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The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America's Big Cities Paperback – February 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893554104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893554108
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Fred Siegel loves cities but hates what has happened to them since the 1960s. Overreaching economic policies have strangled businesses and destroyed jobs. Libertine social philosophies have allowed public order to disappear. Racial antagonisms have corroded a sense of common culture. Siegel--a New Yorker with New Democrat politics--makes a strong case for why cities have declined, yet his book is not entirely gloomy. He believes that after three decades of failed public policy, America's urban centers may finally be headed toward a revival. An invigorating piece of social and political analysis, The Future Once Happened Here is the best book on U.S. cities to come along in years. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Siegel, a processor of history at Cooper Union and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, here offers a provocative perspective on big-city politics, suggesting that a "riot ideology" of confrontation and compromise has characterized the relationships among community leaders and officials in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles since the 1960s. He argues further that officials have treated the symptoms rather than the core problems of poverty and racism. Welfare dependency, fiscal crisis, loss of community, deteriorating public space, and failures of public order have resulted. Even New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, on whose campaign Siegel worked, may not be able to overcome that legacy. The analysis will appeal to urban scholars and other followers of big city politics, although the thesis may not. A thoughtful, challenging work; for most collections.?William L. Waugh, Georgia State Univ., Atlanta
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Todd Winer on July 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Wendell Cox on April 11, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Fred Siegel very effectively portrays the political forces that have combined to effectively destroy our central cities. Siegel characterizes post Wagner New York as being controlled by a "new Tammany Hall" driven largely by unchallenged municipal employee unions and social service provider lobbies. The result is a "leaky bucket" economy that leaves little for recipients of social services or for residents. While he does not use the "new Tammany Hall" label for his other two subjects --- Washington, DC and Los Angeles --- the net result in those two cities is similar. All three central cities --- and most other larger American central cities --- are becoming much poorer in relation to their suburbs, continue to lose middle income residents to the suburbs and face even more uncertain futures.
The conventional wisdom has been to blame the decline of the cities on external factors, especially a perception that the US federal government has failed to provide sufficient financial resources. But Siegel disputes this view, showing that federal funding has not declined, it has only not risen as fast as burgeoning city budgets. Siegel shows that central city decline is, first of all, the result of conscious city-level policies that have "back-fired."
For those inclined to believe that the central cities must be restored to their former importance, such as through densifying "new urbanist" policies, "The Future Once Happened Here" will be very disappointing.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Berquist on January 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am a traditional and yet often disillusioned Democrat. That is, I am a proud member of the party of FDR, Truman, JFK and LBJ but am often disillusioned by the 'new left' and its often out of touch agenda. I am more of a traditional New Deal Democrat. That is, socially I am more moderately conservative(though occasionally moderately liberal)while being a staunch social welfare liberal(within the context of personal responsibility). As the reader may tell, my ideology is confusing. The feeling of being confused was explicitly outlined well in this book, which tells of the faults of liberalism from a proud New Democrat.
I have always yearned for a national agenda to take back our cities from the explosion of destitution, violence and moral and physical poverty which has plagued them. Siegal's book allows us to have a great framework in which to begin.
Siegal identifies one huge roadblock to progress in urban America: the habbit to, in the words of Moynihan, 'define deviancy down.' Morals and values have turned loss in many cities.
Yet, the author must not forget the morals and values turned loose by the powers that be. That is, corporate America most assuredly has not treated urban centers well, neither has our federal government(whose real funding to urban america has declined by 50% over the past 20 years).
What do we need? We need a new agenda of corporate responsibility, public and social investment and private sector compassion and responsibility. Businesses must be given incentives to once again invest in our cities. Government must invest through health care, nutrition, education and, most of all, a WPA-like job training and employment infrastructure program. There is no better remedy to what hurts some than work.
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