For some time Rick Esenberg has posted on the role of conservatives in tackling urban problems. His most recent post, Urban right, pt 6: Why we need to be in on the debate contains salient points with which I agree and some which I disagree.
This is, of course, the traditional argument from the left. At root, the problem is economic. Give people what they need and the violence will stop...I have to admit that my initial reaction to these arguments is often less than civil... While I believe that the culture is now the larger problem, poverty did help to create that culture and it is poverty that makes its consequences so devastating...
...As I have said before, I am probably willing to spend more on anti-poverty programs than most conservatives. I am a Santorum and Brownback type of guy. But it won't help to spend that money unless the programs are designed to control urban violence now, encourage the recovery of a culture of marriage, inculcate traditional values (as opposed to the kind of multi-cultural divisiveness that we see too much of now), and create economic opportunities that are not "made" by the government because those will not last and will not be very robust.
Rick, allow me to make part of your argument for you.
Historically, poor communities, while less safe than wealthy communities, have not always been violent. Similarly, there are many once wealthy, or at least middle class neighborhoods, that fell to the onslaught of both violence and poverty. The very neighborhoods in Milwaukee with the highest violence are examples of the latter.
Many fine neighborhoods with a culture that respected and valued work, community, family, education, and in some instances faith, fell under the pressure of poverty and crime. Good people lived there. They had the culture and the values.
What they did not have was the will. They lacked the will to fight as their community was challenged. Some gave up and fled sooner than others.
We call it middle class flight. It is not white flight; it is not black flight. Anyone with the resources and the means left. And with it, went many of the moral standard bearers. A vacuum was created and a culture of violence filled it.
As the middle class blacks left for the same reason as their white counterparts, they took with them the leadership that is needed in the public schools, the playgrounds and the workplace.
An argument was made to me a few years ago about the successes in education and employment of low income black families that moved into relatively quite and affluent suburbs: their success is attributed to reconnecting with the black middle class. A new standard was set.
No, economics are not the only solution; economics alone does not guarantee a safe community, but it sure plays a hell of a role in providing one.
Families with economic success, families with a step up the economic ladder are stakeholders. They have an interest in exerting their will to set the moral standards and enforce them. But it can be a very lonely battle if one feels isolated, has children who may succumb to drugs and violence, and there is no help from the outside.