The second part of my post. Before, I start, a few points of clarification.
1. In this fictional exercise, Blue and Red each gain the counties they controlled in 2016. Within reason, there is a degree of population redistribution.
2. I intended Red to be a more speculative exercise, but it seems there are actually some lessons we can draw from it.
3. For reasons I will not get into, there is a substantial possibility I will be spending years of my life in Red America. Therefore, even though I am not a part of it, I have an inherent interest in the topic.
Now we begin. For reference, here is our lovely population density map, courtesy of the New York Times.
Same as before, but we’re working with Red this time, and it has a lot going for it. Red has the vast majority of the country’s arable land and natural resources. It controls most of the military. It’s people are a more united bunch than Blue’s “coalition of the fringes,” to use Sailer’s parlance.
There are a few problems, though. In this scenario, Blue took away most of the wealth, and almost all the centers of finance, commerce, research, and technology. Red state economies are primarily built on resource extraction, agriculture, and manufacturing. I don’t mean to take away from the importance of these things. But if Red rests on its laurels, it’s looking at a fate similar to Russia, especially once mass mechanization comes into play.
This is before we get into a litany of of more proximate issues. Two such issues are the dual epidemics of obesity and substance abuse that brutalize Appalachia and the Rust Belt-and the marked paucity of health personnel to address them. A third is the almost post-Soviet population hemorrhage that rural and small town America is experiencing.
Multiple commentators have talked about these problems. Some, like Williamson, say that these communities “deserve to die.” Others talk about mass immigration as a potential solution. Yet others focus on technological solutions. The first two ideas are terrible. The last one is incomplete.
In the rest of the piece, I will address these issues while detailing a plan to Make Red America Great Again.
The first issue we face is building nexuses of knowledge. Whatever else I disagree with in this piece, it gets one thing right.
By contrast, the innovation-driven growth in blue states creates broad positive externalities. People educated in blue states can move to red states; technologies developed in blue states can be emulated in red states. In other words, blue state investments “leak out.” Yet these states are still producing high levels of prosperity.
Unfortunately, Blue gets Austin in this exercise, so we have our work cut out for us. Fortunately, we have a historical precedent to draw on. We aren’t facing quite as dire a situation as Deng Xiaoping did, but we shouldn’t hesitate to ask foreign advisers to help gets us off on the right foot in areas we are lacking. When all is said and done, Red will have a Research Triangle to dwarf the current one.
The next issue is education. I think we can all look at current events and agree that the attempt to bring college to the masses took a wrong turn somewhere.
Fortunately, in this exercise, we have a chance to put things on the right foot. There are a lot of people who aren’t cut out for college, but whose talents could be perfected with some vocational education. There are others who do well in college, and whose talents could be directed somewhere besides grievance studies and leftist agitation. All in all, a much more scientific, technical focus in higher education is what we’re looking for.
The next issue is healthcare. This statement from a South African physician, though it describes sub-Saharan Africa, sums up our predicament as well.
With hindsight, one could argue that the colonizers erred in training doctors instead of following the examples of Russia and China, with their feldschers and ‘barefoot doctors’. Not only would such frontline health workers have been more effective, in the long run, in caring for the health of their mainly rural populations, but their training is not recognized in other countries, ensuring that they remain at home, working in the conditions and with the people, the illnesses and the problems they know best.
Since Red also inherited a large, predominately rural nation, and nowhere near enough doctors to staff it, switching to a more Russia-style healthcare system is our best option. That means building an infrastructure of feldschers (a clinical officer trained to roughly the level of a physician assistant) throughout rural America .
There will still be plenty of physicians, but they will work in more of a scientific and managerial capacity. And that’s the best option: there simply aren’t enough to be on the frontline, nor would it be practical or cost-effective to train that many.
One more benefit (for us) is that a feldscher system is immune to brain drain.
We’ve built a scientific and medical infrastructure, so now it’s time to talk about the people themselves. We should be trying to preserve and save small communities, not encourage them to die. I don’t think the Williamsons of the world will be convinced of this on deontological grounds, so we’ll have to convince them through other means.
Metropolitan life favors a certain type of person-a high IQ Homo economicus (like me, incidentally). But we should recognize that not everyone acts like us, and we should seek to use our human capital as best as we can. Some people will thrive in cities, and some people will flourish when buttressed by local communities. That means building healthy small towns and rural/semi-rural societies throughout Red.
There are also economic and public policy arguments against shoving masses of people into a few large cities, and ignoring large chunks of the country. But they are outside my domain of expertise, and I think the human capital argument is stronger anyways.
We now come to the matter of how to save these communities. There are good ideas…and there are, uh, not so good ones. We’ll start with the latter. One such dubious plan is mass-importing migrants to rural and semi-rural America.
Some of my readership sits on the dissident right, and I don’t need to convince them that this is a bad idea. But let’s convince everyone else.
Read the articles I’ve linked (and similar articles you may find), and notice the kind of immigrants settling in these places. They’re poor, unskilled people moving to small towns for purely economic reasons. Even if assimilating them was possible, by selecting for economic mercenaries and planning to import them in sizable numbers, this system creates structural incentives against assimilation. The end result is that instead of revitalizing the small town, we’ve merely Brazilified the small town.
And what’s going to happen when the work gets automated or offshored? They’ll follow economic incentives right out of town, or out of the country. So at best, mass immigration is a stopgap that will eventually fail. It just kicks the can down the road, instead of addressing the structural problems that plague these communities.
This is before I get into the sheer political unpalatability of a mass immigration project among the Republicans who will be comprising Red. That ensures that a mass immigration project would end badly for everyone involved, including the new arrivals.
The specific immigration policy of Red is not relevant to this post, though I suspect its residents would settle on a quite restrictive one. I only aim to point out that importing hordes of disparate people is not a remotely viable policy.
As pointed out in the Forbes article linked above, what we need to do is make people want to live in the rural areas and small towns of Red. Building electronic infrastructure and incentivizing rural-sourced and freelance work can solve this to a degree. The internet and upcoming delivery drones can bring urban benefits to people around the country. The lesson we’ve learned from 20th century rural America is “don’t keep all your eggs in one basket,” or the factory will close and then the town is fucked. Fortunately, new technologies will help immensely in diversifying local economies and creating stable communities, while mitigating various challenges of small town life.
I think if Red (and America in general) are willing to take steps towards using technology to revitalize small town America, it will create a positive feedback loop in the right direction, and eventually, more people will move and stay there, and more industries will slowly bloom.
In a fictional national split, Blue would inherit an economically successful but politically fraught nation, and Red would inherit an economically struggling but politically stable nation. Therefore, what I’ve proposed for Red are ways to bring its economy into the 21st millennium, while creating better lives for its citizens.
In the last part of this piece, I will talk about lessons we can draw from these exercises for America as a whole.