Urban Decline — Chicago

The decline of American cities is an old, sad story, with Detroit usually taking center stage because of the severity of its problems and its abandonment by over half its population. We wrote about it in Detroit and the Decline of Urban America, 2013 Michigan State Law Review 1547, and you may want to take a look at it. But you rarely see a broad discussion of this phenomenon that combines the role of land-use law and policy as well as municipal misgovernance, local politics, law enforcement and race relations. Now, along comes Joseph Epstein, our favorite essayist, and takes on this subject from soup to nuts.

Epstein manages to tell the story — the whole story of urban decline — in a single essay that is both informative and occasionally amusing. The only factor in this sad story of urban decline that he does not get into — and who can blame him for that? — is the role played by the post World War II government policy of encouraging and financing an out-migration from cities to suburbs. That was covered by Jane Jacobs in her famous book, The Death and Life of American Cities.

So we recommend that if you have an interest in land-use law and politics, and their combined effect on American cities you read it. Here is the link: