When EconTalk host Russ Roberts looks at the series of images in Philip Auerswald’s Medium piece on the rise of populism, he sees “a Milky Way of darkness instead of brightness.” Auerswald describes the populist phenomenon as a global trend, not at all unique to the United States, and calls it, only slightly in jest, the “revenge of the country,” or the emerging tension, caused by voting systems, between urban and rural.

This episode takes a deep dive into this phenomenon, which Auerswald argues is explained by three trends worldwide: urbanization, depopulation of rural areas, and advances in digital technology. How will these trends affect politics and the economy, and your life in particular?

1. Auerswald argues that it’s inherently destructive to the community when people move away from small towns and rural areas. Why does he thinks this is the case, and to what extent do you agree?

2. Have you ever lived in a community like the ones (above) Auerswald is referring to? Anyone from Roberts’s dark “Milky Way?” What’s been your experience, and how closely does it match Auerswald’s description?

3. Auerswald says that when countries, like Turkey, become more democratic, they tend to “lose control” of the non-urban parts of the country. He says this is an advance for democracy, but a loss for liberal democracy. What does he mean by this, and how accurate do you find this claim?

4. Auerswald is critical of scholarship on production, suggesting that instead it’s the way that people’s skills interact with each other that really counts. Why isn’t his accounted for in scholarly analysis? This leads host Roberts to ask a related question reflecting his skepticism. Would Apple have become Apple if it were not located in Cupertino? Why does Russ ask this question of Auerswald? How would you answer the question?

5. Roberts and Auerswald agree that using the 1960s as a frame of reference for talking about growth and structure of communities is problematic. Why?