Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rural values

Ezra Klein is in top form in a recent series of posts about urban and rural America. This post on the innovative contributions of cities apparently prompted a rejoinder from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who had this fascinating discussion with Ezra. Vilsack seems to feel that rural America is constantly put down by urbanites, who don't appreciate rural Americans for their work ethic, their decent values, and their contributions to the military. He seems to feel that these values justify subsidies for rural Americans. Ezra later followed up with this excellent post, summing up:
I have no problem paying taxes to expand broadband access from sea to shining sea, but I do have a problem when the rationale for that subsidy shifts from helping people live good and productive lives or viewing broadband as a public good to supporting rural Americans because rural Americans deserve a subsidy by dint of their decency and work ethic. That doesn’t scan as affirmative to rural America to me, though I know Vilsack means it as such. It scans as divisive for those of us who don’t live in rural America.
Readers will hardly be surprised to learn that I've spent very little of my life in rural environments. I make no apologies for that. Indeed, I'm willing to put my neighborhood's values up against those of any rural neighborhood. But that's a silly contest to have, and it's a terrible way to determine where public resources should be spent.

(h/t Hans Noel)

Update: I wonder how much of Vilsack's perspective has to do with the fact that he's a rural Democrat. So when he gets together with other national Democrats, who are predominantly from urban areas, he mostly hears people dissing Republicans in a way that might sound pretty snobbish and anti-rural. Whereas if he frequented Republican conventions, he'd be hearing suburbanites extolling the virtues of farmers while dissing the urban elites.

4 comments:

marc said...

Go Panthers?

Seth said...

Screw the Panthers. Go Lions.

phat said...

RE: Your update. "So when he gets together with other national Democrats, who are predominantly from urban areas, he mostly hears people dissing Republicans in a way that might sound pretty snobbish and anti-rural."

That happens in Lincoln, NE. You don't have to get far from the farm for that stuff to happen. So yeah.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Until Baker v. Carr, rural areas had far more clout at the state and local level than they do now, and it takes time for the inertia from that to fade.

I'd be curious to know how the Democrats became the urban party and the Republicans became the rural one, beause this wasn't always the case.