Mona Charen
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It isn't often that you get reading suggestions from a United States senator, but that's what happened this past weekend for those who attended the National Review Institute's summit meeting in Washington, D.C.

The three-day conclave, part election post-mortem and part revival meeting (that is, reviving conservatism and America), featured a bracing dose of conservative intellectuals along with activists, campaign professionals and office holders. Newly minted Senator Ted Cruz of Texas spoke in his characteristic fashion -- fluidly without notes or podium.

Cruz, while praising Mitt Romney in general and acknowledging that anyone can have a slip of the tongue, zeroed in on the 47 percent gaffe. It is precisely to those who are striving for something better, Cruz argued, those who are poor or unemployed, to whom Republicans should aim their message of opportunity and growth. They are the ones who stand to benefit most from policies that promote growth.

I was sitting near Mario Loyola of the Texas Public Policy Foundation as the senator spoke, so I caught Loyola's surprised expression when the senator quoted him. We should reflect, the senator suggested, on an article Loyola wrote for National Review in 2011. It's a tale of two cities -- Houston and Detroit -- symbols of two radically different governing philosophies.

Both cities were once dominated by one industry -- autos in Detroit, oil in Houston. Both grew robustly during the Second World War, but the cities responded very differently to setbacks in the years that followed. Detroit and Michigan attempted to favor and coddle their big industry and the big unions associated with it. Houston went for competition.

Both cities (and most of the country) had histories of racial strife. Detroit unfortunately elected a leader in 1973, Mayor Coleman Young, who stoked racial animosity rather than attempting to unify the city. This accelerated the white flight (and capital flight) that had begun after the 1967 riots.

When the auto industry faced global competition starting in the 1970s, Michigan and big auto sought protection from Japanese imports. President Reagan extracted "voluntary" quotas from Japanese carmakers. The big three were thus shielded from the consequences of their own bad labor and management decisions. This permitted them to stagnate. They failed to adjust to market pressures and have continued to collect government bailouts to the present.

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Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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