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Old 8th July 2019, 05:18 AM   #1
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Can/should Rural America be Revitalized?

This seems to be a major point of many defending Republican voters is that they want to bring back their communities in rural america. Yet there seems to be little to no real plans on how to make these communities more economically viable.

What we are seeing is the continuation of centuries of progress of moving away from an agrarian economy where 90% of the population were subsistence farmers to industrial and post industrial economies. So how can we preserve these communities? And should we preserve them or let them die off like so many have in the past when their reason for existence stopped to be relevant.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:23 AM   #2
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If work from home ever becomes more widely adopted, I could see a revitalization of rural locations. Cost of living in these cities is often high. A company that can use telework for a large portion of its employees could really save money not having to pay high wages necessary to attract city workers.

There's really no reason that some computer programmer, for example, needs to live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the world, if all their work involves typing code and sending emails.

Though, high density living has other perks besides a large workforce. People like living in cities because the high density allows for a greater variety of cultural and entertainment venues. I would imagine that even tele-workers would want to be somewhat near a big city, maybe in cheaper suburbs that allow occasional trips to the city. Living out in the middle of nowhere, hours from any major city, will remain undesirable for most.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:29 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by SuburbanTurkey View Post
If work from home ever becomes more widely adopted, I could see a revitalization of rural locations. Cost of living in these cities is often high. A company that can use telework for a large portion of its employees could really save money not having to pay high wages necessary to attract city workers.

There's really no reason that some computer programmer, for example, needs to live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the world, if all their work involves typing code and sending emails.

Though, high density living has other perks besides a large workforce. People like living in cities because the high density allows for a greater variety of cultural and entertainment venues. I would imagine that even tele-workers would want to be somewhat near a big city, maybe in cheaper suburbs that allow occasional trips to the city. Living out in the middle of nowhere, hours from any major city, will remain undesirable for most.
Of course rural america does not have the information infrastructure to attract them you need at least reliable high speed internet. And I think the Exurbs and such are more likely places for such workers. They would have to want to live in rural america and I don't see that being too popular or rural america wanting them that much.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:30 AM   #4
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Well... duh obviously. The only alternative seems to be just accept a massive number of people sitting around with nothing to lose getting more and more bitter and angry and that seems... less than ideal to me.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:34 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by SuburbanTurkey View Post
There's really no reason that some computer programmer, for example, needs to live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the world, if all their work involves typing code and sending emails.
That's true to an extent but it assumes that the individual is happy to work alone and in comparative isolation. I'm one of those people who doesn't miss being in an office but I know that the majority of people appear to like to have a clean separation of work and home life and like the "buzz" of working in an office and the support network that comes from having colleagues immediately available to offer assistance.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:38 AM   #6
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I think the mythology of a bunch of a rural people suddenly taking over the web design and remote help desk jobs is a bit of a pipe dream.

Yeah sure you don't "need" to be in the same building for these kind of jobs, but it's better if all things are equal.

The reasons ITCompanyDotCom in Silicone Valley outsources this kind of thing to India is that they can pay those people pennies on the dollar, enough to offset that.

They can't do the same thing with Muncie, Indiana. Those people would still have the (mostly) same minimum wage, health and safety, and worker rights laws. You'd gain nothing and you lose the ability to have a face to face interaction of necessary.

I agree, getting those jobs to those people would be amazing, but it's not going to happen unless the companies have a reason to.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:39 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Well... duh obviously. The only alternative seems to be just accept a massive number of people sitting around with nothing to lose getting more and more bitter and angry and that seems... less than ideal to me.
We were happy to have that be the case with Flint and Detroit. Why should this be so different? In the 80 Flint had the highest median income in the country after all. Now it rather doesn't.

We let cities die when the economy changes why are rural towns more deserving?
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:43 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
I think the mythology of a bunch of a rural people suddenly taking over the web design and remote help desk jobs is a bit of a pipe dream.

Yeah sure you don't "need" to be in the same building for these kind of jobs, but it's better if all things are equal.

The reasons ITCompanyDotCom in Silicone Valley outsources this kind of thing to India is that they can pay those people pennies on the dollar, enough to offset that.

They can't do the same thing with Muncie, Indiana. Those people would still have the (mostly) same minimum wage, health and safety, and worker rights laws. You'd gain nothing and you lose the ability to have a face to face interaction of necessary.

I agree, getting those jobs to those people would be amazing, but it's not going to happen unless the companies have a reason to.
And even if you did, you would need to add information infrastructure to support them, and either train the populace in the field or move in a new higher paid outside populace into the communities which isn't going to exactly go over well.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:49 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
We let cities die when the economy changes why are rural towns more deserving?
IMO for the same reasons that in the UK, the government bends over backwards to provide a safety net for agriculture post-Brexit, which accounts for 1% or so of GDP but hardly seems to care about the service industry which accounts for 80% of GDP, a combination of:
  • History, in the US farmers built the Midwest, in the UK they saved us from Hitler
  • Public perception that farmers are sons (and daughters) of the earth who deserve a little support
  • They are rural "nice white people" not urban "thugs and criminals"
  • They have pretty good lobbying and PR organisations
  • They are electorally efficient to court
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:50 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
We were happy to have that be the case with Flint and Detroit. Why should this be so different? In the 80 Flint had the highest median income in the country after all. Now it rather doesn't.

We let cities die when the economy changes why are rural towns more deserving?
I don't think Flint or Detroit should have been (or hell even should still be) left to die either.

I just don't think Dishwater Rag, WV needs to die to "get back" at the people who let Flint and Detroit die.

"Well they got to do it so we have to get back at them" is not factored into my philosophy all that much, especially when the chips being played with are people.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:55 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Well... duh obviously. The only alternative seems to be just accept a massive number of people sitting around with nothing to lose getting more and more bitter and angry and that seems... less than ideal to me.
Is it a massive number? The census says 19.3% of the US population is rural. Once we take out people who don't want to or cant work, we get a smaller number.
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Old 8th July 2019, 05:56 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
I don't think Flint or Detroit should have been (or hell even should still be) left to die either.

I just don't think Dishwater Rag, WV needs to die to "get back" at the people who let Flint and Detroit die.

"Well they got to do it so we have to get back at them" is not factored into my philosophy all that much, especially when the chips being played with are people.
But it does show hypocrisy of those who hold up one as a major problem and see the other as just an fact of a changing economy. How to restructure the economy to be more just and fair across the board is a different question of course.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:00 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Well... duh obviously. The only alternative seems to be just accept a massive number of people sitting around with nothing to lose getting more and more bitter and angry and that seems... less than ideal to me.
Isn't the OP the plan that was proposed by the Democrats in 2016 and roundly rejected by rural America ?

Apparently they do not want to be retrained to work in other industries, they want to earn a decent living from doing whatever they are currently doing whether it's farming, mining or making buggy whips.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:01 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
But it does show hypocrisy of those...
And I get that that is just absolutely massively important to a lot of people.

But it doesn't actually solve any problem.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:02 AM   #15
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Also, encouraging rural living worsens environmental impact. Cities are far more efficient when it comes to things like carbon emissions.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:03 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by The Don View Post
Isn't the OP the plan that was proposed by the Democrats in 2016 and roundly rejected by rural America ?
Oh well then I guess they just deserve to die in a "Hunger Games meets the Grapes of Wrath" cosplaying LARP they can't escape from.

Okay people drop the coy act and be honest. Is "Should we save the rural areas or punish them for their stupidity/hubris" the question or isn't it?
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:16 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Oh well then I guess they just deserve to die in a "Hunger Games meets the Grapes of Wrath" cosplaying LARP they can't escape from.

Okay people drop the coy act and be honest. Is "Should we save the rural areas or punish them for their stupidity/hubris" the question or isn't it?
I'm not saying that, but I am pointing out that any such policy will meet considerable resistance locally and that, so far, it's a proven vote-loser.

Even if such a programme is put into place, the skills aren't necessarily transferable from the existing industries to high tech industries. That doesn't necessarily mean that it shouldn't be tried, but expectations should be managed.

Will this be throwing good money after bad ? If the trend is increasing urbanisation, why spend a fortune trying to preserve a way of life which is incompatible with the modern day world ?
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:19 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by The Don View Post
If the trend is increasing urbanisation, why spend a fortune trying to preserve a way of life which is incompatible with the modern day world ?
Well one because I'd rather the rural people not... you know die.

Two, because they rural people are going to do a lot of political and social damage on their out way even if "screw them, let them die" is the space we land on.

You think Trump is the worst thing that could happen?

Again these people have nothing to lose at this point.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:20 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
And I get that that is just absolutely massively important to a lot of people.

But it doesn't actually solve any problem.
Of course not, but I don't think picking economic justice based on region/race is actually much of a solution either.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:21 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by The Don View Post
I'm not saying that, but I am pointing out that any such policy will meet considerable resistance locally and that, so far, it's a proven vote-loser.

Even if such a programme is put into place, the skills aren't necessarily transferable from the existing industries to high tech industries. That doesn't necessarily mean that it shouldn't be tried, but expectations should be managed.

Will this be throwing good money after bad ? If the trend is increasing urbanisation, why spend a fortune trying to preserve a way of life which is incompatible with the modern day world ?
The trend may be towards urbanization, but we shouldn't pretend that's just some independent force of nature. The current landscape is the result of public policy, for good or bad. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss whether public policy should be adjusted or if the trend of decreasing economic viability of large swaths of the country should continue.

Rural vs urban is a bit of a straw man anyway. Large parts of this country are neither, but rather medium density communities that are neither near large cities, nor undeveloped back country.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:22 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Oh well then I guess they just deserve to die in a "Hunger Games meets the Grapes of Wrath" cosplaying LARP they can't escape from.

Okay people drop the coy act and be honest. Is "Should we save the rural areas or punish them for their stupidity/hubris" the question or isn't it?
You can't save someone if the refuse to be saved. They need to buy into some plan to make them viable. I am not sure that business can be encouraged to move there readily enough to do that, and more radical solutions like universal basic income are total non starters in these regions.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:27 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Well one because I'd rather the rural people not... you know die.
They won't completely, just continue to see their communities shrink as the number of people needed to work the jobs that are there decrease. Now subsidizing moving to more economically prosperous regions could be a useful policy for example.

Farming, mining and so on will always have jobs, just fewer of them in many cases. The question is how much should we subsidize a no longer economically viable way of life. The standard we have set in america for this is that we are not willing to do that.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:27 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by SuburbanTurkey View Post
The trend may be towards urbanization, but we shouldn't pretend that's just some independent force of nature. The current landscape is the result of public policy, for good or bad. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss whether public policy should be adjusted or if the trend of decreasing economic viability of large swaths of the country should continue.

Rural vs urban is a bit of a straw man anyway. Large parts of this country are neither, but rather medium density communities that are neither near large cities, nor undeveloped back country.
If one is a believer in the free market, then the market should decide. Any attempt by the government to place a finger on the scales will skew that market - with unintended consequences.

If large swaths of the country are economically non-viable then presumably costs need to drop further and if they are non-viable at any cost, then why should the "efficient" parts of society subsidise others' lifestyle ?

Alternatively you can have a planned economy, but my understanding was that the US was generally against that kind of "socialist" meddling.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:31 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by SuburbanTurkey View Post
The trend may be towards urbanization, but we shouldn't pretend that's just some independent force of nature. The current landscape is the result of public policy, for good or bad. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss whether public policy should be adjusted or if the trend of decreasing economic viability of large swaths of the country should continue.

Rural vs urban is a bit of a straw man anyway. Large parts of this country are neither, but rather medium density communities that are neither near large cities, nor undeveloped back country.
I would say a trend away from rural living instead of toward urban, as there are tons of ways that urban vs mid density living gets supported, such as how we build infrastructure and mass transit vs roads for personal automobiles.

The problem with rural is that by definition they are low population density and as such it is more expensive to build infrastructure needed for the population there. And most modern businesses need good infrastructure to support them.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:31 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Well one because I'd rather the rural people not... you know die.

Two, because they rural people are going to do a lot of political and social damage on their out way even if "screw them, let them die" is the space we land on.
Hyperbole much ?

Will they actually starve or will they, like generations of resourceful Americans before them, relocate and/or innovate ?

Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
You think Trump is the worst thing that could happen?

Again these people have nothing to lose at this point.
...and as a consequence they should be allowed to hold the country to ransom ?
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:33 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by SuburbanTurkey View Post
Rural vs urban is a bit of a straw man anyway. Large parts of this country are neither, but rather medium density communities that are neither near large cities, nor undeveloped back country.
Not really. Those "medium density community" depend on jobs in the cities.

Right now the big options are:
Live in a city, work in a city.
Live in the suburbs, work in a city.
Live too far away from a city to commute and... die.

Again "Sucks to be you, you backwater hick hardy hardy har serves you right" might feel cathartic to some, but that's not a viable solution and we can't do that and then get outraged when they... for instance elect a charismatic shuckster who promises to punish or at least troll the people who did this to as President.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:36 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by The Don View Post
Will they actually starve or will they, like generations of resourceful Americans before them, relocate and/or innovate ?
From David Wong' "How Half of American Lost Its (Censored) Mind"

Quote:
If you don't live in one of these small towns, you can't understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called "Cost of Living." Let's say you're a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walgreen's and aspire to greater things. Fine, get ready to move yourself and your new baby into a 700-square-foot apartment for $1,200 a month, and to then pay double what you're paying now for utilities, groceries, and babysitters.
"Just move out of the rural areas you stupid hicks!" isn't an answer for the same reason "Just move out the ghettos you stupid black people!" isn't an answer.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:43 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
"Just move out of the rural areas you stupid hicks!" isn't an answer for the same reason "Just move out the ghettos you stupid black people!" isn't an answer.
Well that's what the market seems to be saying.

Would the money be better spent providing social housing (to make living where the jobs are less expensive) rather than trying to buck the trend and bring high tech jobs to rural areas ?
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:44 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
"Just move out of the rural areas you stupid hicks!" isn't an answer for the same reason "Just move out the ghettos you stupid black people!" isn't an answer.
What solution do you propose? Would it be acceptable to those affected?
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:46 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Not really. Those "medium density community" depend on jobs in the cities.

Right now the big options are:
Live in a city, work in a city.
Live in the suburbs, work in a city.
Live too far away from a city to commute and... die.

Again "Sucks to be you, you backwater hick hardy hardy har serves you right" might feel cathartic to some, but that's not a viable solution and we can't do that and then get outraged when they... for instance elect a charismatic shuckster who promises to punish or at least troll the people who did this to as President.
And yet there are rural communities doing comparatively well. Of course they aren't relying exclusively on 18th, 19th or 20th century industries and some have better luck than others regarding available natural resources.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:53 AM   #31
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Most all those "industries" we laughingly say "went away" didn't poof off into the nothing.

Coal's dead and it was mercy killed far too late but people still drive cars, build stuff out of steel, and eat food.

When Amazon was deciding where to build it's second headquarters it didn't even consider Detroit or Flint, it was already job market saturated cities. You're worth 900 gazillion dollars Bezos take one for the team.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:57 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
From David Wong' "How Half of American Lost Its (Censored) Mind"



"Just move out of the rural areas you stupid hicks!" isn't an answer for the same reason "Just move out the ghettos you stupid black people!" isn't an answer.
That isn't about rural/urban divide though, that is about wage stagnation and general economic injustice. Those issues apply to anyone from anywhere trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Increasing minimum wage and making housing more affordable are great but they won't bring jobs into rural america, just make it easier to escape.
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Old 8th July 2019, 06:59 AM   #33
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So what's the goal here? A few dozen megacities sprinkled throughout a continent sized national park?
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Old 8th July 2019, 07:02 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Most all those "industries" we laughingly say "went away" didn't poof off into the nothing.

Coal's dead and it was mercy killed far too late but people still drive cars, build stuff out of steel, and eat food.
Not at all, isn't at its height it was 10 years ago but it is still much higher than it was in 1990. The issue with coal is that the productivity of the individual worker increased so much that large mines don't need large work forces.

Of course the real killer of coal is natural gas, but you don't see people trying to fight against that to bring back more coal.
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Old 8th July 2019, 07:02 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Most all those "industries" we laughingly say "went away" didn't poof off into the nothing.

Coal's dead and it was mercy killed far too late but people still drive cars, build stuff out of steel, and eat food.
Car making and steel making aren't really rural industries, growing food is.

All three require far fewer people to do them than they previously did so whilst people still need to eat, 40% of the workforce aren't required to produce the food they need, and as a result it's far more affordable.

Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
When Amazon was deciding where to build it's second headquarters it didn't even consider Detroit or Flint, it was already job market saturated cities. You're worth 900 gazillion dollars Bezos take one for the team.
Like any well run business, Amazon needed a critical mass of employees, which is why businesses tend to be drawn to areas with similar industries. Amazon is required to consider the interests of their shareholders. They have no such responsibility to support any specific part of the US.
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Old 8th July 2019, 07:03 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
So what's the goal here? A few dozen megacities sprinkled throughout a continent sized national park?
Now that is just silly, it would be massive automated farms not national parkland.
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Old 8th July 2019, 07:06 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
The issue with coal is that the productivity of the individual worker increased so much that large mines don't need large work forces.
He example he's using is African Diamond Mines, but in his "Rules for Rulers" History C.G.P Grey lists one of the rules as "Any place where the wealth is dug out of the ground is a horrible place to live for anyone but the rulers, because a diamond mine can be run with dying slaves and still produce great wealth."

And this, I think, brings us to a large part of the divide.

Rural jobs valued hard work. Urban jobs valued high skill. And this was true even after most rural jobs starting requiring a fair degree of skill. Coal miner or farmer does not mean "dumb."

That's not an easy mentality to change.

Again pointing at the poor dumb hicks might feel good, but where does it get us?

And besides "hard work" is not a value we should just throw to the wayside casually.
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Old 8th July 2019, 07:07 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
So what's the goal here? A few dozen megacities sprinkled throughout a continent sized national park?
It doesn't seem to be heading that way, at least in the United States.

There are hundreds, thousands of communities which are doing rather nicely. Some are magacities, others are smaller communities built around a single tourist attraction, agricultural and/or artisanal product, and all sizes in-between.
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Old 8th July 2019, 07:12 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
He example he's using is African Diamond Mines, but in his "Rules for Rulers" History C.G.P Grey lists one of the rules as "Any place where the wealth is dug out of the ground is a horrible place to live for anyone but the rulers, because a diamond mine can be run with dying slaves and still produce great wealth."

And this, I think, brings us to a large part of the divide.

Rural jobs valued hard work. Urban jobs valued high skill. And this was true even after most rural jobs starting requiring a fair degree of skill. Coal miner or farmer does not mean "dumb."

That's not an easy mentality to change.

Again pointing at the poor dumb hicks might feel good, but where does it get us?

And besides "hard work" is not a value we should just throw to the wayside casually.
You seem to be simultaneously mythologizing rural people and castigating those reading this thread for holding a strawman's negative opinions of rural people. Neither approach is helping anybody, and both together will lead to nothing bit an acrimonious thread.
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Old 8th July 2019, 07:15 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
He example he's using is African Diamond Mines, but in his "Rules for Rulers" History C.G.P Grey lists one of the rules as "Any place where the wealth is dug out of the ground is a horrible place to live for anyone but the rulers, because a diamond mine can be run with dying slaves and still produce great wealth."

And this, I think, brings us to a large part of the divide.

Rural jobs valued hard work. Urban jobs valued high skill. And this was true even after most rural jobs starting requiring a fair degree of skill. Coal miner or farmer does not mean "dumb."

That's not an easy mentality to change.

Again pointing at the poor dumb hicks might feel good, but where does it get us?

And besides "hard work" is not a value we should just throw to the wayside casually.
Only you seem to be doing this.

I'm also not sure where you get the idea that urban jobs don't require hard work (unless your definition of hard work is purely physically hard work - in which case I'd argue that most rural jobs these days don't require too much hard work). It seems to play to outdated notions of "worthy" work (farming, heavy industry) and unworthy work (anything office based).
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