Matt Forney
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It’s the Morality, Stupid

NOTE: This article was originally published at The Right Stuff on December 18, 2012. I’m re-posting it here as I am no longer affiliated with the site.

In an email convo last week about my recent arrival in Portland, a friend of mine dropped this line:

Out of curisoity what are your employment options in a leftist city that hates business?

As I replied to him, I wouldn’t describe Portland as a city that “hates business.” Despite the area’s pinko political bent, Portland is one of the most entrepreneurial cities in America, with tons of small businesses opening and closing constantly. This goes from more standard businesses like food trucks and microbreweries to typically weird “only in Portland” stuff like Voodoo Doughnut, home of the signature jelly-filled, pretzel stake-sporting Voodoo Doll.

Say what you will about the people here, they certainly don’t lack for ideas and entrepreneurial spirit.

Mainstream conservatives and libertarians teach us that onerous taxation and zoning policies drive away business, but the exact opposite is happening in Portland. The facile answer would be “herp derp big government is good for the economy,” but that’s not even close to the mark:

Why hasn’t liberalism doomed Portland the way it has – gasp – Detroit?

Public transportation works in Portland; people can walk freely throughout the downtown area, knowing they won’t be mugged; and better yet, property values are high.

The last time Detroit was rated as one of the top places to live in America was back in the 1950s when it was 85 percent white.

Of course, this was prior to the hat Ebony dubbed ‘the birth pangs’ of a new city” so triumphantly in 1967, when blacks rioted for three days and scared away whites for good.

Black people remade Detroit in their image: they preside over failing schools (the Detroit Public School system is almost entirely black; a complete lack of legal commercial activity – since they lack a creative class to create or sustain an economy; and a city with one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Portland? The exact opposite of Detroit in 2012.

Crying about whether capitalism or socialism or this -ism is a better economic system misses the point: all economic systems fail if the people are incapable of sustaining them. Garbage in, garbage out. If you start with a degenerate people, you’re going to get a degenerate society no matter what the top tax bracket is.

Portland and Detroit are both liberal, but Portlanders are intelligent, virtuous and industrious while Detroiters are worthless, idiotic layabouts. Hence, Portland thrives while Detroit slips back into the third world.

Another great example is North Dakota, where I was living for the past couple months before coming to Oregon. Despite being a “red” state, North Dakota has a number of socialist institutions and laws that the blue meccas of the coasts would never dare implement: a state-owned bank,  a state-owned grain mill, and a law prohibiting corporate farming. According to the righties, that means the Peace Garden State should be a failed clusterfuck of poverty and malaise, right?

And yet, North Dakota is doing better than any other state, with a billion-dollar budget surplus and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

North Dakota thrives where New York and California fail because of the people. North Dakotans are friendly, welcoming and will give you the shirt off your back if you need it. They work hard at their jobs and don’t cry for handouts constantly.

Worrying about economic organization when the people you’re governing are selfish oxygen thieves is like worrying about what color to paint a house built over a sinkhole.

If you want the most stable, effective structure, you need to start with the right building materials. A good, moral people is more valuable—and will contribute more to the success of your civilization—than all the economic tinkering in the world.

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