whatever you call them, the Persians under Cyris who had Turkey, launched attacks that drove the sea-faring Phoenicians right off the map in eastern Mediterraean. It was the best trading real estate with traders from the north, from west (the city Tanis was also from a silted up former city and then was abandoned to a forming lake; the eastern Iraq river could be tamed and empired while the western one meandered more) and the Nile, from east...
The Arabs had a three way civil war after losing to Martel twice, and the turks I think had Ghengis near them. Only Western Europe was spared from Khan, though his successors chilled out in China eventually. When I say Turks, I just mean who controls the present country of Turkey, at the given time. Like how we had Detroit; they could've had Windsor's crime rate and economy but nope.
China was culturally inferior. It probably was the many authors of the Bible and Jesus's humanity that helped check the Catholic Church. I wonder if there is an alternate history where the Phoenicians discover America. I think Carthage helped most of Sicily repel the Greeks around the 5th century BC: dumb. Back then. the southern Italy Province said they would ally with whoever the rest of Italy did. Were already united. Maybe the united mentality made Rome the inevitable European power. Holland and the UK were most insulated from the Catholic Church in the middle of the millenium; don't really care about Constinople. It is too close to the centre of Eurasia bloodbath. Those parallel timelines are neat to think about.

For the longest time Michigan build big guzzling cars that always finished last in Lemon-Aid used cars rankings. The were lucky Americans were okay paying more for Japanese cars. But with S.Korea making good cars and Tata a competitor, and Alabama as competition (is only semi-skilled labour)...our minimum wage has gone to $10/hr. We could've got EU wages but at least aren't as bad as the USA'a $7/hr. You can rent a home on $10/hr. Not $7/hr. Still, Colorado and Washington have motivation to work from my creative PoV.

...basically, geography meant alot back then because it is tough to feed a mobile military. Now, it is ideology. America and cars were about consuming. Not diversifying, not saving. They are supposed to move to Alabama now and save to buy up their old houses. Lest, Americans really want liveable cities but aren't educated enough to vote for tax increases. Retool to wind, retool to Gates's antimony battery sandwich, build refineries and turn oil into recycable thermoplastics and build the recycling infrastructure, and the aerospace and car part, parts. Too much income statement, not enough balance sheet. A lesson for Mr. Wang.

Detroit might not rise again to former glory, just as Philadelphia has not again become the most important city in the country. Just as textile companies moved south when air conditioner enabled processing of cotton in the cheaper south, auto manufacturing plants are being constructed in Alabama and other southern states. It is just the normal evolution of creative destruction and there might be other industries that can take advantage of the skills of people in Detroit. It is not a catastrophe, but just creative destruction at the municipal level.

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