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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thriving cities and dying countryside



When even Cracked does an article about the dying suburbs, something major is going on.

Cities have some serious advantages over the suburbs and rural areas. Everything is more compact. More people can be reached with less: less water lines, less roads, less power lines, and shorter distances to essential services. Even crime is getting worse outside of cities. Suburbs and rural areas don't have the resources to hire and maintain police departments. In my town we actually hire police from a nearby city because we can't afford our own.

The only thing that made suburbs and rural living possible was the car. True, the early suburbs were serviced by good trolley systems, but soon the car took over. These days Americans are falling out of love with their cars. They are expensive to buy, maintain, and transportation infrastructure is falling apart. Cities might be expensive to live in, but a lot of that expense is offset by not needing a car. Cities usually are both walkable and have decent public transportation. (except for a few, I'm looking at you Houston)

It wasn't all that many years ago there were good jobs outside of the big cities. Growing up I remember armies of men walking to the mill with their lunch boxes in hand. Those jobs are gone -along with half of my hometown's population. Instead of good manufacturing jobs high school graduates have to commute to low wage jobs in big box stores.

That being said, I'm not a fan of big cities. I have a real need for the natural world. Cities have everything but land and space. Cities also have a lot more rules and better systems of control. That's great if you are protecting citizens from outside threats. It's not so great if your government is the threat. In cities, safety costs a certain amount of freedom.

Of course, all that rural land is where people build meth labs, grow weed, and distill white lightning. Call it the downside of light government control.

Political power lives in cities. As times get tougher, the countryside is stripped bare to keep the cities going. That doesn't end well. When the cities finally do collapse, the countryside is so resource poor it can't support many people. Not only that, they can't protect what little they do have as there aren't enough people to provide security. Roving bands raid at will. We've seen it during the collapse of the Roman Empire, but it was like that in recent years when Argentina's currency collapsed.

In spite of the downsides, there are some of us who just don't do well in cities. One solution is to live way out in the country in places not worth robbing. The problem is being able to earn money in the here and now. While it's possible to live off the land, it's really hard to pay the taxes, fees, and expenses while doing so. No wonder the suburbs and rural ares are filling up with the retired, disabled, and those on welfare.

If I had to depend on a city for my livelihood I'd most likely live on a sailboat in a marina. That way it would be possible to reap the benefits of city life, but still have the ability to cast off the lines and disappear over the horizon. Dimitri Orlov who writes extensively about collapse lived on a boat in Boston. Of course, recently he's untied the lines and disappeared over the horizon, so maybe he knows something.

-Sixbears



17 comments:

  1. While I agree with the meaning of the post I am deeply offended at the phrase.Of course, all that rural land is where people build meth labs, grow weed, and distill white lightning. Call it the downside of light government control.
    As a craftsman of corn alcohol I uphold the tradition of rebellion and honor the traditions of our founding father. I also acknowledge most important event in our history were because they were drunk !!!

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    1. You are right. Finely crafted corn alcohol is an upside. One of the most important and tragic events in US history was the Whiskey Rebellion.

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  2. I wouldn't sell the boat just yet.

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  3. I never lived in a city and don't ever want to.

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  4. Dimitri understands and knows the bear. If he is nervous, so we should be.

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  5. Dimitri understands and knows the bear. If he is nervous, so we should be.

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    1. He did get out of town before winter, so there's that.

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  6. I agree with your thoughts. I also agree with Dizzy Dick. I don't want to live in the city or the burbs.

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    1. For me country living is a spiritual need, along with everything else.

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  7. It's not the countryside being stripped to serve the city, in this era of budget cuts, it';s the city refusing to continue to subsidize the country.

    If a thousand people are living scattered over a huge area and 99,000 in a small area, the thousand require far more than 1% of the highway department budget, and the infrastructure of utility poles, water pipes, etc. They sure as hell don't pay more than 1% of the taxes. The amount of linear miles of rail in the NYC subway that serve a few million people couldn't connect a tenth of that number in Nebraska.

    Most government assistance goes to rural states. Look at the states who pay more in taxes than they consume, versus those of receive more than they pay. All the donor states are coastal, northern and generally urbanized, the states that are in the red are, oddly enough, Red. Southern and mostly rural.

    The goods from the countryside aren't from Ma and Pa Kettle's farm anymore. Food, timber, coal, all that is produced by big business, not the simple country folk.

    The city is the mother ship for the country. All but the most dedicated rural person has to go "into town" for goods or to earn a paycheck or find a hospital.

    If we have to cut corners as a society, it makes a lot of sense to spend fewer dollars to provide services for people in a closer area.

    Now, why we have to cut budgets in a age when the wealthy are gaining more and more control of the economy and the government every day is a different argument.

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  8. One clarification:

    I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to live in the country. I just want people to be honest about it. Don't say you do it because it's safer, because it's not. Crime is higher in the country. Don't say it's a healthier lifestyle. Drug addiction is higher, obesity is higher, access to safe water is less of a guarantee, it takes a lot longer for help to get to you if you call 911, and it's a lot further to the hospital after help does get to you, and the hospital probably isn't a good as the big city hospital (I've transported people to community hospitals and Mass General, and let me tell you, when I have my heart attack I'm not stopping while I can see cows.)

    If you say "I live in the country because I want to look out the window and see trees and mountains, not buildings. I want to hear birds, not car horns" more power to you.

    But you pay a price to live where that's the case.

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    1. In normal times cities have all those advantages. However, when the SHTF there's a reason folks head for the hills.

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    2. Depends what you're worried about. Heart attacks and meth lab explosions happen every day.

      Still waiting on the Rapture or the zombie apocalypse or the UN black helicopters.

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    3. How about planes crashing into buildings and all the bridges and tunnels get closed down? Could something like that happen?

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  9. All the bridges and tunnels? I doubt it's very likely.

    Yes, I agree that the people who lived in the sticks outside Pompeii missed out on a bad day.

    But I still say you prepare for the likely threat first.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

    Keeping yourself safe against dirty bombs and crashed airliners at the expense of ready access to healthcare is like selling the seatbelts and airbags in your car to by a scuba tank. There's a less than 0% chance you could drive off a bridge and be happy you had it, but you're betting against the odds.

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