The “riot ideology” that Fred Siegel described in his 1997 book, “The Future Once Happened Here,” played a significant role in the decline of America’s cities in the 1970s and ’80s. Siegel, who died Sunday at 78, wrote that the riot ideology rested on the assumption that “the sins of racism” justified violence and criminality—and that only federal spending could solve those problems.
As a New Yorker, Siegel had witnessed the city’s rapid deterioration under Mayor John Lindsay, whose “faith in a free market of morals” led to a vast expansion of crime and social disorder. Siegel and other conservative intellectuals at the Manhattan Institute argued that the sharp rise in urban chaos wasn’t inevitable or irreversible.
In fact, disorder was a choice. By cutting police and sanitation budgets to boost welfare spending, officials had sparked an exodus of New York’s middle class. The worse things got, the more the city invested in addressing the supposed underlying causes of crime rather than re-establishing order. Siegel, who defined cities not by their government-dependent populations but by their achievements, called this “rewarding failure.” Read More