Better Off Dead?
By Amy Willis
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, famous for its leather mills, which has been in precipitous economic decline for many years. So it was with some nostalgia that I read this recent piece in the National Review. Kevin Williamson declares that indeed some towns (like his own ancestral home) are “better off dead.” He’s largely responding to Paul Theroux’s anti-globalization screed focusing on the decline of small towns in the American South.
While this piece made me pine for the halcyon days of my own hometown (I’m with Williamson, by the way), it also reminded me of Russ’ interview with Paul Romer on Economic Growth from earlier this year. While they were discussing the Millennium Villages Project, Russ said (~46:00), ” I’ll say it again–I raised the possibility that maybe the best solution for the lives of those people is luggage. Get them to a place where they can flourish.”
But how does the “luggage solution” compare at the national and international levels? For whom is it more realistic to “get the hell out of Dodge- a subsistence farmer in sub-Saharan Africa or a displaced manufacturing worker in rural America? How are the constraints on exit different for each, and for whom is the “solution” in closer reach? As Williamson says, Change will always inconvenience someone…”