In the commentary this week over at the Acton Institute, I examine the move toward urban agriculture in the city of Detroit. I argue that the trend represents a small but significant area of hopefulness in a city in desperate need of economic, cultural, political, and spiritual transformation. In a distant allusion to Edmund Burke, I call these urban gardens "little plots of liberty."
One of the potential problems, though, is that the city government can stand in the way of such transformation. In an environment where everyone needs to "get theirs" and the culture of graft and corruption reigns supreme, the subsistence and rudimentary efforts of many urban farmers can easily be crushed.
I also note that it's worth checking out the piece in New Geography from some years back by Aaron M. Renn, which has some engaging narrative and illustrative photography. "In most cities, municipal government can’t stop drug dealing and violence, but it can keep people with creative ideas out," says Renn. He adds that this typically hasn’t been true in Detroit. "In Detroit, if you want to do something, you just go do it. Maybe someone will eventually get around to shutting you down, or maybe not."
The latest development of this whole story, however, is that the regulators and bureaucrats are beginning to take notice, with predictably deleterious results.