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The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America's Big Cities [Paperback]

By Fred Siegel, Annmarie Brennan (Editor), Jeannie Kim (Editor), Michelle Skeen, Jess Harnell (Narrator) & Stephen Kessler (Translator)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   260
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2000
Publisher   Encounter Books
ISBN  1893554104  
EAN  9781893554108  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In The Future Once Happened Here, Fred Siegel tells an incredible story about the fate of America's most influential cities: New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Standing as metaphors for America's urban life because of their stature as nerve centers of the nation, these three cities-once celebrated for their excitement and creativity as well as their ability to incorporate immigrants and solve the nation's problems-were all caught up in the social policies born in the '60s and '70s and, as a consequence, faltered badly in dealing with the politics of race and the quality of their residents' lives in the '80s and '90s. Each of Siegel's three urban portraits shows the desperate remedies undertaken by cities searching for a lifeline back to the future whose promise they once seemed to embody. In a narrative that acknowledges the large historical forces that have remade the face of America over the last three decades, but insists that social policies are not merely foregone conclusions waiting to happen, Siegel holds up a mirror to our urban naure and tells us much about the way we live now.

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More About Fred Siegel, Annmarie Brennan, Jeannie Kim, Michelle Skeen, Jess Harnell & Stephen Kessler

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Fred Siegel is the author, most recently, of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life (2005), which received the cover review in the New York Times Book Review. His previous book, The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America s Big Cities, was named by Peter Jennings as one of the 100 most important books about the U.S. in the twentieth century. He has written widely on American and European politics and was described as the historian of the American city in a November 2011 profile in the Wall Street Journal.
The former editor of City Journal, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Atlantic, Commentary, The New Republic, Dissent, and many other publications. He has also appeared widely on TV and radio.
A former senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., Mr. Siegel is currently a scholar in residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Fred Siegel currently resides in New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana. Fred Siegel was born in 1945.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Cause and effect, but what about solutions?  Jul 2, 2001
There is really not a lot that is contentious about the central argument in THE FUTURE ONCE HAPPENED HERE. The book looks at the fate of three once great American cities - New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC, and argues that their demise over the last few decades is a direct result of the following: After the urban riots of the 1960's the ruling liberal urban elites convinced themselves that this anger was justified by the poverty of urban blacks. To ameliorate this situation they decided to create a vast social welfare system. This, Mr Siegel calls the "riot idelogy" and it is characterized by the replacement of a belief in personal responsibility with a philosophy of life that instills dependence on government.

Another reviewer rightly says that this concept of riot ideology is reminiscent of Edward Banfield and his cultural basis for urban behavior as argued in THE UNHEAVENLY CITY; I think the argument here is less focused on culture but more simply on discipline in economics and morals. It is certainly more plausible that what was offered by Banfield. The riot idelogy has caused an explosion in urban crime and a huge increase in government expenses, and concomitantly an increase in taxes; all of which have driven private industry out of the city and contributed to fiscal chaos.

This argument is not originally Mr Siegels', nor is it new; it however remains controversial. William Julius Wilson in THE TRULY DISADVANTAGED, years ago similarly argued that the liberal creators of the Great Society programs were wrong headed for believing that simply providing welfare programs would cause poverty to shrink; reduction of poverty is influenced much more by economic growth. Both authors in stressing the role of the economy have been heavily criticized by the left. Neither book however is partisan and Mr Siegel certainly is critical of conservative politicians, who with their anti-urban bias, use the inner city poor as whipping boys for the cultural forces that so scare suburban and rural voters.

While Mr Siegel is lucid and certainly vocal in ascribing blame, if there is a weakness in the book, it is with solutions. In contrast to THE TRULY DISADVANTAGED, Mr Siegel is rather silent on what to do about the inner city poor. Certainly fiscal and moral discipline, economic growth, and private sector initiatives are fine but that is broad based. At the individual level it still comes down to people. Hopefully Mr Siegel's silence here does not mean that in the end he supports the view that all that the poor need to do is change their culture and get a job. After all is said and done, the dire situation that the inner city poor still find themselves in requires government assistance; the debate is really about what forms and level this should be.

The truth can hurt  Jul 29, 2000
This is a story - a classic tragedy, if you will. The rise of the big cities. The fall of the big cities. And finally, the promise of their redemption. Fred Siegel's book identifies the source of urban America's decline: their enthusiastic embrace of Sixties Liberalism, not only in personal behavior but as public policy. In 1965, America was in the midst of a midlife crisis. Strong and self-rghteous for so long, the country began to entangle itself in self-doubt. The origins could be tracked to the original Civil Rights Movement which rightfully forced middle-class America to confront their own hypocricy and prejudice. The aims of the original Civil Rights leaders was not to overthrow American society. Rather, it was to demand that we enforce our Constitutional laws and stop mocking the principles in the Declaration of the Independence. Men like Dr. King understood the promise and beauty of America. The last thing they wanted to do was undermine it. But five days after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Los Angeles erupted in a race riot. Large sections of Watts were burned to the ground and dozens were killed. In 1967 and 1968, deadly race riots broke out in Washington, Cleveland, Detroit, and other urban centers. Middle class families who lived in the city couldn't understand what was happening. Many of them fled to the suburbs; the so-called "white flight." But most of them stayed - at least initially. At the end of the 1960s, the question that urban leaders faced, writes Siegel, was "how do we deal with the twin problems of race and poverty?" One option was to stick with the past solution of cultural assimilation and private sector advancement. But that wasn't good enough anymore. Instead, a combination of intellectuals, minority activists, big-spending pols, and "compassionate" voters took a large and unprecedented gamble. The millions of black families that had crowded into northern cities since World War II would be the guinea pigs in a great liberal experiment. Blacks and other racial minorities would no longer be encouraged to assimilate into American society. Afterall, the middle-class lifestyle was "sick" and "guilty." In a complete reversal of Dr. King's dream, blacks would be expected to create their own norms, values, and institutions. While this may seem to be a perverse triumph of individualism, it was a unique form; it would be what Siegel labels "dependent individualism." In other words, while city residents would be expected to unshackle themselves of moral restraints, they would also do it at taxpayer expense. Poverty, the liberal activists charged, was a problem of money - people didn't have enough of it. It some cases that was true. But in other cases it wasn't true. Unfortunately, welfare payments came to subsidize a whole dysfunctional subculture. In the 1970s and 1980s, the "riot ideology" impregnated a large majority of city voters. Even though the large cities were in an inexplicable decline, government leaders insisted that the road to Utopia could be reached with even more liberal policies: ever larger "social programs" including job training, public housing, and drug treatment. And even looser moral standards including drug users and prostitutes crowding city parks and aggressive panhandlers harassing city streets. In 1992, after the trillion-dollar "War on Poverty" and a crass civil culture that had dismissed every moral restraint as a need for therapy, Los Angeles erupted into violence again. Siegel says that these riots, which were even deadlier than the Watts upheaval of 1965, fundamentally discredited urban liberalism. After reading his book, the only question the reader can ask is: "What took so long?" In the late 1990s, mayors like Rudy Giuliani of New York and Richard Riordan in Los Angeles have cut crime and the size of the Welfare State. They've proven to be very popular and successful. But resistance to their policies remain, especially in the intellectual class. In recent years, the cities have experienced an "Indian summer." Whether this climate will mature into a "new spring" is far from certain. An engaged citizenry, alerted to the historical mistakes of liberalism but still enchanted by its romanticism, hold the key to our future.
Disappointingly dogmatic  Jul 7, 2000
The author has written what might have been an excellent history of three major American urban areas since World War II; the book certainly offers the reader a lot to think about and discusses many issues of major concern to big cities. It is not until almost 95 percent of the way through the book that Siegel reveals he was a member of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's transition team when he was first elected; knowing that fact makes all the difference in understanding the neoconservative bias that pervades the book. (I naively bought the book expecting it to be objective because of its author's academic affiliation.)

I found the book's analysis of the race riots of the 1960s (and the more recent riots in Los Angeles) to be disturbingly simplistic; it reminds me of the late Edward Banfield's writings on "rioting for fun and profit." Siegel has at best a callous view of the urban underclass and little empathy for the plight of minorities trapped in the inner cities. Among his personal demons are mayors John Lindsay and Tom Bradley, neither of whom deserves the rather short shrift he gives them. (While each of them had their faults, they were to some extent visionaries and innovators; Siegel sees virtually nothing good about their adminisrations.)

I had also expected the book to draw some comparisons among the three cities on which it focuses. (After all, why present three case examples if you aren't going to contrast them?) But the histories of the three cities might just as well have been published separately. Little attempt is made to draw lessons from their three disparate recent histories.

Although the book was published in 1997--and one cannot expect the author to have foreseen the future--a single assertion perhaps best characterizes the book's deficiencies. Siegel makes the point that those who characterized Rudy Giuliani as racially insensitive and showing proto-fascist leanings had certainly exaggerated their portrait of him. The developments in the Dialo and Louima cases over the last year alone certainly suggest otherwise.

And the election of Anthony Williams in Washington seems to indicate that Siegel's pessimistic view of that city was overly overstated. (He characterizes the city as inextricably linked to politicians like "mayor-for-life" Marion Berry and his ilk.) As a person who works in Washington, I feel that Mayor Williams offers a lot of hope for the city.

I do not altogether regret that I read this book, but I feel that as an academician, the author was obligated to clearly state his biases at the outset of the book. That way the reader could at least have put the book in the proper context.

An expert analysis.  Jul 3, 2000
An excellent history coverage, Fred Siegel's The Future Once Happened Here examines three major U.S. cities which are metaphors for American social life. From urban problems and solutions to historical trends which have changed the face of these cities, New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles are treated to expert analysis.
Good message, uneven delivery  Jan 7, 2000
This book is excellent dissection of the failure of American urban policy since the 1960s, but it does have some flaws of note. Fred Siegel has a clear point to make, but all too frequently he gets waylaid by his own grudges. It is obvious that this man is a Democrat in the conservative mold furious at the disastrous manner in which Liberals in the late 1960s and 1970s ran three of America's finest cities. Fine. 1960's Liberalism was a disaster for Americas cities, particularly New York, Washington & Los Angeles. Point taken and agreed upon, but time and again this point is made in an angry and confrontational manner.

Siegel's publisher would have done good to convince his author to adopt a more conciliatory tone. This book is angry, and the author's anger perhaps serves a dual purpose- to showcase how angry moderate, suburban Democrats (such as this reviewer) are at how urban liberals led the party astray, and to mirror the anger and contempt these liberals felt towards their critics.

Good message. Uneven delivery.


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