Archived Story

Focus on the social conditions

Published 9:55pm Monday, June 16, 2014

By Joseph Bass

Urban development projects often fix the symptoms of social problems without identifying and addressing the causes of the problems. Symptoms of social problems include the physical conditions common in blighted urban areas.

Blighted urban areas look the same all over. Business buildings are run down, and some are boarded up, and there are no shopping areas such as malls or town centers, nor name-brand businesses to be found.

Businesses include small convenience stores that sell limited products for high prices. Housing for the people living in such areas includes high concentrations of public housing. Private homes are run down and yards cluttered and unkempt. These are the physical conditions that urban development projects attempt to fix.

Such efforts are heralded as successes based on city areas looking better, as there are new buildings, homes, streets, sidewalks, parks and so on. But not much really changes if nothing is done to alleviate the social problems that caused the blighted areas to exist in the first place.

Urban redevelopment efforts often do not address the social conditions common to blighted areas.

They have high rates of violent crime and shoplifting. In the area of South Central Los Angeles where I used to live, a name-brand grocery chain agreed to open a store a few miles away. This is a chain known for large stores, fair prices and availability to shoppers. In less than 10 years, the store was closed because of repeated armed robberies and excessive shoplifting. Of course local citizens complained loudly that they deserved to have the store stay in their area.

Blighted areas lack groups striving for community self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The few citizens’ groups focus on petitioning government to take care of their problems. Social problems include high rates of welfare dependency, teen pregnancy, drug use, school truancy, school dropouts, absentee fathers and single-parent homes. Many believe these social conditions are a result of welfare dependency that weakened the basic human economic structure — the family unit.

Urban development projects attempting to address blight are based on the assumption that social conditions are caused by physical conditions. Government agencies that spend millions on physical conditions in such areas do not notice that negative social conditions continue to exist after the new infrastructure is in place.

Successful urban development efforts must focus attention on resolving social problems. The first of such efforts must transition programs away from government dependency. Society should be structured so that people must strive toward self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

All financial support of people currently on different forms of welfare should be gradually eliminated over a period of 10 years. All government-supported housing should be given free to the people that live in them with a promise of no property taxes for 15 years.

That is to say, society should be restructured to be more like it used to be, when people had to develop self-reliance and self-sufficiency in order to survive and do well in life. Society should be structured so that former welfare recipients will be motivated to work to maintain and create wealth for themselves and their families.

This is how it was for generations of Americans and this is how it should be for all Americans in the future.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at


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