Geographic Inequality

Steve’s folks called with good news over the weekend. His mom’s brother and wife are going to retire just 20 minutes away from them in North Carolina. Steve’s folks retired to the area from Cleveland about ten years ago, and we’ve always been worried about their distance from extended family. Now, they have people to spend holidays with, when they can’t make the trip up to us.

They sent me a link on Zillow to their new house, so I spent a little time checking out the other homes in the area. Those homes — perfectly nice places with a couple of bathrooms and three bedrooms — are a quarter of the price of homes in my neck of the woods. This is why people are leaving the metropolitan regions, like Chicago and New York.

Not really a big deal, I suppose. If North Carolina can offer people a better quality of life than the older cities, then good for them. Families, like mine, that need alternative schooling options for disabled children and have work tied to the big cities can never go there, but there are many families who are more flexible. So, good for them, right?

However, if some areas of the country are homes of the rich and others are homes of the middle class, working class, and retirees, then it does open up some political problems.

Imagine if the representatives from some states become advocates not for the interests of the particular local industries, ie Iowa farmers, West Virginia coal miners, but for entire economic classes, ie New York Rich People and North Carolina Retirees. Then political debates would be less about opposing commercial interests and directly about class. I suppose it is that way now, but those economic tensions could be more obvious and competitive than they are already.

Any discussion about changing the electoral college or representation in Senate would also become strongly charged with these economic tension.

Sidenote — If we limit the voice of small population states in the electoral college and the Senate, it might make affairs more democratic, but it would also mean a massive disinvestment in the entire center of the country. There would be no federal projects for highway construction in Nebraska, say or farm subsidies in Iowa. There might be really cheap homes out there, but there would be no way to drive to those houses.

The growing affluence of big cities is going to have long term political implications.

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SL 758

Hi, guys. No long post today. I’m working on some paying gigs today. I also need to pop the hood on this blog and take care of some technical issues. But I do have some links to keep you busy.

In the history of this blog, I have probably never linked to a Tom Friedman opinion article. Well, you’re getting one today. In yesterday’s NYT, Friedman worries that the press’s fascination on “the Squad”, the new progressive congresswomen of color, which is being fed by the president, is going to derail efforts by more electable democratic candidates to get Trump out of office. Yeah, me, too.

There are two New Yorker articles that I’m planning on reading this weekend: “Kicked Off the Land” and “The AirBnB Invasion of Barcelona.”

Derek Thompson’s “The Future of the City is Childless” echoes some of the ideas that I wrote about last week about London.

From the archives: Can the computer and tech crowd disrupt higher education?