Free Custom «Flint's Economic Issues Leading to Water Pollution» Essay Sample

Free Custom «Flint's Economic Issues Leading to Water Pollution» Essay Sample

The recent outbreak in media about the water pollution issues in the city of Flint, Michigan, has become the basis for a scientific inquiry of the sequence of events and conditions leading to Flint’s crisis, which has become a manifestation of the government policy influenced by economic ideology. Theories provide radically different evaluation approaches as well as complex and ambiguous answers to the current situation. Given Flint governors’ inadequate decisions prompted by a capitalistic perspective applied to public goods, one can admit the importance of economic ideology as the basis of governmental policies.

The reasons for lead poisoning in Flint, mainly populated with black people, include both economic and those of human negligence. Thus, there are two possible perspectives for discussing the reasons of the environmental crisis. Though the decision to tap the Flint River resulted from the poor economic situation, the blame for lead poisoning specifically lies on the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). DEQ did not fulfill the requirements of the Clean Water Act to add corrosion preventive chemicals causing the leaches of lead into the drinking water (Lederman, n.p.). However, the study showed that the condition of water was not appropriate since other elements considered dangerous for humans were found in the Flint River. Therefore, the decision to shift to Flint River as a primary source of drinking water was highly irresponsible. Government representatives’ deliberate actions and ignorance of numerous complaints from the citizens provide the reasons to regard the crisis as environmental racism. Since majority of the population is black and unemployed, the idea of racial discrimination has been associated with the problem by media (Nichols, n.p.). In fact, such a manipulative positioning of the issue implies discrimination and perpetuation of the stereotypes since all kinds of people were affected by the crisis. However, there is no substantial evidence for such claims as well as no need to distract the audience from a more important aspect of the issue.


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In the context of economic theory, Adam Smith’s concept of laissez-faire, celebrating the free-market economy and diminishing the power of the state in formulating economic policies for a country, is protected by capitalist orientation. Regulations on monetary and fiscal policies should provide and encourage free trade ‘without any attention of the government’, making the latter a mere provider of basic public goods, e.g. roads (Smith, 333). However, it is commonly known that Smith’s model is detached from reality and becomes inefficient in the world, where demand is not shaped by scarcity and the market is characterized by abundance leading to structural inequality. Flint’s case demonstrates the inefficiency of laissez-faire philosophy. The market is hardly capable of regulating itself leading to unemployment with the 40 percent rate in the city. Such facts emphasize the importance of governmental intervention into the economy to stabilize country’s wealth.

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Thus, the Marxist class stratification becomes of a particular relevance. The working class population has suffered across the Midwest due to a number of political actions undertaken by authorities. The appointed Emergency Manager’s primary function was to cut the costs. In a country, where communities lose power and governmental authorities are affected primarily by businesses, as it eventually happens in a capitalist society, the conflict arises and requiring substantial effort from the workers to reach out to those in power in order to achieve results. Michigan’s government implemented a number of cuts on business taxes enabling the revenue-sharing model. Flint lost around $60 million in this undertaking. Thus, at the expense of community, working class primarily, the city government approached cost reduction on public goods. Water supply is one of the most important components of decent standards of living and human health. In a capitalist mindset, the ‘cost is king’. Authority capitalists prompt a number of questions regarding the role of government in such cases.

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Authorities cutting on taxes and passing bills in a support of economy – Keynesian view on the matter – has produced its results. Keynes argued that in the period of recession only government remains to support investment, consumer spending and exports. In addition, tax cuts are considered a Keynesian way of approaching economy in the downturn. In the case of Flint, it is clear that decisions on tax cuts were induced by the state, as well as the revenue sharing program, leading to Flint community’s steady financial losses reaching $60 million. All of these decisions were made by governors and their lack of adequate management caused the need for cost cutting and the notorious Emergency Manager. Direct intervention of government into the economy has produced substandard outcomes.

There is, however, a different view on the matter with a particular focus on the reasons for such authority behavior. Leary, stating that ‘when a government is run like a business, much of its infrastructure and personnel become superfluous’, criticizes the incentives of the city leader’s actions. Snyder did not attempt to increase the capital to improve city budgets and ensure the delivery of public goods, which the state is responsible for, but he defined his primary responsibility was to maintain the level at which Flint would not become completely bankrupt. Hayek (335) has stated that investment and spending do not guarantee future increase in capital since more factors have to be considered, which brings the argument back to the incompetence of a problem.

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In fact, multiple factors have to be considered when imposing responsibility on either pro- or anti-government intervention into the economy. Galbraith’s approach may help find a solution and supportive reasoning for the crisis. Neither a liberal, nor a conservative or socialist, he can be considered a ‘neosocialist’, though his views on the economic theory are rather too optimistic and unrealistic. However, to proceed with this argument it is important to mention that Galbraith recognized such an important aspect as the absence of political sovereignty since it does not reflect the political reality (Lloyd, 374). Moreover, Galbraith does not support either Keynes or Hayek and argues that “economic forces do not work out for the best except perhaps the most powerful” (Galbraith, 334). There should be a balance between the public and the private goods, and the connection between the economics and politics must be treated in accordance with their utilitarian functions, meaning they have to be used as instruments.

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In case of Flint’s water crisis, it is evident that the government adopted Keynesian view on government intervention into the economy during recession. However, it is important to understand that though the government intervention was present, it did not support the supervision of public goods, clean water in particular. Thus, such intervention was not only inefficient, but harmful. Ideological economic background of government leaders and their lack of understanding of basic human needs led to the adoption of the worst practices in city management. Governments acting like businesses have not proven effective so far; and whether businesses are willing to act like governments is questionable as well. Thus, the shift in the ideological paradigm is required to develop a new approach to economics.

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