Those who would alter history would
do well to observe and learn from
those who are actually doing it.
From the Rust Belt to the Asteroid Belt: The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Rust Belt
by Jeff Fullerton
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
An article noting a disturbing trend appeared in Townhall this week. Apparently some red areas on the election maps are turning blue as people attracted by the growth and prosperity are abandoning the blue cities and states and inevitably bringing their blue / leftish values with them to undermine and ruin the quality of life in the red areas. Yet the situation may not be as dire as portrayed.
It’s obvious that the blue state people drive out the red state people and then follow after them as cities grow and then decay from the inside out when the more productive people and businesses abandon ship and move on to greener pastures. Cities and human societies can and often do choke on their own prosperity and turn into hydraulic despotisms and ultimately collapse and die and are abandoned. But you have to ask what happens with the people who remain behind?
With the pages of History and the face of planet Earth littered with the ruins of countless lost cities and ghost towns scattered across the face of planet Earth; it is apparent that nothing lasts forever. In our modern era the idea of allowing a failed city to become a ghost town is unthinkable. Yet it was hallmark of earlier times in American history—especially in the 19th Century—especially in the Southwest when many a boomtown went bust overnight. With welfare states and fiat money it is possible to prop up a failed city with wealth transfers from more prosperous regions—at least as long as the central government is able to extract the revenue or print money. Never the less the quality of life in these badly run cities and states continues to decline and inevitably die.
And are eventually reclaimed after they’ve laid fallow for a while. That would explain on a brighter note; why a former blue state like Pennsylvania can turn red again and even help elect republican candidates like Reagan or Trump. It’s a cycle that’s happened before. Take a look at this election map from 1932! Pennsylvania, believe it or not was a red state during the Roaring 20s. It was among the last of the holdover red states in the Depression Era when Franklin D. Roosevelt was sweeping the nation. A big part of that was it was an industrial state that benefitted heavily from the rapid conversion of the economy to one based on modern infrastructure. Meanwhile it was the agrarian economy that didn’t benefit from that transition —surprisingly many states we think of today as red —like Texas—were blue because in a big way the farmers were hurting and they were historically the foundation of the Democratic Party. Pennsylvania was apparently even then a land of bitter clingers ; clinging until the last in the hope that Herbert Hoover was right about prosperity being just around the corner.
So FDR won the 1932 Election in a landslide and Pennsylvania along with most of the nation went blue for a good while afterward. But history is cyclic. What goes around comes around and nothing lasts forever. The Democrats in cities like Pittsburgh and others throughout the Rust Belt fed off the steel industry and the unions and they grew big and powerful. It was the classic case of the resource curse creating a hydraulic despotism. Like the despotisms of old built around a crucial resource—water for ancient river valley civilizations Like Egypt or Babylon—but nothing lasts forever. The steel industry which was built up to support the rapid industrialization of the early 20th Century and sat idle during the Great Depression—enjoyed a renaissance during World War II and for a time afterward rebuilding the economies of other nations devastated in the war. But nothing lasts forever. Becoming addicted to the government teat—namely the Military Industrial complex—it became obsolescent and began to decline and fall behind the rapidly modernizing economies of Germany and Japan. The Vietnam War offered a brief stay of execution but the collapse was inevitable. It hit full force in the 1970s and by the 80s the region was dying. People were leaving in droves to seek their fortunes elsewhere and ironically Pittsburgh was voted the most livable city in the nation. Probably because the air was getting cleaner and the economy was no longer dominated by a single commodity and it was beginning to diversify. Also aside from the city—much of the region remains rural.
Recovery came in the 1990s. Rural areas benefitted most from the transition to the Information Age—mostly because you can now get all the benefits of living in the city without actually living there—or even commuting as online shopping can bring the goods of the world to your doorstep. Also most of the problems remain in the cities where the old democratic political machines still run things in the red forever in search of ways to expand outward and capture new sources of revenue. But their reach is limited. In many ways life in the Rust Belt is better than the Sunbelt because the so called Blue Wave had already run it’s course and exhausted itself—and the region decades ago and the looters lost their major source from which to steal and therefore power to meddle in other people’s lives. That could be a contributing factor to the region’s livability. It’s why I always have second thoughts when it comes to telling my neighbors they can go to hell and moving to Texas.
The problem with Texas aside from the droughts and the twisters is that it is in the end stage of a boomtown economy where the blue state people are moving in and are beginning to assert their political might. It might be far better to live on a burned over piece land than move back into the path of the fire. Or the locust swarm. I keep thinking more and more of that line about the aliens in Independence Day—the Left are like locusts—they move from place to place using up the resources and driving out the Productive Class and then move on. It is sound reason to consider the likelihood that Texas and other western states may one day go the way of Colorado.
But nothing lasts forever.
You have to consider also California. It may be in the end stage of being looted and burned over which begs the question : could it one day go the way of Pennsylvania—and a few other Rust Belt states—And turn RED?? Don’t laugh. It was a still a Red State in the end stage of prosperity wrought by the tech boom and being taken over by wackos when I was stationed there in the 1980s. Now they are in serious trouble and hemorrhaging population like the Rust Belt in its era of decline. Much to the detriment of freedom and prosperity elsewhere as the locust swarms move on in search of greener pastures but maybe once most of the looters quit California ; the state could recover and go red again. Or become something else. Maybe Libertarian. It had a long history of both productive industry and free spirt so why not?
And then you have to wonder—could there be hope for Stalinist Venezuela? Last year they were clearly going down the crapper with a toilet paper shortage to boot and I predicted they might not last the summer. Well they’re still hanging in there but things are looking grim and nothing lasts forever. Especially where it comes to human tolerance for excesses.
Within 20 years California could be like the 1950s again and Venezuela might be a free market paradise and a major space launch hub like it was in Ben Bova’s "Privateers" novel! Like I said ; nothing lasts forever!
End note: the Rust Belt is on the rise again with a more diverse economy and the shale gas and oil boom that is seeing a demographic shift with more young people remaining or returning to the region and even getting married and starting families. That is a sign of a healthier and more upbeat society and bodes well for the future of the region. However on a darker note there is always the prospect that the politicians will use the wealth from the oil and gas extraction to fuel their own ambitions and schemes as politicians inevitably do with a newfound resource. There is also the possibility that the region may be left high and dry again when the resource is exhausted or alternative energies like solar or fusion power become economical. However since the recovery from the steel industry collapse a more diversified economy has developed that is complimented by the drilling boom but might not necessarily be superseded and overwhelmed by it.
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