Urbanization, the Future
A direct copy of a long comment I made to Niklas Blanchard’s post about urbanites subsidizing rural areas in which he asks: “So the question is, should we be subsidizing people who choose to live in rural communities? And should we do so in indirect, expensive, dignity-preserving ways?”
You won’t win an argument with me concerning whether people who live in urban communities should subsidize people living in rural communities. That’s because we won’t have an argument.
I don’t lament the day I decided to leave my home, New York, for my new place of residence, Indiana because I did move here to be with the woman I love. I wasn’t unproductive, for sure; I did do my part in the manufacturing world. At the same time, however, I do lament moving away from what I, personally, consider civilization.
Having said that, just like what you said previously concerning the debate on minimum wage vs. just giving money to people, it’s a fact of life that we have to deal with–but if we have to deal with it, at least do it right. You said that as a response on Twitter, in not so many words (damn the limit!). People living in rural areas of the country, even if they don’t really have a profit-maximizing reason for being there, is a fact of life we can’t avoid without giving direct incentive to people to change that fact. People want to live out on the open range for some ungodly reason. You’d have to give them a better reason than that to convince them to move closer to an urban/suburban area.
In my opinion, I’d much rather see the open range of the American land mass used for what it’s intended to be used for: farming. All these people living in small pockets of wanna-be-cities–these things we call towns–shouldn’t exist. I can’t think of any reasonable point in their existence except to tie farm land to some semblance of civilization.
I’d also rather see several smaller urban areas throughout the country–something between Indianapolis and a small town but more towards the population density of Indianapolis than a small town. They should be set reasonably apart so they can tie larger swaths of farmland together and provide the amenities those small towns provide though on a larger scale.
Doing that would fix a big part of the problem I’m concerned with in the Paul Ryan-esque plan–or, more specifically, your ideal. These smaller cities would concentrate more people in an area with more choice, more competition, more job opportunity, more entrepreneurial opportunity, and a lot fewer rural people to subsidize.
Farmers could provide their goods more directly to consumers since they’d have a bigger local market, too. Get rid of the corn subsidy and we might get a healthier populace which will walk more (I heart city sidewalks) instead of drive everywhere like in rural areas. A healthier populace is a much less expensive (medically) populace.
So, sure, there can be ways to fix the health care problem while ignoring the fact people will still live in rural areas and not give a crap. Perhaps, though, if they’re not subsidized, those people living in rural areas will stop living there. Then again, life proves, every day, that Ayn Rand was wrong in proposing that mankind is a rational creature.
A few days later, I come across this from Stewart Brand from Prospect Magazine:
Urban density allows half of humanity to live on 2.8 per cent of the land. Demographers expect developing countries to stabilise at 80 per cent urban, as nearly all developed countries have. On that basis, 80 per cent of humanity may live on 3 per cent of the land by 2050. Consider just the infrastructure efficiencies. According to a 2004 UN report: “The concentration of population and enterprises in urban areas greatly reduces the unit cost of piped water, sewers, drains, roads, electricity, garbage collection, transport, health care, and schools.” In the developed world, cities are green because they cut energy use; in the developing world, their greenness lies in how they take the pressure off rural waste.
At the same time, however, I find myself fuming over Glenn Beck’s spittle against rubes like Little Suzie wanting broadband, which has to be subsidized by the more productive urbanites.
I find it funny that Beck mentioned Little Suzie needing universal sippie cups because, you know, people who live in rural areas can’t feed themselves. I guess Glenn Beck thinks the food he eats grows on the cement sidewalk in front of his luxury condo.
While I would prefer to see urbanization and a movement away from the small towns littering the United States, I also understand there is a process towards urbanization—a long process. To keep people living in rural areas disenfranchised from the ever growing importance of Internet communication isn’t something we should strive for.
Unless you’re Glenn Beck and don’t understand the necessity of rural broadband and how easy it is to provide it if you have the will and the brains to put a plan together. The benefits that come from bringing technology to those Marxist rubes, such as easier and cheaper access to higher education, for example, defeats any argument the supposed defender of normal America can dish out.