Riots rocked Portland, Oregon throughout 2020 and have continued in 2021. While some peaceful protesters advocated for justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent agitators escalated dozens of these protests into violent riots, doing more than $23 million in damage to businesses in downtown Portland.
New polling sheds light on just how long-lasting the economic and social consequences of this violence may be.
“Residents across the metro area say downtown Portland has become dirty, unsafe and uninviting and many anticipate visiting the city’s core less often after the pandemic than they did before,” the Oregonian reports in new coverage of a poll of 600 residents it conducted. “Asked for their perceptions of downtown, respondents frequently used words like ‘destroyed,’ ‘trashed,’ ‘riots’ and ‘sad.’”
Nearly half of the poll’s respondents said they haven’t been downtown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with another 30 percent having only visited a few times. And this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
“[My 13-year-old-son] is very afraid to go downtown now,” one mother surveyed said. “He loved to go down just to the waterfront and walk around. He loved to go to Saturday Market. These are things that cannot happen anymore.”
Resident Laurie Lago suggested that the government’s response largely allowing the violent riots has contributed to this widespread sentiment: “There seems in the last year to be this permission to do violence.”
Indeed there has been. The “woke” local government allowed much of the property destruction and violence to go unpunished. Here’s a map of the destruction in the city’s downtown area:
The resulting collapse in the rule of law and protection of property rights in downtown Portland is turning it into an economic no-go zone—exactly as Econ 101 would have predicted.
Famed free-market economist Thomas Sowell once said that property rights “belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights.” What Sowell meant is that the protection of property rights does not just benefit property holders—it is a necessary prerequisite for any market economy to function.
When property rights are insecure or routinely violated—widespread looting and arson are prime examples—the very foundation of a community’s economy is undermined. Investors understandably balk at the uncertainty and forego investing there, while entrepreneurs cannot launch new enterprises or even continue current ones without the knowledge that they will be secure in their property.
When property rights are undermined, job opportunities and income streams dry up. And, unfortunately, that looks like exactly what’s happening in downtown Portland.