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The reason for the US public housing projects' failure is wealth inequality. When your population has a mix of well-off people and very poor people, and you provide super-cheap housing, the very poor people gravitate to it, among them those who are desperate, have nothing to lose, involved in drugs and crime, etc.

Once this happens the crime rate goes up, the area feels unsafe to 'normal' people, and anyone who can do so gets the hell out of there. The area turns into a slum and is basically impossible to 'fix' without redeveloping it.

I'd guess that in Russia, one of two things happens. Either Russia's wealth distribution is even enough under communism that the rot never sets in, or in practice they're just as much of a slum as the American ones and we're just seeing a romanticized view.

in Russia most people with low-income just can't afford new housing and live with parents or in inherited apartments after their grandparents/parents die

those apartments we not bought, but privatized after Soviet Union collapse, where people get apartments for "free" after approx. 10 years working on a factory or so...

so in new projects, which are sold for money with mortgage rates at 12% annually there's no people that have "nothing to lose", people that have "nothing to lose" are widespread, living in apartments their parents got in Soviet Union

I was born in one of those cities where most housing is in the form of the old communist panelaks. But there is a clear distinction between the nice neighborhoods (5-10 floor buildings, trees and parks filling the sizable spaces) and the shitty ones (20+ floors, densely packed, near interstates, spaced with dirt). The former are a nice place to raise a middle class family, and the latter are crime filled slums.

How would having fewer rich people prevent the poor from committing crimes against the middle class (or just publicly engaging in victimless crimes[1]) and engaging in other behaviors that make an area feel unsafe?

As a counterpoint, consider India and most of Asia. Poor areas are dirty and have little infrastructure, but they don't feel unsafe. I occasionally shop in Dharavi and don't feel unsafe at all.

[1] I believe that lots of strung out drug addicts make an area feel unsafe even if they don't harm anyone.

In Chicago at least, it was a vicious circle. The rich (who by extension are the powerful) moved poor (or maybe more inline to their thought process at the time, black) people to specific areas so that they would be away from the rich (or again, really more relevant at the time, white) people.

This concentration of people required more services both because of the sheer higher concentration of people and because of the lack of private money to backstop gaps. At the same time, those areas received less services/investment precisely because the people who lived there were not powerful. This gap of services lead to increased crime due to factors such as lack of opportunity, increased drug abuse due to hopelessness, worse education options, etc.

The gap widened and got worse until it became untenable to maintain (and in some cases the land became too valuable) and political power was used to disperse the public housing population.

According to you, the problem is that the rich moved away and stopped providing resources.

Suppose inequality were lower and those rich people simply didn't exist. They would still be unable to provide resources, and the low level of services you describe would still exist. Wouldn't the crime/drug use/etc still happen?

> According to you, the problem is that the rich moved away and stopped providing resources.

That is not what I said. What I said was that the powerful moved the poor, into higher density, more resource intensive areas and then neglected to provide adequate services.

If the inequality were lower and those rich people (and really I prefer powerful in this case, but they are largely the same group so I suppose it is fine) did not exist, the concentrated population would be diffused across more areas, making it less tenable to actively neglect them and making the problem less severe in the first place.

That said, I believe crime/drug use/etc are not avoidable, so its not a question of whether those things would occur but a question of the rate.

If this narrative is true, and concentrated poverty is the result of rich people somehow moving the poor, then countries with lower inequality will not have concentrated poverty.

At least here in India, with significantly less inequality than the US, we still have lots of concentrated poverty. It's almost as if residential separation is the result of market forces and individual choices (c.f. the Schelling model).


Dharavi used to have terrible violent crime in the 70s-80s, but despite the apparent squalor, it has since developed into a functioning "township" with long term established businesses and organized political and cultural institutions[1].

Your comparison of Dharavi to the situation in American public housing projects is fallacious because it draws the equivalency based on Dharavi's dirtiness while ignoring how incredibly dissimilar the places are.

[1] http://in.reuters.com/article/india-landrights-slum-idINKCN1...

When the middle class is only barely more wealthy than the destitute, there is no point for the poor to try to rob them. And then only the political elite is much richer (in practise even if not in theory), and they are protected well by the police and the military.

This can be the situation in places with centrally managed economies like North Korea today. Obviously, they are also very safe (from the regular criminal behaviour point of view).

If that were true then areas with concentrated poverty should have negligible crime - why bother robbing anyone if everyone is poor? Yet that is the exact opposite of what is seen in reality.

A single concentrated poverty spot naturally doesn't work like that. It is immersed in a culture that shows it the income and wealth inequalities, as well as uses them to justify violence.

But when a country is universally poor but has a working and stable government, you may have surprisingly low crime rates. But then, such a country often doesn't stay poor. (Look at China...)

So the poor commit crimes against each other solely because rich people exist somewhere else and don't interact with them?

Malaysia is oddly anti-semitic for a country with about 0 Jews. I'd expect that if the Jews were causing all the problems, then Jews would actually need to exist in-country. But now you are making me re-think; is it plausible that simply by existing somewhere else, the Jews cause Muslims to engage in bad actions that harm themselves?

I don't understand your general principle. When is it reasonable for one group to blame their actions on the existence of some far away out-group?

Not exactly "somewhere else"; rich people exist in the vicinity to set a role model and perhaps target for easily and quickly acquired wealth.

Jews are of course a global scape-goat for Muslim extremists.

The difference is that there wouldn't be such intense concentrations of poor people when people moving to the area are less driven by wealth inequality.

Also strung out drug addicts are likely to be driven to theft.

It was the former.

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