Gongol.com Archives: April 2024

Brian Gongol

April 5, 2024

A new book has entered circulation with an aggressive take on an old assumption: That country folk are a grave threat to city folk. Some have already undertaken methodical rebuttals of the details, but the premise itself needs to be challenged. ■ Rural and urban interests have sometimes diverged by a great deal; look no further than the history of the Federal Reserve to see a tangible example still around today. The Secretary of Agriculture was one of three members on the committee who set up the districts, because farmers need access to lots of bank credit. The Secretary of Commerce was not on the committee, and there was no HUD Secretary to enlist. ■ But America's geography is considerably more homogenized, socially and economically, than it was a century ago. Every state and every community comes with its own unique features, but the differences in material experience are pretty flat. 75% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Target store, and 90% are within 10 miles of a Walmart. Amazon packages go everywhere, satellite broadband access penetrates where fiber and cable lines do not, and there is no urban/rural divide in Netflix access. ■ But whereas rural and urban places really aren't as presumptively different as they once were, there is a sharp divide among those parts of America that are ascending, those that are stagnant, and those in decline. In those areas that are stagnant or in decline, the resulting feelings of resentment are a real problem -- whether those places are urban, suburban, exurban, or rural. ■ The symptoms are easy to identify, but the root causes can be excruciating to fix. Are houses in decay because of external circumstances or because of household laziness? Are students performing badly in school because the teachers are subpar or because the students lack motivation? Are Main Street storefronts empty because the shopowners ran into a tough economy or because the owners didn't try to keep up with the times? The uncertainties can make it distinctly hard to find responsive policies. But making prejudicial assumptions doesn't get us any closer.