Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Trying to ‘Save’ the Rural Economy (nytimes.com)
118 points by petethomas 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 240 comments



speaking as someone who works in a small town in the midwest as an auto mechanic, the people that shot themselves in the foot with this idea were the very ones who proposed it.

I got 5 months of free online Python classes from the local government. This was part of some larger state plan to 'revitalize' us as a 'web 2.0' something or other for the 'silicon valley' of the midwest. The whole thing read like snake oil but I learned some pretty good skills in python and a lot more about Linux than I knew before.

Our state has these lofty goals but couldnt attract more than a mega-truck-stop diner in the past 8 years. The reason for this is that unless you have a winning complexion (are white and male) you arent going to have a lot of fun here.

Want birth control? well thats a 2 week waiting period and a mandatory consultation. Did you run out? well you have to renew that script every month. Want it covered by your insurance? tough, legally, our state outlawed that. Need an abortion? book a flight, we require a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a waiting period.

Are you LGBTQ? enjoy our bathroom law. adoption providers can also legally discriminate against you for even asking to adopt. theres also no protections in the workplace, so enjoy being fired for "gay."

Are you a blue-collar minority? Unless you know exactly when and where to go to get a license, then voting is practically impossible. our bowling alleys and food courts/theaters also enforce a dress code thats loosely translated to "no blacks."


I absolutely agree with your call-out. If a company has to have a "good culture" to attract talent, then so does a county, city, or state. Since I no longer have to live in a state that fights against my rights, I may very well choose to live (and therefore work) in other states for the rest of my life.

However, I do wonder if we are over-conflating "rural" with "conservative." Certainly, they are correlated, but I can imagine it's a lot different to live a rural life in California versus Mississippi.


The big differences between rural California and Rural Mississippi from my experience:

1. Rural California has way fewer black people. 2. Rural California is more geographically wealth-segregated. (The probability that a larger acreage and higher-owner-income rural property is adjacent to trailers is greater in Mississippi than California.)

In rural Mississippi people pretend their black neighbors don't exist unless they need "help." In rural California people just don't have black neighbors.

In general rural California is probably much more like Mississippi than you'd think.


Except for all the laws protecting freedoms that nimbius posted and social welfare like parental leave, and access to the UC education system.


The big difference is that urban California outvotes rural California, something that isn’t true in Mississippi.


> 1. Rural California has way fewer black people.

But it has a large Latino population in an equivalent economic position.


I think you would probably be surprised how similar rural area culture can be on opposite sides of the country.


But there is one key difference: in a rural area in a blue state, you at least have the protection of state law. If you get discriminated against for being gay, you can sue. You don't have to jump through hoops for birth control or abortion. You don't need an ID to vote.

Yeah, sure, your neighbors might be hostile to you, but having the state government behind your back helps immensely.


Sure, but at least you won't find statues of traitorous, racist war criminals lording over you when you go to file paperwork at your local county seat, or Confederate flags proudly displayed at your local state parks.

There's something different about it when it's government sanctioned.


I agree. And its not like im here to bash conservatives, its just looking at all these super tech companies like google and apple, its hard to imagine Tim Cook seriously considering locating his business in a state where his ER surgeon could refuse service to him because he is gay. most of our effort to get into the fast lane of "silicon valley" has been a thinly-veiled attempt at doing something, anything, to reduce crime, Fentanyl overdose, and systemic unemployment thats plagued our region since 2008.

The people who are pushing silicon valley just want the money. They dont understand that its more than money and training.


You're just going overboard with spurious trash talk of other states. No ER surgeon is turning down ANY patient ANYWHERE in the U.S.


Yes it's absolutely spurious.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2016/05/07/health-car...

It never happens.

https://abc7ny.com/health/michigan-lesbian-couple-says-pedia...

Nope. Not Ever.

https://www.self.com/story/denial-of-health-care

This literally took me less than two minutes to find. I'd imagine longer than it took to intentionally bury one's head in the sand.


In one case, a 39-year old teacher allegedly died after not getting appropriate medical care due to her sexual orientation.9 According to a lawsuit filed by her brother, the teacher’s medical condition was not taken seriously by the EMTs who responded to her 911 call after they “‘became immediately aware’” she was a lesbian. She was abandoned for over an hour after being admitted to the hospital – in violation of protocol – and while unattended, she fell into a coma.10 She died several days later.1

https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/lgbt_refusals_fa...


That's a great narrative for a lawsuit, but I'm skeptical it's true. It's possible they were negligent (it happens to straight people too wouldn't you know it!), but it's also equally possible they were making every effort and they're still getting sued because our system has enormous financial rewards available to those who win successful lawsuits, even if they are disproportionate in many cases.

At any rate, no, there is not some systemic bias against any class of people in our medical system. ERs take care of anyone, medical insurance or not. Our medical professionals are highly trained, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, nurses and doctors are by and large good at what they do. The existence of exceptions does not discount the rule.


so your second paragraph is justified by the completely baseless speculation in the first? if you actually had read the pdf I linked you would have seen the multitude of other examples of medical discrimination against queer people in it. im queer and have experienced medical discrimination. my queer friends have experienced medical discrimination, in washington state, not even a conservative state. intersex babies still routinely have non-consensual genital reassignment surgery performed, sometimes without their parent's knowledge.

yes, cishet people experience medical malpractice as well. but individual bad experiences is not the same as systemic discrimination. systematic discrimination against queer and intersex people goes on every day in our medical system, as much as people like to pretend it doesn't.


Without really needing to know, I'm guessing either Indiana (my home state) or North Carolina (lived there three years). I say that only because we'd never go back to NC because of differences in opinion and politics, and never, ever go back to IN because it appears to have gone even more (ahem) divergent from my opinions since we moved out twenty years ago. The things I heard come out of the mouths of clients when I had a consultancy in IN would send a native West Coaster to the fainting couch.

So, yeah, I used to live there and I'll never go back, let alone attract anyone who tans a little too well.


Most hoosiers are good people. Indianapolis is blue. We don't have these draconian rules.


Twenty years ago, right before we moved out, Marion County (i. e., Indianapolis) prosecutor Stephen Goldsmith decide multiple black young men in a car was probable cause for a stop. It stands out in my mind because I remember thinking, “boy, am I glad to be getting the hell out of here.” Perhaps my information is a bit outdated, but it was within the lifetime of most reading this.

I lived in that state for 35 years. You’ll be hard-pressed to convince me that Elwood (as one example) welcomes their new dark-skinned neighbors (should they dare move there) with open arms in less than a generation since I last did business there. Which is one of many reasons I have no desire to bring my high-tech skills back home.


  The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing
People in rural and conservative communities aren't bad people. And IME people in urban and liberal communities aren't even any less racist. The biggest difference is that those with power in urban and liberal communities (i.e. middle-class and whites) are more likely to acquiesce when confronted with claims of prejudice or inequality.

This propensity to acquiesce is considered radical by conservative communities, who view themselves as being principled.


I have lived in three states: Washington, North Carolina, and Tennessee. I have no idea what state you are in to have all of these restrictions. The only thing I can think of is you are conflating many laws from many states across a large time period.

Birth control? An annual (3 years in Washington) cancer screening and check up for your birth control prescription. Possibly covered by insurance but not REQUIRED. Which is different from OUTLAWED. Not that it matters, my wife's birth control costs $85 every three months and we can pay for it with our HSA. That's hardly emptying anyone's bank account especially when you compare it to the ACA which requires every citizen spend >$100/mo on insurance that does mostly nothing!

Bathroom laws? Oh yeah? Which one! There are none currently in existence. There were certainly more than a few that were considered but only one passed and it was repealed!

LGBTQ restrictions on adoption? Adoption by same-sex couples is legal in all 50 states!

LGBTQ workplace protections? There are certainly protections at the federal level. But yes, you're right. Places like North Carolina do not have any laws on the books which expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. But ask yourself, what is the practical effect on LGBTQ people? I would argue there is no effect. You might as well be in California. I have worked at many companies with many LGBTQ people and all of them were safer in their employment than I was! No company wants the backlash that comes from being perceived as anti-LGBTQ. Society has adequately regulated the protection of LGBTQ people where governments have not.

As for the apparent racism of rural areas. Having grown up with a great many black friends I've:

* Never met a black person who could not get a driver's license.

* Never been exposed to a dress code that prohibited black people.

---

Look I have my own gripes about rural living (the South specifically). But I won't lie or live in some bizarre universe where the South is hell on earth.


The skills are probably still worth teaching. Many professions could really benefit from some Swiss army computer skills (and it's not always obvious which pairings are good). Biology, for example, really could use some solid database skills. I have seen million-line barely manageable Excel documents that were born to be an SQL database. Makes me cry.


Need an abortion? book a flight, we require a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a waiting period.

There's a coalition in my state that believes all life is sacred and abortion should be illegal even in cases of incest and rape. God's will and so forth...


It's a shame how much abortion gets pushed as a wedge issue. It's great at riling people up and getting them to cluster into their particular camps, but at that point people who would otherwise be able to agree on other issues and actually make progress decide to just not talk to each other.


abortion and gun control.

We can limit the amount of abortion that occurs, without banning abortion (sex education, birth control, health insurance, family planning, adoption center funding, etc).

And we can limit the negative impacts of gun ownership on society, without gun bans (NICB, mental health funding, red flag laws, standardized licensing, increased funding for already existing laws, significantly increased police accountability, etc) .

But no one wants to talk about these things. Instead, we keep talking about them as wedge issues. Ban Abortion / Abortion is a right. Ban X,Y,Z Guns / Gun Ownership is a right.

If you want a jolly good time, find someone who is adamant on one of those issues, have them give an explanation for a while, then see how far you can get in the other issue before they realize they're using all the same arguments but from the opposite viewpoint.


I’m sorry, but the left has not only talked about all these things, but they’ve actually pushed legislation for this.

The idea that the US left does not even want to talk about sex Ed, birth control, health insurance...mental health funding, funding research on the effects of guns, licensing, etc... is so out of whack from reality.

You are basically taking what every one on the US left (almost no one in any sort of governmental power on the US left has proposed a gun ban) is pushing for and complaining that no one wants to talk about it.

It’s remarkable how entrenched the idea that the only problem is that both sides are equally wrong is in the US.


  almost no one in any sort of governmental power on the US left has proposed a gun ban
Senator Feinstein (D-CA) advocated for a total gun ban right on "60 Minutes".


Sigh. For the skeptical downvoters:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj4AcjyuV38


That's for assault weaponry.


What state is this? How do they require minorities to have ID but not whites? Apologies if these questions are naive, I'm not particularly familiar with midwest politics.


I don't know about the specific state the commenter is referring to, but this article from a couple years ago discusses some of the laws passed that (intentionally or unintentionally) make it more difficult for certain demographics to get an ID: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/getting-a...


> How do they require minorities to have ID but not whites?

By only asking minorities to prove they are carrying ID. "The law" is what gets enforced, not what it says on the books.

Edit to add: as people are getting all up in arms about rural areas, they should recall that this tactic was broadly applied by the New York City police department too.


>"The law" is what gets enforced, not what it says on the books.

>Edit to add: as people are getting all up in arms about rural areas, they should recall that this tactic was broadly applied by the New York City police department too.

"Organized Democracy" by Melanin 9: `youtube-dl -f mp4 'QPls-Gi_4Ig'` speaks to this very much.


I'm also pretty sure no state managed to successfully pass and keep a "bathroom law", especially after the enormous outrage against North Carolina.


I'm pretty sure the comment didn't say that.


To be clear, I was responding to this:

> Are you a blue-collar minority? Unless you know exactly when and where to go to get a license, then voting is practically impossible.

How else can you interpret this? Blue-collar minorities are less capable of knowing where/when to get a license than blue-collar whites? Or perhaps the "minority" bit is a red-herring altogether and the salient criterion is "blue-collar"?


Or groups of people live in certain geographic areas and are not served by public transit or near government offices like a DMV. That can have the effect of making it generally harder one one group despite equal competence.


This would be interesting and I’m curious about the extent to which this happens, but this hypothesis doesn’t support the claim that “absent information about getting an ID, it is nearly impossible for blue-collar minorities (but not their white counterparts) to vote”. Also, if you lack access to public transit, I would expect you’re more likely to have an ID, not less so.


Literally there are states where they closed voting locations and DMV locations in predominantly minority areas. They created a requirement for a license and then claimed it would only impact 16 year olds and they would "drive to people's houses" at the same time that they claimed they were "out of money". Nevermind that the whole state has an issue with not enough polling stations.

https://www.snopes.com/news/2015/10/01/alabama-drivers-licen...

https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/georgia-county-abandons-pl...

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/30/midterm-elect...


No. The discriminatory nature of laws like this work on statistics. While something like a drivers license with a street address isn’t discrimanatory per se, when you look at the groups that are adversely effected and how those groups correlate with voting preferences, a pattern emerges.

For instance, the lack of a street address in North Dakota pretty much only effects those living on an Indian reservation https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/native-americans-north-dakot...

Say you need a state issue I’d, but then limit access to those ids in specific areas, as Alabama did in 2015. http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/01/as_it_turns_out_...

In Texas, researchers ran an an analysis of where these laws have the most impact and found that the largest contributing factor to predicting disenfranchisement was race. https://www.wired.com/story/voter-id-law-algorithm/


> Blue-collar minorities are less capable of knowing where/when to get a license than blue-collar whites?

But your comment wasn't suggesting this. You were suggesting that the law was explicitly discriminatory to require minorities alone to need ID and whites could vote without ID.


I think you misread my comment. I was very careful not to suggest that "the law was explicitly discriminatory". I'm merely asking how they accomplish the alleged discrimination.


You say that well. I associate this idea with Richard Florida, who has written about the Creative Class and the Tolerance Index:

"The map above shows how metros across the U.S. score on the Tolerance Index, as updated for The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited. The chart below shows the top 20 metros. Developed by my Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Kevin Stolarick, it ranks U.S. metros according to three key variables—the share of immigrants or foreign-born residents, the Gay Index (the concentration of gays and lesbians), and the Integration Index, which tracks the level of segregation between ethnic and racial groups."

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2012/07/geography-tolerance/2...


It sounds like they're committed to the values that are important to them, regardless of the huge disadvantages. What's the way to change this?


The last time it came to that, the US had a civil war.

I am not advocating it in this case, but ultimately you can only have so divergent ideas about life and rights before it comes down to who has the biggest (or the most) effective guns.


That's true of most people. Emotions universally trump facts.


Even for those of us who are male, white, and straight, your state sounds unpleasant. Convincing someone like me to move there is going to be very expensive.


Jesus. What state is that? waiting periods for birth control? No blacks? WTF, is this 1920?


Non-costal people are bad and should be collectively punished.


It's like the 'non-racist capitalists will out compete racist capitalists due to the discriminated group being "cheaper"' principle applied to the entire government.


For what it's worth the submission title here ("Turning small towns into tech hubs isn't working") doesn't appear in the article.

The basic reasoning of the article:

...the high-tech industries powering the economy today don’t have much need for the cheap labor that rural communities contributed to America’s industrial past. They mostly need highly educated workers. They find those most easily in big cities, not in small towns.

In a report published in November, Mark Muro, William Galston and Clara Hendrickson of the Brookings Institution laid out a portfolio of ideas to rescue the substantial swathe of the country that they identify as “left behind.” They identify critical shortages bedeviling declining communities: workers with digital skills, broadband connections, capital. And they have plans to address them: I.T. training and education initiatives, regulatory changes to boost lending to small businesses, incentives to invest in broadband.

...the authors concede that they may not be up to the task. “I don’t know if these ideas are going to work,” Mr. Galston acknowledged when I pressed him on the issue. “But it is worth making the effort.”

The article is essentially laying out the idea of encouraging the tech sector to develop in rural communities and says it might work, but notes that even proponents aren't certain. The pressure of agglomeration is high in the tech industry, and that concentrates jobs in big cities.


In theory all you need to make it work is good internet connection. Especially if its remote.

If there was a serious offer from some company where for the same amount of rent in SF, I could have a mortgage on literal acres of land, thats attractive.

Less attractive is the crumbling infrastructure, opioid wildfires, actual wildfires, and aggressively conservative culture.

Gotta try something though, right?


People drastically understate the infrastructure and other issues you note in places outside of major urban centers of technology. My children do not have a net benefit from a huge home on a huge plot of land if the schools are garbage, there are few or no parks, the politics are very conservative, and diversity is lacking.


As someone coming from Poland, a country that’s pretty much 100% white and Polish, I don’t feel that the lack of “diversity” has negatively impacted my development. It seems to me that people in the US have been brainwashed (in schools, by media etc.) into believing that diversity is always good and lack of diversity is always bad, while in reality it’s not that simple.


It's more the "reaction to diversity" that's the issue, in my opinion. Some areas unfortunately are not terribly friendly to non-white or non-Christian people. This sometimes is reflected in certain laws and may reflect in other cultural ways. This probably is not something any international-oriented company would look positively on, since international companies will have employees from a wide variety of cultures.

I remember when one of the consequences of Alabama's 2011 immigration laws was them ticketing or arresting two automobile executives. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/02/alabama-car-bo...) I thought at the time that was a (sarcasm) great promotion to international corporations of the benefits of putting an office in Alabama.

As an atheist I certainly wouldn't move into any very religious area, which unfortunately is a fair bit of rural places. (For examples why, see: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/05/24/atheists-in-the-bib...)


That cnn article sure is interesting. Poland is supposedly one of more Christian countries in the world, but nothing even close to the stories from that article (losing job or customers after coming out as an atheist) ever happens here. I wonder how common such incidents are in the US.


I grew up in a rural part of Florida, and while I do remember atheism having a stigma about it in high school, it was more of a mild distaste people would share about it (mostly based on predispositions about it). That being said, religion is a Federally protected classification, so no one can fire someone over atheism and not risk a lawsuit in the U.S. Some of these articles are written by people who are as far removed from rural American life as they are from Poland...and I would take such articles with a grain of salt.


How do you measure the people you've lost? I love Poland, but it's intolerance has chased away some of its best people. Every LGBQ individual I meet was eager to get out of Poland. Every artist hates Kaczynski. Every intellectual from Poland seems to find it easier to live in London or Paris, rather than Warsaw or Krakow.

Poland was the great innovator of Western science when Kopernicus looked at the stars, but Poland was remarkably tolerant at that time. Have you read "Poland Was Shockingly Liberal During The 1400s"?

http://www.smashcompany.com/philosophy/poland-was-shockingly...


The history of the United States as a Caucasian ethnostate looms large here. When people talk about diversity, what that's code for is essentially "not racist," because the legacy of those explicit laws enforcing white supremacy takes generations to untangle - and diversity of population (and integration) is one of the important ways to slowly grind down the residual attitudes.


> I don’t feel that the lack of “diversity” has negatively impacted my development

They said they want diversity for their children. That has nothing to do with how your environment impacted you. People are allowed to have preferences so long as in the process of acting on them, they don't trample on others' rights.


That’s... obvious? Of course people have a right to their subjective opinions and preferences. What I’m interested in though is the objective reality of this matter, i.e. whether or not diversity is beneficial for child’s development.


> What I’m interested in though is the objective reality of this matter, i.e. whether or not diversity is beneficial for child’s development.

There isn't an objective reality. Depending on what you personally value, diversity could be a cost, benefit, or neutral for your children. You may not even know the results until much later, and even then it will be hard to discern the causal factors, though you may try to posit them.

It could also just come down to "I like living in a diverse environment because it's more interesting for me, and I'm only going to live once".


There certainly is an objective reality. It may be very hard to determine what it is, but it nevertheless exists. In this case, as long as you define developmental goals (ex. the child develops into kind, responsible, emotionally stable adult etc.), the policies/circumstances, such as being raised in a diverse environment, being allowed to watch TV, studying a lot, always wearing black socks etc. will or will not have impact (positive or negative) on those goals.


> There certainly is an objective reality

An objective reality with child-rearing? Apart from obvious things like not ignoring or abusing a child, there isn't one in my experience, but as they say ... whatever works for you.

> the policies/circumstances, such as being raised in a diverse environment, being allowed to watch TV, studying a lot, always wearing black socks etc. will or will not have impact (positive or negative) on those goals.

At best, perhaps raising kids in diverse environments allows them to be resilient in diverse environments as adults. At worst, it could cause them to harbor resentments against others nearby who are different than them. You can find kind, responsible, emotionally stable adults who were raised in both diverse and non-diverse environments. And you can find the opposite in both types of environments.


Can you give us the more nuanced view, particularly as it applies to America, a place with a lot of existing diversity and a pretty mixed history with regard to how minorities have been treated?

What’s the nuanced case for why Americans shouldn’t care that much about “diversity”?


I feel that the “caring about diversity” is a state- and media-run campaign with a goal to decrease some of the deep-rooted racism that permeates sections of the US’s society. Therefore, for the child upbringing case, as long as a parent is not a racist and is not rasing his children to be one, the crude corrective action of “diversity yay!” is not really necessary. That’s why Polish society is ok despite not caring about diversity - we’re just not very racist in the first place (and don’t get me wrong, it’s not due to some inherent moral superiority - we are just not exposed to races other than ours, so it pretty hard/weird to be a racist).


Maybe it’s not that Poland is not racist, but more that you haven’t had the opportunity to prove it until recently: https://m.dw.com/en/poland-racism-on-the-rise/a-36812032

I think any kind of tribalism-oriented bias or skepticism about “the other” is probably something we’re all oriented towards from an evolutionary standpoint. And so getting over that takes “brainwashing”, just like many, many other positive things in society. The concept of equal rights didn’t fall from the sky: we invented it because we thought it’d work better for everyone in the long run. And we have to constantly be reinforcing it or it falls apart.


Regarding the DW article - it’s not really racism (not to mention that these incidents are very rare). Racism is a belief that your race is inherently superior or that the other race is inferior. While it’s probably not an uncommon belief in the US, very few people in Poland believe that. These attacks were about xenophobia - fear of the others - in this case fear that the others will spread terrorism. Of course, it’s an completely unfair generalisation (that people who look Arabic are likely to be terrorists), but not nearly of the caliber of the racist “you’re black, hence you’re just a lesser human being”.

Regarding the brainwashing - wouldn’t it be enough to explain to children that racism is just an unscientific, morally abhorrent belief? Why is there a need to push the idea that diversity is beneficial? It’s an unjustified belief which leads to comical conclusions, ex. that a two-person team, consisting of a black and a white mathematician! will be better than a team of two black or two white mathematicians.

It feels to me that whoever pushed this agenda went too far. People can feel the weakness in the “diversity is obviously good” claim, which makes them suspicious and sceptical of the whole idea.


Yeah, I thoroughly disagree.

I’m skeptical of your assessment that Polish people just aren’t racist at all, and I disagree with your splitting hairs between racism and xenophobia.

But beyond that, I’m baffled as to how you don’t see that in a discussion of the benefits of living in a diverse culture, xenophobia based on ethnicity being linked to a religion and then unfairly conflated with terrorism to justify mistreatment is the exact kind of problem I’m concerned with.

Diversity doesn’t just mean racial diversity, though it appears that Polish people aren’t as comfortable with that either as you’d like to believe.

wouldn’t it be enough to explain to children that racism is just an unscientific, morally abhorrent belief

If history is any guide, no.

Your example about the mathematicians makes me wonder if we’re even talking about the same thing. I don’t want my daughter seeing women mathematicians because I want her to believe their presence will make any team that they’re a part of better (even if true). I want her to see women who are mathematicians so she internalizes the idea that it’s a viable option. The “just tell her it is, even if the world around her tells her the opposite every day” is a recipe for failure. I want her to see it.


> we are just not exposed to races other than ours, so it pretty hard/weird to be a racist).

The US is not mono-racial by any measure, and has a long and troubled history with race relations.

So even taking the questionable argument that Poland isn't "very racist" at face value, it's wouldn't be applicable to the US anyway.


The part about Poland was just a tangent to my main point, which was - as long as you’re raising your child to not be a racist, your child is ptobably not losing anything by not being raised in a diverse envirnoment.


> as long as you’re raising your child to not be a racist

How do you know if you are successfully doing that, if they (or you) never encounter someone of another race?


You only do so much raising of your kids. Their friends, their teachers, and the broader culture also have a huge effect.


Research shows that diverse teams tend to get stuck in group think less, and diverse markets are less prone to bubbles and corrections.


>I don’t feel that the lack of “diversity” has negatively impacted my development.

Well it certainly has impacted some Poles, considering they can't help but chant 'monkey' when they see a black person[0]

[0]https://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/08/sport/football/poland-rac...


> if the schools are garbage, there are few or no parks, the politics are very conservative, and diversity is lacking.

But all of this exists outside of rural areas, and in fact in many areas close to metro hubs. Just because you're in a more urban environment does not guarantee you to have this utopian neighborhood.


Of course it doesn't guarantee that; nothing is guaranteed. It comes down to likelihood: I'm more likely to find high quality education and diversity (cultural and recreational) in the Bay Area, New York, etc. than almost anywhere else in America.


why do you need a park if you live on multiple acres of land?


Plenty of other factors too. No nightlife. Limited restaurant options. Schools that offer only the basics and may be failing. No public transit. Shitty and expensive Internet. No local job hopping opportunities. Limited extracurricular activities for the kids. Lots of anti-intellectual peer groups in the schools.

You pay a lot for that cheap house in the end.


The job hopping opportunities can't be overstated. It's the BATNA for salary negotiations with employers, so it basically determines what your salary is going to be.


I moved to Chicago, and from the north window of my building, I can look into the offices of three companies that employ people like me (digital design engineers) that I know of. That view is called the next building.

Within a half mile of where I work, I know of more than 30 companies that I can easily hop to. Within a half mile of the CTA train system, there's more than 100 companies that I can hop to. If I extend my search into the nearby suburbs which are well served by Metra, we're now talking about 200-300 companies. Sure, most are small, but a significant number of them aren't.


Chicago isn't exactly a small town.


The thing is, when I'm working remotely, the amenities that the city I live in can provide are even more important than if I'm working in an office. If I'm working remotely, then 100% of my social needs have to come from the city. So having culture, things to do, etc., becomes even more important.

I live in a city because I like living in a city, and then secondarily also because there's good jobs here.


Depends on what you value. You might also be rooting for Musk's low latency Starlink program so you can hangout at the reef or in the mountains.


It doesn't work like that. A colleague argued in all seriousness that watching ballet on Youtube is the same as watching it live at the NY City Ballet. The fellow is a boor who would be in NYC for a day but never take his kids to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur skeletons.


I suppose if your criteria is that you need to have world class ballet where you live, that does indeed restrict your options.


What I'm saying is that having high-speed Internet is not the same as being close to culture. It also doesn't put pressure on the corrupt sheriff to straighten out or insist that the school district provide an actual education for the schoolkids. For all that you need a critical mass of interested people.


A high-speed internet connection can and hopefully more so in the future, put you close to nature. All I meant to say is that working remotely doesn't necessarily imply needing or wanting a more cultured city. It depends on what a person values. Some of the most moving times of my life have been out in nature.


If you're talking public schools, they actually tend to be pretty bad based on standard metrics in even elite metros like New York City. And major cities probably have more explicit corruption than small towns. see Chicago historically.

That said, I don't really disagree with your basic point. To see plays, orchestra, etc. you need to be at least within an hour or so of either a city or a university town.


It's weird that it kind of makes it a small town vs big city discussion. I think most of the big tech sectors seem to spawn near good universities. The universities supply the highly educated workforce for the businesses and the size of the city seems to play less of a role.


Look at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. Supercomputing centre and home of Mozilla, but the talent and firms leave.

And they don't head to Chicago either.


I was talking to UChicago prof who did his undergrad at UIUC, and he said a lot of money was spent to bootstrap the tech economy in Champaign-Urbana but even back then at the height of the dotcom boom, it didn't make sense to him because most people just did not want to live in the middle of cornfields.

Rural colleges (even good ones) that are too far away from a city or a metropolitan area rarely have strong diversified economies because talent just doesn't want to live there. If they did, these places wouldn't remain small.

Ann Arbor does reasonably well, but it is close to Detroit (which despite most people's mental images of blight, has a very large suburban population that isn't too different from that of other cities in America). Pittsburgh does reasonably well because it is itself a city.

Off the top of my head I can think of many small college towns with good tech programs that have not managed to develop a strong diversified/tech economy:

* Ithaca, NY

* Providence, RI

* West Lafayette, IN

* Charlottesville, VA

Madison WI does ok for some reason (it's a really idyllic place to live as a student), but even then outside of Epic and a few large employers, it's not really a talent magnet.

Historically, the very concept of a university in medieval times arose due to urbanization. Outside of a few exceptions like Oxford/Cambridge, situating universities in rural settings is actually not the default idea. Thomas Jefferson famously despised city life and placed UVa in rural Charlottesville, and other colleges in America followed suit. But most European universities are usually located in cities or towns, and instead of sprawling bucolic campuses, they are spread out all over a city.


Why would that be? Midwestern smalltown politics and close-minded attitude? An Indian colleague who is teaching in the nowhere Midwest tells genuinely awful stories about racism and is getting ready to leave.


Weather extremes, lack of mountains and beaches.


Andreesen left and went to Silicon Valley as fast as he could. While NCSA Mosaic was written in Urbana, he started Mosaic Communications (the original name of Netscape) in California, and was hated for years at UIUC after that.


Thanks I meant Mosaic, of course.


If the idea is for the Tech Industry to 'revitalize' these small towns (which I'm not sure I buy into), then the only way to do is to incentivize companies to hire workers from these areas (i.e. better education and early awareness of 'tech jobs'), or incentivize companies to move existing employees to these areas and allow them to work remotely.

> The pressure of agglomeration is high in the tech industry

Which is for nothing. Old school business ideas and stubbornness is the only reason this is true. Keep your gaudy glass building in the hot new section of downtown if you wish, but let your workers choose where they live and work from.


Reality shows it is for something. People must be getting something out of density, otherwise the most in demand people (i.e. highly paid) wouldn't be opting to live there. At the very least, trust is a very valuable thing and knowing people who know people is very valuable, which is much easier to accomplish in cities.


The reality is that most cheap talent (i.e. early career engineers) want to live or work in major cities because there's things to do and the quality of life is simply unbeatable compared to living in even an average suburb of a major city let alone in the middle of nowhere.

On top of that, it's much easier to attract top talent from other countries to cities with at least workable mass transit systems.

In moving to Chicago from a large town, my quality of life easily doubled overnight. Grocery shopping is now only an extra 3 minutes out of my way on the way home from the train station instead of an extra 25 minutes out of my way. I don't need to maintain two cars for my wife and I because honestly, we barely drive because there is no need. I'm starting to consider just getting rid of my car entirely. If I want to go and see Broadway plays, I no longer have to travel over an hour by car, hunt for parking, and then walk 5-10 more minutes. If I want to eat out, there's over 100 restaurants just in my ward.

It's just a better life overall.


If I'm reading the latest LinkedIn workforce report correctly, the migration trends are actually from NY and SF to Denver, and from Denver to smaller cities:

https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/blog/linkedin-workforce-report...


It looks like that but the magnitude of inbound is 10x outbound.


I suspect this is a much bigger deal in the US, since we have rural power bias built into our political system. Thus, the rural voter has a much bigger "say" in how things run.

(Subsequently, if their life continues to get worse, well, I suspect more tendencies towards authoritarianism.)

This is where I sense the tension. At least in the US, the political system seems to want to maintain people in rural areas, but the economic system doesn't. And I'm not sure a politician running on a platform of "we're gonna get you out of dodge" is going to be very popular.

Advocating for moving people out of rural areas seems like political suicide. I can't find anyone pushing for this idea.


Plenty of economists push that idea. The way to make people richer is to move them to rich places. (Even more so internationally.)

Your point about politicians stands. That's a great assessment of the tension between the two worldviews.


Not everyone wants to be ‘richer’. That economists push that idea begs the question. I’m not placing a value judgement on either worldview, just pointing out that in one worldview, there’s an assumption of constant growth. I happen to fall into this worldview, but I’ve grown an appreciation for those who don’t. Unbridled growth = cancer.


> Not everyone wants to be ‘richer’.

They say that, but if you write them a cheque, they'll cash it.

It's the things that come along with wealth that they may disagree with, but certainly not the wealth itself.

No doubt, there are pockets (even in Canada#) that refuse government welfare programs like health insurance because they feel that they shouldn't be dependent on others like that, but it's much less than 1%.

# Some of our old-order Mennonites refuse to get a government health card.


if you write them a cheque, they'll cash it.

Not 100% true. I grew up in farm country and there were lots of people (my parents included) who refused on principles to participate in federal CRP programs which would have essentially provided government checks for doing nothing.


> if you write them a cheque, they'll cash it

That's why all the great scientists are working in the Fintech industry. (No, they are not)


>I suspect this is a much bigger deal in the US, since we have rural power bias built into our political system. Thus, the rural voter has a much bigger "say" in how things run.

At the federal level there is a bias toward rural states mostly because of how the senate works. At the state level pretty much every state is ruled by a couple counties that have the biggest cities in the state in them and everyone else is along for the ride.

I personally think this is pretty well balanced but would prefer for there to be far less federal authority (so it matters much less who controls each branch of the federal government) and far more (like 100 or so) states so that both groups can do what they want, in their own state, without much federal interference (and without fighting as much over everything) but that will never happen because the cities depend on the rural areas for resources and the rural areas depend on the cities for money so states will never split (and even if that were solved you'd never be able to divide states in a way that wasn't gerry-mandered to hell and back which would defeat the point).


I don't think states are particularly balanced, either. States tend to put capitals away from population centers, and have the same tendencies to bias toward rural voters:

"Even states that had constitutions requiring equal population districts were ignoring them. Florida, Georgia and New Mexico gave small counties 100 times the voting power of the most populous ones. Decades ago in California, Amador County (population 14,294) had the same representation in the state’s Senate as Los Angeles County (with a population over six million)."

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/upshot/as-american-as-app...


There are tons of gerrymandered states that result in states' politicians not reflecting the wishes of the majority of the voters, and it's always the rural areas benefiting from the gerrymandering.


There are seven states with only ONE House of representative: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

The reason for the above is that there are so little population ( less than 650,000 )in the whole state.

These 7 states each have TWO senators. The reason for this is this is how the country was formed giving 2 senators to each state in the constitution. These 14 senators are always Republican and see their weight on 100 seat Senate.

so two reasons why US cannot reflect the wishes of the majority of the voters.

1/ fourteen senators from 7 states ( with a population less than 650,000) elect the same Republican senators for decades ( think about their influence on judicial judge selection and every other decision senate make)

2/ as you mentioned, state-level gerrymandered ( in bigger population states) electing more House reps of Republicans even though their vote share is less than 50%

https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_House_of_Representativ...

https://www.vox.com/2014/8/5/17991950/how-gerrymandering-wor...


Not all 14 of them are Republican. Delaware has two Democrats, and Vermont has one Democrat and one Bernie Sanders.


agree, that makes it 11 GOP senators to 3 DEM senators.

California with 40 Milion population 2 senators, to 2 senators for these 600,000 population for each of these 7 states.


>agree, that makes it 11 GOP senators to 3 DEM senators.

And how many of those two CA senators are GOP? Guess those 7 states are more diverse than CA.


That's the stereotype, even if the facts don't bear that out.


Every east coast state from Maine to Maryland is run by the cities in that state. The west coast is almost the same. I don't know if those states are "gerrymandered" in favor of the rural districts but if they are it's not enough to matter because those states are certainly run by the cities.

I'm not saying what you've said isn't true. I'm saying it doesn't matter in practice.

Gerrymandered or not if the cities want something they get it. The only time rural areas get a real say is if the cities are split on an issue or if the suburban areas split disagree with the cities. NY, MA and VT are good examples.


Cities have wanted minority rights, legal marijuana, abortion rights, gay rights, public transport, minimum wage, higher education, multitudes of other items for a long time, and I don’t see them getting those without an uphill battle every time. Time and time again, the majority of voters are overruled due to the way the game is setup, and they can’t change the way it’s setup since they would need the political majority (even though they have the voter majority) to do that.


What was different about America that small towns thrived?

The economic system is short sighted, and doesn't always have to drive politics - this may be a recent phenomena.


When the US was founded, about 95% of the population was rural, and notably, Thomas Jefferson was famously pro-rural, and viewed cities as corrupt.

You can just search "thomas jefferson agrarian quotes" and get tons of pro-ag, anti-city statements from him, such as:

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds. As long, therefore, as they can find employment in this line, I would not convert them into mariners, artisans, or anything else.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1785.


We've become a nation of employees.


Microserfs


For a very long time in the US (up to 1970's in Alaska) one had the homestead act that allowed people to claim a large amount of land (160 acres) if you lived on it for five years and improved it. There was a huge amount of land available and this "free" land would create a lot of rural population. People from all over the world came to get a chance to own land. Impossible in Europe basically for a person to be able to own land as just a laborer. Most of this land in the lower 48 was gone by 1900 or so and this is what people are referring to when they talk about the closing of the American frontier.


> Most of this land in the lower 48 was gone by 1900 or so and this is what people are referring to when they talk about the closing of the American frontier.

Well, sorta. The feds still own 30-85% of each Western state:

https://assets3.bigthink.com/system/tinymce_assets/944/origi...


Mostly because that land is so inhospitable that nobody wants it.


Lots of national forest land that many people would love to be able to live on. Check out the prices around Aspen which is surrounded by National forests.


I’m really not familiar with the geography, or its history, but the feds only kept 2% of Texas. I’ll assume the rest became private.


To put it as succinctly as possible... Oil.


When the primary economic inputs were land and undifferentiated labor, there was no use playing in a crowded field.

Now the economic inputs are highly skilled workers and the connections between them.


Logistics, essentially, and the advent of globalism caused more and more centralized approaches.


Small towns cannot be tech hubs, because that's not even what a 'hub' is. It would be the end node, or an outlier constantly. I'm from a small town but we have one huge industry which employs around 80% of the local community. The rest of the folks are in construction, service industries, schools, etc. No amount of effort would turn that region into a tech or innovation hub without it also turning it into a city.

Instead of trying to shore up the weaknesses of rural communities how can they play to their strengths? A small community and lifestyle has lots of benefits over living in the city but you have to value both working in tech (remotely) _and_ what a small community has to offer.


The biggest problem for small and medium communities is brain drain. It's a vicious death spiral because the smart and ambitious kids basically have to move away to large cities to get quality jobs.

The only solution I can think of is incentivizing remote work so people don't have to be concentrated in cities. You might not even have to incentivize it because it's a tremendous advantage as a tech company to be able to recruit from any where in the country where lots of talented people don't want to move for family reasons or don't want to live in a city


You're absolutely right. Incentivizing remote work could definitely help!

With that said, it may be worth considering that there is some subtlety here. It's surprisingly difficult to integrate remote workers into a company that has and uses offices. A lot of communication is lost when people aren't regularly sharing the same physical spaces, and cultural practices and technologies to date are mostly limited to mitigating this loss slightly. There's a drop in productivity, and it appears to be (in general, at scale, individuals can and do vary wildly) inevitable. Building a small company entirely from exceptional individuals is workable, but as a model it can't scale.

Right now the major incentive is that remote workers can be paid the local-to-them pay rate. This is a problem, as it rarely matches the model of remote work that smaller towns and would-be remote workers have in mind.

There's also some major wins that individuals gain by congregating in urban areas with their industry. It's harder to replace these with remote work, as much of it depends on concentration enabling serendipity.

Again, you're completely right. Remote work could definitely help! There might be some subtleties worth considering is all.


The only incentivizing needed is to provide fiber to the home so everyone has ample connectivity to compete on a level playing field, and then businesses will figure out which mix of remote and in office employees works for them and allows them to best position themselves in the market.


Fiber to the home may be desirable but it's overrated. I've had tech co-workers who managed with satellite because that was their only option to live on a rural property they wanted.


You can watch whether this is working in real time: just watch NZ which has rolled out fiber to the home: NZ could be looked at as a rural area.

From what I have seen, for most people it means Netflix, and it has had very little impact upon NZ software development (certainly not a billion dollars worth).

Truely rural areas don't get fibre (too expensive per household) and often have no ADSL either (more than 5km from exchange).


that's not even what a 'hub' is

Exactly, they're called "economic clusters" for a reason. It's like these municipalities are merely play-acting.


I grew up in a small town in the Berkshires and recently went back there to see family. It is interesting to see the shift from where it was 100 years ago to where it was when I was a kid, to where it is today (and where it's heading).

100 years ago there was a ton of industry: paper mills, textile mills, marble and limestone quarries. These were supported by a train that ran through town to transports goods to and from Boston, and the town sprouted up organically around these industries.

One by one, they all faded away but when I was little the town still had much of the residual glory: a downtown full of shops, a mahogany-lined library and school, plus a big new mall 15 minutes away. Then as I grew up all the things started to go away. The two drive-in theaters, the entire downtown shopping area, the malls. All of it bottomed out when the Walmart came to town (familiar story...)

But now there is a bit of a revival around art, nature and tourism, which they have been pushing my entire life. The old train tracks are now a walking/bicycle path. The old textile mill is a modern art museum. The shell of its former existence gives the town a very unique character now. But there is a big disconnect between people who grew up there and the tourist mindset, and it's interesting to be able to see and understand both sides of it. The people that are moving there or want to visit there have a COMPLETELY different mindset than the people who do live there, even most the people trying to drum up the tourism.

Most small towns aren't going to revive via tourism, of course, but I think the bigger problem is every small town is trying to find some big "thing" to come save them. A new plant, a new business hub of some sort. Instead they should be focusing on their strengths, such as they exist: cheap housing, open spaces, access to nature, no commuting traffic. Cut out red tape and let people redefine these town husks like hermit crabs changing shells. I think the best approach is to focus on local community elements that are attractive to people who can work remotely. It's got to be success by a thousand cuts, because most of these communities have no chance at a real influx of business.


My small city of approximately 60k is doing just what you describe to bring in people from all over not only for tourism but to live. Relatively cheap housing, easy and relatively quick access to millions of acres of nature, cute downtown, low commute times, etc... There are tech incubators and work spaces here with younger more progressive groups working together in ways this city has never seen. We have growth rate percentages on par with major cities and the area will become more appealing as the larger cities continue to make housing unaffordable and traffic gridlocked. I appreciate what they're doing and know that this change was inevitable. While I hate what it is now I know there are people moving here who love it and I want them to love it as much as I used to.

I have found a new place where the topography essentially places a hard limit on growth and provides me with immediate access to all the things I love to do outdoors. While this makes me part of the problem I know what I want my town/city to be.

So my point is I agree that there is no one solution but rather a holistic approach of building up your best features to appeal to many is the only way for these towns to prosper in the future.


What different people regard as big and small is always amusing to me.

The town I grew up in was ~3k people, and was the biggest in the county. The biggest city in the area was 30k. You had to drive at least an hour and a half to find anything bigger.

The place I live now has a population ~60k, and seems quite big to me. But to a lot of people that is still just a little spot in the middle of nowhere.


Well said. I have no data to back this up, but I feel like a lot of remote workers prefer smaller cities that still have lots of amenities - think Portland, Austin, Madison, Boulder.

You present a solid blueprint for even smaller communities to start to attract remote workers.


And exurbs from larger systems that are accessible to a big city with, say, an hour drive but are still relatively rural. You don’t really get this in the Bay Area without a huge amount of money but you do in somewhere like the Boston area.


I'd love the idea of living in a quiet, small community, were it not for a number of practicalities:

Schools -- We're trying to provide the highest possible quality education for our daughter, which means living in the best public school district we can find or within range of the best private school we can afford. And while I'm sure there are exceptions, this means living in a city.

Jobs -- Even though in theory I could work remotely, my wife (a lawyer) couldn't. Wherever we live has to be able to provide employment opportunities for two disparate professions.

Arts/Culture/Etc... -- I take my daughter to the Thinkery (a neat kid's museum here in Austin) monthly. She takes ballet and swim lessons, perhaps music lessons soon. It's important for our family to be in proximity to a vibrant art/music scene.

None of this is meant to denigrate small towns or rural areas, and perhaps there are some areas that provide the above (I'd be curious to hear about them if there were, actually...) I merely mention this to indicate how difficult the project is.


>None of this is meant to denigrate small towns or rural areas, and perhaps there are some areas that provide the above (I'd be curious to hear about them if there were, actually...)

Many rural areas in Vermont (particularly in the Northeast Kingdom) will give you a school voucher to use at any school you want (public or private) because there isn't a local public. As a consequence, there are some really good private schools up there. The public schools are good too. It has actually created somewhat of a culture of upper class people moving there.


> It has actually created somewhat of a culture of upper class people moving there.

Depends on the Vermonters you ask. I take it you weren't canvassing a trailer park.

A lot of people will give you some wise ass answer that people from MA and NY made their money in NYC or Boston and once they had a family to raise or when they were ready to retire they realized had to move to a state that hadn't been turned to crap by the people in NYC or Boston.

Considering the political difference between NY/MA and (a good chunk of) people in rural areas of VT (or any other state in northern New England) you can see why they might say something like this.


I recently applied to be part of Tulsa, Oklahoma's program offering $10k for tech people to move there. I'm a high income tech person and I love to teach and mentor others (it's literally my business). I never received a response. Not even a, "hey we can't offer you $10k, but here are some other reasons you may still want to move here...".

I can live anywhere in the country. I'm not tied to Houston, TX where I live I just haven't been motivated to move since I travel to fun places so much anyway.

I flat out do not understand the strategies of these cities who are trying to become tech hubs. I also don't understand the "economic development" consultants that advise them. You want remote workers? That's a strategy, but you have to work at it. You want tech companies to move there? You have to work hard at it. The best kept secret about business in Texas is how our previous Governor got on a plane with pitch deck in hand and worked hard to lure businesses to Texas. This even included ad campaigns in other states.

The mentality of most city councils, economic development committees, and governors seems to treat "building a tech sector" as some kind of magic requiring a secret incantation.

It's sales, beat the bricks.


> I flat out do not understand the strategies of these cities who are trying to become tech hubs.

The known-good approach, of spending decades building educational, financial, cultural, and business conditions that enable tech hubs is difficult and slow and expensive. Cities are looking for ways to shortcut this that are palatable to voters who often don't really see a need to change things.

I think you've hit on it: a lot of people and places see tech businesses as something not significantly different from a car plant.


Maybe we shouldn't be trying to keep these small town alive. Maybe we should focus on shutting them down in an orderly fashion and help the residents move to more dynamic areas, probably in large part by helping them acquire skills that are actually in demand there.


This would be great if we also committed to having a reasonable cost of living in major cities by limiting space per family, doing (at the minimum) townhomes only within a 20 mile radius of the city, and working to give everyone affordable and reasonable housing.

I think it's probably easier just to promote remote work.


I personally live in a "small" city specifically to have room for more than that, and I'm still unsatisfied with my small-ish free standing house and lot. In a year or two of saving, I'll be moving to the most rural place I can afford and stand to commute from, so your idea wouldn't be acceptable to me in the slightest. What do we do for the people who want something different for themselves? Is their way of life simply no longer going to be allowed?


Easy for you to say as an outsider with a comfortable salaried job. A lot of people in these rural communities aren't educated and live paycheck-to-paycheck. Putting them in larger cities for jobs they aren't qualified and wouldn't be hired for probably isn't the solution.


Indeed. But the skills mismatch is one of the things I am proposing to address. People can be retrained, at least if they're on the younger side. Trying to retrain a 55 year old factory worker whose employer moved the plant to Mexico or China probably wouldn't work too well. It might be better to let him retire early.


>Putting them in larger cities for jobs they aren't qualified and wouldn't be hired for probably isn't the solution.

<tinfoil>

If your goal is to make rural people (historically a very hard group for governments to control, everywhere, not just in the US) more dependent on and controllable by the state then it works great.

</tinfoil>

(Yes, I know I'm just stirring the pot by saying this)


All a man needs is a horse and a gun and he can rule the world, right?

I know many rural Americans like to imagine they're still living on the lawless frontier uncorrupted by civilization and Federalism, but.... it's not actually true that they're less dependent on the state than "city folk." Hell, in many cases rural areas are more dependent on the state.

And ironically, it's that pastoral, romantic delusion of the statelessness of rural America that leads to the very same populist ideology that makes them easier to control. Like believing a billionaire globalist with a history of exploiting low wage employees and a loose relationship with the truth is an honest, God-fearing hard working friend of the common man.


> it's not actually true that they're less dependent on the state than "city folk." Hell, in many cases rural areas are more dependent on the state.

I'd like to see you back up this claim, but either way dependence on "the state" isn't really what matters.

What matters is the interdependence between the two locales. Cities are almost entirely dependent on rural areas for their food. Rural areas could continue to exist without cities; the reverse is not true.

Cities are also more fragile than rural areas. Say something catastrophic were to happen to some region of the US, something that wiped out communications infrastructure, electricity generation, supply routes (roads, rail), etc. The cities in this region would be foodless within a few days. Depending on the city, there would be either no running water or dirty running water. Even if martial law were quickly instituted, violence and starvation would result.

Contrast this to the rural areas. Food would certainly be an issue, but it is more likely that the population is either (a) near agricultural infrastructure or (b) prepared to fish/hunt/forage. It helps that there are less mouths to feed.

Furthermore, most people are on wells and/or septic tanks, which barring damage gives them a much longer timeline before water/sanitation becomes an issue. Again, it helps that there is a lower density of people needing drinking water and sanitation.

I guess my ultimate point is that strategically, it is the rural areas holding the cards. Would they be poorer without the cities? Absolutely. Could they survive? They did for generations.


There are very few rural areas in the US in which most people don't get their food from the supermarket, water from utilities and power from a power company, just like everyone in a city. They didn't build their homes from trees they felled by hand, they don't grow their own food, or sew their own clothes.

As far as hunting and fishing goes, few people living in rural areas would be capable of living entirely off the land for an extended period of time, so the premise that they would be able to survive a disaster more or less unscathed while the city dwellers starve is just really not true, at least not as true as Americans would like to believe.

One problem rural areas do have is lack of disaster preparedness funds. I live in Texas, and I've seen what happens when disasters hit rural areas. The same people who complain about Washington and city dwellers wind up in tent cities being tended to by the Red Cross and FEMA.

See how well agricultural communities do without farm subsidies, housing loans or food stamps. Without the state keeping them alive, a lot of them would simply die out.

And this is my ultimate point - most Americans who live in rural areas are little less domesticated than their urban counterparts.


I am a data scientist and work remotely, living in a small town on 3.6 acres. Moving to a city would be terrible, living within a 40 minute drive is plenty close enough.

Why do you feel the need to shut down entire communities?


I don't think it's fair to say this person is shutting down entire communities. Isn't the market doing that? The reality of the article is not every town has a flourishing future in the economy. Although the way it is phrased suggests, they are going to pick you up and walk you out of town even if you disagree.

Do we subsidize their lives as some have suggested with UBI? Do we try to revitalize industries that failed? As someone who lives in a small town, what do you think would help those towns and their residents?


In all honesty, the biggest issue particularly in the south (Hawaii as well) is that most people are content with their lives. They aren't trying to move up the corporate ladder, learn the latest tech etc... They are happy with their jobs, culture, families, and traditions. This mindset clashes with the rest of America, particularly the West coast, were having a family, culture, and traditions are seen as negative to society.

We are trying to solve regional issues from a national perspective. Local government and issues needs to become more important. Locals need to solve local issue. People in Portland, OR aren't going to to solve issues in Mandeville, LA.


Yes, that's likely the best way to solve it by tackling it locally. I grew up in a rural town in Georgia, and I am all too familiar with the "southern gentleman's pride" which is just a polite way to say my family is stubborn to a fault. I know we will need tradesmen for the foreseeable future so I always try to take that approach instead of the almost cliche "go into tech!" advice. Let's say we could change the narrative, so folks don't depend on the federal level to solve their woes. Would rural America want to change or accept the assistance?


“Having a family is seen as negative to society” is a gross mischaractetization of even the most out-there coastal liberal values.


Because once a community has lost its central economic purpose, it tends to develop all sorts of pernicious dysfunctions. If the one factory in a small town closes, the town just lost a lot of its tax-base, so it's hard to pay for services. Many people can't find other jobs, so they end up on the dole or on drugs or on the street. And anyone with options leaves. Such towns are essentially economic zombies. They died a long time ago, they just haven't fallen over yet. This is the case where I think it makes sense to shut down the community, and help the remaining residents build better lives elsewhere.

I have no quarrel with small towns per se. Some host substantial mining or logging or manufacturing operations. Some provide services for large surrounding agrarian areas. Others are bedroom communities for city workers who trade a commute for cheaper living arrangements. These are all fine. These towns have solid economic reasons for existing, and are therefore viable. No problem. But others are not so fortunate.


A lot of these discussions tend to draw contrasts between living in the middle of a major metropolis and living in the back of beyond. Neither represents even a significant minority of the US population.


How do do you shut down a town in an orderly fashion?

More to the point, how do you avoid putting the people you displaced from their homes on a high-rent, low-wage treadmill?


This means you are, at a country level, deciding by policy what jobs are desirable. Which seems to mean, according to you, that Farming and agriculture, which are generally distributed due to the land needs, aren't feasible. There are quite a few other industries that are non-tech that are distributed like these.

Sure lots of these small towns don't need as MUCH centralization as they have but they still need services because there are still people and things to do out in those places.

Now, given modern transportation and things like Amazon, the density in outlying areas may not be as needed. Driving through rural missouri, you see a lot of very tiny dead towns at crossroads, where there used to be a general store, etc, and these died in the 30s. Then you have slightly bigger towns that are dying now. These towns were starting to die in the 90s. In the 60s it took around 8 hours to get from St. Louis to the arkansas border (except along 55). When I was a kid in the 80s it took 4-5 hours. Now it takes 3:30. Because of this you don't need as many of these services as local, but that doesn't mean you don't need them.

Also driving through rural missouri you see things you wouldn't expect. My cousin owns a VERY profitable organic chicken ranch about 2 hours outside of St. Louis, near Owensville. Going further south you find all of a sudden where like 80% of the oak for charcoal and wine / burbon barrels come from. It's completely unreasonable for these folks to commute from St. Louis. It's also completely tenable for them to live in a house in the middle of no where and make plenty of money for that life style.

What seems to be happening is that much of the rural area is becoming LESS dense as you need only basic services and health care, gas food, etc.

There's also other things that need lots of space that you can easily do in rural areas that you can't do other places. If I was to switch to running a textile mill, or a machine shop, and did it in Seattle (where I live now), or St. Louis (where I used to live), I'd have to plunk down 2-5 million on a warehouse. If I did this in Wenatchee area or Owensville, the land is like $200k, and I just build the building and put that other 1-2 million into better tooling and employees, and the effective minimum wage (what people actually need to live), is a lot lower out there because everything is cheaper. Which means product is cheaper.


Are "we" trying to keep small towns alive?

Also, I don't see why remote workers can't live in small towns. They offer a certain quality of life many desire.


> They offer a certain quality of life many desire.

But at an enormous cost to the environment, tax base, and economic resilience of society.

It's legitimate for people in the cities to ask whether they want to keep subsidizing this lifestyle, and whether a better kind of arrangement of land use can be achieved.


Pray tell, where do you expect all those agricultural products, lumber, livestock, and so forth that we all depend on to come from without small towns and rural communities? They have to grow somewhere after all.


> Pray tell, where do you expect all those agricultural products, lumber, livestock, and so forth that we all depend on to come from without small towns and rural communities? They have to grow somewhere after all.

The article provides several examples showing that those industries continue to operate in small towns, but that they require very little labor anymore, due to mechanization and automation.

The majority of the financial gains for these industries go to the capital owners (including all of us who can afford to save for retirement), not to the local labor pool. The labor pool doesn't have leverage to change that, because they often have few other options for work in their area.

The remote workers transplanted from cities aren't going to meaningfully increase employment in the old sectors. They will just enjoy the cheap housing and lower cost for low-skilled services.

Local low-skilled labor won't be able to suddenly shift to high-skilled remote IT work, and the sectors are too different to have an effect on the others' labor rates.

At best, the remote IT workers' discretionary local spending might prop up a few small service businesses, like restaurants, but the remote workers are likely to keep most of their capital in the same non-local financial instruments that their equivalents in cities do. And who could blame them for doing so?


You're completely correct. We depend utterly on a lot of basic products of small towns and rural communities.

That said, just because food and lumber has to be grown somewhere doesn't mean it has to be grown in American small towns and rural communities. My wheat and rice can come from Mexico and Thailand and my beef from Argentina.


What's the delta between the environmental impact of growing wheat and beef etc locally vs shipping it 8000 miles?


Trans-oceanic shipping and trains are surprisingly low-impact per unit of food. When you add in the environmental impact of things like growing rice in Texas deserts and almonds in California, the results can easily come out in favor of trade.

There are other considerations, too. Favoring local products is a good way to keep poor food-exporting countries poor. I don't want that, though I understand some people have different priorities from me.


This is great until a major conflict happens between the US and the country responsible for a major food staple, and domestic production is decimated by imports, and there’s a food shortage.


That sounds like excellent incentive for everyone to try to avoid and reduce the severity of conflicts.


I live in the kind of rural place you're talking about. Rural town of 2500, majority farmland/undeveloped, historically impoverished part of the country.

Many people in my town are exactly what you'd expect. But a good fraction of them are millionaires with huge McMansions and lakeside property. The cars that go down my road are a mix of beat up pick up trucks and Cadillacs.

I guarantee you, no outside entity subsidizes us. Not with those kind of property taxes coming in. And I guarantee you, my town is not unique in this regard.


whether a better kind of arrangement of land use can be achieved.

What would some examples of this be, in your opinion?


I think these enormous tracts of suburban and rural land that were populated with government subsidies and no real economic reason to exist should be slowly and gracefully depopulated, with people settling denser areas (which we have a scarcity of, due to racially motivated zoning laws and other policies). We also need to do a better job of limiting sprawl so that people living in cities are closer to nature and don't have to travel through hundreds of miles of suburbs to "escape".

People act as if all these small towns are growing our food and are vital for the national economy when in reality the vast majority of them consist simply of the industry required for their local suburban/rural existence (schools, supermarkets, hospitals, road maintenance, etc.).

The places that are actually productive (e.g. large agricultural regions) of course have to stay but these are relatively not so populated to begin with (and use less and less labor every year). People have no idea of the magnitude of distortion that props up the myth of the small town in America.

Policywise, I think a gradually introduced land value tax and carbon tax (replacing to some degree property and income taxes) could do a lot to enact this restructuring in a "natural" way.


I know I certainly qualify. I cannot wait to leave the city, even though I'll still need to work there.


Maybe we should accept that different people want different things and not try to shoehorn everyone into the same situation.


American politicians have no vision anymore, so I think anything like that will never happen. Free public universities in the hundreds will not happen, we must dump $750B into weapons purchases and troop salaries. Guaranteed healthcare wil not happen, $500 bottles of Tylenol won’t allow it. New infrastructure for a bigger population will not happen, the people using the current infrastructure aren’t complaining much.

The people who don’t need the help have little incentive to sacrifice their limited resources to help the less advantaged, and the people who do need it don’t know what they need so they get sucked in by destructive authoritarian politicians who focus on the next election instead of the next 20 years.

However, the entire reason this is happening is because technology is shifting the economic system to require high-skill concentration into cities and low-skill jobs offloaded to cheap countries rather than needing lots of rural resource-generating towns. It’s easy for me to blame visionless politicians and people, but I think in the end we are all beholden to the system. But what is a system but lots of individual people effecting each other? How did socialism and communism reach their height of popularity in the US in the 1930’s? Can we beat the system by changing it, or is it just too big to ever reach a critical mass of change?


OK, but first you have to solve for X in the following example: The Romans would displace conquered peoples by resettling them in Rome while the Romans went out into the hinterlands. This allowed the new influx of slaves to become "Romanized" while giving Roman soldiers farm land they were promised to receive as the price of conscription.

This creates two massive problems for today's society:

Today "Romanizing" has a different name: Cultural Genocide. Whether intentional or not, you are eradicating the cultures you have displaced. Today that's considered a violation of human rights and human dignity. You can't do that and if you try you are at least going to have to find something to mitigate the problem. Do you create an intersectional matrix that finds the most marginalized peoples and leaves them as they are? How do you decide who is most marginalized if you have to move someone. What if their culture a kind of terroir? Can it not exist if you remove it from that place? If so what do you do? Even if they have their language, are the Gullah still the Gullah if you remove them from their diet and usual place of livelihood? Not to mention, when you move their their language will likely disappear and members become assimilated.

Then you have the Refugee Resettlement or "Oakie" Problem. You are introducing a new out-group who will compete for resources and power with an existing in-group. This always causes conflict. In theory, if the in-group view the out-group as either dumb and/or untrustworthy, they turn their judgemental views into critical views and their critical views into moral judgements. After all, value judgements never sit still. After a while they begin incarcerating the most marginalized of the out-group and the scapegoating starts. If not carefully calibrated and balanced the in-group start caving heads in with baseball bats, but the more you carefully calibrate it, the more you return back to the "Romanization" problem.

There are a lot of other problems that arise, but these are the two most consistent when dealing with humans.


I think if (and that's a big if) our tech sector begins to wholly embrace remote work, even that would probably not be enough. Most likely, most highly educated tech workers who don't like the city would still prefer typical postwar American suburbs where they can occasionally drive into the city for pleasure and still have access to a first rate health care system, education system, and so on.


Personally I feel that one way to help small towns is more companies embracing remote work and the benefits that remote work provides. Additionally companies or municipalities must continue to build out high speed infrastructure to support those workers and empower the residents of those areas to have the opportunity to be highly connected.

For many companies, embracing remote work when possible is to their benefit. No longer do they have the small hiring pool of a handful of office locations, but they now have the entire country at their fingertips at very little effort.

My personal experience is that I work remotely outside of a small rural town, and I know two others in my area who do the same, so it seems like this trend may already be happening. The nice thing about this is that there is no hub required! If the job doesn’t need an office, why have one?


It seems to be working for the small town I grew up in. However, it gained its tech industry rather organically with a tech business in town hitting the tech lottery. It comes as no surprise that you cannot force an industry to flourish in small towns, or even big cities for that matter.


So your small town has now several small tech companies? Or one that grew and employs now a considerable percentage of the workforce?


Both.


Ultimately, if you're going to do it, do it the way TI did.

Texas Instruments set up their headquarters next to Richardson, TX. When they realized there weren't enough engineers in the area, the TI founders started their own university so they could farm engineers to grow TI.

Ultimately, once the university got big enough, they turned it over to the state, and now the University of Texas at Dallas is the largest engineering-centric university in the southwest, and its existence is probably responsible for the Silicon Prairie and the Telecom Corridor being a thing.


This looks somewhat familiar with the centralization vs decentralization debate in tech. It seems the network effects benefits don't apply only for tech products, but for cities as well.

While there are many efforts in overcoming those effects through decentralization in various aspects (from remote work to blockchain projects), it seems none of these really achieved as much success as we were expecting, probably because the benefits of decentralization don't outweigh (yet) the advantages of strong networks.

Perhaps once we solve this equation in tech, and make decentralized options more appealing than their centralized counterparts, we may be able to transfer that knowledge to city planning somehow.


Are these same small towns also insulated from market crashes and recessions?

Is there some benefit to greater America from their existence?

Edit: apparently people are interpreting my comment negatively. I was seriously asking if these small town communities can act as a sort of buffer during recessions because of their relative isolation, thereby limiting negative effects. I'm not questioning whether they should exist or anything nonsensical like that.


>I was seriously asking if these small town communities can act as a sort of buffer during recessions because of their relative isolation, thereby limiting negative effects.

It goes both ways though, because they're small towns, they can have their own recessions that have little to do with national recessions. When a factory is shuttered, it can have devastating affects for a small town, much worse than a typical recession, but nobody outside that community would notice much.

This has been happening all over the rural US for the past 20 years. Everyone talks about the past 8 years of stock market booms, and low unemployment but there are a lot of small towns all over the US that are getting crushed by globalization. Nobody talks about because the problems are local to those towns, but for those that live there, the problems are very real and dire.


The people who lived in towns which thrived long before the economy failed them don't need to justify their existence in economic terms. The question you should be asking is whether or not this economy has any benefit to those people.

What an absolutely inhuman comment this is.


I don't know the original intentions but I didn't read it that way. Seemed more like a question of the premise that a town _needs_ to be a tech hub to survive, which is sort of half implied by the article.


>economy failed them

Its everyone else fault that nobody wanted to buy the crap their local industries made?


You're better off just not posting if the first infantile misfiring of your brain is what you decide is fit to type into the comment box.


Is there some benefit to greater America from their existence?

Are you asking if there's a good reason why these small towns should exist?


Or, maybe, rather, should small towns be additionally supported.

Say, there are benefits for the whole nation (and the whole humankind) from maintaining and supporting national parks and national monuments, even if they don't and can't turn a profit.

Or, there are various considerations leading to support for local farming, even if it would not make business sense without donations.

Are small towns equally important, and require some degree of support, or should they naturally close shop and disappear sometimes, when they stop making sense, the way businesses do?


> rather, should small towns be additionally supported.

This is the key question. No one wants to up and remove those towns. The question is: should we subsidize their existence beyond the infrastructure like road, mail, etc... that we already pay for? And if we want to do that, how do we go about it to get the most bang for our buck?


Maybe rural america (energy, food) do Master Blaster style embargo on big cities.


"Rural Americans" own neither the energy nor the food production located near them.

By and large, rural America is subsidized by the rest of America, be they urbanites or large companies. And to be frank, that's fine; I support generally allowing people to find the best way for them to live, within reason. (Where people like me start getting snippy--and we do, we aren't saints--is when that's not acknowledged. "Real Americans" and the like.)


The Rest of America


You’re assuming rural Americans actually own the food and energy they produce.


That's a good question... I have often wondered if many of our environmental/political problems would be solved if we helped everyone move to major cities.

But the city environment undeniably makes many people less happy. Studies have shown a link between urban living and mental illness.

So it might be nice to maintain options for humans who thrive in a more rural environment.


> the city environment undeniably makes many people less happy. Studies have shown a link between urban living and mental illness.

Do you have a link for these claims? Genuinely curious, I've always wondered about this.


This is from the National Institute of Health.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5374256/

I'm not an expert at knowing what studies are good... so someone will probably comment about why this study is problematic, and that's ok.

"Studies have shown that the risk for serious mental illness is generally higher in cities compared to rural areas. Epidemiological studies have associated growing up and living in cities with a considerably higher risk for schizophrenia. However, correlation is not causation and living in poverty can both contribute to and result from impairments associated with poor mental health. Social isolation and discrimination as well as poverty in the neighborhood contribute to the mental health burden while little is known about specific interactions between such factors and the built environment."


Thank you, that is interesting.


Sure, living in a city drives me crazy.


How would you expect moving everyone to cities to solve our political problems? When you say that, this is what I hear: "People who have different economic interests from me are not worth an ounce of my empathy, and this would finally shut them up." Sorry to be harsh, but it needs to be said -- that is how rural residents hear you.

Our political problems stem from each group having little empathy for other groups. Empathy == deep understanding without judgement. The thing that put an erratic man-child in the Whitehouse is half the population having utter disdain instead of empathy for the other half, resulting in a highly predictable reaction.


There is a difference between wondering is something would have an effect, and avocation for that idea. In my second paragraph I talked about a valid reason we should go out of our way to preserve small towns. I'm sorry if my comment gave the impression that I am some type of Nazi who wants to eliminate everyone living in a small town.

I have deep empathy for people living in areas where there economic futures and opportunities are consistently getting worse.

We can either find a way a fix that, so that it is possible to continue to live in rural areas AND have employment opportunities.... OR everyone will end up living in cities regardless.

Much of our political differences come from one group being on an upward financial trajectory and the other group being on a downward trajectory. If our outlooks for the future were aligned of course we would have less differences in regards to political policies on taxation, immigration, the environment or issues like government spending on scientific research.


I can't read the article - did it mention globalization? I don't know why you'd want to hire someone remotely in small country town USA when you could get 10 people for the same price in other countries.

Now there are pretty resort towns where skilled people want to live, that is different. But old Mid-Western agricultural towns don't have that draw.


Here's two reasons to hire small town USA:

1. Culture fit. (This is a huge reason for customer service centers onshoring.)

2. Same/similar working hours.


Whenever people question the concentration of tech jobs in cities like SF it always makes me think: 1) Why do most jobs related to show business(movies) are concentrated in LA? 2) Why are most jobs in banking concentrated in NYC?


Face to face, non audit-able interactions are important in finance. Maybe the same for show business, plus LA has really nice weather and scenery.


Because LA is where all the movie stars are and New York is where all the bankers are!


I think the only realistic solution here is to offer relocation assistance to folks to migrate to urban areas.

America's backyard is enormous. Attempts to make it more prosperous are basically urban development. There's just too much of it to make any kind of dent in with any kind of money. We can't make cities everywhere like China and wait for people to move in, we just don't have that kind of population.

We need to move the people to the cities. That's the only real solution.


I feel a sense of inevitability with rural America fading in importance and massive hubs being the dominant players. The only solution I can think of is pushing for more remote labor in these rural areas as an acceptable lifestyle choice. Maybe restructuring the towns with more of an appeal for 30-45 year old software engineers to work out of. The biggest problem I see though is top tier education systems in these places being the biggest deterrent.


I think some small towns become retirement targets because outside of California the spots that fit multiple dimensions of quality like (1) good schools, (2) good incomes, (3) good weather, (4) affordable living, (5) decent commercial activity, etc., you end up with a narrowing space of options.

Some of those towns grow enough to attract a tech company, and will continue to attract growth because it's just harder and harder to get the nice balance of factors.


I work in information systems in a manufacturing company in a small town. The power of agglomeration is quite apparent in its absence.

Most everyone in this company has only ever worked there and accepts the status quo of how things are done. Typically, “the worst way that works.”

It would be nice to be in an area where we could have some turnover and occasionally get people from more mature/professional companies.


In the mix with this are the tax incentives that are being offered up for tech companies to move into rural areas. While there has been a lot of attention on HN focused recently on Amazon's and Apple's move, the really interesting one to me is Foxconn.

Foxconn really seems to have suckered a small Wisconsin community (and the state) into giving them an incredibly lopsided tax incentive deal - as detailed in this amazing episode of ReplyAll [1]

I think a far smarter idea is to pay tech workers an incentive to relocate to the state, as Vermont is doing [2]. The payback is quicker and the results far easier to scale.

1 - https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/132-negative-mount-ple...

2 - https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/01/us/vermont-moving-money.h...


The only solution that will save small towns is dismantling some of the industrialisation that freed people up to work in the factory or mill that no longer exists. It's a trivial example, but ban preservatives in bread and now they need a bakery that can deliver bread everyday. Bread that lasts two weeks on a shelf is an optimisation for communities that support advanced professions. Heavy industrialisation is a model that no longer fits these communities and while some might be able to attract select tech workers--in effect patchwork, others should realise that they're optimised for a workforce that no longer exists.

All of that may not even be possible. First try and sell your community their way of life is unsustainable, then try and shake the Walmart, McDonalds dependency.


There is a bit of this idea emergent in some small towns. I know a chef in Vermont who focuses on foraged ingredients, smaller farm-sourced produce and getting everything fresh and local. Which is also much a fad in places like SF! It is one area where small towns can actually show uniqueness via their geographic differences. And if it continues to develop naturally as a choice (rather than a ban on preservatives...) it could contribute to giving small towns a reason to persist.


If a small town in the US could become a tech hub, then every capital in the world would already be one. Significant amounts of money are spent around the globe, yet it seems tech hubs are the one thing you cannot disrupt. :)


I think there is a reckoning coming in terms of what "educated worker" means, as increasingly, it does not mean "competent."

Competence and specialization is what drives rural economies. Machine repair, fabrication, feed mills, legal services, construction, teaching, child care, animal and livestock services, all require physical competence. These are considered blue collar jobs, because they require someone to actually do something to create value.

I would argue that the soft skills that corporate environments require do not create value, they at best manage capital, and usually deal in the factors and derivatives of negotiating wealth transfers and businesses that reduce to forms of amusement, posterity, and entertainment.

The urban/rural resentment has a lot to do with the relative dependency of each on the other. Cities need food, and farms need capital. Globalization means cities can get food for less from around the world, and the margins on farming are so thin that capital is mostly only accessible at the conglomerate scale.

Competence can be bought from a global supply chain, so rural economies are collapsing precisely because of globalization (e.g. international trade liberalization), and because of distorted fiscal policies that destroy local wealth in favour of centralizing it from global sources. The results have been, and remain predictable.

What is very likely is that city housing prices will become so high that companies will have to use remote workers to produce goods while paying the cost of living, and this will drive broadband investment.

However the real crisis is that the traditional urban/rural dependency and cultural divide is polarizing in favour of the urban side, who can be defined as the sort of people who use phrases like, "left behind," and who lack an apprehension of what follows ecological imbalance at this scale.

Adding educated workers to small towns will not revitalize them, and nor will building public works with public administrative jobs. Until there is a way to generate productive and competitive capital and build real wealth in them, without suffering predation by both their respective governments and globalized markets, they will continue to disappear.


I tend to agree with an idea that's mentioned in the article. Perhaps much of the land in certain flyover states should just return to the bison? While it means most of the towns would disappear, some would greatly succeed. I'd be FAR more likely to regularly visit Podunk-Nowheresville if I could witness the annual migration of 10 million bison. After having traveled to the other side of the planet and seen such a migration, developing an American safari industry seems like an outcome worth pursuing.


It's all mainly farmland.


But if left to it's own devices (or with a little assistance from the bison), may return to prairie very quickly. I suspect it wouldn't take long for native grasses to outcompete any residual farmable crops.


We need this farmland, right?



A bit off-topic, but I love the "Population density by county" graph. Is there any way to plot the whole world that way, and then make an animation of how it changes over time?


Reminds me of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Is_Beautiful

> Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered is a collection of essays by German born British economist E. F. Schumacher.


I grew up in a town of 2,000 in rural Illinois. My parents ran a business, until it shut down of course. A lot of people have this idyllic vision of small town life. Everybody knows everybody, you can let your kids walk home from school, happy cows chewing cud in verdant fields.

I will add a caveat to this: I lived in a small town during the decline. The place my parents grew up in was a much more lively, happy place. There were jobs and prosperity, it made sense for them to not leave. My town no longer has a grocery store, has a single restaurant, and I am hard pressed to think of a small business doing well. There are other small towns in the US that I am sure are lovely. I'm just speaking from my own experience.

Unstructured list of thoughts about small town life:

- People are poorly educated and constantly make bad decisions about everything.

  - Years of poor decisions and management have buried my town in bad expensive infrastructure.
  
  - Our mayor was an extremely incompetent, unqualified barber.
  
  - The schools are falling apart and the good teachers quickly move on to more lucrative jobs in other areas. The good ones leave. The bad ones stay.
  
  - Picture the Simpsons monorail episode, but replace the ambitious public transit project with a strip mall they can put a buffalo wild wings and a huge parking lot into
  
  - Picture the Simpsons monorail episode, but instead of the town agreeing to build affordable housing, they reject the free government development because, and I was at this meeting, `They don't want the black people from Chicago moving into town.`
  
- The people... kinda suck.

  - Conservatism in small town America exists, it is not some abstract concept. They are racist. They are poorly educated. They think global warming is a hoax.
  
  - There is a special breed of large, swaggering, ignorant, low, angry white men that tend to live in small towns. They exist in cities too, but there are also other people around.
  
  - As the article suggests: The educated leave. The info-wars fans stay.
  
- Poor diversity. Still know 30 year olds who think it is edgy/cool to slur constantly. Experiencing other cultures breeds empathy. Full stop.

- RAMPANT drug abuse. Alcohol. Meth. Opiates. You name it.

- Mind numbing boredom.

  - Just because there is less civilization does not mean it is a beautiful forest. 
  
  - Is often a polluted creek people would be happy to replace with a Walmart, or a corn field that stinks of fertilizer for months on end. ( poop )
  
- There is no culture to interact with.

  - Want an education?
  
    - Good luck finding a decent college nearby.
    
  - Want to see a band? Too bad. You will have to drive 4 hours to see anyone.
  
  - Want to start a band? 
  
    - Good luck finding a community. 
    
    - Good luck finding an audience. 
    
    - Good luck finding a mentor.
    
    - Good luck finding a place to perform.
    
  - Who you surround yourself with matters. 
  
    - Who are you going to hang out with? 
    
    - Who is going to be hanging out and collaborating with your kids? Would you rather it be the smart, cosmopolitan Muhammad, or Cletus the pig-farmer's feral son?
    
- Kind of obvious, but: What are you going to do for a living?

  - There is nobody to network with.
  
  - What are you going to do when you lose your remote gig? 
  
  - Personally I would rather have the opportunity to get a local job if remote work goes out of style.
  
- Small town gossip is a THING.

  - People will see your success, covet it, and hate you for it. They will want to knock you down.
Small towns destroyed themselves by deciding to build giant roads, shopping malls, and walmarts instead of maintaining their main street, building parks, and upgrading their schools. You know, enhancing the life of people living in your city, instead of enhancing the lives of the people who drive through it at 60 miles an hour.

Now the malls are empty ( They were always a bad, dumb experiment ). Now all of their pointless expensive roads are crumbling and eating up a massive amount of tax revenue. Walmart pays the community a pittance and funnels all of their wealth to the CEOs.

It stinks people are suffering and losing a way of life, but I feel that much of this pain is self-inflicted. So to small towns: Bye, Felicia.

Some interesting reading:

- https://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme


We've spent so much time and money gentrifying urban areas, now we're going back to the burbs. This is like going back to the mainframe, or from the cloud back to physical hardware. We toggle between the two extremes.

My only hesitation is that the burbs haven't historically been so diverse and welcoming in the past and likely part of the reason "the kids" flee to the city. Maybe that will change.


Counterpoint: I hear there are some startups thriving on Vancouver island in a few small towns.


That’s not a counterpoint. Of course _a_ (or some) startup can thrive there, or anywhere. That is not what a hub is. We don’t have to change small towns at all if all we want is a diverse assortment of small businesses, some of which may be tech.


> For the last quarter century the story of these places has been one of relentless economic decline. [...] The election of Donald Trump, powered in no small degree by rural voters

Counterpoint: "Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status, Not Economic Anxiety, Study Finds" [0]

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/us/politics/trump-economi...


Halifax anyone?


I would think that having multiple universities within the city disqualifies it from being called a 'small town'.


As someone who has lived in a small town, I'd suggest Government to offer:

1. Cheaper and faster internet in the remote locations. Then people can work remotely, have skype HD chats which don't disconnect in middle. Even free internet with 400gb limit per month per house would be good enough.

2. Faster ecom delivery - If we can order the same machines which city dwellers use, well it would suck less.

Leave the rest on the people.

The people who lived around me in the small town weren't less intelligent, they had to keep up with more issues like flaky internet, not finding the supplies, not getting the work.

Internet/ecom can solve many of those issues.



Cheaper and faster internet in the remote locations.

I think SpaceX Starlink could be a game changer here.

mml 35 days ago [flagged]

Dirt can’t be turned to gold. Film at 11.

Unfortunately, it can still vote for some reason.


Posting like this will get your account banned. If you can't comment civilly, don't.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Too bad we can't eat gold.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: