THE WEALTH OF CITIES by John O. Norquist


Revitalizing the Centers of American Life
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A free-market manifesto on saving the nation’s cities—mostly from the federal government. Norquist, now serving his third term as the mayor of Milwaukee, has what he plainly regards as good and true reasons for disliking the effects of big-government spending on his city. Tracing this spending, correctly, to reforms first undertaken in the Hoover (and not, as many pundits have it, the Roosevelt) administration, Norquist argues that federal programs tell audiences such as welfare and food-stamp recipients that it’s better not to work than to make an honest living. In the wake of the riots that beset L.A. after the Rodney King verdict, Norquist writes, he urged that private investors, those conservative white knights, rebuild the nation’s leading cities in the place of the federal government. (—Imagine the CEO of a private corporation telling the corporation’s customers and stockholders that the corporation was out of money and that if it didn—t get more money soon it would burn,— he writes, remarking that the cities were doing just that.) Overlooking the fact that business has seemed to be in no hurry to revitalize South-Central L.A., Norquist goes on to list what he regards as Milwaukee’s successes in privatizing services and eliminating bureaucratic waste——new policies,— he claims, —that strengthen the natural ability of cities to foster wealth and culture and to build civilization.— Among his civilization-enhancing reforms have been a relaxation of standards governing the relative crookedness of sidewalks and the allocation of intradepartmental resources; among them was also a controversial program that cut welfare payments in Milwaukee to almost nothing, replacing those payments with a —workfare— scheme. Norquist clearly believes that such reforms are transportable and that other cities can benefit from his approach, which this self-serving book outlines with much zest but in little detail. Libertarians will likely applaud Norquist’s debut as an author, but other readers will not.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-201-44213-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998