How post-collapse American cities represent a unique opportunity for conservatives
The promise of the suburbs that once lifted the middle classes out of the oppression of the cities has now trapped them in a cycle of debt from which most cannot escape. The cheap Craftsman houses that built the suburbs three generations ago are gone. Suburban house prices (if a prospective buyer can even find a house to buy) have risen by an order of magnitude above average wages. As tracked by the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in 2019 it was $254,700. By 2023, that number had risen to $410,200. As a result, the Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) debt. now count for more than 86% of the average American’s debt.
This debt explosion is not limited to the suburbs surrounding major coastal cities. Home price growth in smaller cities in the once-affordable West, such as Bozeman, Montana, and Salt Lake City, Utah, has far outpaced local area wage growth. The average house price is now much more than 500% of the average income. Average Americans are fighting for land and homes in areas they have traditionally dominated and are losing. There are fewer and fewer places left to go.
Apart from cheaper housing, better public schools and safety were the main causes of the middle class flight from the cities. Today these attractions are closer to fantasy than reality. The growing liberalization of the suburbs has catalyzed leftist bigotry in once-stellar public school districts and led suburban police to kneel before BLM rioters. Middle-class Detroiters fled the 1967 riots by the tens of thousands and made new homes in the suburbs, but in recent years lawlessness has returned to their doorsteps. The suburbs are no longer the safe haven they once were.
Of course, cities have not been transformed into a utopia of opportunity either. Despite the laptop class’ best efforts at gentrification, most American cities are worse off now than they were twenty years ago. Crime is rampant in most major urban centers in the United States, and major retailers have either begun to leave urban areas or have long since left. Detroit, a city of more than 600,000 inhabitants, has exactly one Home Depot, which is located on the outskirts of the city. The only major grocery retailer is Whole Foods, which is located in the center of a small, heavily gentrified neighborhood.
But post-collapse cities like Detroit offer one thing the suburbs can’t: cheap land. The average price of housing in the municipality of Detroit is $73,000; in the suburb of Grosse Pointe, is $460,000. While much of Detroit’s existing housing is useless to the current generation of homeowners, Detroit also has more than 100,000 vacant lots, approximately 15,000 hectares which the city offers almost for free. An aerial view of Detroit’s border with Grosse Pointe shows the last side full of houses, and block after block of empty grass-covered lots on the Detroit side. This land is there for the taking.
For centuries, European and later American cities offered a trade to residents willing to live there: a floor of safety in exchange for a roof of progress. This was a trade that many were willing to do, but not all. Armed with a spirit of exceptional self-reliance and freedom, the outliers hitched wagons, packed themselves onto boats, or simply ventured into the unknown and dragged the West with them. Along the way they faced dangers unimaginable to those they left behind, and also found something those left behind only dreamed of. They escaped cycles of generational debt and social constraints, and some even became the very lords they were escaping.
The frontiers offered those not born into success something they could never get in crowded cities: a chance to grow, to build, and if they were lucky, to prosper. The pioneering spirit they carried with them made the United States the world’s dominant power. These pioneers overcame countless dangers from disease, starvation and hostile native populations. Fighting acre by acre, they forged this new land into their homes. While the modern “farm movement” seeks to emphasize a return to a simpler life, historic homesteaders were the harbingers of Western civilization. From the American West to South African kraals, the symbol of circular wagons against the perils of the frontier is the defining image of this story. The new pioneers will have to bring the lessons of the past to the present day.
The open, unstable and often dangerous urban spaces found in some post-collapse cities today offer new opportunities. By securing land on the fringes of society, new pioneers have the opportunity to replicate the victories of earlier frontiersmen. A return to the cities has another advantage over a later retreat to the interior: a customer base for high-demand businesses. Blue-collar jobs have never been in greater demand in America, and much of that demand is in the very cities that drove those workers away. Proximity to upscale urban areas and border region development gives blue-collar workers the income streams they need to rebuild their own communities.
Like previous generations, the new pioneers will have to plant the flag of civilization acre by acre in an inhospitable land. But this time they will be working in a territory with a significant infrastructure already in place and with access to resources that their ancestors could not conceive of. Homeschooling has never been easier and more popular, and access to the Internet no longer limits the reach of scientific knowledge to the proximity of a city. They will need individual courage, talent and ability to work in a group. They will have to help build houses, improve infrastructure, protect each other and educate each other’s children. They will have to trust both their neighbors and their ancestors. Despite the drums of doom, the conditions favor victory.
In his article entitled “A time to dig trenches“, South African writer van Zyl argues that “the time has come for Western communities to stop running and start digging trenches”. This is great advice. But what about those places where has the left moved? The current state of collapsed or post-collapse American cities offers us an opportunity not seen in generations: to do more than simply endure or survive. It offers us the opportunity to pioneer ‘old in a new urban frontier and to reverse the collapse of our civilization.
The time has come for a pioneering reconquest.
Philip Voodoo is an American writer and a veteran.
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