We live in John Day, Or (pop 1700)(County pop 7200, area: about 2x Delaware), which we chose partially because of it's supermarket. The next closest supermarket is 90min away. (Walmart: 2h). Not having to commute hours for groceries is a big deal, as is being able to get vegetables of season - and in the rural west these things not a given.
When looking to relocate from Seattle to rural town in the west with hospital (wife's a doc) and broadband (for me), it soon became obvious that the quality of the food available was going to be the next most important thing on the list (and much harder than broadband). Too many places we looked had long commutes to groceries - or stores with almost no fresh food‡. Most places have no farmers markets or farm stands outside of summer, and early fall. And for us at least - living off of canned and frozen food just isn't fun (at least if we've not canned/frozen it.)
This really restricts immigration which is critical economically when your town's youth mainly move to the city as is really common. These small towns are dying a death of a thousand cuts, but loosing your grocery store is a pretty big cut.
‡ My favorite story here is once when living in a small town with 2! stores for a short while, we decided to have a dish that called for cooking some spinach. Neither had fresh spinach, nor any substitute - kale say. Neither had any frozen spinach, the second store did have canned "creamed spinach" - and an ingredients list that included both condensed milk and corn syrup. We made something else.
What you are describing is a de facto food desert: https://www.cdc.gov/features/FoodDeserts/index.html
There might be an easy (albeit costly) way to fix this. Just today I learned about a govt agency called the Essential Air Service:
> The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) subsidizes airlines to serve communities across the country that otherwise would not receive scheduled air service.
Because seats are paid for in advance, airlines don't have to worry about route popularity, and that allows them to financially justify serving towns that otherwise would never be considered by any airline.
I wonder if taking the same model and applying it to food a la the Essential Food Service might make sense. If federal or state governments subsidized every grocery store purchase so the owners can afford to keep the lights on, we can stop or even reverse the grocery store death toll and enable shorter commutes for rural residents.
We already massively subsidize rural living costs, stop that and the free market would raise wages to compensate without the need for government intervention.
Subsidized, farms, roads, healthcare, telecoms, deliveries, airports, etc etc it’s just wasteful.
The truth is that the free market optimises for maximised ROI to the exclusion of all else.
There used to be a lot of smaller retailers serving communities - smaller markets, corner stores, delis, etc.
Large retailers came in and set up super stores which offered comparable goods at lower prices (due to the larger purchasing power and ability to take a local loss subsidised by other areas).
Once the local retailers were run out of business - the business eventually looked at what stores wern't turning enough profit and shut them down. After all, there's no local competition - customers will be required to go further.
This lead to lots of local unemployment and communities in which it's impossible to get food and other necessities locally.
In a free market, wages only rise where the business doesn't have control over the market. Once they do (through consolidation and driving out competitors) - wages drop, positions disappear, and conditions degrade.
If you want root causes, I would propose it’s a combination of subsidies on other foods combined with the reduced taste of modern fruits and vegetables.
You are the recipient of govt subsidies. We are a society and as such, some things are more valuable than people are willing to pay for them, but yet still essential to keeping society functioning.
Why do these have to be a one or the other?
It's like the argument of "Why are we doing stuff in space while we still have poor people".
As a society we're capable of solving multiple problems simultaneously.
Many farmers are going out of business because of major corporations driving out independent farmers.
There's huge numbers of farmers that are being required to undertake terrible short-sighted practices because that's what they're contractually required to do for $BrandName to buy their product.
As for 'not exactly poor' - no, they're the modern working class, for the most part. They're asset rich, but free cashflow low, and operate in conditions that are highly unpredictable, and much of their ability to turn a profit is based entirely on things out of their control. They depend on huge amounts of credit to buy the machinery and resources they need to operate.
Subsidies rarely help people in the long term because the markets adapt. Increase corn production and prices drop to match, but now you need to dump all that food on the market. Worse this is directly resulting in increased obesity and related health issues.
There is plenty of food and money to go around, but the complexities of getting it there, navigating the politics, culture and myriad of other issues are the real barriers.
Which is why it is so short sighted to think we should only spend money on the most pressing issue first, until it is solved.
Costs should be as transparent as possible. If there is low supply and high demand, you can increase supply by moving the prices up.
Alternatively, people in rural areas have to charge far more money for what they sell.
The truth about subsidies is simple: they're too fucking complicated to make meaningful generalizations. Each case really is unique enough it needs its own context, analysis, and decision for what's best.
I agree with your sentiment, but I encourage you to really dive into the details of any economic subsidy and realize how many confounding factors there are. There's the old economics joke "it works in practice, but not in theory" for a reason.
I agree with the spirit of the post - subsidies should be implemented for non-economic reasons and are therefore justified with arguments that say there are other good reasons to pay the price.
But this specific example isn't the best example because the stock market is a competitive human-driven environment where if a signal is predictive people will make money off it until it stops being predictive.
That is quite different from real-world processes where the laws of physics tend to remain in effect no matter how many what people figure out. Eg, resource depletion behaves differently to the loss of signal in a stock market.
> “Per passenger EAS subsidy in the 48 contiguous states plus Puerto Rico ranged from $10 to more than $977 per passenger in 2014.”
> “EAS subsidies have increased by more than 500% since 1997, not accounting for inflation”
> “According to a 2006 New York Times article on the program, the subsidy per passenger, averaged across the entire program excluding Alaska, is approximately $74, and much higher on some particularly poorly patronized flights where subsidies are as high as $801 per passenger.”
> “Patronage on many flights is very low. The majority of EAS airplanes have fewer than 20 seats, and flights typically are less than half full. However, the program is politically popular in the cities receiving the subsidized flights, many of which use an airport with scheduled service as a selling point to attract industry to their regions. Several subsidized airports are within an hour's drive from an unsubsidized airport.”
This sounds like a profoundly terrible service for everyone except ~10 people per flight getting $100 - $800 subsidies (sometimes even when commercial airports are an hour away).
But they continuously fight against programs that help other people.
Actually, have the truck start in the city, get the grocery lists or pick-up orders via e-mail, get the groceries, drive to the small town, off load everything, and return empty.
For the off-load, maybe the small town has an old building with some refrigeration that can store fresh/frozen foods for, say, 24 hours.
For the truck, maybe just find someone in the town just to DO this service -- they rent a truck for, say, six hours, pickup the groceries, drive the two hours, and then return.
If once a week has the trucking cost be too high compared with the grocery costs, then make the deal each two weeks: Most fresh foods will keep a week, maybe two. Frozen foods can keep months.
Good way for everyone in the town to meet!
1) Doctors tend to make more money in rural areas. Hospitals/practices tend to offer higher salaries/bonuses/etc in order to draw talent. My wife makes roughly 50% more in an area of 30,000 people (mind you, we're talking a pretty large geographic area) than she would in Miami.
2) Money goes further. My 4500sq ft home on 1.2 acres of land is worth considerably less than my previous 1700sq ft townhome on .1 acre of land back in northern Virginia near DC.
3) Some of us just don't want to live in a city. A weekend trip to a city a couple of times a year is enough for me.
I wouldn't mind at all to live in the remotest of nature, as long as there is internet. My SO would probably be bored shitless.
I'd add that my wife really loves the scope of practice - she does literally everything from delivering babies (w/an occasional C-section) to gerontology, from addiction medicine to ER. This just doesn't happen elsewhere.
And we like the space. The road we live on ends in a wilderness area, the hiking and X-C skiing and so on is amazing. And both us and our 6 year old love having sheep and alpacas and a dozen chickens and a greenhouse. Hobby farming like this just doesn't work in Seattle.
We miss live shows and restaurants and all the city stuff, but for now at least we like this more.
And by working remotely and exploiting the situation it never occurs to them to open up their own business/ grocery store.
I’m sure other people that live in those areas would love to have a well stocked grocery store as well.
Rural America as it is, is already heavily subsidized by urban America, but it's common for people to say that we're leaving them behind, when even as it is they're being carried along. Collectively speaking, rural Americans are extremely dependent people.
Of course this is probably result of US Senate and house giving a bit more power to states with more rural citizens in federal elections
The sad part is that they think urban areas are the dependent ones. They want to think of themselves as ruggedly independent compared to city slickers, so the willful ignorance runs deep.
Everything worked out but that made them think that living out in the middle of nowhere was going to have to come to an end soon.
Another example, every once in a while you'll see an article or a politician talking about what a tragedy it is that broadband is more expensive/worse in rural America, and how we need to, say, support some government program to fix that through subsidies. Usually said articles will include some quotes from people who are in relevant areas. I'll see comments on articles -- including places like HN -- talking about how satellite internet operators are "price gouging" people for mediocre speeds.
But I admit that I'm far from an expert on this topic, it would be interesting to read studies or polls on how people in rural areas feel about this.
Fun Fact; post 2008 recession was the first time since the depression that many food banks saw more need in suburban and rural areas than inner city.
Whether that's the kind of "attacked" that sounds like Obama saying they "cling to their guns and their religion" (that is, personal attacks), or the kind of attack where policies are created intentionally to harm them (like subsidizing international shipping and trade, or free trade deals which had the direct consequence of shipping many of their jobs overseas).
Of course, like all topics, the truth is more complicated than the meme, but these are the kinds of feelings you'll hear about if you start listening to Trump voters.
I don't know where this meme came from, but I don't think it was from rural people and to the extent that it's true, I think it's more a response to the contempt ruralites have felt from the urban elite (ranging from the incessant depictions of rural America as backward and racist to the general neglect with respect in response to the most recession to the pro-illegal-immigration stance which entails competition for the rural/poor and cheap labor for the urban/elites).
Another problem with your argument is the attitude of "why do you choose to live there?" implies that people elected to move to rural areas in a time when these globalization issues were reasonably foreseeable, and it implies that it's trivial for everyone (including the rural poor) to uproot their lives and move to a city.
Because for every one or two fantastically wealthy-beyond-all-belief-for-the-area technologist who moves in, five people who don't have a job like that leave the region in search of something that pays an income. A lot of these bucolic rural areas with a few thousand people in a county exist because of an industry that was present decades ago that has now collapsed. So, sure, the property is cheap and the town is relatively uncomplicated...but people who don't make six figures (and, thus, can pretty much choose to live wherever we want) are leaving because the opportunities are gone. One or two tech-paycheck-family households can't sustain a set of businesses that had 7,000 potential customers before.
I've watched this happen with where my parents grew up and in my grandparents' hometowns before them. Everyone I know in Seattle who isn't in tech didn't move to Seattle to get a tech job; they moved from Idaho and Utah and eastern Oregon and eastern Washington to find work because their sub-10,000-person towns are (in some cases literally) drying up and blowing away yet, even here, they're being pushed out because of salaries. Yes, I'm leading into wealth inequality and it having gotten so bad that people are squeezed on the starting end because the towns where they grew up are collapsing and squeezed on the destination end because trying to live where the jobs are increasingly doesn't result in the level of income required to actually live there.
But those of us in tech can simply decamp to our 5,000sqft houses on three acres of land and pull in Silicon Valley wages in a Montana property market and feel quite clever. I don't blame the individual who makes this decision but it still seems quite perverse.
And I suppose I do feel a bit clever (though in my case it's a ~500 sqft house on a few acres - quirky and cheap) but mostly am just angry that the city decided it was OK to add thousands and thousands and thousands of good jobs and ~0 homes.
The problem is that they try to live as much away from other such people as possible, to keep the low prices and the feeling of living in an extremely uncrowded countryside.
More people joining in would be really nice, actually.
Starlink might really change things for rural internet
No, it's a symptom.
The real problem is "the town should shut down". This is the standard "people are gung-ho about capitalism when things are going up, and angry about it when things are going down."
There is a lower limit past when a town no longer makes sense from a self-sufficiency standpoint.
If people in small town genuinely want to change that calculus, then they need to start talking about Universal Healthcare and Universal Basic Income. Unfortunately, those are the kind of solutions which small town people tend to oppose.
Many of these towns just need to shut down and become ghost towns. Whatever industry that used to sustain them decades ago is gone now, so they have no more reason to exist. This isn't new: the Western US states are full of actual "ghost towns" from the late 1800s and early 1900s, most of which died out because the nearby mine got tapped out and shut down. The towns died, and the people actually (unlike these days) accepted reality, and packed up and moved out. All that's left now is usually building foundations, though some places have some collapsed buildings left.
Conservative small-town people in the US these days are really a strange lot. They whine about "socialism", but then they complain about their little town dying out, but refuse to do anything to improve their situation such as moving to a city for work, and then seem to want a government handout.
I'll also add that universal healthcare isn't going to magically bring hospitals to rural areas. Lots of rural people are so far away from medical facilities that they're basically screwed if they have any problems that require help quickly. Hospitals require a lot of money, and a lot of highly-trained staff; universal healthcare isn't going to make all these people suddenly want to relocate to some small town.
It seems that the big complaint isn’t against socialism but against offshoring and globalization. Money and factories leaving the country for cheap labor abroad. Not sure that socialism has the answer to this any more than capitalism.
Encouraging businesses to open up in these towns could be good policy. Other towns should close, but there would need to be some help buying people out of their homes where most equity resides. There are programs for doing this in some flood-prone areas already, so maybe they can do the same for these rural towns.
How are they not wrong, and not hypocritical? If we leave them to pure capitalism, they would all just die out. So why should they get any help at all, when that's socialism and directly contrary to their stated values?
>Furthermore, moving to a major city is expensive
It's not expensive to live in your car. Countless immigrants come to this country with basically nothing, and manage to grow roots and even start thriving, successful businesses. But you're telling me some small-town American can't do that, because it's "too expensive to move"?
>Having family or a struggling farm or business
If the business is struggling, it's time to sell it and move on. And what does family have to do with anything? As I said above, countless immigrants come here across oceans and manage to thrive, and they don't whine about their extended families they left behind.
>Even immigrants have a support network of other co-immigrants, usually.
Maybe, maybe not. Someone had to be the first.
>Encouraging businesses to open up in these towns could be good policy
Why would they do this? There's no skilled workforce left there, there's not enough of an economic base; it really makes no economic sense. There's a reason people have been building and living in cities for several millennia now. Small towns only make sense when there's some industry there supporting it, usually having to do with resource extraction (e.g. mining) or agriculture. Once those dry up, the town's reason for existence is gone.
>Other towns should close, but there would need to be some help buying people out of their homes where most equity resides.]
Why should these anti-socialist people get a socialist benefit program like this?
Since we subsidize growing vegetables in the desert and abroad, the market for stuff like vegetables, dairy and meats is hyper-consolidates. There are viable farms on the fringes, but they cannot get capital to grow and cannot compete.
I grew up in an area of upstate NY that was a breadbasket at one time, with a rich, diverse agriculture market that is dead. If you're a baseball fan and drive to Cooperstown on US Route 20, you can see the communities that you drive through rot away a little more every year.
In my town, 12 dairy farms operated in the late 90s (down from 30+ in the 60s). One remains today. Across New York, 60-70% of remaining farms will be bankrupt in the next couple of year.
The farm I worked on as a teen was about 750 acres and operated continuously and profitably since an ancestor received a land grant from the Dutch colonial government in the 1600s. Today, they were forced to be hobby farmers -- they board horses and hay to pay the property taxes and work elsewhere. (Due to limited water table, they can't subdivide the property enough to make enough money on the land)
Since the late 1800's, the banks and the governments have pursued a continuous policy of economic centralization and integration, and key to that policy has been the gradual ratchet of making farms unprofitable and uneconomical.
We could have a thriving agricultural economy — just change the policymakers.
1880s or 1980s?
Farms will come back, they will just be run by corporations instead.
I believe that is already the case.
Sounds like they are getting exactly what they wanted?
Reminds me of folks in SF who bemoan the loss of a local butcher store. Sure, they may like buying organic cuts of meat at $15/lb, but it's obviously most people don't, that's why those stores went out of business.
There are lots of things worth talking about here. The way low incomes push people towards unhealthy diets to save money. The tradeoff between lower prices at chains, and more money leaving the community. The loss of indirect social benefits which don't show up on a balance sheet. Even the physical and mental effects of more time spent driving.
But reducing the discussion to "the town needs a grocery store to open" misses all of the most interesting questions.
There's a reason people who live "10 miles from anything" absolutely hate rising gas prices, though. If you commute 20 miles a day for $25k/year, an extra $3/gallon would eat about a week's pay just getting to and from work.
If someone grows up with poor education in an economically stagnant area, their likely minimum-wage severely limits the freedom to choose. Surplus unskilled labor translates to downward pressure on wages which implies the same for goods on the market - it's a nasty feedback loop that undercuts the local economy.
They had every choice to keep spending their dollars at their local grocer. And they decided not to.
Nobody killed the local grocer except for consumers.
Consumers killed the middle class. Sometime, somewhere, someone walked into a store and saw a Philco radio made in Pennsylvania by unionized middle-class manufacturing workers and a cheap Japanese/Tawianese copy of the radio and bought the cheap radio.
Sometime, somewhere, someone saw a mailer from Walmart and saw that they had eggs for 98 cents a dozen instead of the 99 cents a dozen at the local grocer, where the employees were unionized and fairly paid, and they went to Walmart instead.
The same thing happened with air travel. People complain about poor service but the vast majority only ever sort by price and click on the "race to the bottom" fare that shows up first. And then they complain about being nickel-and-dimed.
Now the malls are dying and people are blaming Amazon for physical retail centers turning into ghost towns and eyesores. No shit Sherlock, when you buy everything on Amazon you go to the mall less often and the stores start turning into physical manifestations of the stuff you can get on aliexpress, or they close the doors completely.
If people spent 1% of the time they spend complaining about Walmart into shopping conscientiously, there would be a butcher closer than one hour away from my house and I could support a small local business, paying more in exchange for ensuring a higher quality of life for me and my neighbors.
But I can't because sometime, somewhere, in the past, someone went to Walmart and saw floor-scraping ground beef for 95% the price of the butcher and started getting meat at Walmart, so the butcher locked his doors.
It's also ironic because we blame Walmart for killing the local grocery store (Ingles, PigglyWiggly, Winn Dixie) -- but ignore that they first took down the corner produce store, butcher, etc.
As soon as any portion of the above is invalidated it's time to have a strongly regulated market, rather than just a lightly regulated one (the fair part).
You can't have such a lopsided system and expect it to survive.
If we're talking about food stores and food producers, same thing. The large corporations receive the subsidies from the government to produce the crops, and the large retailers control the market for those crops.
You can cry that Walmart killed the town square, but when pushes comes to shoves consumers value lower prices and greater variety.
Being employed by a small business owner you know face to face probably has some social benefits over being indirectly employed and controlled by some fabulously wealthy out-of-state people you've never met. I'm not sure it's good for the material prosperity of the employees.
I think that stories about "big chain retailers devastating small towns" often confuse weakened community feeling with economic unfairness. Sam the local grocer was not economically great for his employees or customers. He never had the economies of scale to offer high wages or low prices. But Sam was part of the community in a way that the Walmart board and CEO can't be.
A smaller business, as you said, has social advantages, but they're likely to be flakier, limited recourse if there's an HR issue, etc.
Walmart came in and drastically slashed prices on groceries because they had the size, money and infrastructure to cheaply move goods around. This was intentional behavior to kill local grocery stores and it worked, because consumers in these areas tend to be poorer and will shop at places that save them the most money. This is intentional behavior abused by Walmart to intentionally push out competition.
Local grocery stores can't compete because they literally cannot drop prices without going bankrupt. So they end up dying, leaving Walmart as the de-facto local Monopoly.
And then when Walmart decided to pack its bags, the town is devastated because they relied on it for everything . At the very least educate yourself a bit on the way Walmart operates.
This story makes no sense to me, just sounds like a town where people don't want to leave and have no incentive to stay.
The only sane person is the one who started sustenance farming - that's the way to go if you want to live in the middle of nowhere.
These people can't up and leave because their homes are worth very little and they don't have the money or skills to pivot to anything new. So what else is there for them to do but nothing?
That's the reality of many small towns in America.
Going back further in time, agriculture was once tenable, but refrigeration and processed foods largely killed the regional market, and trying to farm rocks in New England is much less efficient than doing so in the Central Valley or the Midwest.
However if you - you personally - have a useful skill that is needed you can get a well paying job in any of those towns and buy a nice house for under $100k - next door to someone who isn't stupid but has no job or opportunity to get a job because he doesn't have the skills needed or the "drive" to get those skills. If they all did some would have to leave town anyway because there are more people than jobs.
There is a lot of money in small towns - thus the 100 gun collection. However it belongs those who earned (or inherited) it long ago. Perhaps they sold the family farm for a few million. Perhaps they sold their small factory to a big company that closed it down. Maybe they still have a small factory and earn a nice income from it while paying 10 employees a nice for the area wage.
They need to stop hurting consumers!!
What next, are you going to defend regional monopolies by ISPs because consumers should just choose a different ISP?
I for one don’t want that.
The proof is in the fact that Walmart has came to many smaller towns and wiped out local competition due to size and economy of scale. The only companies that can compete is ones at similar scale while local businesses go bankrupt and money is drained out of the community.
When did free market economics turn into support for massive monopolies and allowing single corporations to control entire markets?
You seem to have some naive idea image of quaint little small towns in the "old days" where everything was great until big, bad Walmart showed up. It wasn't like that at all. Go read about "company towns" and "company stores", where there was only one store in the town, that was the only place where the local workers could shop because they got paid in "scrip" instead of real money, and where the prices were terribly high, effectively making them all indentured servants.
>You're literally placing the fate of entire towns in the hands of a single company with a de-facto monopoly.
These little towns generally had monopolies anyway. They weren't big enough to support multiple stores of the same type.
The bottom line is that these towns just aren't economically viable any more. They need to just shut down, and the people in them need to be relocated.
Perhaps they still wanted fresh produce too, but because they weren't buying enough, the result was that couldn't buy any.
People are not good at predicting long term effects of their purchasing decisions. This had been a trend for the last 20 years: Walmart comes in, local businesses close down. But no one said the people are happy. The issue is the people need to coordinate their purchases to get what they actually want.
Supposedly, Walmart fresh produce and meat is more locally sourced than the chain grocery stores. Because Walmart focuses on supply chain costs and order in larger quantities, they order more food from the region than anybody else.
Sometimes, what you want in the short-term is not what's good for you in the long-term.
Excluding brief mentions of business consolidation and state tax credits, there's almost no engagement with why the problem got started or what will be different the second time around. If we want to look at why the heroin addict got started, that would probably involve aging rural populations, rural young adults leaving for cities, lower rural labor force participation, and higher marginal costs in remote areas. Community markets don't reverse any of those patterns except maybe young adults moving away, and co-op ownership doesn't escape the fundamental question of whether rural grocery stories can cover costs at competitive prices. Reopening a grocery store is an early step towards renewal, but it's framed like the main challenge.
If there's nothing in an area to give you income besides a single unknowable unexciting corporate employer, people will move away.
Your attitude is just the old paternalistic "You're too stupid to know what's best for you, so I'm going to force you to make the right decision for you."
Thank god we don't live in a country where that's broadly supported.
The point that I am making is that platitudes about 'The people asked for it, now they got it, therefore we have optimized overall good' are poor arguments. Satisfying wants don't always result in locally, or globally optimal outcomes.
Take the Walmart pushing small local grocers out of business as a case study. Suppose there's a valley consisting of about 3 or 4 small towns spread out about 10 miles apart in a big chain. The locals for each town each go to the local grocery store to buy food. When a Walmart opens in town 3 of 4, many locals from towns 1, 2, and 4 also start going to town 3 to shop for groceries because they can buy in bulk. But it's a relatively expensive trip for many people in towns 1 and 2. And the lack of custom from the more wealthy citizens in those towns means the local grocery stores go out of business in all the towns in the valley, and Walmart becomes the only game in the entire valley allowing them to set prices however they choose.
Do you think it's a good idea to make poorer people in towns 1, 2, and 4 drive an additional 10 miles out of their way to buy groceries, when many of them couldn't afford to drive to town 3 regularly in the first place? Isn't that a kind of impingement on their freedom to buy groceries as they choose? What kind of lifestyle changes might that cause if buying groceries becomes more of a hardship than it used to be?
A local butcher shop takes up a tiny amount of area, and therefore a tiny amount of infrastructure. It pays way more in taxes than Wal-Mart, compared to the amount it costs the city to support.
This is a central part of the strong towns message, about why our towns and cities are all going broke: https://youtu.be/K0AZXUWr_Rg?t=3723
Most small towns were built to support surrounding farming and ranching. Once that stopped being labor-intensive, the small towns lost their economic reason for being. Farming today is something like 1.2% of the US workforce. Most of the income in many small towns is now from Social Security, disability, and welfare for the people who didn't leave. In time, they will die off. Their town will then go on this list.
A lot of the small towns are gone. The towns that used to be medium sized are now small and its hard to get services and groceries there.
A lot of these towns would be viable if there was decent internet.
Missouri Start Quilt Co started in a small town and used the available buildings and infrastructure to jump start their business. Would not have been possible without good internet.
The ability to remote work should draw a subset of developers and other workers into the area as long as the corresponding infrastructure has been met. Especially for self contracting / employed software engineers.
Then let entrepreneurs scour town lists for the need that interests them. "I want to paint houses. These two towns in my state need a painter." Or "I moved to this town with my partner; the community is begging for a small garden store - I can do that."
I disagree (kind of). I grew up in the most rural part of Virginia. There was no competition. We had a local grocery store, for sure; but it sucked. No ethnic food, not even soy sauce. No seafood. No link sausage, three kinds of salad dressing. Maybe four or five green vegetables. It was like a grocery store in some third-world countries I have visited. And there was literally no other option for almost an hour in any direction.
There were also no department stores. Nowhere you could buy a paperback, or a toy, or clothing. There was the local supermarket, the dollar store, and the auto goods/ammo store. And that was it.
Then a grocery store chain moved in. Sure enough, the locally owned grocery store went under. But not because of prices; it was because the chain had actual goods the local consumers wanted to buy. Soy sauce and Thai curry and fresh garlic and actual seafood, and a full produce section.
Then Walmart moved in, and suddenly you didn't have to drive an hour to go Christmas shopping or to pick up a pair of sneakers.
To be sure, there is a lot to dislike about Walmart. I am not arguing that they haven't put a lot of mom-and-pop places out of business. But like most things, the whole story is complicated, not least by the fact that many of those mom-and-pop places weren't great places to shop when they were in business.
I'm curious which third world countries? The only one's I've visited have been Melanesian, some with people literally living in shacks about the size of a queen bed, they didn't exactly have the number of products we do in the west but always had a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. I always found it aggravating that I didn't have access to a kitchen when I visited.
I always assumed this was typical but I guess other places don't have the climate for it.
Guys would roll up running on fumes and ask me to put two dollars of gas in it so they could drive one town over and save a few pennies a gallon on gas.
Pretty soon after, the owner of the station stopped selling gas entirely. Yay!
If you weren't a farmer with your own tanks on site, you were pretty much forced to drive 6 miles to go get gas after that.
The reality is that Walmart's Chinese-sourced non-food goods (including clothing, auto parts, and general household supplies) were priced 50+% cheaper than many non-food (and higher profit) items one could get from a grocery store, once you're at Walmart then, well you're at Walmart. This, combined with the insane Dollar General growth mentioned likely is why many of the local stores died. I always kinda felt that this kind of marketing positions sometimes actually harm the market, kinda like how Amazon's $50 android tablets trashed the non-iPad market by taking all wind out of their sails.
Also, for those not familiar, dollar General is not a dollar store as its name implies. They sell cheaper, lower quality items at a markup vs department stores but their secret weapon is incredible organization efficiency with cookie cutter free standing stores that are made simply using cinderblock construction and templated layouts. Their turn around after starting construction to store opening is less than two months at a very low cost in strategically placed places that lack close grocery/department stores. If you made a heat map of all the grocers and department stores in a rural area in the northeast with red for 'near grocery store' and green for 'not near', the dollar general onslaught would almost exactly be an inverse map, identifying low income areas. This is even true in suburban areas where driving is required to get to a grocery store, with dollar general's popping up in the projects.
There is a Dollar General about a half mile from my house. It is literally next door to the local grocery store. They serve similar but different purposes.
Dollar General is where you go to get something that you'd usually get in the city. Obviously, less selection and lower quality, but focused on stuff rather than food.
They carry higher-profit margin goods, which are mostly canned and processed foods, but ditch the lower-margin items like fresh produce. Grocery stores can't compete with them unless they also ditch their healthier foods.
There are entire communities in the U.S. who don't have access to fresh produce but do have access to five dollar stores. There was an interesting planet money podcast on it called "Dollar Stores vs. Lettuce".
Sure you can get cheap stuff there, but not significantly cheaper than the similar products that a grocery store would have.
Their edge is that they are open later and have more of a focus on stuff that you are likely to need last-minute.
For example, when our kids were still wearing diapers, Dollar General was a typical stop as soon as we got to my mom's house for the weekend.
Similarly, if you're out of shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Dollar General is going to have a better selection than the grocery store.
Need a birthday card? Dollar General.
My mom likes to go there for cheap outfits for the grandkids. We don't get clothes there, but they have a decent selection.
In my experience Dollar General is an asset to a small town. It complements the other businesses rather than driving them out. Contrast to Walmart, which will do its best to kill small business.
Open a grocery and try to staff folks and have consistent supply of goods. Deal with shrinkage, spoilage and inefficient supply chains.
Meanwhile Wal-Mart (or other MNC) has a ton of capital, their employees are on social services and the cost of their goods for this town's store is in a negotiation of not one store but thousands.
People spend what they can. The middle class shows us this in their consumption of target over walmart and other such brand divides.
I find this point irrelevant. As other posters have posted, the local store could rarely pay above minimum wage. Walmart not only beats minimum wage, but has a rather extensive benefit plan. (The same can be said for McDonald's, Chipotle, ChickFilA, and Starbucks.)
The communities I'm thinking of here never bought locally produced goods for most things. The communities set up along the railroads in the late 1800s never had enough of their own industry to make most things, and a lot of them in the Great Plains never had a climate fit to grow much beyond wheat and cattle. They owed their entire existence to the railroad, and the relatively lucky ones were able to transition to owing their entire existence to a highway when the rail industry bottomed out.
And the majority of towns that aren't near that one stop would falter even faster.
And if you added one stop per town, your rail isn't high-speed anymore.
If you come along with a plan that is going to shutter one of the three remaining businesses where you can buy actual day to day goods, people aren't going to be too thrilled.
How long has it been since these communities actually did that? Small towns can't really support the diversity of industry it takes to buy more local goods than shipped-in goods in a modern-day lifestyle.
The newspaper was produced for the town. Everything else was either services that can't be mass produced or the town was doing their own mass production for export.
A town in the Great Plains doesn't have a climate fit to make most foods locally, unless you call taking shipped-in ingredients and cooking them "making" food.
No. Not in eastern Montana. There are regions where you can't live off the land year-round like you think.
A surprising amount of stuff in home good stores is US/Canada/Mexico made. The production of many home goods is a natural fit for developed nations (this is way outside the scope of this comment but they're generally highly automated and clean eroding the two primary advantages of offshoring) and then when you tack shipping on top it makes sense. North America makes a heck of a lot of stuff, it just doesn't employ many people to do it.
It'd be interesting to see how much of an effect DG stores in areas with few to no businesses have on mega retailers like Wal-Mart.
My parents are 15 mins. from a Wal-Mart, but 4-5 mins. from a DG that opened two years ago. They've probably reduced their Wal-Mart spend by at least 20% from what it had been for two decades.
Less than 5000 people are supporting the costs of administering an entire county. It should be merged back into Morgan County, which appears to have a stable population at least.
A lot of places in Illinois are heavily burdened by the sheer number of governmental units that they pay taxes to support. Consolidation would dramatically improve the situation and help bring a more vibrant economy that can support things like grocery stores.
After that, our local organic food market which is expanding, having taken over the next door suite's lease. We get whatever staples they carry that were not available at the first two stops (Wild Rivers Market).
Last, we visit a major grocer, such as Safeway or Fred Meyers to get any items not available at the previous 3. Our shopping basket at this stop is progressively getting lighter and lighter as time goes by, thanks to the increased offerings at the first three shopping stops.
Seasonally, we also have two farmer's markets locally, one on Wednesdays and one on Saturdays. We stop at those when they are open, getting locally made goods, crafts, herbs, etc.
We have a local coffee roaster that feeds my caffeine habit, with some custom roasted beans as well as his normal fare... Wild Rivers Coffee - Thanks, Norris!
All in all, we are lucky to be able to stay mostly local.
My motto: Small is beautiful, and Think Locally, Act Locally. Supporting our neighbors keeps our commerce locally centered, sustaining (and growing) the health of our community.
This said, there is a Wal-Mart in town, as well as a Dollar General and DollarTree stores, so for those of my neighbors who prefer their items from these venues (and their lower prices) they can be accommodated.
I have worked very hard to get myself to the point where I have the luxury of choosing to allocate my time and money this way. Definitely not all of my efforts have been successful, but as I continue to apply myself to my perceived values, I find success far more often than failure.
And those successes for my efforts give me great satisfaction.
I frequently find at the base of this the example of the children presented with the "marshmallow" test - The ability to delay gratification.
Or as others have summarized: Work hard, then easy, rather than easy, then hard: By working hard in the beginning, later the work/living is easier. The alternate makes for a dim prospect for my future, so I make my choices appropriately.
The interesting part is that the old truth seems to still work, if you have a good butcher, you can survive fairly well.
There will be few decent jobs that are walkable, limited medical care, etc, in a town of 1,500, it is just the way it is.
Which isn't to say that these folks can't lament reduced access to food, but the literal availability of food is low there only if you ignore that other circumstances already pretty much force owning a vehicle to live there.
Living in a tiny, remote, rural town presents one with a ton of low level, low overhead, low skill, and valuable entrepreneurial opportunities. Property and office space are cheap. Housing, which would go for well into the $300k range in cities within commuting distance of an hour or less, costs between $50,000 and $200,000 (for a pretty luxurious place). Agriculture, inevitably the bedrock of most rural communities, provides needs for mechanics, scrap management, custom application, fuel, carpentry, veterinary medicine, real estate, law, education, commodities trading, banking, environmental protection, equipment dealerships, various parts suppliers, hairdressers, food and entertainment, communications, rental property management, accounting, coaching, and pretty much every other economical human endeavor. The opportunity is that most of these needs are met by people in the community - people who you know well and trust - and are insulated from competition by distance and the small market size. Many people were self-employed; as doctors, vets, concrete masons, farmers, restaurateurs, gas station franchise owners, specialty parts wholesalers, junkyard operators, etc. Sure, there was only one store where you could get plumbing supplies, but that family lived very comfortably in that niche, and had for two generations. You either chose to stay and start your own business that could meet a need in the local community, usually some specialized unskilled construction or mechanical labor, or got a degree and commuted to the nearby cities. Food was procured once a week from the far away grocery stores; but other than commuters and the weekly grocery errand, you often didn't need to leave the vicinity of the town for weeks or even months at a time.
In cities, even with suburban life, not needing to leave your community for extended days at a time is exceedingly rare, even for suburbs with approximately the same population as my old small town. I drive thirty minutes across town to my clients' offices, for example. New Yorkers take the subway across burroughs to get to their jobs.
The authors overstate the problems people in small towns face.
The most telling line in the piece is: "In town after town, people said their greatest challenge was enticing their neighbors away from dollar stores or the Walmart four towns over." Meaning, one, that people are already driving for groceries. And two, that finding out there's a grocery store in down didn't persuade them to switch. I looked up Mountanair to see where people were shopping, since 45 miles to a grocer is unusually long. (It's Family Dollar or a 45-mile drive to Belen.) In the process, I ran into this review for B Street Market, the new local grocer discussed in the story: "It's the only grocery store in town... Nice people that work there but[...] prices so high that you don't even want to go in there.... It's worth the drive to Belen[...] to go get groceries plus a lot better selection." Ending Mountainair's story with the happy news that it once again has a grocery store was only half the picture.
I think that poor choice of focus causes the story to neglect any truly interesting analysis. The obvious place to start is not "ten miles to a grocery store" but "the last grocery store went out of business", which leads to a larger discussion of rural America's economic prospects, the price disadvantages faced by non-chain businesses, and the vicious cycle of box stores taking money out of communities and so creating more dependence on low prices. Or else keep pursuing the briefly mentioned topic of where people are shopping - there's a fascinating comparison to urban food deserts, which enforce a similar choice between distant grocers and unhealthy processed foods nearby.
Fundamentally, this feels like pretending that one example of a much larger pattern is special, rather than just a human-interest way of approaching the topic.
The same distance in NYC could be well over an hour (Note that I don't live in NYC so I have to guess). Depending of course on where you are going and how you get there, but most traffic is running much slower than rural areas. If you drive there is the time to find a parking spot and get to your destination - time that rural areas with plenty of parking don't bother count. If you take transit there may be a few transfers and the time to wait for your bus/train at each one. In NYC you may think about walking to the grocery store: 10 miles is hours each way.
Car dependency isn't worth discussing because there is no other option. When you are by definition in the middle of nowhere there isn't any other option. Rural areas exist for farms: there is no way to move them in.
Now, the USDA definition sound weirdly broad to me. I apparently grew up in a suburban 'food desert' which encompassed most of the town, including several extremely rich subdivisions. Since it was a suburb with practically no traffic or stoplights, that means "desert" applies to a ~15 minute walk or ~3 minute drive to the store. And in a town with brutal winters and minimal public transit, even the sub-poverty-line families outside that 1 mile radius completely relied on cars. So looking into this has made me more skeptical of "23.5M Americans live in food deserts".
(Ironically, people did what this story promotes: bought short-lifespan foods at the close store, and expensive or bulk goods >10 miles away. The USDA just needed to apply its rural definition to that suburb.)
But the USDA at least has the right idea: access is defined by time and effort, not distance. Time is fairly obvious; walking, public transit, and driving in traffic are all slower. More subtly, my experience living 20+ minutes from groceries in a rural and an urban setting is that it was much more pleasant with a car than on foot. With a car, you can freely get heavy or bulky stuff, stock up for longer, go after dark when you're tired, or shop in summer and winter without spoiled groceries or frostbite.
There's no way to write this story effectively without understanding that 10 miles can be 10 minutes, or that for farms outside these small towns everything is 10+ miles away. Hence the people in New Mexico saying that a grocer right in town is still less good than driving 45 miles to a better store: you're already planning major trips to get goods regardless.
Basically, if you live in a rural area, having to drive places is table stakes: not even worth thinking about. Unless there's a major snowstorm or the roads are covered in ice. Then it becomes a pain in the ass.
Otherwise you're committing to indefinitely subsidizing inefficient living (again, fine if people can and want to bear those costs themselves, but IDK why we'd subsidize it, especially more than we already do)
Of course there are also people in rural areas who really would be better off if they could move in most ways. However one way they would be worse off is the need to find new friends.
Look at China - they literally forcibly relocate people at economic gunpoint(their jobs will be moved and their homes will no longer exist by this date, their choice of what to do) and somethings actual gunpoint.
That comes with a whole slew of societal issues. The elderly simple cannot adjust to different lifestyles, they freak out.
But it doesn't have to be that way. I'm in Munich now, and little Bavarian towns of 10k or less are nearly always much more walkable than US cities 20x their size.
But for day to day errands, you don't need a car, you can get by fine without one. That's the difference. You have a choice, whereas in the states you don't. Small towns in the US are mostly hilariously walking-hostile, and public transportation is effectively non-existent.
I admit, it's a bit amusing to see how often Americans treat this as something that must be either-or. When I talk about German cities being more walkable, or having public transit, so many assume that this means driving is either impossible or impractical, as if it was not feasible to support more than one mode at a time.
Though I suppose I can't really blame them, because that's more or less how things work back in the states: most cities are designed for cars to the near-exclusion of all else. You can walk, but there's nothing in walking distance from the residential areas. You can bike, but it's dangerous and uncomfortable. You can take a bus, if you're okay with tripling how long every errand takes.
A lot of cultures you go up to the grocery store to buy what you need for what you're cooking that day. Not going once a month to fill a truckload of year long supplies.
is that supposed to sound like a lot? It's probably a 12 minute drive. I know people who drive 60 miles to and from work every day in Texas without batting an eye.
It seems unlikely that people who are physically unable to drive would be walking that distance or using electric tricycles. I would think that what is going to be helpful for these people is grocery delivery service.
Also, children are not typically expected to be responsible for grocery shopping.
60 years ago, you wouldn't have been able to get bananas in entire regions (this is easily evidenced by how quickly organic bananas go bad), much less avocados within a 20 minute drive.
Even 30 years ago, the selection of fresh fruits and veggies was much more limited. It's a big reason for juices by concentrate, dried, and canned goods.
There are certainly still local (farmers stands and pick your own (apples, strawberries, tomatoes) in much of the agricultural southeast, and true farmers markets - but would you know about them unless you drive by some country road, or know somebody that runs a farm.
The cause of these food deserts must be addressed, but in the mean time, I think a return to the Victory Garden would be useful (assuming it doesn't work too well and end up tanking agro prices). You just need south or east facing windows, porches or roofs, and you can easily construct (or buy) window boxes and raised beds.
A couple of window boxes will about cover 1/4 of your need for herbs(1). I am not sure how big mom's gardens (plural) were, but I would guess an acre or so all together.
Really, it isn't hard to do the math. There are a zillion books on gardening that address space planning starting from your desired yield estimate. It isn't difficult math -- my mom taught it to a herd of 4-H kids over the years, and as the 4-H garden judge at the county fair expected your notebook to include the computations.
So, I encourage you to grow a Victory Garden. Tell us how that works out for you. I guarantee that at least some of the food that you grow will be astoundingly good. Not everyone finds the process satisfying, though.
The ironic thing is that the farm country we are talking about in this thread is exactly where mom's gardens were, and gardens were common in the day. But not any more -- people would rather work at Walmart, and buy their canned corn there, than grow it and can it themselves. The rural economy has changed -- at least the farm country economy -- because it is rare to be able to make a living full-time farming any more.
(1) Never trust a sentence with the word "just" in it.
It's funny, I built one 12"x48" window box just for herbs and I barely use them! I have oregano, thyme, thai basil, mint, lavender, bee balm, parsely, cilantro, even green onions, and I kind of forget they're there. A shaker of dried herbs provence works for me most of the time.
This is also true in some places like semi-rural parts of Dongguan city, Guangdong province of China.
Did you mean to say rural Japan?
I have family in the country and they accept having to drive to get decent groceries. There are seasonal vegetable and fruit stands but you couldn’t get everything you need. A local ranch sells beef but it would be quite expensive to buy year around unless you want a whole or 1/2 cow.
The county has something like 12,000 residents. It’s about the same population as a 2-3 mile radius is the suburb I live in.
To be honest I don’t feel bad for some of these people in the article. They are opposed to the word co-op.
Edit: Removing the last 2 sentences of the last paragraph as it’s against the guidelines for flamebait topics. Reading between the lines of the original article I can only assume “speak the the language” is referring to politics.
> “It’s ironic because it was farmers who pioneered co-ops. They’re O.K. with ‘community store.’ They’re the same thing, but you’ve got to speak the language.”
If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and edit that out of your posts in the future, we'd be grateful. Your comment was great otherwise.
Generally we try to persuade people before banning them, especially if there's evidence that they're otherwise using HN in good faith.
Speaking of which, why not follow https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html? It's in your interests for at least three reasons. First, those rules are what keep HN interesting and prevent it from burning to a crisp. Scorched earth is no good for anyone. Second, I realize that you have reasons to be angry about things some other commenters say, but if you just blast everybody with a flamethrower, it only discredits your positions. Keeping your cool, staying neutral, and explaining your point of view in a positive way would be more effective and have more dignity. Third, following HN's rules takes discipline and self-control, two classical virtues which we all profit from cultivating.
A 1/2 cow would probably require buying a new freezer, but splitting a 1/2 cow is quite common. (splitting a half gets you a better mix than buying a quarter)
There's a natural incentive for a couple families to band together and buy a whole or half beef.
That reasoning is shallow. They can't opt out of paying the taxes that support those programs; so what sense does it make opting out of the benefits?
I too have observed an apparent abundance of individuals that decry various forms of social support programs only to change their story when it's suddenly a program that more-obviously hands them support. (There is also a strong argument for social support programs as a method of minimizing the loss to society of productive labor as well as prevention for forcing individuals towards lives of crime so they can put food on the table.)
Not exactly insightful.
Go ahead and point out whatever bad policies you think lead to this outcome, and why you think they should be changed. But calling people hypocrites on a tangential topic (social services) doesn't add anything.
And no, I am not a Trump supporter. I didn’t vote for him. I won’t vote for him. But it’s really easy to see how he won.
If you want to be a proponent of dense urban living, that's great. Dense urban living is good. But dense urban living is only feasible because farm country exists.
Roads should be designed to travel between communities, not bypass communities.
I'm an engineer. I live on a small farm. If not for this "car culture" I wouldn't have a job. The closest business to my house is a bar about 3 miles away. The next closest is a gas station 7 miles away. There is no "community:" that's a fiction perpetuated by people who live in cities. Maybe there was 100 years ago, but there sure isn't now.
You can hate on cars all you want, but there's no denying that they opened up people's options. The fact that the small towns are emptying out is pretty much all the proof you need.
Look, engineers can get jobs in the United States without owning a car, too -- but they'd better live in an urban area with public transit, or work remotely (and live in an area where they can still get where they need by transit, bike, or walking). I suppose it's possible that engineers in the French or German equivalents of rural farm country do just peachy where they are, but I'm betting most of them are actually living in and around Paris, Berlin and Munich.
From my house in Indialantic it's not more than a mile to my workplace, to Ace Hardware, to Dollar General, to an organic food store, to a seafood store (raw or cook-to-order), and to the beach. There are closer houses even, often below $400,000 for a 3-bedroom on a quarter acre.
Melbourne and Palm Bay are similar, but cheaper and with many more jobs for engineers.
Not many, because their urban planning is better.
Bottom line, car culture is not some fundamental invariant of reality for getting a job, as the original comment was suggesting.
Citing "they're already doing X" is the best way to refute "things have to be not-X", right?
I wasn't trying to start a national flamewar, and I don't see how what I said was unnecessarily inflammatory. If no one has a better way, I think I was within the guidelines.
In case it matters, I don't live in the place I was saying does things better.
There's another point about how your comment was flamebaity: it steered the thread in a more generic direction. When discussions go from more-specific to more-generic, they typically get more divisive. This is what your comment did. All it said was "their urban planning is better" and "car culture is not some fundamental invariant". Those claims were larger and more generic than where the discussion was just prior to your post. This is basically always a step down in discussion quality, and nearly always makes a thread more divisive.
If you're going to do that, you should include enough specific information to put meat on the bones. Large claims with little information amount to provocation on the internet. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21456176 was a predictable response to the provocation, and you reacted by taking a swipe at the poster ("I'm glad that gave you the opportunity for the zinger"). That's what I mean about taking threads further into flamewar.
This whole dynamic usually starts with the swerve towards more generic discussion. This is a subtle point, but a surprisingly reliable one.
>There are two main ways to do that. The first is to include more information in your comment—in this case you could have spelled out your argument more clearly and relied less on one-liners. The second is to use neutral and factual language. For example, you could have macroexpanded the nearly-informationless "better" into an explanation of just what the relevant difference is.
Sometimes greater detail is warranted, yes, but elaborating that way wouldn't have added relevant or decisive information. "Better" was already implicit from the previous post (enabling residents to get to destinations without a car); and the greater ease of such living in Europe, in more locations, is already undisputed. No one contested that point except to note that there still exist car-necessary rural areas in both places, which is exactly how they would have replied if I had done as you suggested. No loss of conversational efficiency.
>There's another point about how your comment was flamebaity: it steered the thread in a more generic direction.
I could maybe understand that in the absence of my next sentence, which was:
>>Bottom line, car culture is not some fundamental invariant of reality for getting a job, as the original comment was suggesting.
That was specifically aimed at preventing the discussion from broadening to the generalities of "Europe vs the US", by reminding readers of the original issue in dispute (necessity of car culture and accessibility of typical destinations) and asking that any discussion of European planning be mentioned with an eye for whether it speaks to that.
>id=21456176 was a predictable response to the provocation, and you reacted by taking a swipe at the poster ("I'm glad that gave you the opportunity for the zinger").
Only in the sense that you "took a swipe at me" by calling my comments flamebait. The comment you linked was unprovoked and itself flamebait in how it elevated an accident of wording to an opportunity to humorously ridicule someone with a pithy remark (rightly called a zinger). And you don't seem to have a problem with that, or the commenter's refusal to make a good-faith effort to read context.
Just as you felt the need to call out aspects of my comment that hindered quality discussion, I felt a need to call out aspects of that comment that did the same.
I don't disagree, but I think it's easy to overstate how "planned" the differences between the population distribution in Europe and the United States are -- and I honestly think it can be easy for Europeans to underestimate how dramatic the population density difference is. The EU has over 50% more people in under half the square kilometers, giving Europe a density of ~118 people/km^2 and the US a density of 33.6/km^2 -- and there's almost certainly a wider variance in density over here.
Doing the numbers just now, over three-quarters of the US population lives in states that are less dense than Europe, and over a third lives in states half as dense or less. Car culture is not a "fundamental invariant of reality for getting a job," but for a lot of America, not having a car is simply not a realistic option.
In any case, (literal) urban planning is definitely relevant to determining how many places someone can affordably live without owning a car, and lead to less people being in the kind of boxed-in situation where their best option is to live far out and car-dependent while having to drive far for necessities.
It wasn't a "zinger," I just had no idea what you meant.
That said, one important aspect that even US journalists sometimes don't get is that most of the people who live in rural areas are doing it by preference. It's not because of urban sprawl or limited housing options. Most of us just like having lots of space and keeping our neighbors at arms length.
That's why you read the rest of the comment -- for context that can disambiguate it.
>That said, one important aspect that even US journalists sometimes don't get is that most of the people who live in rural areas are doing it by preference. It's not because of urban sprawl or limited housing options. Most of us just like having lots of space and keeping our neighbors at arms length.
Of course, but I doubt it can account for the fully difference. In the later 20th century, there was a vast movement out to the suburbs, and I doubt it was from a spontaneous desire for more space.
It’s not feasible to connect every single small town.
In fairness to individuals, the federal government drove this with subsidizes for highway expansion and making it hard to get loans on denser building types (even something like an apartment over a store was hard to build).
The federal government basically forced this shitty sprawl on all of us and played a major role in destroying small-town America.
Small towns don't have the problems you list: build a massive McMansion on the edge of town you are still walking distance to the other edge of the town. The whole value of your house will be more than a tiny house in San Francisco despite having 10x the floor area and 100x the land.
Hiways have been good for rural areas overall, because the few people who live there can get the things they need quicker. (when the trains existed before they didn't come often enough to be useful). In the suburbs the hiways killed the possibility of useful trains, but in rural areas that possibility didn't exist anyway. (if the hiways were worth the cost is a different question)
Much like people rally against sprawl, but move the burbs for their kids; or rally against global warming, but don't live minimalist lifestyles.
It is reasonable to optimize your life around the world as it is. And if you use the extra resources this world provides to move things in a direction you consider better, then it isn't even necessarily hypocritical.
When you compare the revenue the WalMart (or any big box store) brings in compared to the amount of space it takes up (with a massive parking lot), it's typically WAY less than a small neighborhood grocery store built in the older traditional style. It's only because towns and cities have effectively subsidized these big-box stores that they've taken over. They're really a terrible deal for municipal governments in terms of economic benefits.
In many places (such as Texas), people don't consider space to be valuable because it's so plentiful -- which is true in one sense. But it's not just space we care about, it's infrastructure-supported space. Space that has roads to access it, water pipes, electricity, police and fire services, etc. will ALWAYS be scarce. These resources are expensive, and the more spread-out things are, the more money we're forced to spend on infrastructure.
This is a good way to present the issue to anyone who identifies as a free-market capitalist. Free markets require a level playing field to work properly.
If people were ideologically consistent in their views, yes.
However, look at the reaction here on HN and elsewhere to where AOC opposed such a tax-break for Amazon's NY HQ, and blamed her for Amazon deciding to not build the 2nd HQ there.
If you don't want to be banned on HN, you're welcome to email email@example.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future. Please don't create new accounts to break the site guidelines with, though.
Hypocrisy is pretty universal. Most people vote based on superficial affinity signaling, not any understanding of actual policies or their implications. The present political situation is what you get when people vote based on who they'd like to have a beer with, not whose ideas they support (or even understand).
I didn't vote for Trump and won't, but I totally understand why he won. He won largely by taking traditionally Democratic counties in the Midwest who are fed up with having their jobs sent to totalitarian countries in one-sided trade deals for the benefit of huge corporations. He also won because people look at the coastal "blue" cities and see unaffordable enclaves of the super-rich, not some kind of egalitarian paradise.
They also hear it in the rhetoric. The worst example was Hillary's "deplorables" comment. Yes I know that she meant Nazis, but a ton of people heard "poor and working class." I also must point out that while the Nazi types are noisy there are not really that many of them. Trump could not have won on their support, but he did win with the support of a ton of disenfranchised poor and working class voters.
Note that many of these people hate conventional Republicans as much as they hate Democrats. Trump was viewed as the outsider "fuck you" candidate, basically as a walking Molotov cocktail to toss into DC. "I hope he does as much damage as possible" is one quote I heard from a friend who lives in Ohio. I also read a lot of comments framing the election as Trump vs. Bush/Clinton, seeing Bush and Clinton as interchangeable "establishment" names.
BTW I take whatever opportunity I can to call out NIMBYism. My favorite quip: Texas is more liberal than California because in Texas a poor person can afford a home.
Good! NIMBYism is a scourge on our country.
And if you get sick or injured in Texas, well, I hope you have good health insurance from your job.
Ninja edit since I can't reply: no, they are not even comparable:
Just wow. Try finding that anywhere in SF, LA, OC, or SD. I see a lot of decent homes under $200k. I don't mean trailers.
My point is about optics as much as reality. A lot of people look at San Francisco to see what liberalism is going to do since that city has a reputation (right or wrong) as being a kind of capital city for the Democratic left. When they look they see a city with massive wealth divides where nobody but the rich can afford a reasonable home and there are drug addicts on every street corner. They think "wow, so this is the future that liberalism is going to give us."
I'm not sure this is totally wrong either. I wouldn't want the country run by the head-up-the-arse crowd that runs San Francisco any more than I want it run by the current bunch of clowns occupying the executive branch.
I live in Texas. Dallas and Austin are no different and home prices are already soaring off the backs of tech companies moving down here and the local government being unable to build infrastructure or support a growing population. This has nothing to do with 'liberalism' and everything to do with cities in America built on top of bad city design, terrible infrastructure, gentrification and unsustainable growth.
I think they vote Republican mostly because of social wedge issues (and to a lesser extent, the appeal of tax cuts and associated propaganda).
I come from a farm state. They used to elect a lot of Democrats to federal office, until relatively recently. Remember Tom Daschle? I'm personally convinced that a party that's credibly socially conservative but fiscally liberal would clean up in those states.
A whole lot of Republican politicians since around 2000 (including George W. Bush) have run for and been elected to federal office on an overt platform of dismantling both the revenue and benefit payment sides of Social Security.
Sure, the soundbite has been “saving social security”, but the concrete policy of dismantling that lies behind the soundbite hasn't been secret, it's been explicit and public, widely covered, and defended by candidates on debates, etc. The people voting for them either support it, don't think it's an important issue, or aren't paying any attention. They might be duped on what they'll get out of it, but the substance of the policy hasn't been concealed.
RE: Medicare Part D, that's a pretty controversial topic. In the political air of the time, passing something like that was an absolute necessity. Bush/Republicans got it passed in a way that (a) involved big benefits for big pharma (e.g., no ability of government to negotiate drug prices) and (b) failing to pay for it in budget, thus hugely increasing deficits and national debt.
You're right that they do want to undermine these programs (they certainly talk about it), but they've proven consistently happy to toss aside their beliefs and values to win elections.
Another thing GWB did is proposing partial privatization of Social Security. As linked nearby: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_debate_in_the_...
From a certain PoV, these are not contradictory, because there were profits to be made in both cases.
I did, though there are more.
> I'm still waiting for a name and a winning campaign from this century.
Nice moving goalpost, but George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign (where social security privatization was a central theme) still counts.
Newt Gingrich in 2011: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/21/gingrich-unv... -- replace Social Security with private accounts.
You're arguing in bad faith, and I will not engage any more.
But not for anyone else. See Medicaid, tuition, infrastructure, etc.
You're assuming in a "Red State," all those using social programs are the same ones screaming "Socialism!"
This entire premise is based on your stereotype of one's politics.
Perhaps you need to step back and re-examine your assertion.
> Or based on what the politicians elected by those states say and then vote for. "Vote the most against"...
You're stereotyping entire states and condemning the value of the people therein based on your ghostly spector of a Red State politician.
Yours is a stereotyped, bigoted position.
I'm only stating what I observe in regards to states like Kentucky and Mississippi. The people continue voting in representatives that say one thing, then work on doing the opposite.
They're not "willfully choosing to suffer." They're actually starting co-ops but choosing not to call them by that word. The OP just decided to be needlessly judgemental over that, and lead us down into this stupid, prejudiced subthread.
What are they calling them? I'm curious.
So, you're going to speculatively stereotype an entire group of people and condemn them based on your own hunch as to their politics and station in life.
While you're certainly entitled to an opinion, nothing about your entitlement precludes that opinion being a bigoted one.
What a bigoted existence.
> Yea I am stereotyping people based on my personal experience and what the author echos in the article. I’m in the Deep South and the article spoke about Illinois. Pretty far away but also the same mindsets.
Ah yes, the classically conservative Illinois which shares so much in common with the Deep South.
There’s nothing bigoted about it. Every one has an opinion, call it what you want. I don’t feel superior compared to them.
You might want to talk to some farmers in these small towns, because co-ops aren't what they used to be and farmers often don't have a kind word anymore for the local co-op.
As the food economy consolidates around large producers and the small farms that built the co-ops are going broke, co-ops are complicit in switching their support to the corporate producers and not sticking up for the little guys who built them, sometimes actively kicking them out to make room for larger contracts with the bigger producers.
Historically, co-ops were ran by and populated by workers who were ex-farmers or who had other close ties to farming. Nowadays they're managed by suits, and the workers have no ties to agriculture and could care less about inefficient practices burning through struggling farmers' capital. Ask a farmer who is working 18-hour days and can barely pay his bills how he feels about his local co-op showing up with 3 trucks to spread fertilizer and 2 of the trucks sit with engines idling for hours while the guys inside play slither.io.
Anyway the ignorant sweeping dismissals towards white* rural America I see so often from urban bugmen really disturb me. You think you have your finger on the pulse of "the country" because you have a vacation home there you visit once a year or you have some distant family members that live there (which you apparently secretly disdain?). Your brain is so infected with ideology rooted in urban leisure-time that you project that onto people who don't even have a grocery store and think it's perfectly logical they'd continue driving hours out of the way for supplies rather than patronize something with a "cursed word" in the name. You're living in la-la land if you think the majority of these people have the time to mentally masturbate to politics to your extent, much less burn time and money for some kind of political statement.
* Because you never ever see this kind of callousness directed towards poor minority communities, only whites deserve to suffer.
Counterattack doesn't help, and is not the way to argue against callousness.
You don't feel bad because of their word choice? That reflects poorly on someone, and it's not them.
They're solving their local problems by starting co-ops, who cares if they use your preferred branding for it or not?