Thoughts From a Country Mouse
Published on: September 24, 2010
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  • George Crampe

    Screw the urban centers. They are takers and consumers. The producers are in the burbs. We’re tired of subsidizing the “progressive” fascist takers. Urbanites need to re-distribute their own wealth. Hell, they’d starve in 3 days.

    Actually, not a bad idea. Wall them in and don’t let them out.

  • DirtyJobsGuy

    Ah, but the transit systems were private enterprises in the beginning (albeit with plenty of payoffs to Tammany Hall). The progressives only replaced the Transit Barons with the Transit Union Barons (and in the process robbed state and federal taxpayers in a way that the Transit Barons never could do). I just took a bus from Hartford to NYC to get a Nigerian Visa (a hoot in itself). The bus is faster, more frequent and cheaper than Amtrak (with WiFi to boot) and all in private hands. It is easy to convince oneself that the government monopoly is unavoidable, but I cannot imagine a private subway firm that would have unairconditioned stations today, but the MTA seems to find it a major struggle.

  • Dandapani

    My quote is “only RATS and DemocRATS live in cities.”

  • Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    If I were you, I would migrate a bit further north to New Hampshire. The only reason to live in NY north of the metro area is to have a subsidized farm, work at a subsidized business (such as IBM in East Fishkill or GlobalFoundries), or because you’re a retired state worker whose pension is not income taxed in NYS.

    I actually have a job that can be done anywhere with 9600baud or better, and I’m hoping to get to NH, TX or WA in the next few years..

  • John F.

    I had to re-read the date on this post several times, and even then I read just to make sure this wasn’t a post recounting an article from a mid-1950’s Saturday Evening Post. I would comment that you aren’t retracing the Great Migration to the suburbs, merely stumbling upon the obvious. You are also providing yet another reason why persons in the northeast US have voted for such poor leaders over the years. Forget conscription into the military…maybe a mandatory stint in the Midwest (with NO voting rights!) would be a positive civics lesson.

  • TS Alfabet

    How about a society that is growing ever more, post-Statist?

    The mindset in this article is, itself, revealing. “When I lived in the city I relied on government-subsidized transportation…” That’s the genesis of the problem right there. Government should not be in the *business* of transportation any more than they should for energy, farming or the plethora of other, subsidized sectors of the economy.

    Americans, urban, ex-urban and suburban, are starting to figure out that whatever Government, particularly Federal, puts its hand to is done poorly, at much greater cost, rife with waste and corruption, and often serves only a limited, special-interest group. If a thing *needs* to be done, then you can bet that an entrepreneur will figure out how to do it with skill, at a minimal cost, and tailored to the needs of the consumer. Because if it isn’t done that way, someone else looking to make a buck *will* figure out how to do it better and take that business away.

    But, oh no, in the crony State of today, the Government will step in protect the hapless business (making large campaign contributions) that cannot compete on a level playing field and will subsidize them or protect them with regulations that eliminate competition or grant exclusive rights, etc…

    So the reason people are feeling less dependent on the State is not because of where they live, it is because the State has shown, time and again, that it is the worst at doing just about anything. People are waking up to the fact that they are far better off fashioning their own solutions and keeping Government as far away as possible.

  • Mark

    Perhaps it was your metaphor of the serf confronting a knight, but this reminds me of Victor Davis Hanson’s column earlier this week about the peasant mindset that seems to be gripping some segments of our society. He described it as a mindset under which, rather than supposing that the government should orient itself to creating an environment in which greater affluence and independence is possible, the government’s basic stance should be controlling commerce and conduct to prevent inequality in wealth, even at the cost of reducing society’s affluence and independence. One cannot help but observe, though, that those in government never seem to experience those reductions.

  • Fred Bartlett

    Walter, NYC’s mass transit was originally run for profit by private corporations. There may have been some subsidies or tax breaks during the initial construction, but, iirc, not afterwards.

    Until the evil corporations decided to raise prices. The city decided that that couldn’t be allowed, so froze the fare — and then increased it at a far, far slower rate than the associated costs. This lead to the nadir of mass transit of the 70s and 80s (when I first experienced it).

    It was cheap, though — and still is, compared to the costs (especially labor, which the city and state have allowed to increase beyond all reason, but also compared to necessary capital expenses).

    Anyway, I’m not sure that that’s the best example for your case.

    Actually, I think the Internet is the better analogy — the anonymity of comments online is rather like the anonymity of urban life, and leads to the same lack of civility. (Rather an ironic word, don’t you think? There’s far more civility in a small Southern town than in Manhattan.)

  • Amy

    Some people believe and have evidence that cutting taxes benefits everybody, not just taxpayers. The less money that goes to government agencies, the more money there is to produce actual goods and services

  • venividivici

    The first time I drove across the breadth of the country, I came to a similar conclusion as I saw the landscape change from East Coast urban to the wilds of Wyoming.

    It’s funny how the Left is based on the philosophy of materialism, yet they don’t seem to pay much attention to how geography shapes political ideology. Of course, when you live in a world of half-baked ideas, it’s easy to miss what’s right in front of you, as they consistently do.

  • JohnRDC

    Spot on, Dr.Mead.

    My wife and I moved back to DC after eleven idyllic years spent in rural Virginia (he Northern Neck). The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

    And, given my current medical needs, etc., the city beats the idyll in the country hands down. Medical care (I use Kaiser-Permanente here as opposed to shopping for doctors requiring 100-mile round trips in VA) is excellent, affordable, and very convenient. A 60-cent bus ride gets me to my current primary physician, and a discounted subway ride to Union Station to another K-P facility will get me to everything else I need short of major surgery.

    My wife has become our major car user, mainly to get to her relatives and girly things, all of which are closer than before. Meanwhile, the courtesy and even humor of the DC government employees we’ve come in contact with have been a pleasant surprise. Example: the crossing guard at Reno Rd and Davenport St. one recent morning noted that a female jogger was marking time waiting for a green light even though there was no traffic. The guard said to her:”Don’t wait on account of me. Go ahead.” The lady jogger said “Thank You,” and crossed against the light. The guard said, “Have a good day.” Incredible.

    Yes, I am acutely aware of how vital government is to keeping this city running, including a heavy discount on our property taxes due to age, a huge police presence, etc., but it seems to me that on balance this city life is one to be cherished.

    On the other hand, as the urbanist Joel Kotkin has written, the Obama Administration, populated as it is by liberals, is waging a war against suburbanites,with particular focus on constricting energy supplies and your absolute dependence on autos to force people back into metro areas. (There’s a pickup in your future, no doubt.) I do not favor governmental coercion, but it’s happening, and I have a feeling the liberals are going to win this one in the not-so-long run.

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  • Rancher Jack

    Glad to hear some of America is awakening from the long horror of Industrialization, sprawling filthy cities and the Progressive Reforms politicians conjured to address Upton Sinclair styled degradations of the human spirit that only CITIES + Progressivism can produce.

    Out here – in flyover country – we’re thrilled most of America lives in Cities. Pleased, stay there. And leave the open spaces to those of us who appreciate and can care for wide open spaces AND DON’T NEED OR WANT GOVERNMENT. No one I know is a real estate developer intent upon building cookie cutter trash houses on pristine range land, but by God, there sure a lot of California, Texas, Atlanta and Yankees who, when they see 15,000 acres of mountain surrounded grasslands see just that …. miles and miles of potential development. Or, as my pal 8,000 acres to the east says, “these (blank) want pave over paradise for nothing more than a buck”. He’s the same tough bark cow puncher who says “You and I to be self-governed, not Others-Governed”.

    I grew up thinking all Americans understood that. Good Lord, was I wrong. The vast vast majority of “Americans” have no idea what Freedom is, and are terrified of it when it brushed up against them.

  • setnaffa

    Seoul has a couple of different train companies and as many as 17 different bus companies. Mass transit is cleaner, more reliable, more available, and cheaper than New York, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, or San Francisco…

    Government is not the solution. It’s the problem in this case. We need to unload the crap from our government and make room for individual Americans and American Business to innovate and succeed (or fail) the way the Founders intended…

  • Joe Y

    Dr. M: Your subway ride cost you far more than $90/month. Money is fungible. What about your wonderful NYCity income tax? The higher prices an NY’er has to pay for everything to pay for everyone else in the city’s enormous tax bills? What about the premium real estate costs and shrunken real estate tax base because of rent stabilization and rent control?

    If you really want to know how much you’re paying/saving between residences, you have to come up with a total figure.

    Also, I love NYC! It’s a wonderful place, especially since the Mayor G was elected. IF they could only get rid of the rent regs and control school spending…but I could never live there again, regardless.

  • Mead can write — no doubt about that.

  • Joan H.

    This: Although I travel farther and more freely than I did on my Metrocard, I am spending much more money on transportation than I used to, reveals the fundamental oddity underlying this piece.

    If you are traveling farther, of necessity your costs should increase. It makes zero sense to expect to get more of something while paying less. This entire piece reads with a through-the-looking-glass, hackles-raising tone: Mead resented that others were unwilling to subsidize free WiFi for his commute, or make some other aspect of his city life less expensive? And now that he’s out of the city, he resents having to pay for upkeep on the roads on which he travels so freely & so far?

    I’m not defending outrageous tolls and fees, but without more information, and given Mead’s attitude, I’m more inclined to think that the tolls are actually approaching what the actual costs of using the roads are, since he whines about others not paying for what’s he’s using. Nothing’s free except the air we breathe; someone, somewhere is paying for everything that is produced and consumed.

  • RebeccaH

    Welcome to our world. So you’ve left your nice, taxpayer-subsidized cocoon in the Big City, and discovered what the rest of us knew all along: that gargantuan government benefits a special few, while feeding on the “unimportant” many.

  • Jack D

    Believe it or not, mass transit was once upon a time not a government subsidized function but a profit making business. Of course in time the unions took care of any profit and turned mass transit into a big money loser – compare the salary of a subway booth attendant to that of a bank teller and you’ll understand why.

  • Chester White

    People who live in cities are generally clueless about us guys out here in flyover country.

    Witness Barack Obama.

    The less power city people have, the better.

  • JohnRDC

    Rancher Jack:

    What are you or your offspring going to do when the water runs out? (cf. “Cadillac Desert,” by Marc Reisner)

  • Harry

    Welcome to the neighborhood. You’ll get use to the differences. It’s always fun watching the weekenders try to adjust to live without the government dictating everything. Help comes in the form of neighbor helping neighbor.

  • Rancher Jack

    JohnRDC – (bellowing laughter) – you read Cadillac Desert as if it’s gospel, hoss? You can’t tell when a book is written as a positioning piece to influence culture and legislation? Bless your heart.

    Well, let me say that Out Here, I’m fairly sure our wells will still be flowing when government subsidized, government operated, government delivered and government nozzled water runs dry. Now, assuming you’re just being pesky and not actually meaning me any specific snark, allow me to let you in on a secret how you can assure yourself a steady pure source of water no matter what the government does.

    Solar distillers – The Rainmaker 550 – http://thurly.net/032m – when you’re determined not to be DEPENDENT upon anyone but the Good Lord and your own sense of self-responsibility, this’d be a good way to start. Been getting 1.5 gallons of pure water daily (on average) for a lot of years.

    As to livestock, grasslands, and other water needs, well … let’s just say WATER starts long before the cities do. We’re where water “begins”. Remember that, regardless of words on paper say.

  • Adam Garfinkle

    Ah, the spacial distribution of populations affects social order, attitudes and the politics (state and otherwise) that flow therefrom. This we know, but insist repeatedly on forgetting. What “drives” all this? Technological change as bronco-ridden by the market. We let it all rip in this country, and never look back…..`til it bites us in the ass.

    Now, in the beginning, both the Federal government and the market were small, weak and disjointed. (So were banks.) Then the market grew (so did the banks) and the government belatedly tried to catch up. It did for a time, but it got outrun partly because the market knew how to adapt to technological change much faster and more efficiently than did the government. Now things have moved into a qualitatively new kind of arrangement: in all but name, a large, highly concentrated market (not least the banks) is bidding to essentially own the government. What’s worse, the state owning the means of production or those who control the means of production owning the state?

    So Walter, don’t beat yourself up about taxes and tolls. Those are least of your worries. Be thinking instead about the “taxes” you paid to the company that manufactured your car, those you pay to the oil companies that fill your gas tank, and, not incidentally, to the roadside fast-food “restaurants” that want to put ersatz “food” in our bellies. Even the mice don’t eat that crap. Yes, the politicians up in Albany scurry around in search of scraps, but they are in the end just scraps. The big money is elsewhere.

  • Dalmatian90

    @Garfinkle

    Your post just doesn’t stand up to history.

    There’s a reason that John Hancock’s signature is so prominent on the Declaration of Independence, and that he was also the richest man in the colonies. Or that the Medicis controlled the banks and politics of Florence. Or feudal lords controlled the means of production and were the law.

    Private enterprise trying to control the government is not a modern phenomena of better organization and bigger size. It is a dynamic that has been with us since we transitioned from hunter-gathering bands to settled agricultural tribes.

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