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During a trip to Detroit in the 1980s, a cab driver gave me an ad hoc tour of some of the city’s deteriorating neighborhoods. It was shocking even to someone who grew up in the Rust Belt. Things have gotten even worse in the ensuing decades.

There’s a mini-revival downtown (by well-armed hipsters), but once-great Detroit is going to seed. Locals joke about “rural sprawl,” as neighborhoods turn into vacant land. It can take an hour for police to show up to an emergency call. The infrastructure is collapsing. After Detroit declared bankruptcy, commentators wondered what went wrong. Many of us wondered what took so long.