Meanwhile, in Darke County

In October I wrote about what it was like to live in Ohio in the midst of swing state madness, and I made the notation that Darke County, where I live, went 68% for McCain in 2008 and that I would be surprised if Romney did not do at least as well this year. Well, as you can see, Romney won 71.5% of Darke County’s vote. Likewise, Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for Senator, reeled in over 68% of the vote; countywide, Republicans won the majority vote of the county’s voters. Whether this translates to overall success is another question entirely — both Romney and Mandel lost their races statewide — but it gives you an indication of the state of politics in my county. John Boehner, incidentally, won Darke county with over 98% of the vote, but then he didn’t have a Democratic opponent this year.

The mood here is not thrilled for the Obama/Sherrod win on the national ticket, as to be expected, but I don’t see any indication that people are hugely angry or upset; they weren’t either in 2008, either. And no one has come to burn down my house, because, of course, why would they. My neighbors are conservative, not jerks.

228 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in Darke County

  1. Heh, we have the same sort of neighbors. I am the (almost) sole conservative in my little town in So. Cal. While I am disappointed in the election results, My neighbors and I still talk to each other, watch each others kids, etc.

  2. John-

    In the latter books of your “Old Man’s War” story arc, you included some fairly pointed and profound commentary on the respective values and utility of competition vs. cooperation- not so much an absolute qualitative ranking as a functional assessment.

    And of course, the key message is that both are sound human social strategies, from an evolutionary standpoint. Each has its functions and is particularly valuable for those functions. But Americans’ appreciation (understanding?) of this seems to be diminishing at a steady pace. We have so little tolerance for the values of cooperation in the economic and political environments- not too surprising. But it seems to be vanishing from the social environment as well, and that is both saddening and worrisome.

    Thanks for shining the light on this, again.

    I disagree with many people about many things. It makes me feel good to be snarky and dismissive of many of the things I disagree with, but I have to do a better job of remembering not to focus that snark and dismissiveness on the people, rather than the ideas, actions, and beliefs I disagree with.

    I used to live, as you do now, in a very conservative area. My neighbors were kind, caring, friendly people, and when our town was devastated by a hurricane, the local church (a hard-core fundie Christian denomination) had volunteers going door-to-door in our neighborhood, checking up to see if everyone had the necessities, could communicate, needed help, that very afternoon.

    They exasperated the hell out of me when it came to politics, but I would never write them off as evil, valueless human beings.

  3. Good point. “My neighbors are conservatives, not jerks.” I have no problem with real conservatives who aren’t trying to shove their religion or rigid social views down my throat — or worst case scenario, up my vagina. There are many moderate/conservative decent human beings who know that’s wrong, wrong, wrong, even “un-American.” I’m originally from Maine where Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican and very decent human being, couldn’t take it anymore. Apparently the American people couldn’t either. The election results make me happy, reinforce what I’ve believed all along. There are the outrageous TeaParty screamers and many quiet, decent conservatives across this land. Forward, indeed.

  4. Wow, that’s a lot of red in a blue state. Wonder what it would look like if we applied the “make state sizes match their population” map-munging treatment to Ohio counties..

  5. I think most folks believe in others being “conservative/liberal, not jerks”, not that you could tell from Facebook. Thanks for being 1) on the internet and 2) reasonable.

  6. Markjreed:

    As I noted in the earlier piece I linked to, the map of Ohio is somewhat similar to the map of the US: Lots of low-population red space, with occasional dots of high-population blue space.

  7. Why do democrats tend to congregate in city environments (large densely populated areas) and Republicans tend move to to suburbs and rural environments (less densely populated areas)? Social need, economic need, predisposition?

  8. I don’t think Republicans were all that excited about Mitt Romney. The guy really did flip flop on issues and seemed to tell people what they wanted to hear. He also was not all that charismatic. Some people just have a personality that makes people like them. Romney may be like that one on one, but in public he was a JAC (just another candidate).

    Typically what happens is that the party that wins gloats like crazy and announces that the country now backs us 100% and believe they won for all eternity. See ‘demographics have changed, republicans are all racists’. But then again see 2004, with ‘liberals are all socialists and we all now this is a moderate-right wing country’. Obama only won by 2 million votes. He only got 50.8% of the vote. That is down from last time. This is not a Ronald Reagan/Lyndon Johnson type land slide.
    Then a few years later when people get tired of looking at one party on top the swing voters go to the other party. Then that party does the same thing.

    Historically the party that is not in the white house has very large gains in the 6th year of a presidential term (see 2006). 1998 was an exception because the Republicans already had a majority in both houses for a while and the economy was good. 2nd terms are generally pretty rocky. Presidents seem to get more of their work done in the first term, then the 2nd term gets stale.
    If we are still at 6-7% unemployment in 2014 (yes 6% is still historically very high. you can google it), odds are the republicans will control both houses of Congress and will basically be as beligerant as possible. Before Democrats get all upset… Bush presented immigration reform that is comparable to what liberals generally want and he could not get democratic support. This is a democratic issue and they would not support there own issue because they didn’t want Bush to look good.

  9. @Ozzie — there’s a lot of reasons for that. One is self-selection — the conception is that rural America is conservative and urban America is liberal, so conservatives tend to want to move to rural areas and liberals tend to want to move to urban areas. Another reason is that high levels of education tend to track with liberalism, and jobs for the highly educated are concentrated in urban areas. A third reason is that exposure to diversity also tends to track with liberalism, and diversity is higher in urban areas. A fourth reason is simply that diversity is higher in urban areas, and “diversity” — i.e., minorities — tends to vote Democrat. A fifth reason is that the gender balance is not actually even distributed — there are more women in cities and more men in rural areas. And women tend to vote Democrat.

    Etc.

  10. Not surprised about Akron; it was pretty blue-collar heavy and there was a huge turnout of African-American voters. I am a bit surprised that Cincinnati, aka “Cincitucky” wasn’t redder.

  11. I’ll point out that even The Economist (bastion of “liberal” thinking that it is) endorsed Obama, while given a fairly even-handed castigation of his business and economic failings. Romney was notably note their choice due to his meandering flip-flops, non-sensical and mathamatically improbable fiscal and tax policies, and the fact that the Republican GOP had become “a party of Torquemadas”.

    When a Republican candidate who nominally is running on economic and fiscal issues fails to grab the Economist’s endorsement, you really have to wonder about the viability or coherence of the GOP’s direction.

  12. If we are still at 6-7% unemployment in 2014 (yes 6% is still historically very high. you can google it)

    Googling it doesn’t actually support your argument.

    odds are the republicans will control both houses of Congress and will basically be as beligerant as possible

    Meh, not so much after this election. They’d need to knock off at least six Senators and not lose any of their own. It’s possible, but I wouldn’t say they’re odds-on favorites, especially given 3 consecutive elections where their useful idiots couldn’t help eating their toes.

    Bush presented immigration reform that is comparable to what liberals generally want and he could not get democratic support. This is a democratic issue and they would not support there own issue because they didn’t want Bush to look good.

    The last immigration bill Bush proposed got more Democratic votes (both in number and percentage) than Republican, and Republicans were the ones crowing about blocking it to the media. In any case, it polled poorly and was not particularly reflective of “what liberals generally want.”

  13. @Greg – thanks; I was about to ask that question.

    I’ve spent some time in Ross County (two counties due south of Columbus on the map). I would have thought it would be as deep red as JS’s home county, but it’s quite a bit lighter. There are several factories in Ross County, so this may be one of the places where that ‘auto-bailout effect’ occurred.

  14. Ozzie: Also, high density requires high infrastructure, so cities tend to have higher taxes than rural or suburban areas. People who can’t stand paying taxes tend not to move into the city. And people who live in cities see directly how (at least some categories of) government spending is necessary to support quality of life.

  15. When we moved to our suburban home, our town was mostly Republican and mostly conservative. But they have never made my non-traditional family feel unwelcome, or ripped up my Obama signs. I like to think that the growing acceptance of LGBT families comes from people in neighborhoods like ours, who see that we are really just like them. We raise our kid, stress about school issues, mow our lawn, take out the trash, shovel mountains of snow… Really, just like everyone else. And in 16 years, our hometown has become more tolerant and more liberal. Demographics? Maybe. Or maybe just a willingness to see that we are all struggling with the same problems and can only get ahead when we work together. I hope Congress figures this out.

  16. I’m not going to say that John’s neighbors are jerks, because I don’t know them personally. That said, if you vote for restricting the right of marriage to same sex couples only, you’ve entered my “jerk” category in my mind.

    Of course, they may have voted Republican for other reasons, and felt bad about the bigot wing of the GOP, just like I feel pretty bad about voting for a candidate who authorizes drone strikes that kill random civilians in order to take out a few terrorists who’re hiding in nations we can’t or won’t send troops into to make sure fewer civilians are killed.

  17. I was surprised to see Obama got 41% here in Texas, then looked at a map similar to John’s. Blue circles around Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, (but not Fort Worth), and the rest red. So, all of the reasons for that listed above apply in Texas, but with a much greater area for conservatives to spread out into.

  18. @Mike — the youth point is a very good one. The trend of “urbanization” (i.e., an increase in the population of cities and a corresponding decrease in the population of rural areas) is still increasing, even in the already urbanized developed countries. Urbanization is a self-perpetuating trend — the more people there are in an area, the more jobs there are; the more jobs there are, the more people will move there. Repeat. Job availability is better in urban areas, meaning young people move to cities to get jobs. And again, the young are overwhelmingly voting Democrat.

    I’d be interested in data on birth rates per capita in cities vs. rural areas in North America and western Europe. (A quick search of the US Census isn’t getting me anything, but I’m probably using the wrong search terms.) The perception is that rural families are larger than urban families, both from tradition and because of the increased cost of raising a child in a city. Historically, that was true for thousands of years — the rural birth rate was greater than the countryside could support, and excess children moved to the cities, where there were more jobs but the death rate (mostly from “civilized” diseases) was also considerably higher. The death rate in the cities was generally high enough that the excess rural population could always be absorbed. That started to change during the Industrial Revolution, but the disparate birth rates stayed disparate for quite a while after that. I don’t know if they’re still disparate; it would be interesting data to track along with voting habits.

  19. I live in Athens county currently, I always get a kick out of seeing that pip of blue in a sea of red.

  20. @ Bess November 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm:

    Until 1940, median age in the rural US was lower than in the urban US, i.e. rural families had more children. That metric began to slide post 1940, and by 1980 had flipped. Now the urban birthrate is higher, and the median age lower, compared to rural areas. “What makes rural areas older than urban areas, however, according to Kirschner et al. (2006), are changes in the migration patterns of older adults and declines in rural birth rates since the 1970s.” The paper cited compares national metrics to Oregon’s, because that’s what I could find on the intert00bs, but the info is well-known enough to be used in things like, oh, political campaigns I might recently have volunteered on. [grin]

    Overall, the US is urbanizing, and has been for decades. Infrastructure changes could reverse this trend, but personally, I don’t see it happening soon.

  21. Interesting, mintwitch. The dates for that change do not surprise me in the least. That’s another key to voting demographics, I think — not only do more young people move to the cities, but more young people are born in the cities, too. Unsurprising, given the modern world.

    Thanks for the data!

  22. If one of your neighbors is a hunter and gives you some venison, do you say: “I sure do love me some Darke meat?”

  23. Bess and mintwitch – very interesting, thank you. Bess, do you know if the death rate was higher historically in cities overall, or if was concentrated at certain demographics? Specifically, I vaguely recall reading a (published history) paper about the huge disparity in infant mortality in england at some point in the past (I was supposed to be researching something else entirely, so I can’t recall when exactly) – cities in general were bad, and London in particular was atrocious. If this was widely true, it certainly would also lead to smaller family sizes in cities, but I wonder if it could entirely account for the higher death rate. In other words, would a teenager relocating from rural to city also have a shorter life span? Do you know?

  24. Mike, I’m not sure the source you found is really the most reliable thing in the world….

    “The assumption that men pay to marry follows from biological differences between men and women. Women are bottlenecks in reproduction. Intra male competition for mating opportunities result in a net transfer of material resources from men to women.” (that source, top of page 3)

    Leaving aside all the other things that might be seen as wrong with that statement, the Bureau of Labor Statistics measured that 38.3% of wives in 2012 earned more than their husbands.* I think that would count as a “net transfer of material resources” from women to men.

    * 1988-2011 Annual Social and Economic Supplements to the Current Population Survey.

  25. Apparently I’m just too gaddamn impatient – the Secretary of state still has not released the precinct-level numbers or maps. My suburb is distinctly Vermillion Red.

  26. @minaria — Why, yes, I do know. ;) I’m an epidemiologist; death rates from infectious diseases, both modern and historical, are my pride and joy. (Or, er, I find them fascinating, I should say.)

    Mortality due to infections is always highest at the two ends of the population curve, the very young and the very old. (This is because of a weakened immune system at one end and naivete at the other — see below.) Prior to modern medicine*, infant mortality in urban areas was higher than in rural areas because the disease burden was higher. However, mortality across the board was higher in cities because the disease burden was higher. A teenager or young adult, moving from the country to the city, was far more likely to die from an infection than he would have had he stayed in the country.

    The key is population density: our “civilized” diseases (literally, “diseases of the city”) are all person-to-person transmitted and require a certain size population of naive individuals — that is, individuals that have not previously been infected. When the population is at a low density, as is seen in rural areas, there are not enough people to maintain a pool of naive individuals. Diseases will sweep through the area, but they will infect everyone, and then there will be no one left to infect because everyone is either immune or dead. When the population is dense enough, however, the disease falls into the usual “civilized” pattern, which is that of a childhood disease: older children and adults are immune because they contracted the disease in childhood, but there is enough of a population of young children — by definition, a naive population — that the disease can remain in the population. If a child is born in the city, therefore, if she survives to age seven or so, is not likely to die from an infection until she is old because she has already contracted all the major diseases, survived them, and is now immune. The infant mortality is very high, but the burden on the adult population is minimal. The infant mortality rate was high enough that cities could not actually maintain their population without immigration from the countryside.

    For new immigrants to the city, it was different, however. The country boy, moving to the city, was unlikely to have contracted any of the civilized diseases in childhood, and was therefore susceptible to all the lovely civilized diseases he would suddenly be exposed to. The death rate for new immigrants would therefore be expected to be the same as the infant mortality rate, i.e., between 40 and 60%. However, infections don’t actually work like that — most of the civilized disease are more deadly to young, otherwise-healthy adults then they are to very young children (I can go into the biological explanation for that, if you want; it mostly has to do with an overreaction of the immune system). Thus, the mortality rate for new adult immigrants to the city was higher than the infant mortality rate, often approaching 70 or 75%. Moving to the city was a high-risk, high-reward proposition — you could become far wealthier than you could if you remained in the country, but you were more likely to die first. Of course, most immigrants to the city didn’t consider it a way to get rich, although they probably dreamed about such things; for them it was simple survival — prior to the Industrial Revolution, there was only a certain number of people the countryside could feed. You moved to the city and found a job or you joined the army or you starved.

    One thing that is often forgotten in our current era of unrestrained population growth is that unrestrained population growth is really, really weird. Post the Agricultural Revolution and prior to the Industrial Revolution, the human population grew very, very slowly.

    *”Modern medicine” encompasses not only vaccines and antibiotics, which have had an obvious and huge impact, but also the germ theory of infectivity, with its corresponding concept of hygiene and public sanitation. More lives have been saved through the dissemination of knowledge of basic hygiene, e.g., washing your damn hands, and wastewater treatment than have been saved from all the vaccines and antibiotics put together.

    Apologies for getting completely off topic, John.

  27. Folks are pretty happy here in King County, WA. Still waiting for a final tally on same-sex marriages but that looks good to go if a little close. Same with good ol’ marijuana. These people can be passive-aggressive, but they’re good people for the most part.

  28. Josh Jasper: “if you vote for restricting the right of marriage to same sex couples only, you’ve entered my ‘jerk’ category in my mind” – do you possibly mean restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples? (Not that I disagree that someone who wants to restrict marriage to same-sex couples would also be a jerk…)

    I’m from a part of Maryland where many churches and synagogues display “Civil marriage is a civil right” banners, and I’m glad these can now be taken down because that same civil right will be enjoyed in our state as of 1 January 2013. New Jersey and Pennsylvania next, I hope.

  29. My NJ county and town are decidedly Republican. SO much so that the Democrats didn’t even bother trying for town council. It’s scary. I’m decidecly not republican unless that candidate has something of a moderate tone in a sea of conservatice crazy. My Obama/Biden signs got stolen and I was called a Socialist Hippie by someone a few weeks ago. Central NJ is a little weird.

  30. Ozzie: Why do democrats tend to congregate in city environments (large densely populated areas) and Republicans tend move to to suburbs and rural environments (less densely populated areas)?

    As someone who grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere (nearest neighbor was at least a mile away, nearest town was many miles away and had a couple hundred people total population) in the midwest and has lived in high population cities (million people? not sure), I think you have it backwards. I think the space creates the politics.

    Living in a rural area, a lot of times you are completely on your own. Drive into town at night and your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere? The nearest living human being might be miles away from you. Another car might not come down that highway for an hour. You might be in a spot that has zero bars for cell reception. You’re all alone, no one is coming to help, and no one can hear you scream. If its January and there’s snow everywhere and temperatures are below freezing, you could die. This sort of situation engenders a belief system of… individualism, self sufficiency, and so on. Traits generally ascribed to Republicans.

    Living in the city, a car breakdown is no big deal. I mean seriously, you break down in front of a pizza joint, you go in, call a tow truck, and eat hot food in a warm store while you wait for your ride. maybe surf the net on free wifi. If you have tripleA, then you get three free tows a year or something. Living in a city, you quickly see massive benefits of people working together. And that is basically the core principle of Democrats: People working together make life better for everyone.

    To enable people working together, you need the underlying structures to allow cooperation. You need roads and bridges. You need public transportation. You need cell phone towers and wifi hot spots. You need lots of businesses so your every need is close by. And you need lots of customers so those businesses can make money. And you need laws to make sure everyone plays fairly with one another. When you’ve got a million people in the same place, you can’t rely on social pressure to make sure everyone plays fair. So Democrats see the value of infrastructure and regulation.

    In a rural setting, infrastructure is sparse. You might have roads, but you won’t have public transportation or wifi. Cell phone reception will be spotty. Businesses will be extremely few matching the low density population. The population is small, so everyone can know everyone. Or at least, most people can know most of the other people. With that situation, when everyone literally knows everyone else in town, enforcing fair behavior can rely on social pressure. If someone is unfair, word will spread through town and others will avoid the perpetrator. Issues can be resolved immediately. In this situation, government regulation and a burecracy needed to deal with a million relatively unknown individuals going abou their day, will occur as exceedingly high, needless overhead and overkill, it will occur as highly inefficient, and when things go wrong, it will occur as bureaucratic and obstructionist.

    All politics is local after all. And its the local space, the land, the population density, that creates the politics.

  31. Not sure if you saw this, John, but your county had a Guardian correspondent in town on Tuesday.

    link to his interviews with residents of Darke County here.

  32. Quoth Tracey: “My NJ county and town are decidedly Republican. SO much so that the Democrats didn’t even bother trying for town council.”

    I think you’re my neighbor (except this year there actually were Democrats running for mayor and council – usually, the general election consists of “Republicans” against “Republicans who lost the primary and are therefore running as independents”).

  33. @ Bess: Utterly fascinating response to Minaria, thanks so much for sharing. Epidemiology is not my forte; I can speak more to infrastructure and population effects, so that’s what I’ll do.

    @ minaria November 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm:

    Bess and mintwitch – very interesting, thank you. Bess, do you know if the death rate was higher historically in cities overall, or if was concentrated at certain demographics? Specifically, I vaguely recall reading a (published history) paper about the huge disparity in infant mortality in england at some point in the past (I was supposed to be researching something else entirely, so I can’t recall when exactly) – cities in general were bad, and London in particular was atrocious. If this was widely true, it certainly would also lead to smaller family sizes in cities, but I wonder if it could entirely account for the higher death rate. In other words, would a teenager relocating from rural to city also have a shorter life span? Do you know?

    In addition to Bess’s excellent response, I would like to add a few minor comments. You are correct that historically cities tend towards high infant mortality. In addition to disease factors, about which I know only the basics, both London and NYC (as examples) experienced extremely infant mortality of >50% prior to around 1920.

    NYC is skewed by exceptionally high infant mortality among immigrant populations; disease, poor hygiene, lack of food, and poison food (e.g. “blue milk” was milk extracted from diseased and dying cows, doctored with with chalk, cow urine, and rotting eggs, and sold to poor, mostly immigrant families, which killed infants and young children by the thousands. Thus, we now have the FDA.) were all contributors, as were violence.

    In London, a contributing factor to infant mortality was a fairly laissez faire attitude towards infanticide that dates back to Roman times. Then, in the mid-19th century, due to laws which were extremely punishing to unwed mothers, infanticide (already comparatively high) in London exploded, and the Thames became infamous for how many infants were fished out by the Watch every morning, and canal boats being blocked by the infant corpses floating in the water. I remember reading one report of 60 babies fished out of the Thames in a single day. People wouldn’t touch “packages” left under bridges and in alleys, because they were likely to be smothered or strangled infants, and the finder could be blamed as the killer.

    People don’t remember things like this, but just as the automobile was the answer to the horse shit “problem,” abortion was the answer developed for the infanticide problem. Reliable contraception came later than safe, early abortion.

  34. @mintwitch, equally fascinating. The only thing I have to add is that the “laissez faire attitude toward infanticide” actually dates back to much farther than that — to the beginnings of our evolutionary history, in fact. In hunter-gather societies of the type we evolved in, children had to be spaced quite far apart for survival. Lactational amenorrhea — the biological prevention of conception due to ongoing lactation — did quite a lot to prevent pregnancy until the previous child was no longer nursing (which carried on until about age four in h/g societies), but pregnancy still occurred at the wrong time. Exposing newborns — infanticide — was the normal way to deal with this, as abortion was highly dangerous. Exposure of unwanted infants continued through the Agricultural Revolution (although farming could feed far more children than hunting and gathering) and right through the development of civilization up until modern times, when surgical abortion became safe enough to be a practical option.

    In Republican Rome, babies were traditionally exposed on a certain field outside the city. Childless couples would go to the field and pick out a newborn, thus resulting in an unofficial but highly efficient adoption system. I’m not aware of records describing such a system in other ancient cities, but it likely was a common system.

  35. This thread is a goldmine of knowledge. I’ve never before thought about how *space* forms politics or that moving to a city used to be that dangerous.

  36. Off-topic can be fascinating! A couple of thoughts:
    – Attitudes some times lag the surrounding reality. We see that a lot here in Texas, where people have moved into suburbs, but have brought their pickup trucks and other rural accoutrements with them.
    – Note that the gun control debate often splits along rural / urban grounds, more than red vs. blue, for a lot of the reasons that Greg mentioned (and that’s probably as far as we want to go in that off-topic direction).

  37. @Bess @1:02 P.M. Thank you for your response. I do have questions on one aspect though:

    “Another reason is that high levels of education tend to track with liberalism, and jobs for the highly educated are concentrated in urban areas. – Bess”

    This was hard to find information on, the clearest link I found was on CNN … http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/pages/results/states/US/H/00/epolls.0.html

    It seems to say that Democrats and Republicans are tied on College Education, but 64% of people without high school diplomas are democrats (58% of post graduate people are also democrats). This would lead me to the conclusion that there is a very large disparity on education in the democrat party. I think lower education individuals would congregate in city centers because there are more jobs with lower skills and lower education requirements. Suburbia requires a certain income level to commute every day or certain high skilled jobs enabling tele-commuting.

    The rest of your reasoning sounds more plausible as explanations.

  38. (Rats. I just lost an entire comment. Tried to re-write.)

    Bess and mintwitch – quite fascinating, thank you. I’m a bit of a historian by training if not by trade, but not of epidemiology.

    Oddly enough I know a little bit about “childhood” diseases being more dangerous to adults from personal experience – I had to get a particularly nasty series of shots in my teens because I never got chicken pox…

    I can perhaps add that newfound sensibilities about hygiene led to the (near) eradication of certain things like body lice, which also helped decrease the spread of disease. Lice in particular are not simply annoying: for example, Napoleon’s army had quite an issue with them and “trench fevers”, not that they were fully aware of the relationship at the time. Body lice are also starting to be implicated (also by Raoult, Drancourt, and their colleagues) as the main vector for the plague, which cyclically killed a huge percentage of Eurasia… until the “modern medicine” Bess discussed kicked in, anyway.

    Before anyone with small children in school freaks out: don’t panic! Body lice are an entirely different species from head lice, and as far as I know head lice haven’t been implicated in any diseases.

    I do have one nuance to ask about the differences between country and city living: when I was reading about the aforementioned plague, I came across: “one of the ironies of the Middle Ages is that even though most of the population was rural, people lived at very close quarters.” (Andrew Noymer) This certainly trucks with my other readings about the Middle Ages of people in the countryside gathered very close together in very small villages, and many people living in the same quarters. (Reasons are the standard ones: safety, heat generation, resource conservation)

    So I think that “density” between cities and small villages was not vastly different in terms of number of people in a couple blocks of space at sundown. But I think the density that you’re discussing is actually a population threshold that occurs in a “dense” area that allows for a guarantee of naive population. I think?

    And in terms of just raw population: the fewer people there are, the fewer people there are to initially get infected and then pass it along to everyone else, I’d imagine.

    I suppose this is kind of off-topic, although my biased opinion is that knowledge of history almost always help inform world view. =D

    To swing it around to somewhat on-topic: I wonder if part of the reason there is such fervor now about protecting children (and fetuses) is that there actually can be: if more than half of babies born died shortly thereafter… well. It just doesn’t seem to matter as much. But now, when they actually will survive the vast majority of the time, then there is more reason to care.

    And I’ll indulge in my first (by somewhat horrifying) thought: any records of childless couples going into the field multiple times until they found the baby they wanted?

  39. One other point. I fear this is not the huge acceptance of the gay community and the repudiation of Republican hate mongering because Obama scored over 90% in the African American community, but the African Americans community does not accept the gay community.

    http://racerelations.about.com/b/2011/05/16/cnns-don-lemon-being-gay-is-worst-thing-to-be-in-black-culture.htm

    This looks more like a we hate Republicans more than we are accepting of others.

    John, I hesitated to post this one, but I think it is a valid question. Please mallet if it is inappropriate.

  40. I fear this is not the huge acceptance of the gay community and the repudiation of Republican hate mongering

    What, the world is not now perfect and shiny? Who knew? Posting something on “Yes, these were spectacular victories but there are still issues to consider” is so remarkably besides the point that I can’t even come up with a metaphor.

  41. David – no intent to rain on a parade, just thought it bore asking.

    @Greg- thank you for your explanation on space and politics. That is a very thought provoking explanation! One of the reasons I love Mr. Scalzi’s audience. I am prodded to look at things from different perspectives a lot.

  42. David – looking back at my post, consider my ass shown. I am sorry and would remove the question if possible.

  43. @minaria

    Body lice are the major vector of typhus; typhus was a huge killer throughout history, especially of armies. Lice are likely not particularly significant in the decimation of plague, though; bubonic plague is spread primarily by fleas, which were as common on humans pre-modern hygiene as lice were. One of the differences of the Black Death epidemic in Europe that’s so famous, however, is that a higher percentage of plague was likely pneumonic than is normal. Pneumonic and bubonic plague are the same pathogen, Yersina pestis, but are spread through different mechanisms. Pneumonic plague is spread person-to-person via aerosolized droplets and is fatal in >90% of cases; bubonic plague is spread via fleas and is fatal in ~60% of cases. Generally only about 10% of cases in a plague epidemic are pneumonic, as it usually kills too rapidly to spread far. It’s been argued that somewhere on the order of 30% of cases during the Black Death were pneumonic.

    However, the biggest reason for the ~66% die-off due to the Black Death was that it was a new disease in a naive population. Continuing on from my comment earlier, naive populations are naive populations, whether they’re young children, people just moving to the city, or an entire population exposed to a new pathogen for the first time. In general, our “civilized” diseases seem to have a death rate of 40-60% when encountering a naive population. That’s about the infant mortality rate due to common childhood diseases (on the low end), and is what historians tend to end up estimating as the total mortality due to new diseases. We have the best record for the Black Death in Europe, of course, but it’s also what has been estimated for the two plagues in AD 165 and AD 251 that ravaged the Mediterranean, which were likely the first entry of smallpox and measles onto the European stage and were the ultimate cause of the fall of the Roman Empire, and for numerous recorded epidemics across China. The mortality due to infectious diseases was higher when Eurasian crowd diseases first hit the New World, likely over 90%, but Native Americans are genetically even more homogenous than is usual for humans (we are, genetically speaking, a shockingly homogenous species), and that turns out not to be a good thing when it comes to surviving pandemics.

    Interestingly, the biggest thing that stopped the cycle of plague epidemics in England, before modern medicine, was the Great Fire of London, in 1666. Plague is usually (in Europe) spread by the fleas of rats, specifically, the black rat, which used to make a very good living in the thatch roofs of houses. When London was rebuilt after the Great Fire, it was rebuilt in brick. With no thatch roofs on the new buildings, rats were forced to make their living in the tunnels and sewers, putting them and their fleas considerably farther away from humans. Ergo, considerably less plague.

    (All of that was rather tangential, sorry. Once you get me started talking about infectious disease I kind of don’t stop. There’s a reason why I do this for a living.)

    As to “density”, when it comes to disease transmission, population density is not defined as how close together people live, it is defined as the frequency of a host’s interactions with new hosts. A communicable disease must encounter a susceptible — for most civilized diseases, that means naive — host before the current host either dies or clears the infection. For the disease to survive in the population continuously, that means its hosts must continually be meeting susceptible new hosts. In small populations, this doesn’t happen, because once the disease has gone through the population, everyone the current host meets has either already had the disease and is therefore immune or is dead. Only in large populations — “large” generally meaning “several thousand people in constant contact with each other” — is a current host likely to continue meeting susceptible future hosts. Such a population density did not exist until the invention of the city and remained untrue outside of cities until modern times, hence, our major communicable diseases have always been “civilized” diseases, diseases of the city.

    The proposition that our attitude towards children and infants has fundamentally changed now that we don’t lose >50% of them in infancy has been made before. In my opinion, that might have some kernel of truth within it. Certainly our attitudes towards infanticide, abortion, and child abuse have changed drastically. But I’m not at all convinced that historically, parents cared less for their children just because many of them wouldn’t survive. We have a lot of extant personal writings between parents and children (usually adult children) from throughout history, and there is a great deal of love and affection that can be found in those writings. In surviving hunter/gather societies, where infanticide is still practiced because it is necessary for survival, children are adored. It has been remarked by anthropologists that in many ways, it seems that the necessity of exposing some children at birth and the high infant mortality have made the children that do survive even more precious.

    And to your last question — not that I’m aware of, but male babies were far more likely to be “adopted” from the exposure field than female babies, while female babies were far more likely to be left on the field in the first place. The current trend of selectively aborting female fetuses seen right now in Asia is actually just a continuation of a very old trend of civilization. (Also not a trend seen in modern hunter/gather societies or in the archeological record of our h/g ancestors, I might point out. A preference for male children is an invention of agriculture.)

  44. It’s always worth noting that the voting statewide was fairly close to 50/50 Republican vs. Democrat (a couple points more for the Dems in the Presidential and Senate races, a couple points less for the Dems if you add up all the House races), but the state’s House delegation will be 4 D’s and 12 R’s. This can be seen in many places across the country: in the House, it’s often closer to one acre, one vote than one person, one vote. Without this gerrymandering, the Republicans would have lost everything of significance on Tuesday, rather than merely having a bad night.

  45. @ Bess
    Actually, the reason I know anything about these things at all is because of a class where a professor brought up relatively recent claims against the plague being Yersina pestis, and I was curious enough to look into it. (I’d written one of those 4-page high school papers about it and everything had seemed clear-cut then, and it’s always sometimes fun to be wrong and improve understanding!) Most of the claims against Y. pestis I thought specious (or plain ridiculous: someone suggested that it came from outer space, and another actual historian published that fleas couldn’t be involved, because fleas can only jump to the shin. Okay, they had other points, but that one stuck in my mind, because seriously, what?), but there was something in the claims against rats: “The evidence from archaeological excavations, medieval documents, poems, bestiaries, and pictures indicate that rats were scare or absent during the Black Death. Furthermore, the spread and distribution of the Black Death do not match the ecological requirements of rats.” (Davis, “The Scarcity of Rats and the Black Death: an Ecological History”) As an example, Iceland experienced plague without any rats. (unfortunately I don’t have a cite beyond lecture notes for that one, although Davis might mention it). Fleas also had the issue of somewhat hibernating through winter, but the plague, if I remember correctly, didn’t.

    Since the presence of Y. pestis has been found in sites throughout Europe by unrelated teams, some scientists have begun researching for an additional carrier beyond the fleas of rats. (Some French scientists actually considered this decades ago… but their work never made it out of French.) I recommend Drancourt, M., L. Houhamdi, and D. Raoult ‘s “Yersinia Pestis as a Telluric, Human Ectoparasite-borne Organism.” in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2006. This is also an interesting discussion: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/10/pdfs/10-0683.pdf

    (The only reason I don’t do history for a living is because computer work pays more (and to be fair, I don’t mind it, like I would, say, finance)… so I understand perfectly!)

    Thanks ever so for the explanation of density. It has always confused me, and now it won’t!

    I certainly don’t think parents cared less for slightly older children, ones that had already survived infancy and toddler-hood (er, there has got to be a better name for that). I’ve even read a couple of historical child-parent letters that were much more deeply emotional than the vast majority of emails between my own parents and I… =) (I know, completely different comparison, etc. etc.) But I also heard a few months ago (likely on npr because that’s really all I listen to beyond very dry science podcasts) that a study of a modern society with high infant mortality indicated that parents seemed to try to protect themselves from pain by trying not to care about a child they expected might not make it out of childhood. I wish I could find where I heard this. gah. But I would hypothesize that parents cared “less” only early on, and then cared more and more as it seemed more and more likely that a child would survive.

    The overall view and treatment of women is something I’m just starting to look into – I always accepted the “common knowledge” that it has gotten better and better for women as time goes on, and more and more it seems like that really hasn’t been the case at all.

    I, for one, am very, very glad to be alive in 2012 and not, well, basically ever before.

    Especially with the results of the election!
    (uuuh… the historian re-mount?)

  46. @minaria “And I’ll indulge in my first (by somewhat horrifying) thought: any records of childless couples going into the field multiple times until they found the baby they wanted?”

    The babies left in the fields to die of exposure were not generally picked up b families lookng for children, but rather families in need of a slave. Another interesting side note is Rome was a paternal society, but if a women gave birth to 3 children she was rewarded with her independence from the paterfamilias.

  47. I think Greg explained part of it very well.

    Population density in the rural areas is low. City folk tend not to grasp how low it is. Up the road from where I sit, sixteen miles, is Minneapolis MN. Population density is ~8,000/sq. mi; that’s about 12.5 per acre. (NYC is ~27,000/sq. mi; 42.2 per acre.)

    Here, I’m in Eagan, MN. Our population density is about 2,000/ sq. mi., a little over 3 per acre. We’ve got a lot of lakes and parks in Eagan’s ~34 square miles; looking up and down the street, the acre of our lot and the two neighbors’ lots has 8 people. There are some high density spots, some homes with acres by themselves. We’re a suburb.

    My wife grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota. Their home was near a cross roads that had four houses, with a total of 19 people for those four square miles. A tiny village, 0.007 persons per acre.

    That was crowded. My first home was in rural Montana. The nearest house was a bit more than a mile away, had one person in it, usually. Mom and I in ours, Dad on the road five or six days a week. Three people in sixteen square miles (most of those a National Forest used for cattle grazing.) 0.000292 persons per acre.

    A helping hand was at the end of your arm. Yell for help, no one would hear. Fire three shots, you might get lucky and someone would hear. Probably not, though. Make a smoky fire, if it was fire season, the Ranger in the tower would see the smoke and if it didn’t go out, someone would come to put it out, eventually.

    If you don’t do it for yourself, it does not get done. It is a very different way of living than living in the city. Both have advantages, both have disadvantages. Try to live in one as if it’s the other and you will probably not succeed. The natural laws of survival are different.

    Here, I can see the stars at night. Can’t do that in the city. In the city, I could walk to the Guthrie Theatre. Here, I have to drive and park. There’s not the giant bowl-of-sky there was in Montana, though. Choices.

  48. @Deano re: the Economist endorsement. I actually read most of the Economist most weeks; and I… well, I don’t think it’s a “liberal” publication (not like the Guardian is at any rate) but it’s not really a “conservative” publication either. Fiscally I think they usually fall right-of-center on most issues; but *socially* the editorial policy is much more liberal/lefty than, well, a lot of people seem to guess.

    In the UK we also have more conservative rural areas; although the population density is a lot higher than in rural areas of the USA. Historically the much high pop. density in cities has made it easier to find like minded minority thinkers; I think the internet is screwing with that though – these days you don’t need to find the “right” coffee shop/cafe/pub you can find the right website/blog/newsgroup/email list instead. Cities also force people to interact a lot more with strangers – in a village of a 100 families you might know everyone by sight if not as a close friend, in a city of several million you have no hope at all of knowing everyone.

  49. It’s a question of how you interpret absence of evidence. I’ve personally seen tombstones of evidently very young children set up during the Roman occupation here in the UK. Set up obviously by people of means. They reminded me very much of the graves of modern children,

  50. John, you may consider your neighbors to be conservatives but not jerks, but I can’t say the same about mine. I live in a rural county in Michigan that was a Democratic stronghold until President Obama won in 2008. There was a sudden stampede to the Republican party. As far as I can tell, the deciding factor was skin pigmentation. My neighbors might be nice to me, they may be superficially polite and even helpful in an emergency, but the bottom line is their votes are motivated by bigotry, not reason. Ergo, they’re jerks. Polite, helpful jerks (at least to people they perceive as being like themselves) but jerks nonetheless.

  51. htom: It is a very different way of living than living in the city. Both have advantages, both have disadvantages.

    Well, the thing is, if the land gives the politics, then there are no inherent advantage/disadvantage to any political view. One can’t look at, say, “self-sufficiency” without the context of location to tell how it will serve you. Put another way, self-sufficiency isn’t always better than relying-on-others, it can only be answered as a funciton of location.

    In a city, you are better off relying-on-others because it means you can specialize what you do and leverage more of an advantage for yourself that others get to indirectly benefit from. In a city, you can have specializations like a performance art theater, every flavor of restaurant imaginable, and so on. In a city, you might have every kind of doctor imaginable, and possibly even multiple hospitals to choose from.

    In a rural area, you’ll get lots of advantages for being self-reliant because you might have 1 grocer, 1 gas station, 1 hardware store, and you’ll have to drive a few hours to see a live performance of Hamlet or whatever. In a rural area, you might have one hospital that’s an hour drive away, and getting a second opinion might mean driving an hour in the other direction.

    The thing of it is, and I think this is the thing, is that “All politics is local” is actually an oversimplification. How we live is most directly impacted by where we live locally. But each of us is also part of a state and a nation. And once you get to the national level, the scale of what is “local” changes, I think, to the point that America as a nation is such that everyone GAINS when the nation is treated like a city, every gains when we rely on each other, everyone gains from national infrastructure.

    A simple example is the nationa highway system. If you look at a national highway at the local level, especially at some extremely RURAL location, it seems stupid. People might have to give up some of their local land so that a big highway can come through the area. And a lot of what happens on that highway doesn’t directly benefit the locals in that rural setting. A lot of it is just people passing through, not stopping. But the national highway system, when looked at at the national level, benefits everyone. Even in the middle of nowhere, that highway that goes through your sleepy little town might not help you much, but it can enable the cities around you to grow, which then creates advantages that even the rural residents can enjoy.

    How anyone lives their day-to-day life will most directly be a function of WHERE they live. If they live in a rural space, they’ll likely see the advantages of living independently, being self sufficient, and so on. If they live in a city, they’ll likely see the advantage of relying-on-others and specializing, becoming a doctor and letting someone specialize and become an engineer, and so on.

    But at the national level, I think we become a “city”. We all gain at the national level when we rely on each other and allow folks ot specialize and operate as an economy. I think the rural impulse applied nationally loses out on a lot of potential benefits.

    If you want to see the rural impulse applied nationally, Afghanistan would be a good example. It’s an extremely mountainous region. Mountains are natural separators. Mountains can make it hard for a small rural area to grow into a city. It’s possible (Switzerland), but it makes it harder to create. And what you have in Afghanistan is the local politics of the area is mostly rural. Actually, its even one step below rural, it’s tribal. And at the national level, there is a central government which takes care of and controls the capital city, and has little control over anything else.

    Any possible benefit that might come from Afghanistan working as a nation is lost right now, because it isn’t really a nation-as-a-city. Its more just a collection of tribes living next to one another, and someone who was drawing the map encircled a chunk of land and called it Afghanistan.

    America as a nation benefits when the nation operates as a city, operates together, operates to allow, enalble, and encourage specializations, builds infrastructure, and so on. There seem to be people in America who live in rural settings (or who live in the city but maintain an rural mindset) who think America as a nation shouldn’t operate as a city, but should operate as a collection of tribes that happen to live next to one another. They want everyone to be self sufficient, they don’t want anyone to rely on anyone, which means they end up opposing infrastructure and they oppose regulations that would allow and encourage a healthy, growing, interconnected economy.

    And I thnk the reason they do that is because they think their mindset is intrinsically better than the city mindset. But what I’ve come to see is that benefit of one or another mindset is only a function of the setting and context in which it operates. And at the national level, America can see huge benefits from operating as a “city”, benefits which would go away if we only operate as a collection of indepent, self-sufficient tribes.

    And the point at which I start getting pissed is when the Grover Norqiusts of the country try to actually build “mountains”, build artificial obstructions that aren’t even there, in an attempt to prevent, obstruct, and slow down, the benefits that come from interconnectedness, simply because they’re too damn myopic to get that just because they relate to others through “tribe” doesn’t mean everyone else should. People like Norquist are trying to turn us into something like Afghanistan, because they think the mindset of “tribal” is intrinsically better than “city”, when in fact which one is better is a function of the landscape.

  52. Jerks come in all political flavours, and almost all of us have our jerky moments. And years. Decades. Lifetimes.

  53. May I point out the obvious? After the intense discussions these past few months re politics and elections, the current discussion considers certain information revealed about the election and aims to understand the significance of the data. It’s a joy to read the level of detail offered, especially with supporting annotation. And the level of consideration offered by those who have posted, especially when correcting mistakes, marks a stark contrast to exchanges before the election. This might serve as a template of how people can probe issues over which they might disagree about conclusions, but who are really interested in talking through an issue. Maybe even a sign of hope for informative and helpful discourse… Thanks, folks!

  54. Nan: their votes are motivated by bigotry, not reason. Ergo, they’re jerks.

    htom: Jerks come in all political flavours, and almost all of us have our jerky moments.

    Of all the possible things you could say in response to someone telling you of their experience of racism, something to the effect of “everyone makes mistakes” has got to be towards the bottom of my list.

    One thing Republicans are better at than Democrats is Party Loyalty, but in some circumstances I think party loyalty turns into “We willl never criticize our own, no matter how heinous their behavior”.

  55. This is what I get for having a job and sleeping; the thread goes on w/out me. Waah.

    *

    Bess, in re infanticide:
    I should have been more specific, sorry. You are correct that infanticide has been fairly common throughout history, among most known cultures; however, there’s no evidence that it was common in the British Isles before 43 AD and the Roman occupation. Like species, transplanted customs can have unpredictable effects, and Londinium adopted *active* infanticide at rates that appalled even the Romans. This is related to the changed status of women, the impact of the Romans on traditional British kinship and family structures, and the inevitable result of an occupation–that is rape and a abrupt rise in unwanted children, without an existing, native framework with to deal with unwanted children. Active infanticide remained especially high in London right up until the mid-late 19th century (1860ish, IIRC). I’m not saying that pre-Roman Britain was all sunshine and puppies, but the available evidence indicates that infanticide was primarily an import into a population that generally had a lower birthrate than the Mediterranean, prior to Roman occupation.

    (What I wouldn’t give for a time machine, ala Connie Willis, so I could go back and actually observe the times for which we have poor records!)

    Bess and Minaria, in re the Black Death, the Great Plague, and the Great Fire of London:
    Firstly, the Black (Bubonic) Death years were mid-14th century; the Great Plague of 1665, in England, may not have been bubonic.

    Secondly, I’m going to disagree that the Fire had significant impact on the Great Plague. It’s been a popular theory, but also a contentious one. I think the various camps are split about 50/50. Rates of Plague went down throughout England and Europe in 1666, not just in London, so while the Fire may have had some local effect, it cannot account for the entirety of the decline. Cities like Florence, which had experience 50-year Plague cycles for hundreds of years, made few or no significant infrastructure changes in the period (Florence’s big infrastructure years were 1400-1550, i.e. the Renaissance), yet also saw the end of the major Plagues in the late 1600s.

    Clearly, I fall into the camp that believes the Fire was coincidental to the end of the Great Plague. As previously noted, though, my background is in infrastructure and logistics, not epidemiology, so obviously that biases my interpretation of the available history.

    *

    Back on-topic, I found out yesterday that one of my coworkers voted for Romney. She also voted for marriage equality, the legalization of recreational marijuana, and all the other lefty issues we had on the ballot, including tax hikes on personal property and businesses in order to fund various things. I don’t understand how someone can vote for a candidate that opposes all the issues that one is in favor of, but people constantly baffle me; she’s still a delightful person, no matter how she votes. Definitely not a jerk, just inconsistent.

  56. Ozzie, the acceptance of gay Americans in the African-American community seems to be changing.

    From an Advocate article (http://www.advocate.com/politics/election/2012/11/07/go-inside-exit-polling-gay-voters-and-marriage-equality) on the subject of this year’s exit polls:

    > Where marriage equality was on the ballot, exit polls offer insight into whether it helped or hurt the president. The Associated Press reports that exit polls in Maryland, where voters approved legalizing same-sex marriage, show those who sided with equality broke strongly for Obama, while those opposed joined Romney. It was Obama and marriage equality that prevailed.

    > The AP reports that the president’s standing among black voters was strong in the Maryland exit poll, with nine in 10 on his side, and they seemed to vote for Obama even when disagreeing with him on marriage equality. The Maryland exit poll found black voters evenly divided on that question.

  57. One of the things locally that infuriated me was a billboard that said “Women who vote Republican aren’t paying attention”, illustrated with a picture of a stereotypical “clueless airhead”.

    “Women are too dumb to vote” is no more palatable when coming from “my” side of the ticket than from the other side.

  58. No, it’s a reply to Greg, too, I guess.

    Cities are differently advantaged. Yes, they have interconnectedness and interdependency. Those features bring great sparkle and sizzle to the city … and they enable diseases, of both body and mind. You can build life-long careers out of lying to people, flying to a new city if you’re revealed and someone actually cares. You can become a giant cog in the well-oiled machine of the City. I would assume those doing that are happy there, they come to the wild and want to turn it into more City. Five hundred foot cell phone towers in natural wildernesses where outboard motors — even on rescue craft — are illegal.

    With the sparkle and sizzle, there’s a lot of artificiality. No stars in the sky, no fresh-caught brook trout on the fire. Truffles I’ve had, on farmed trout. Several hundred dollars, a fancy place and occasion. I’m glad I went. But not for the meal, which was great. As I was putting on my coat, the chef asked how I’d liked the trout. I said it was the best restaurant trout I’d ever had. He looked at me, and said “You didn’t like it, what was wrong?” “The fish had an odd texture, softer than a wild trout.” “Oh. Yes, they’re farmed. Where did you eat wild trout?” “When I was a kid growing up in the mountains, catch, gut, scale, into the butter twenty minutes after catching them.” “Lord, I wish I could do that in the city.” It’s not his fault. The city gives truffles, and takes fresh fish. Choices.

    The city is the spectacle of Broadway, hundreds, thousands cooperating to bring us (say) The Met’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. The country and the wild are an actor delivering the lines of the playwright on an empty stage. Both are theatre. Either can reach out and rip your heart. The Met, or Hal Holbrook doing a reprise of Mark Twain Tonight … spectacle or soul, chose for yourself.
    ,
    Always there are choices. Some, most, we don’t even know we’re making. Making the country and the wild into the city is a choice you can make. You probably won’t even know what you’ve thrown away. Think of us as the ultimate backup. When the glittering arabesques collapse into a heap of cards, we’re the table you’ll fall on.

  59. Meanwhile, here in Louisiana, as I consider the state’s demographics, my rough calculations are that myself and roughly 900 other white people in my fair state voted for Obama.

  60. CNN just interviewed my soon-to-be-former congressman, Steve LaTourette (R):
    http://cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2012/11/08/exp-point-latourette-two.cnn
    His opinions remind me of John’s “Post-Election Notes for the GOP,” which doesn’t surprise me at all.
    Still disappointed not to have been able to vote for him, but it appears that he really did “retire” because of the partisan culture in DC. The GOP should run a moderate like him next time and see what happens.
    (BTW – when he uses the word “nutty,” I think maybe he wanted to say “insane” but realized he was on camera, so give him some slack if you would. He is one of the good guys.)

  61. Cities are differently advantaged.

    Dude, you don’t mean that. At all. Not even a little bit. Not even at your most charitable. The language of the rest of your comment completely belies this premise. Look at your choices of descriptors: “disease”; “careers out of lying”; “giant cog”; “artificiality”; “spectacle or soul”; “what you’ve thrown away”. And even if you want to try and spin some positive connotation into any of that, there is still your final sentence: “When the glittering arabesques collapse into a heap of cards, we’re the table you’ll fall on.” With it’s sneering sense of inevitability, and the notion of impending triumphalism simmering under the surface. “One day, you’ll see. YOU’LL ALL SEE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!”

    Look, if this is how you feel, then fine. No fault in that. I think it’s an archaic set of sensibilities, born out of the nations very short history. The United States was a rural, frontier nation for more than a century, roughly half of it life to date. Today, the United States is perhaps the archetype of the modern industrial, urban nation. But culturally, nearly half of us still cling to that early form of the country. It will probably be another century before that half of the U.S. can finally let it go. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    But, for jeebus’ sake, if that’s how you feel, be fucking honest about it, will you?

    Brad: tribal loyalty. You’re soaking in it.

  62. htom: Those features bring great sparkle and sizzle to the city … and they enable diseases, of both body and mind. You can build life-long careers out of lying to people, flying to a new city if you’re revealed and someone actually cares. You can become a giant cog in the well-oiled machine of the City.

    You’re asserting the intrinsic superiority of the rural over the city, by presenting the city as “sparkle”, artificial, diseased, lying, uncaring, and a place where an individual can only be a cog in the machine. It’s fine that you don’t like the city, but you’re actually lying about it there.

    Having lived a long time in both rural and city, I love and appreciate both spaces. One isn’t better than another, it’s just that each engenders different solutions from the people there. And if someone spends their entire life in a rural setting, and finds over and over again that independence and self sufficiency and such provide him the best solutions for his situation, I find it understandable that he might make the mistake of thinking it provides the best solution for everyone in every situation. I understand it because I made that mistake myself. But it’s a mistake nonetheless.

    When the glittering arabesques collapse into a heap of cards, we’re the table you’ll fall on.

    Ah, this, this is the ultimate mistake: Thinking the city is an illusion, thinking that people can’t work together for everyone’s benefit, thinking that it’s all just a gimmicky house of cards that is going to come crashing down any minute.

  63. I do mean it. I see millions who claim to be happy in the city, who shun the country and would never willingly approach the wild. There’s something there, in the city, they find advantageous. That’s why they want to bring it everywhere with them. They live their lives in happiness and I am happy for them that they do so. I don’t especially care for their attempts to change the country and the wild into the city, however. Their attempts to govern the wild as if it’s the city infuriate me. When I go to the city (which is really outside my door) I do my best to conform to the city’s ways. I am aware, though, that I am doing so, as I am aware that most of those I meet are not aware that they are doing so; they believe, they know, that their way is truly universal. One of those unknowing choices. I know that my way is not universal … and so neither can theirs be.

    I don’t know what the “human carrying capacity” of the planet Earth is. It is finite, though, and considerably less than converting the entire mass of the planet into people. As we pave over more and more farm land, wash more and more topsoil into the sea, … it’s not hard to see that the party’s going to come to an end, and probably not a happy one for those here, then, whether they are from the city or the country. Trantor was a science fiction planet, it wasn’t Earth.

  64. I… suspect that he was acknowledging the up-side with that one sentence, and then pointing out the downside. While you’re talking about the down-side, there’s no need to paint it as having up-side.

  65. Mintwitch, if we ever get a time machine, we (and all we’s in the future) will all want to use it!

    So I am looking forward to reading the academic departmental memos – “Due to recent (as of the date of this memo) research which suggests that approximately 20% (and rising) participants in “Bloody Sunday” were/are/will be historians, travel to St. Petersburg in late December 1904 through early January of 1905 is banned indefinitely. All are/were/will be invited to participate in the interdisciplinary symposium “The Impact of “Artificial” Events on Historical Discourse”.

  66. No, you don’t. You’re using a term, “differently advantaged”, to try and imply that the advantages of one way of life are of equal value to the advantages of another. You then go out of your way to explain why all those advantages are all bullshit and illusory, and how it’s all gonna come crashing down, you’ll see, and then I’ll be right and you’ll be wrong, ha!

    And your aside about the carrying capacity of the planet assumes that the end of science and technology has been reached, I hope you know that.

    You want to be sneering and condescending, go right ahead. I just would like you to have the stones to own that.

  67. Could we come up with and use a term for rhetorical courage that doesn’t involve a particular type of genitalia? I don’t particularly like spine/backbone, but I’ll take it over “have the stones” which seems to eliminate over half of our potential participants.

    Or have I misinterpreted what is actually a curling term?

  68. Sorry, you’re right. How about “intestinal fortitude”? Or perhaps, “courage of your convictions”?

  69. It’s hilarious that you portray those who live in cities as physically and mentally diseased, as if rural residents are by virtue of their location, some sort of ubermensch archetype, because it reflects the most pernicious disease of many rural residents, which is a sense of close-mindedness that shuns the new and different that can often cross over into paranoia and self-delusion. It’s the majorities in rural areas that have historically recoiled at the commingling of people they regard as The Other, and who often seem content at retaining ideas and mores that separate and–dare I say it–segregate The Other from the status quo. It prizes retaining a community as it stands because it’s comfortable, as opposed to creating communities from disparate parts. This has the advantage of being a way to ensure stability, but its a stability that in many cases is prized over progress. This isn’t to say we should be paving over fields or installing cell towers in every forest, but to say that one form is inherently better than the other is, as described above, a base form of tribalism that only serves to regard those outside your piece of the world as aggressive and rapacious merely for existing in a different piece of the world. It’s telling that you don’t even bother questioning them as to their motives, you just “know” it and therefore “know” that it is out for blood.

    In the end, neither form of community is better than the other. You can get fresh trout in the country, but you can’t get sushi. You may know your neighbors back seven generations, but you don’t meet new people and get introduced to new ideas. Your life allows for some form of stability, but change comes as a shock to the system rather than something that washes over you and gives you new perspective. Your mindset is reinforced by those around you instead of being challenged on a daily basis. You’re so smugly sure of the fact that you’re “aware” of the world around you that you claim to know with absolute and utter surety that those people aren’t, and you don’t even bother to see if they are. All you see is Them out to get You and destroy that world, to own and govern it regardless of whether or not that’s how they actually feel.

  70. htom:

    I see millions who claim to be happy in the city, who shun the country and would never willingly approach the wild. There’s something there, in the city, they find advantageous. That’s why they want to bring it everywhere with them. They live their lives in happiness and I am happy for them that they do so. I don’t especially care for their attempts to change the country and the wild into the city, however. Their attempts to govern the wild as if it’s the city infuriate me.

    Your nouns are imprecise. Who are these millions? What precisely are “they” trying to change? Is it the country, as in nation? If so, citizens are supposed to be the instruments of change w/in the nation. Is it country, as in rural? Who are the “they” that are paving over the rural areas? Are these rural areas farms or wilderness? If it’s wilderness, then the largest single protector of untamed wilderness is the federal government, followed by state government. If it’s farmland, the largest protector is also… the federal government, followed by various farmland trusts, largely funded by urban cooperatives, and non-profit groups that receive most of their funding from non-farm interests.

    And if these millions are shunning the rural and undeveloped areas, then how are they bringing it (I assume you mean “the city”) to these areas? How does one “govern” the wild, other than by legislating it as a protected area that can’t be built on, a position that most urbanites embrace?

    What I read in both of your posts is that you are very happy living in a rural area, and have a deep distrust and dislike of people who do not, and fear that unknown, faceless urbanites are going to build something that you don’t like, somewhere that you don’t want it to be. I.e. “Get off of my lawn!” Which is fine, but please acknowledge that, okay? Someone is going to build something that you don’t like in a place that you don’t like it. It might be a WalMart or a McDonald’s or a cell-phone tower, but it will be because there is enough local demand for a WalMart or a McDonald’s or a cell-phone tower to provide a return on investment, and not because someone in NYC wants to be able to text message deer in central MS or “govern the wild.”

  71. In the city/rural discussion, I would also note that the “wilderness” is just as artificial as the city, created by generations of farming, reshaping, and other human interference. Very few old-growth forests left.

  72. htom: “I don’t know what the “human carrying capacity” of the planet Earth is.”

    There’s a good Robert Silverberg book from the early 1970s, The World Inside, where they’ve solved that problem by building urban monads, thousand-story concrete buildings where (almost) everyone lives. (I won’t call it a novel because all the sections were published as individual stories that can stand alone, with some characters appearing in more than one story – perhaps The Human Division has adopted this approach? I actually encountered the first several stories in anthologies and in Galaxy; see http://www.scifi.darkroastedblend.com/2009/03/robert-silverbergs-world-inside.html.)

  73. I grew up on the edge of a national park; if I left my back yard, in 15 minutes of walking I was inside the park boundaries. I learned a few things from living in a relatively rural area: identifying wild plants and animals, tracking, moving quietly enough to sneak up on deer, etc. When I left for college, I had a water supply that didn’t depend on catchment, that I could drink straight out of the tap. City water never tasted as good as what we got from the spring, but neither did it have to be transported and stored in 5 gallon glass jugs. When an ice storm made roads dangerous, I could walk to work or to the grocery store which I couldn’t in the country. I grew tomatoes, but instead of having cutworms or deer nip off the stems, I had to keep an eye on the harvest so passersby didn’t help themselves. As in all things, there are tradeoffs, and I wouldn’t say one is definitively better. Which do you prefer (allowing for veganism, etc.): filet mignon or fresh, perfectly ripe strawberries?

  74. well, a couple of things. If you think cities are facades about to collapse, I would wager you are applying rural solutions to city problems and rightly seeing they would implode. Wave a magic wand and teleport a million small town people into a city.They would try to solve problems with rural solutiins, but those soljtions fail in a city of a milion people. You cant rely on everyone knowing everyone to keep everyone acting fairly. you cant rely on social pressure to keep people working together. If you transport one rural person to the city, you get a fish out of water story like Crocodile Dundee. If you transported a million rural people to a city, it would be a post apocalyptic story watching the city implode.

    City solutions dont work in rural areas either. Thats what happens when a city kid walks into a national park with a tshirt, no map, thinks his phone will work in the middle of nowhere, doesnt have food, water, or shelter, and needs a search party to rescue him.

    The solutions are SOLUTIONS to specific problems. living in the city and living in the rural area are different problems.

    for someone with a rural outlook, looking at a city, it looks like a house of cards if they assume city folk are living by rural rules in a city settiing. rural rules in a city WILL collapse. But city folk have different rules, different solutions to a different set of problems.

    the LAND gives the politics. the setting gives the particular solution.

  75. In the end, neither form of community is better than the other. You can get fresh trout in the country, but you can’t get sushi. You may know your neighbors back seven generations, but you don’t meet new people and get introduced to new ideas. Your life allows for some form of stability, but change comes as a shock to the system rather than something that washes over you and gives you new perspective. Your mindset is reinforced by those around you instead of being challenged on a daily basis. You’re so smugly sure of the fact that you’re “aware” of the world around you that you claim to know with absolute and utter surety that those people aren’t, and you don’t even bother to see if they are. All you see is Them out to get You and destroy that world, to own and govern it regardless of whether or not that’s how they actually feel. — Genufett

    I’ve lived in the city and I’ve lived in the country. There was nothing about living in the city that magically prevented anyone from being narrow or closed-minded in his or her views, outlooks, perspectives, etc. In fact, when I lived in Seattle I noticed a peculiar city-bred myopia. As if the civilized world did not exist north of Edmunds, nor south of Being Field, nor east of Bellevue. Anywhere outside of those loose boundaries was barbariansville. This attitude was especially prevalent on First and Capitol Hill — epicenter of all things hip and cool.

    Very few 20-to-30-somethings could understand that their views, ideas, politics, customs, likes, dislikes, etc, might not be shared by the entirety of the country. And that this was just fine. And that simply being a city-dweller did not automatically make you smarter, more intelligent, more sophisticated, or any less likely to fall into bad thinking habits, with a tendency to overgeneralize, draw assumptions, or get “lazy” — especially when painting all the country folk with the Deliverance brush.

    And let me tell you about shocks to the system. When the trucks that bring everything to the city stop coming — either because of a war, a natural disaster, a financial collapse, or a fuel shortage — the city becomes a ticking time bomb. Most high-rise dwellers don’t know their neighbors, nor do they keep or have sufficient food storage, nor independent sources of potable water, nor independent solutions for waste management. This is a recipe for Bad Things Happening. Especially if the trucks don’t come for weeks, or even months. You can’t farm for a grown adult (much less a family) out of a window flower box. And while empty-lot urban farming is considered 21st-century neato, no major metro area can possibly support all those millions of mouths crammed into such a small space.

    To paraphrase something Carl Sagan once said, the city needs the country far more than the country needs the city.

  76. Yeah, well, I mean, did you ever go east of Bellvue? I think they may be right.*

    This is a recipe for Bad Things Happening.

    It’s also that interconnectedness everyone’s been talking about. Congratulations for offering up a good example. Also, wasn’t there talk up thread about Very Bad Things Happening to ruralites as a result of a flat tire?

    the city needs the country far more than the country needs the city.

    Oh, just add the “nyah, nyah” to the end of that. C’mon, you know you want to.

    *That’s a joke, btw, no need to answer.

  77. David — here in Minnesota we’ve got a half-million acres of it, adjoining more in Canada. There’s a little bit of it about thirty miles south of here, couple of hundred acres.

    TheMadLibrarian — strawberries, if they are the small tasty ones, rather than the softball sized red supersweets. I’m not much of a beef eater these days, mostly in stir-fries.

  78. Greg’s comments are apropos. I was just listening to NPR and they were discussing th large humanitarian fort under way in New York this very moment. They have the national guard and other groups going building by building, floor by floor, door by door checking on people. These people ave no water, food, or heat. They live in the city, they don’t need nor have the space to store supplies. That highlights a problem with city living. You rely on others to provide your necessaties and when something such as lack of electricity, fuel, etc stops that these individuals have major problems.

    However, it also demonstrated the huge coordinated effort and resources available to help huge groups of people. No only that but the desire to help others. I think that desire transcends location.

  79. I think the Whatever community has reached some kind of tipping point. You’re arguing I’m a little bit Country; I’m a little bit Rock’n’roll. Personally, I like the Marshall Tucker Band and The Eagles. Maybe I’m Bi-communitas. (Actually I like Jethro Tull, but I don’t want people to think I’m a total freak.)

  80. David — here in Minnesota we’ve got a half-million acres of it, adjoining more in Canada. There’s a little bit of it about thirty miles south of here, couple of hundred acres

    And even that’s carefully maintained and thought about:

    http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/forests_types/oldgrowth/visit.html

    You shouldn’t imagine that nature is any less artificial in the country than it is in the city. It’s a comforting illusion, but an illusion nonetheless.

  81. When the trucks that bring everything to the city stop coming — either because of a war, a natural disaster, a financial collapse, or a fuel shortage — the city becomes a ticking time bomb.

    And about six months later, the country discovers that all those lovely things that the industrialized world provides–antibiotics, hospitals, machined goods, electricity–are actually kind of critical in survival, and they stop being quite so snotty about their urban cousins. Honestly, Brad, I assume you know a bit what peasant life in the middle ages was like, so why are you acting like a John Wayne movie has any correspondence with reality?

    My apologies for the sequential post.

  82. Brad: I know this doesn’t mean much, but my field is actually logistics, currently food logistics. I started to answer your comment point by point, but when I reached 1k words, I decided that offering a graduate course in why you are wrong on Scalzi’s blog was not the best use of either of our time.

    The short version: I am based in Seattle, I have lived in or visited every state in the contiguous 48, and multiple countries, I have managed disaster relief in four major emergencies, and I can assure you that it is much, much, much easier to provide food, water, and basics to city dwellers within 72 hours of total systemic shut-down, than it is to rural areas. Which is why folks in ND have 2 weeks of food stored, and those in Brooklyn do not. Infrastructure is crucial. Logistics is a discipline developed by the military, meant to deliver goods to the most hostile possible areas under the worst possible conditions. We are not kidding about this. The city dwellers that you are probably unintentionally slagging are the people that get munitions to the outback of Afghanistan and clean water to Minot, ND.

    I, and people like me, are your Worst Case Scenario gods and goddesses. Katrina was a disaster because Bush and his cabinet wouldn’t listen to us. Every possible contingency had been planned for, up to and including alien invasion by a hostile species. I am totally not kidding about this, btw. There is nothing you can think of that is not already planned for by myself and people like me.

    I make the trucks run. I tell them where to go, what to do, and how to do it. My forefathers have been doing this work since the Revolutionary War. I am personally and deeply offended by the idea that we would not keep doing this work, or that we are incompetent, or by the idea that because I do it in Seattle now, as opposed to Hamilton, MS, or Havelock, NC, that this work is no longer valid.

    In re 20-30 somethings that have limited world views, wtf-ever. People grow and age, age confers wisdom; when I was 9, I couldn’t conceive of a world outside of the range of my roller skates. Get over it. The folks you knew in Seattle way back when are different people now. Some of them may now live in BFE. Some of them live in Paris, Some of them live in Beirut. Your memory is a snapshot of a moment in time. It has passed, let it go. Today’s 20-somethings are different people with different prejudices, and different life paths. Your former peers have moved on; perhaps you should, too.

  83. Brad: Also, it’s Edmonds, not Edmunds, and Boeing Field, not Being Field. And neither are the edge of the civilized world, just outside of the 30-minute rule, which also (crazily) applies even in rural areas, to 9 year olds on roller skates, the same as it does to 59 year olds on the bus, and everyone in between. Math, it hath a liberal bias.

  84. Minwotch – since I think the thread could se a bit of levity, and the first thought that popped not my head when you said planned for everything was Zombies. Do you have plans for Zombies?

  85. The zombie apocalypse plan is publicly available, the intertoobs can provide you with scholarly thesis and professional white papers. It’s actually a common test scenario used in disaster logistics modeling.

  86. Are the plans detailed on how to deal with the danger, or are the based on providing food, water, shelter, and medicine with various levels of infrastructure damage?

  87. Mintwich, in the event that Seattle is beset with a major disaster, I hope you and yours can execute to perfection. I’m military. I know a bit about logistics. Bad logistics lose battles and lose wars. Good logistics win battles and wars — and saves lives. The Puget Sound has a heap of resources. I have no doubt you’d all rally.

    I think my point was that the city is vulnerable — ultimately — in ways the countryside is not. Our modern cities cannot survive long without electricity, fuel, and the constant influx of consumables.

    And I certainly hope many of my peers from the previous decade have changed their attitudes. It got old listening to them congratulate themselves for being awesome just because they partied every Saturday night in Pioneer Square.

    Meanwhile, typos are the doom of me. Gah.

  88. Brad: But, that’s my point. The countryside is ultimately vulnerable in ways that urban areas are not. There’s a reason that London has maintained for 2000 years. Cities develop in areas that have resources, sometimes non-obvious resources, that Nowhere, WY does not. America is littered with ghost towns, but we’ve also got metropolises that predate our Union. Your basic premise is faulty. It’s a popular myth, but it has absolutely no basis in recorded history. It’s all about access, and cities grow where there is easy access via multiple routes–land, water, and air. In novels, during disasters, people flee from urban areas. In reality, populations move to urban areas after plagues, hurricanes, and wars. That’s where the resources are directed, because access is easier, and stressed populations follow the resources. Refugees scatter from the disaster site, and collect to the nearest city, even if they have to build it themselves. Meanwhile, the lone survivalist, sticking it out on the homestead, is buried in the eruption of Mount St. Helens (true story).

  89. Ozzie: Depends on the focus of the author. I think it’s kind of funny that the whole zombie apocalypse thing sort of metastasized from a leaked paper by some public agency, I forget which, a few years back. Initially it was a huge “scandal,” oh, no, our tax dollars are being spent on ZoMBieS, waah, and now popular culture has run with that ball. Hysterical, really.

  90. Brad: And let me tell you about shocks to the system. When the trucks that bring everything to the city stop coming — either because of a war, a natural disaster, a financial collapse, or a fuel shortage — the city becomes a ticking time bomb.

    (snort) I said rural living reinforces independence and self sufficiency, and city living reinforces working together and synergy. then I said this:

    for someone with a rural outlook, looking at a city, it looks like a house of cards if they assume city folk are living by rural rules in a city settiing. rural rules in a city WILL collapse. But city folk have different rules, different solutions to a different set of problems.

    And what did you do but propose taking a city and creating some hypothetical situation whereby the city is plunged into rural conditions?

    That would be like a bunch of hunter/gatherers arguing with a bunch of people who have started this thing called agriculture, and the hunter/gatherers say “Yeah, well, see how well you do when there’s a drought. If we have a drought, we just move. If you have a drought, you lose your whole farm! and then you’ll have to revert back to hunter/gatherer, and then our mode of living will be validated as better, more reliable, and able to handle environmental shocks to the system. Think of hunter/gathering as the backup for you farmers. When farming fails, you’ll come crawling back to us.”

    hunting/gathering solves a particular problem with a particular soluiton. farming solves a slightly different set of circumstances with a different solution. Cities solve an entirely different situation with entirely different rules. None of these solutions would work in any of the other settings. H/G would fail in farming and cities. Farming would fail if forced to H/G or cities. Cities would fail if forced to H/G or farming.

    But farming hasn’t collapsed back into hunting/gathering. Cities haven’t collapsed back into farming. This “just you wait, enry iggins, just you wait” attitude that cities, the concept of which have been around for thousands of years, are on the razor’s edge of total collapse, is weird. I can only assume it comes from a “Rural solutions are inherently better than every other solution out there” sort of attitude, rather than looking at it in a “rural living solves one problem. City living solves a different problem.”

    But this attitude does perfectly explain the Grover Norquists of the world who think industrialized city-fied America is nothing but a facade that will fall at the first sign of trouble, and these silly cities will collapse under their own weight, and we’ll revert back to our “natural” ways of farming and rural living.

  91. Brad: I think my point was that the city is vulnerable — ultimately — in ways the countryside is not. Our modern cities cannot survive long without electricity, fuel, and the constant influx of consumables.

    Wow, this is the hunter/gather versus farming argument I mentioned, almost to a T.

    Again, all you’re doing is trying to find some reason to say the rural way of life is intrincically better than city living, rather than just allow that both modes of living solve different problems.

  92. I think my point was that the city is vulnerable — ultimately — in ways the countryside is not. Our modern cities cannot survive long without electricity, fuel, and the constant influx of consumables.

    No worries; anytime you want to leave those icky vulnerable cities, with all their unnatural liberalism, behind and strike valiantly out for Galt’s Gulch, we’ll give you a hearty wave.

  93. Our modern cities cannot survive long without electricity, fuel, and the constant influx of consumables.

    My sister lives in Hopatcong, NJ. Like much of the area, they’ve had a rough time of it since Sandy. They’ve been without power for 11 days. Amazingly, they haven’t started eating each other though.

  94. Genufett:

    “It’s the majorities in rural areas that have historically recoiled at the commingling of people they regard as The Other, and who often seem content at retaining ideas and mores that separate and–dare I say it–segregate The Other from the status quo.”

    There is not a rural/urban preference for the Othering of people, historically or presently.

    “It prizes retaining a community as it stands because it’s comfortable, as opposed to creating communities from disparate parts.”

    The fact that cities do create communities from disparate parts doesn’t necessarily reflect on how peacefully or voluntarily this was done.

    Brad:

    “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” – Carl Sagan

    You seem to be basing a lot of your theory here on the fact that some hipsters you once knew acted like douchecanoes about country folk. That this has blossomed into the theory that cities are inherently failures over the long term (or in the event of the Apocalpyse) seems to defy historical evidence and makes me wonder how seriously you take this argument (even though you’ve broken your one-and-fun policy to make it).

  95. Doc RocketScience:

    “Amazingly, they haven’t started eating each other though.”

    In fairness, at the mere mention of the hurricane possibly rolling directly through the NoVA area, I began preparing by reviewing my copy of Survival Tactics and Sartorial Tips For The Discerning Modern Day Cannibal. I can’t comment as to how far that plan went.

  96. I live in a village of maybe 25 or so people. In a county that has, let me see, 50,000 people spread over a thousand square miles. I’m more than a hundred miles from any major city. So, you know, rural.

    This crap about how cities would fall apart if you disrupted the infrastructure long enough is true. The idea that the country is immune is gibberish. Everyplace has, for instance, just in time delivery. Which means if those trucks stop coming, we’re not going to have food. You think there’s an endless supply of fresh water? Or fuel for whatever heating system you have?

    We are somewhat better off compared to cities in that there is less competition for resources should that sort of stuff happen, and that we tend to have a bit more in stored stuff. But that’s a difference of days, at best.

    If you’re a prepper whose made the necessary …er…preparations, then the country is better. For everyone else, you’re only slightly less screwed. Slightly. The flipside to this is that in the event of something like that happening, well, guess who is going to get aid first? Hint: Not the country.

    But most country homes need electricty for water. Mostly people don’t have coal or wood furnaces. They don’t have a year’s worth of food. Thinking the country is some exempt from infrastructure collapse is wishful thinking or, more likely, no thinking at all.

  97. Doc RocketScience:

    “Amazingly, they haven’t started eating each other though.”

    Other Bill:

    In fairness, at the mere mention of the hurricane possibly rolling directly through the NoVA area, I began preparing by reviewing my copy of Survival Tactics and Sartorial Tips For The Discerning Modern Day Cannibal. I can’t comment as to how far that plan went.

    I think NJ could use a few truckloads of the Joy of Sex and Kama Sutra. After 11 nights w/o power, if they’re not eating each other, there’s something wrong. [ba-dum-dum!]

  98. Yeah, I’m sticking with “country living is better/safer than those city house of cards that are about to collapse at a moments notice” as an outcome of psychology. At one point when I was on the farm, it was clear to me that there were so many instances in the years living there that indepence, self-sufficiency, and such, were vitally important for myself and people around me surviving, that I made the mistake of thinking it was vitally important for everyone.

    I had to live in the city for years, and spend quite a few of those years questioning my philosophical positions, my moral compass, and my psychology, before I finally realized that those things were vitally important to everyone who had been around me on the farm, because the farm presented a rather unique set of problems and circumstances that needed to be dealt with, and independence and self-sufficiency just worked in those circumstances.

    City living presents different problems and different circumstances, and rural solutions don’t work there. Well, some do, but like I said, If you teleported a million farmers into a city overnight, it would turn into that house of cards and rapidly collapse because farm/rural solutions don’t work in a city. A city needs infrastructure and lots of it, a city needs regulations, a city needs bureacracy, and all those things allow the city to thrive. Rural living doesn’t HAVE a lot of infrastructure, so rural folks often disdain otherss for wanting it. Rural living doesn’t NEED bureaucracy or regulations, so rural folks often see bureaucracy and regulation as stupid, needless, meddling that can only make things worse. And in a rural setting, the level of bureacracy and regulation in a city is something I WOULD say is needless.

    But this seems to directly translate to my original comment that the land gives the politics. That rural naturally gives people a conservative outlook, and city naturally gives people there a progressive outlook. The locations need different solutions, and those solutions map directly to political viewpoints and even political parties. And Brad’s insistence that cities are on the knife’s edge of collapsing into the dark ages seems to be the perfect singular example of this. And that Brad happens to be an extremely vocal Conservative commenter on this blog seems to fit perfectly with what I was saying about rural living gives rural people a certain set of solutions and those solutions map directly to a conservative outlook.

  99. It’s also worth remembering that today’s “country” is different in some important ways from the “country” of a century ago, and the changes between then and now reflect some important dependencies between the local “country” and the city (and other “outside” areas).

    When I go visit my in-laws on the prairies, for instance, I’m in country lands, with big farms with few people on them, and towns spaced far apart. That’s how farm country is, right? Except that if I visited a century ago, I would have seen a lot more towns, closer together. (You can still find traces of a number of the vanished towns nearby if you know where to look.) And the farm parcels would have either been a lot smaller per family, or have considerably more people on them, or both. (Again, you can see that if you look at old land or census records.)

    Why is it different now? Mainly because of mechanization and fuel. When going to town doesn’t involve a horse and wagon (or your own two feet), you don’t have to have town so close by, and it’s more efficient for commercial areas to consolidate. And when you’ve got powerful tractors, combines, and the like, you can farm a lot more ground with fewer people.

    But the fuel and the machinery that makes all this possible depends on people from the cities, or other far-flung locations, making the machinery, getting them and the fuel to them, and so on. If those went away, the countryside where my in-laws lived would have a hard time adjusting. Likewise, other rural areas are fundamentally dependent on infrastructure (water infrastructure in the western US being a key example) that they couldn’t provide on their own, at least not on the scale they now depend on.

    My in-laws’ farm is old-fashioned enough that it could probably go for a while after a big
    catastrophe; the water’s drawn from a cistern, they have canned food and a big freezer, and an on-farm tank for gasoline. They have a generator that could provide power for the freezer, space-heaters (the wood stove is long gone, replaced by a natural gas furnace), and other essentials as long as the gas held out. Once there was no more fuel, though, they’d be a lot more hard-pressed, particularly in the wintertime.

  100. David — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_Waters_Canoe_Area_Wilderness

    So let’s take a look at that, shall we? After a fire in 2007, which burned substantial acreage, what did folks do? They remade the wilderness as they thought it should be:

    Several hundred volunteers have already signed up to plant 75,000 new trees along the Gunflint Trail to mark the first anniversary of the most destructive forest fire in Minnesota in 90 years

    and

    They’ll be planted in pockets to mimic natural stands, not in rows or plantations. Forest Service personnel will be on hand to steer the efforts.

    http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=508432

    Oh, and they helped rebuild the trails, campgrounds, boat landings, etc.

    That “wilderness” is just as artificially created as the cities. Don’t imagine otherwise.

  101. There is a lot of discussion about my way is better than your way ….. well actually just the rural group seems to be arguing they are better. I live in rural America. I prefer this life, but even with food stores and water I would be screwed if ala Revolution (the tv show) the electricity stopped. A mountain man lifestyle would not be able to support my family.

    All catastrophes would impact our way of life in cities and rural. No group would go along untouched, but we would all adapt as humans have for 1000s of years and carry on solving the new set of problems.

    Brad: don’t forget cities solve your main rural life problem. They keep city folks out of your rural area. That is not a joke, but a reality.

  102. I think my point was that the city is vulnerable — ultimately — in ways the countryside is not

    @Brad, dare I hope that you have finally gone out and acquired The Art of Deception in order to improve your rhetorical skills? You see, you’ve just used a textbook technique: Even if your argument has been demolished, never, ever admit that you were wrong; simply say that you were trying to illustrate a larger point.

    You’re also falling into the trap of arguing something other than what you really mean, because on some level you feel that your real argument isn’t good enough. What you’re actually saying is that you like rural living and dislike cities, but you’re not comfortable expressing this as a preference, an emotional leaning; you’re trying to turn it into an Objective Truth, that cities are inherently weaker/more problematic. Essentially, you’re saying that you don’t have enough confidence in your own feelings to say “I like X”; you have to say “Everyone should like X” or “X is better than the alternatives.” It’s a habit a lot of people have, but it’s still very unfortunate.

  103. Greg, no need to lay this all at the feet of Brad. It started with htom’s claim that cities are all diseased and artificial.

    Then came Justin Jordan, and I suddenly noticed a huge flaw in the “cities will collapse without power, etc.” argument. It seems that in htom and Brad and Justin’s conceptualization, a “city” is an isolated entity, like a farm. There’s this city, see, and it’s surrounded by a fence or some other clear boundary, and beyond that boundary is… well, nothing. For hundreds of miles. Meanwhile, there’s like one power line, one water main, and maybe two roads feeding this city. Basically, they see every city as Manhattan (if the Hudson and East Rivers were many many miles wide because New Jersey and Long Island didn’t exist). If any of that were actually true, then they’d be right. Cut off a city’s power, water, and road, and it would collapse in a matter of days. (How many days, I don’t know, and htom nor Brad nor Justin have said, or given a ballpark figure.)

    But modern American cities are not built like that. For one thing, it would be monumentally stupid. For another, no city could grow bigger than a few thousand people before overwhelming that one power line, water main and road. In reality, a city’s electrical power is often generated at a number of locations within the city, and is connected to the national power grid (such as it is). Similarly it’s water supply. And there are dozens, if not hundreds of roads leading in and out of the city, from interstate highways to back roads. And then there’s the suburban sprawl that accompanies every major city. So a modern city isn’t a few hundred square mile island of civilization in a sea of wilderness, it’s a smear of humanity across a wide swath of countryside. And in many places, the smear of one city meets up with the smear of another. In other words, most cities more closely resemble Los Angeles than Manhattan.

    None of this is to say that cities aren’t vulnerable to disaster. They obviously are. But, as I said, north-central New Jersey is going on day 12 without electricity. Similarly large parts of Manhattan as well, I think. Yet no one is starving. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley (aka the US’s 6th largest city that isn’t a city). That is to say, earthquake country. The mantra drilled into my head was “72 hours”. Be prepared to survive 72 hours without services in the event of a major disaster, like a magnitude 8 earthquake. mintwitch can confirm if that figure is still valid, but I’d wager it is still a butt-tonne less than 12 days.

  104. Large portions of Manhattan are not still suffering power outage; mine was back by Saturday last week, for instance, and I live in the Dark Zone, the only part of Manhattan that went out. Hardly any — if any at all — are without power, and they are the — ta-dah! high rise Projects built to house poor people on the East River, which surged so high and wide across the east side. The other parts without power are also down at the bottom of the island, where many a bond and security finance firm is located, as well as many charitable agencies.

    It’s large portions of Long Island that are still without power, thanks to the intransigence of LIFA. But the Canadian electric and power workers are here — Goddess Bless Them — the people of Long Island sure are, and that is helping.

    It’s large portions of Staten Island and New Jersey, and of course the Breezy Point section of Queen’s that are without power still too. And that’s because of the extent of utter destruction, not downed power lines and fallen trees.

    Love, C.

  105. @Doc RocketScience: The “72 Hours” thing is very much the standard being pushed here in CA, and was long before the current East Coast storms. We’re going to get another Big One, and that’s that, so we need to be prepared for it. Which reminds me, today’s a good a day as any to rotate the water supply.

  106. I feel safer in the city. Car crashes are much more likely to be fatal on a country road than on a city street. Our streets get plowed and salted before the country roads do. Hospitals in large cities are better than the one in small towns. It’s fine to be prepared for large scale disasters, but one must also be prepared for more common scenarios, like heart attacks and winter.

  107. Doc: Yes, schools and homes should have sufficient supplies (batteries, food, medicines, diapers, tampons, etc.) for three days. Don’t forget a manual can opener or three! Also, a Grab & Go bag for each student or member of the household, which is checked every few months, and kept in a convenient place. The Red Cross, FEMA, and your county/city disaster preparedness site have more info, including printable checklists. I would start with your city or county sites, first, because the information will be targeted towards locals, whereas the Red Cross and FEMA are more generalized.

    My folks got me into the habit early, basically as soon as I started school, of always carrying a backpack that was not only school supplies, but also a go-bag. To this day, I still carry a backpack (although it’s nice leather and work-appropriate, now) that has everything I need to function in case of a major disaster and I am stranded for a bit. It goes with me everywhere, and while it weighs a pound or so more than a purse, I’m used to it, and it’s come in handy in both emergency situations and everyday, boring life.

    Most municipalities offer disaster preparedness classes or workshops for free. You can arrange for them to send trainers to your workplace or garden club, or take a Red Cross class in your area, or volunteer. Depending on the hazards your area, these are good ways to find out about tsunami evacuation routes, emergency shelter locations, etc.

    Aaaaand, I’ll stop now, before I go completely wonk.

  108. @minaria — the idea that medieval parents cultivated indifference to young children comes from Barbara Tuchman in her eminently readable A Distant Mirror. She based her idea upon art. The art of the time didn’t depict loving mother – child portraits or loving family portraits at all, other than the religious art of the Holy Family, Mary and Infant Jesus. Anyone who has a sketchy chronology of art history understands that art in Europe was almost entirely religious. So yes, you begin seeing secular portraiture that depicts more than the visage of the ruler only in the later parts of what we still will refer to as the Middle Ages, and the beginning of the Renaissance, which is what the Renaissance was so much an expression of: concepts of the world around us that aren’t necessarily dictated by the Church or by doctrine or praise of God.

    There’s no proof of Tuchman’s idea beyond that. So few people relativelyl in those eras were literate, so the majority of primary documents aren’t written by women at all or anyone who isn’t of the Church in some manner, even if employed by a court, whether of the local noble or another very powerful person; even the lawyers were churchmen. They would not generally be concerned with the deaths of infants beyond baptism. Yet, we do find, here and there, evidence of depression in mothers and even fathers from the loss of infants and young children, and expressions of grief. What you don’t find are any expressions of how nobody cares.

    This is the sort of thing in Tuchman that tends to make me doubtful of much else. She wasn’t a medievalist, as the medieval historians sniffed in their reviews of her book when it came out, pointing out error after error. Not that this necessarily invalidates her thesis — Big Picture History that throws light upon our own age — see how Jared Diamond or Charles C. Mann are also criticized by the specialists in the varieties of knowledge they take on their Big Histories. In works of this nature you are going to make errors of detail, but those don’t always, don’t necessarily, invalidate the larger argument.

    Love, C.

  109. Quoth Mintwitch, “Aaaaand, I’ll stop now, before I go completely wonk.”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  110. Doc:

    But modern American cities are not built like that.

    David:

    Cities were never built like that.

    Where did this idea come from, that cities are fragile flowers that will wilt at the first touch of frost? How many plagues swept London and Florence? How many earthquakes have shaken LA, SF, Tokyo, Kyoto? How many times has Rome been sacked? Fires, volcanic eruptions, wars, and famine… and yet Rome stands, LA has not slid into the sea, and the NYSE parties on.

    Is it the Christian story of Sodom and Gomorrah that teaches this? The destruction of Pompeii? Have we made the exceptions the rule, in our cultural narrative? Cities don’t form where and how they do for no reason. They are remarkably resilient communities; the logistics of them, imho, are fascinating.

  111. @mintwich –

    They are remarkably resilient communities; the logistics of them, imho, are fascinating.

    Very true. You’d expect someone who claims to have a grasp of logistics to recognize and appreciate that.

  112. In works of this nature you are going to make errors of detail, but those don’t always, don’t necessarily, invalidate the larger argument.

    It sure doesn’t help, though.

    Where did this idea come from, that cities are fragile flowers that will wilt at the first touch of frost?

    There’s a cultural ethos in the United States (as htom and Brad are so clearly showing) that the country is more pure and virtuous than the city. It’s the frontier, it’s closer to nature, it’s where “real” Americans live. In this ethos, the Americans in cities are necessarily decadent, effete, and unable to fend for themselves.

  113. Foxnessa: thanks. I thought I had heard a radio report about there being no power in the city still. But it’s been a hectic week, so that was probably days and days ago. That’s what I get for not googling before I hit post. :)

    mintwhich: thank you as well.

    David: of course not. But for the sake of this argument, about modern rural vs urban politicl affiliations, the current structure of cities is more key than the history of the “city”.

  114. David: of course not. But for the sake of this argument, about modern rural vs urban politicl affiliations, the current structure of cities is more key than the history of the “city”.

    Actually, I think completely the opposite. Brad & htom aren’t arguing from any genuine evaluation of urban v. rural endurance, they’re arguing from the position of the Marlboro Man. The history of the “city” is exactly the point.

  115. David — let’s put your quote in a little more context.

    “… Fire risk is much lower this year than in the previous few years, when drought conditions prevailed over much of northeastern Minnesota. Recent heavy snows and autumn rains helped refill swamps, lakes and streams across much of the region, and wetted down forest areas. Forestry experts say much of the forest area struck by fire will regenerate on its own, but the Forest Service is replanting some areas near the Gunflint Trail and other spots where the majority of large seed trees were wiped out. “Our crews, even last summer already, could see a lot of areas that were regenerating naturally,” said Kris Reichenbach spokeswoman for Superior National Forest. “But there are pockets that could use some help, especially right along the (road) corridor.” The volunteer tree-planting effort is being coordinated by the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee and the Gunflint Trail Association, and will focus on public places in Superior National Forest: boat landings, campgrounds and access points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, including the hard-hit Trails End and Iron Lake Campgrounds. The trees were donated by nurseries and the Iron Range Resources agency. They’ll be planted in pockets to mimic natural stands, not in rows or plantations. Forest Service personnel will be on hand to steer the efforts. All the plantings will take place outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which because it is an official federal wilderness will be allowed to regenerate completely on its own.

    So the wilderness is not maintained like a park, it seems. Except it is getting the 500′ cell phone tower. How it and its lighting will be powered I don’t know. Maybe it will be just outside the wilderness and only its size and paint and flashing lights will intrude.

    Doc Rocketscience — “…. It started with htom’s claim that cities are all diseased and artificial.” [citation required]

    Did you even read my post where I showed the scaling of human density? Where I at least implied that we choose to live in the suburbs, not the country? We lived in Murderapolis (more properly, the Central Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis) for a quarter-century, and intentionally left. I’ve lived in the city. With both the good parts and the bad parts.

    David — the country is more pure and virtuous? Then why do I choose to live there? I suppose it depends on what you consider pure and virtuous. Murder /100k is a little lower there than it is here in Eagan, which is lower than Minneapolis even in a good year (not as much lower as you’d think, it still happens, and with fewer people the rate goes up.) The Virginian was a fable, in that the good in the West was not that good (humans, after all); the bad … sadly, yes, that bad, then and now, and again, humans.

    Strawberry shortcake is different than apple pie. I love them both. They are different. The city is different than the country. Both have good, both have bad. Using the rules and laws for one in the other is going to be problematical.

  116. So the wilderness is not maintained like a park, it seems. Except it is getting the 500′ cell phone tower. How it and its lighting will be powered I don’t know. Maybe it will be just outside the wilderness and only its size and paint and flashing lights will intrude.

    I do love that your argument is that it’s genuine wilderness except for the parts that have been replenished by humans (and the cited is just one example of that happening; how many times has it happened in the past 100 years?) and the 500 foot cell tower. Y’all are really roughing it out there.

  117. [citation required]

    Really, htom? Really? OK…

    Those features bring great sparkle and sizzle to the city … and they enable diseases, of both body and mind.

    With the sparkle and sizzle, there’s a lot of artificiality.

    So, yeah, I read your posts. And I think I’ve accurately paraphrased you. I suppose you could quibble with the word “all”, but why? I mean other than a desire to win… something.

  118. @htom, the city doesn’t resurface my patio because it’s on private property – not because it’s “not part of the city”. Similarly, there’s really quite a difference between land that is rural vs. land that is actually wilderness.

  119. I think Philippe Ariès was saying that stuff about the invention of childhood almost twenty years before Tuchman was. (IIRC Tuchman credits him appropriately, but it’s ages since I read the book, so no promises.)

  120. htom part of the wilderness

    The wilderness with the 500 FOOT CELL TOWER! (or alternatively the half-dozen shorter towers because that’s MUCH more sylvan and pure and real and authentic).

    It’s not a wilderness if you can order takeout.

  121. I’m pretty sure htom is bemoaning the cell tower, and I actually sympathize with him. But, the issue w/ things like cell towers, is that it’s not the effete townies in NYC asking for it, it’s his neighbors. Apparently, there are folks up in MN who are unhappy w/ no bars on their mobile, because the occasional nature tourist is not a strong enough consumer presence to build that.

    I run into this phenomenon fairly often, sad to say. Just like two apartment dwellers in the same urban high-rise disagree about politics, two neighbors in the rural US may have quite different ideas about what infrastructure is desirable. My folks live on 11 acres in central Redneckville, and they are constantly battling with their neighbor over the neighbor’s cows encroaching upon my parents’ woodlot, for an example.

    So htom is at odds with the people living closest to him, but it seems to me that he lays blame upon those he doesn’t have to confront. Or something. Whatever. Honestly, I really can’t tell what his point might be, his last post is sort of sprawling, and lacks a thesis.

  122. I’m pretty sure htom is bemoaning the cell tower

    He might be, but it’s irrelevant. He can’t hold up something as the “wilderness” when there’s a 500 FOOT CELL TOWER looming over it, even if he doesn’t like the cell tower.

  123. I’m finding htom’s idiosyncratic take on wilderness vs cell towers quite extraordinary. It’s hard to find a more nature-loving bunch than the let’s-go-hiking/kayaking/fishing/skiing/cycling Norwegians, and the government program that got cell coverage along the remote parts of the fjords and the deep mountain valleys is almost universally appreciated as a literal life-saver, judging by the number of times it was approving mentioned to us as we travelled around a few years ago. They don’t need to have modern communications/rescue technology made invisible in order to appreciate their wilderness areas: why does htom?

    Here in Australia we still need satellite phones to communicate in many of our wild places – we just have too much land area with too few people to cover the costs. Most serious bushwalkers etc carry emergency GPS beacons because of this. Nearly everybody would prefer to be able to rely on their ordinary cellphones if they could.

  124. Doc — inference is not implication.

    Mythago — the city street pavers don’t do the library’s lot, or the police department’s, or … it’s not that it’s private property, it is a different sovereign; the park is state property, the wilderness is federal. They have grand battles in court sometimes, which would be funny if I wasn’t paying the DNR, the USFS, and the judge. (Sometimes one of the tribes gets involved, the courts really don’t do three-sided contests well.)

    David — the plan with the shorter towers has towers short enough that they don’t need lights and red-white paint; they can be made to be fake trees and might be hard to spot if you don’t know what to look for. I think the wilderness would be better with the “none” option, but I can see, barely, a safety rational for the short towers. Sadly, they won’t restrict access to dialing 911 (and I can see safety reasons for allowing full service both ways.) Most of the population in the park and the wilderness nine months of the year is indeed tourists. The 450′ tower (sorry about the 500′) was AT&T’s response to local requests for many more short towers along the road that bounds the park — it would be so much cheaper to build one giant tower than all of those little ones. I don’t live there, or near there, or even spend much time there. It is a real wilderness if you get ten or twenty miles in (city folk tend to go five or ten miles and camp in the provided places.)

    My favorite wilderness is the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selway-Bitterroot_Wilderness. Much bigger, not flat, and a much lower population density, even in the summer. Hitch-hike up the Nez-Pierce Trail and head north …. Actually, we’re not to do that anymore. Rules and Regulations.

    There was a time when the sign on the beach in Venice, CA said “No Rules!”

  125. tigtog — were the cell towers conspicuously visible? Red and white stripes, strobe lights? Or did you just notice that you had cell phone service? I understand the safety concern, I just object to the method of implementing it. (There’s also the single point of failure thing with the one tower.)

  126. @htom: you asked why the city doesn’t maintain my driveway or patio. Where I live the county maintains the library, the city maintains the police-department lot….but we’re getting far afield, which is that you’re dodging the distinction between “rural” and “wilderness”. Portraying everything that doesn’t have smog and traffic jams as pristine wilderness filled with clear trout streams is an emotional response, not a reality-based one.

  127. the plan with the shorter towers has towers short enough that they don’t need lights and red-white paint; they can be made to be fake trees

    The more details you give, the more you’re proving my point that the “wilderness” is–like the city–man-made.

    It’s not wilderness if you can order takeout.

  128. “Then came Justin Jordan, and I suddenly noticed a huge flaw in the “cities will collapse without power, etc.” argument.”

    Well, no. Or rather, I guess I should have been clear about what I was talking about. I said infrastrcuture collapse, and I meant that in a wide sense. Which is to say, if all the power in a very large area were shut off for a very long time. Or the supply chain is disrupted for a very long time.

    Which is the only time the “cities would collapse” thing would be relevant. They clear won’t do so when it’s just a matter of partial disruption – if they were only that robust, they wouldn’t have become cities to begin with. So not things that shut off the power for part of the city, or just bottleneck supplies.

    But if something collapses the supply chain to, say, Manhattan, you are going to have problems. This is also true of a rural area. The difference is in how long it would take. There’s a persistant fantasy that if something capable of collapsing a major city like New York happened, then the country people could buckle down and be okay. Which is ridiculous.

    The idea is that the countryside is self sufficient, while the city requires that supplies be shipped in. The reality is that both of them are dependent upon deliveries of food and whatever for survival at the populations we maintain. That’s why we’re not, you know, mostly farmers anymore.

    That’s all, in my opinion, not really worth thinking about: There are very few things capable of causing the sort of disruption needed for urban collapses, and you’re almost certainly screwed anyway.

    What IS useful is having a week or so worth of food and supplies (and more would be better, within reason) on hand at any time, in case you get hit by something like Sandy. And that’s for both cities and the country.

  129. It’s not wilderness if you can order takeout.

    And if you can post comments on an Internet blog. I’m guessing htom did not hew his router out of beechwood and wove together Cat-5 networking cable out of the sinews of deer.

  130. This discussion is basically the same as when the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans were posting comments on Hamilton’s Federalist Blog.

  131. (Apologies to John for a second post – no more, I promise)

    I would also note, as has been mentioned here, that the country also has it’s own perils. There’s no, for instance, paid fire departments in my country. Which means that if my house catches fire, I have to call 911 and they will dispatch the nearest volunteer firecompany. That firecompany puts out a call, and whoever is available will haul ass to the station and then to me.

    Now don’t get me wrong, the fire company does a damn good job of this, and their responses are astonishingly fast, but look at the number of steps there.

    Likewise, ambulance calls. Again, they do great work, but in addition to the time it takes to get a (again, volunteer, although there are some paid paramedics around) to the amublance and then to me I am a minimum 25 minutes from a hospital.

    The nearest state police station is a half an hour away, as is the sheriff’s office, and those are the only two police forces that can respond to something where I am. I might get a reponse sooner if a car happens to be near my location, but I might not.

    Annnnnd all that’s assuming that anyone knows I need help. If my house catches fire, my odds are pretty good that a neighbor will be around to see it. But if I crash my car up the road? Well, it might be a while before anyone sees me, and once they do, there’s no cell phone service.

    So there are tradeoffs. Being away from dense populations has it’s own risks. This all times into Greg’s posts about how the area shapes the politics, as well. It changes other things, too. For instance, a lot of my city friends just pick up what they need, when they need it, at the grocery store. I generally make a once a week trip to the store, because I have to drive to the damn thing and don’t regularly pass it.

    Or, for instance, if I want to go see a movie, I need to carve out what amounts to a working day to do it, because the movie theater is about an hour of driving away. To say nothing of other cultural stuff.

  132. I infer nothing. You used the words “disease” and “artificial”. Don’t blame me for your ineloquence.

  133. mintwitch: Where did this idea come from, that cities are fragile flowers that will wilt at the first touch of frost? … Is it the Christian story of Sodom and Gomorrah that teaches this?

    In a weird way, yes. But really, I think it’s an error in logic. If you grow up in a rural area, you adopt certain approaches to solve the problems of rural living. If you make the mistake of thinking EVERYONE adopts the same approach to life you did, then you will assume folks in the city approach life exactly the way you do. And if you can imagine a city populated with rural folk and farmers, you can rightly imagine that it would collapse.

    I’m basing part of this theory on the fact that it’s pretty much the mistake I made when I was a kid on the farm. Everybody knows everybody in a farm town. When everybody knows everybody, it becomes a massive social enforcement structure to keep everyone playing fair. Try to cheat someone and you’ll likely get ostracized. You don’t need the police to regulate people doing business transactions. I was visiting my parents last year and was fixing a faucet for my mom. I went down to the hardware store to get a threaded adapter. Told the guy what I needed, he pointed me to where it was. Asked me if I needed anything else, told him I needed a pipewrench cause my mom didn’t have one. He said, you’re (mom’s name) son, right? I said yes. He went behind the counter and handed me a pipe wrench and said to just bring it back when I was done.

    You can’t do shit like that at a Home Depot in some major metropolis.

    Now, imagine if nearly every transation you make on a day-to-day basis is regulated by being known by your name and face and reputation within a community. If you assume that’s how it should be done, and if you can’t imagine living any other way, then when you look at a major metropolis, you can’t even imagine how day-to-day transactions would be done. You’d have to pay for every little thing. And if you don’t like it or it’s broke, you’re stuck with it. Rural living has an advantage here.

    Now imagine if you are in a rural area and your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. You fiddle with the motor for a while, but you can’t get it started. A half an hour later, a red, 2003 pickup truck with a topper flies by. You instantly recognize it because you know every car owned by pretty much everyone within ten miles. As soon as the truck goes by you (as soon as the driver gets a look at your car and recognizes it), you will likely see the brake lights come on, and the truck pull over. The reverse lights will come on, and the truck willl backup to your car. Window rolls down. The driver is who you thought. He calls you by name, asks if you’re out of gas, you say no, it died, and it just won’t start, and he’ll probably ask if you want a ride into town.

    If you break down in a major city, most likely what will happen is people will honk for you to get out of their way and go around you without stopping. If someone does stop and offer you a ride, you won’t know them and you won’t trust them to accept their offer. Rural living again has an advantage here.

    All these rural solutions based on reputation and having a known identity disappear in the city. They don’t apply. They don’t work. They fail.

    If the vast majority of your day-to-day life is based off of reputation-based solutions, you might look at a city where no one knows anyone else and imagine that all of your day-to-day transactions are based off of fear and threat of random anonymous violence. You might imagine that the city is just one bad cup of coffee away from total rage-kill.

    This is a farmer looking at a city and assuming the only solutions available to keep people fair are the solutions used in a farming town. And since most of those solutions rely on knowing everyone, and keeping track of everyone’s reputation, and since no one in the city knows anyone else (well, roll with me here a bit), reputation-based solutions are impossible to use, and therefore there is no way to keep anyone fair, and therefore the rural person assumes the city is a roving mob that is about to break down into a riot.

    The city solves the problem of keeping people fair with stuff like police, bureacracy, infrastructure, and so on. But ALL of these problems would be a waste of resources in a farm town. You don’t need cops in a farm town, you might call the sheriff deputy for the county if you need the law, but that would be it. You don’t need food inspectors for the local diner, because there’s only one diner, and if one person gets sick from food poisoning, everyone in town will know within three days. You don’t need the better business bureau in a farm town because if the one local hardware store sells people a scam, everyone in town will know within three days.

    So someone from a farm town sees the city solutions and imagines what they would be like if applied to a farm town, and they rightly figure those city solutions are a waste of resources in a small town where reputation is all it takes ot regulate most transactions. The failure, again, is failing to see that in a city, the city-solutions actually work and are actually cost effective.

    And this all translates perfectly to a Republican/Conservative/Rural dweller looking at a Democrat/Progressive/City dweller and seeing the Democrat solutions as ineffective, needless, and a waste. You don’t need regulation in most towns to keep businesses fair because reputation is all you need in a lot of cases. In a small town, regulations just get in the way and don’t solve anything that isn’t often solved by reputation. But when a republican makes the same mistake that a small town person makes, if the Republican assumes that the city should operate the same way as a farm town, then they will assume the Democratic approach to things wont work and is a waste of money, because city solutions won’t work in a farm town and they’ll waste money. But cities need different solutions. They need solutions normally pushed by Democrats and progressives. They need infrastructure, they need regultaions. they need bureacracy. Once a city has these solutions balnaced out, the city can thrive far more stronger than any farm town could ever imagine.

    htom is espousing the Rural view of City solutions, a disdain for regulations: Actually, we’re not to do that anymore. Rules and Regulations. There was a time when the sign on the beach in Venice, CA said “No Rules!” And a disdain for bureacracy: he park is state property, the wilderness is federal. They have grand battles in court sometimes, which would be funny if I wasn’t paying the DNR, the USFS, and the judge. (Sometimes one of the tribes gets involved, the courts really don’t do three-sided contests well.) Note the complaint about paying for bureacratic solutions, i.e. paying for DNR, USFS, and the judge.

    Rural problems don’t generally need City solutions. Regulations are usually seen as a needless annoyance. Bureacracy is seen as a needless waste of money.

    hunting/gathering had certain limitations. These limitations were overcome by the development of agriculture. Agriculter used differnet solutions than h/g, and agriculture enabled something that simply wasn’t possible wiht the hunter/gatherer approach. But farming has certain limitations. Rural areas and small towns solve most problems with reputation. And this limits the size of any small town to a number of peopel that most people can identify. Having a limited population means the amount of diversity and specialization is limited. This limitation is solved by the development of the city. The city came up with new solutions to the problem of dealing with large populations where reputation solutions would not work. And these solutions (regulation, bureacracy, infrastructure) enabled cities to thrive,and the advent of cities enabled lots and lots of specialization.

    It’s true that Rural is different than City, and its true that Rural solutions don’t work in City settings, and City solutions don’t work in Rural settings. But I don’t think its entirely true to say that Rural and City are two different kinds of pie. The city is a development above and beyond the Rural, the same way Agriculture is a developmetn above and beyond hunting and gathering. The things that cities make available is just not available in an agricultural world. Certainly cities need rural areas with farmland. But rural areas need cities to have the advantages that city-level specialiation allows, that is simply not available in rural areas.

    I think some rural folks and some conservative folks mistakenly think that the Rural could do without the City without losing anything. And this is just silly. take away cities, and I think the Rural areas would regress to a pre-industrial level age. because its cities that enable the specialization needed for industrialization. Take away cities and I think you’re looking at a severe regression in farm areas.

    The thing is, I don’t think rural folk think cities are fragile because of soddom and gomorrah. I think its that some rural folk think city folk think like rural folk. And this leads to a couple of big mistakes: (1) rural solutions don’t work in a city of anonymous people so the city must be on the verge of collapse and (2) the Rural doesn’t need the City and the City needs the Rural and if the City does collapse, the Rural won’t be affected much at all.

    htom, I hear what you’re saying about the love of wilderness. I miss it living in the city sometimes. I miss being able to have a 180 degree clear glass dome to the stars above. Where I live now, I can’t see many of the stars due to light pollution and building obstructions. I miss watching lightning storms roll in from miles away. Now i can only see indirect flashes of light.

    There are some things that can only be gotten from a rural area. But that’s not my point. My point is that the City enables certain things that the Rural simply cannot provide. Just like Agriculture and the development of Farming provide something that hunter/gatherers simply did not have available to them.

    yes, infrastructure might try ot put a cell phone tower in your national forest. But if there were no cities at all, then cell phones wouldn’t exist at all.

  134. Justin Jordan:

    “The reality is that both of them are dependent upon deliveries of food and whatever for survival at the populations we maintain. That’s why we’re not, you know, mostly farmers anymore.”

    Yes. YES! And: Yes. For good measure.

  135. Ugh. Sorry about the long post. It’s just this is somehting I’ve been trying to sort out for years and some stuff just clicked on this thread when I wrote my first comment above about the land giving the politics. Some things just fell into place for me.

    Rural settings can use rural rules. City settings can use city rules. The problem is which set of rules should you use for a nation?

    Brad might think that cities are on the verge of collapse and avoid them, but he will probably let the city mayor do his own thing. The issue is what to do when the concept of “land” becomes somewhat “meta”. When it’s a nation that contains rural and cities, should we treat it like rural, or do we have to treat it like a city?

    I think conservatives want to treat the nation as if it were rural. And I think, though I can’t really prove it at the moment, that if you treat a nation as Rural, then you pretty much can’t have any cities within the nation. Or maybe you can, but the population in the Cities must be a small fraction of the total population of the nation.

    I’m not exactly sure about that part. But it seems the source o fthe problem is Rural-thinking people assuming that Rural rules should be applie to places that contain cities.

    And I’m pretty sure that a nation is essentially a city. It’s too big for reputation-based solutions. Unless the economics are such that all transactions are local, I guess. I mean, if you are stuck with horses for transporation, then you’ll probably only be able to buy and sell from people you know, at which point, reputation based solutions would work.

    But if you have a national highway system and tractor-trailers and railway systems that can cross the nation in days, then I think you HAVE to have city-style solutions, because you can’t know everyone, and reputation alone won’t work.

    Isn’t the core of Republican politics, and the idea of “state rights”, really pointing to the idea that if you keep things local, you can operate with reputation solutions and you don’t need federal regulation? I think fundamentally, that’s th eidea, but I think its flawed because it assumes Rural solutions will scale up to cover the whole nation, but if you have national commerce, you have to have a solution that handles an economy where most transactions are relatively anonymous. i.e. you need city-style solutions.

    Rural solutions could work on the whole nation if all we had for transporation was horses.

    Maybe I shouldn’t have had that third cup of coffee so late in the evening. Sorry. Going to go fidget in bed now….

  136. John Perry Barlow’s commented (about privacy) that a small town is somewhere you don’t need to use your turn signal because everybody already knows where you’re going anyway.

    On the other hand, while the rural areas may think they don’t need the city, the city folks will stop them from saving the seeds from that Monsanto-patented Roundup-ready corn for next year’s crop (if it’s not already too hybridized to make viable seeds), and if they don’t get fertilizer from the factory they’re not going to get much productivity next year, and the bank is going to want them to make their loan payments (even if it’s still a local bank and wasn’t bought out by a big Wall Street bank), so that local independence of theirs really applies more over a short term than a long one. And that doesn’t even count what happens if the folks upriver start using more than their share of water.

  137. Greg:

    FWIW, all that seems reasonable and defensible. I think you cover this, of a sort, later in your post. But, the bit about the regulations-as-solutions as viewed by ruralians and citivites seems blurry to me.

    For example, I think Raleigh County, WVA meets a lot of the small town qualifications at the start of your first post. But, it’s also the home of the Upper Big Branch Mine. And, i think that obviates a certain need for regulatory oversight beyond reputational ostracism.

    A smaller example would be that pipe you picked up for your mother. I doubt the life of that pipe, earth to sink, happened within a five mile radius of your purchase. Meaning, regulations provide an out of sight benefit more frequently than they do in sight. And this sort of thing goes a little beyond, “Bill’s Hardware sells crappy products and they’re all stamped PB, toys pipes and all. Probably made in China. I’m shopping at Greg’s from now on.”

    Safe products are important. They protect the workers (by insuring the plant doesn’t cut costs by cutting safety – for consumer or worker) and they protect the purchasers (from toxic elements on all sides, for example). And, alot of times, the workers *are* in a small town five or six towns down the road.

    “Regulations” are, like, part and parcel of “products”. So, any group making use of products pretty much by definition needs regulations. I can see that your focus isn’t quite from that perspective. So, really just, FWIW.

  138. David — ordering takeout and having it delivered are different things. I can order takeout almost anywhere with a satellite phone. Delivery … not so easy. The BWCAW is bigger than Long Island, NY. Even two dozen cell towers around it won’t change it from wilderness — that one tower, though, will be an ugly reminder of city, blink, blink, blinking away in the night.

    Mythago — :snickering: um, no. I did once, in a class, manage to knapp a crude axe head. I’m not sure anyone else would recognize it as such; my arrow heads were useless. Steel axe heads, knives, saw blades, and arrow heads, please. My current snowshoes are wooden, but made from a kit, with nylon lacing. They are better than the ones I made from green wood and rawhide.

    Justin — I don’t think rural is self-sufficient. Axe heads are not the only things the city provides. Mason jars. Wood burning stoves. Welding tools and supplies. Gases in cylinders. The list is longer than the Amazon.com catalog. Living life out of the Foxfire books … no thanks. Some of it is fun to try, but I read in amazement what my ancestors did with what they had. Wilderness self-sufficiency rapidly becomes misery, unless you’re really good at it, and I’m not. The city isn’t self-sufficient, either. Maybe someday, but it will be centuries at least.

    Greg — and here I thought I’d managed to become a city slicker. The things I learn on the internet. Thank you for an interesting insight into myself. I’ll have to work on that some more. I’m sure that some of my distrust of city ways comes from the summer of 1995 in Minneapolis when there were almost a hundred murders, a third of them in our neighborhood, two on our block, one a child killed because of an identification error (the desired target was a different child who lived several blocks away.) Yes, they were mostly drug and gang related … but my faith in the “City Rules” was perhaps another victim. They only work when people obey them. They can be abused by people who make mistaken, or worse, knowingly false accusations. A hundred yards away, a calm grizzly bear, or a policeman seeing what he expects to see, or an idiot gang-banger who kills people he’s not shooting at … the more predictable (to me) M. Bear, please.

    I think of “State’s Rights” as a recognition that making one set of Laws for the nation can only be made with great difficulty, because the cultures and environments in each state that our people live in varies so much. (Yes, like any tool, State’s Rights can be misused.) Would you eat soup with chopsticks? The primary environmental element in City is people. Cities are much much more like each other than rural Florida, rural Idaho, or the wildernesses of either place — places where people are a minor element. Here and there in the City there are trees in the sea of people; here and there in the Country there are people in the sea of trees.

    They’re different. Not one better than the other, different. Neither survives without the other (well, the wilderness could survive if we’d leave it alone; sadly, we probably won’t.)

  139. For someone who prides himself on his economic insight, I find Brad’s scenario of a city collapse rather naïve.

    Think on this, if the city collapses, and all that food and resources coming from the surrounding countryside can’t come in, what will happen to the suppliers in the countryside when their primary market fails?

  140. OtherBill: A smaller example would be that pipe you picked up for your mother. I doubt the life of that pipe, earth to sink, happened within a five mile radius of your purchase. Meaning, regulations provide an out of sight benefit more frequently than they do in sight.

    Yes. What you’re pointing to is just another example of what it might look like when someone with a Rural worldview assumes their worldview applies everywhere. The Rural worldview is primarily a worldview based on everyone knowing everyone else and a kind of “tally” that is kept on everyone based on what they’ve done to everyone else. i.e. “Reputation”.

    The vast majority of relationships in a farm town can be regulated by reputation alone. Certainly when the hardware store gets a shipment of pipes and wrenches and electrical wire shipped in from probably out of state, thats veering into the City approach to things. But no one sees this interaction but the hardware store owner, then there is nothing to challenge the rural person who makes the mistake of thinking the Rural worldview can be applied everywhere.

    If a rural person has never lived in a city and seen that (A) a reputation system is insufficient in the city because you can’t know everyone and (B) the city really does manage to survuve because it developed completely different regulations methods, then thy might assume cities are aobut ot implode.

    I was thinking, this idea of reputation explains something in Conservative thought I’ve seen lately. The assumption that reputation solves most problems and bureacracy is wasteful naturally leads to the conclusion that welfare is a waste and inefficient and encourages laziness and so on. But welfare is a city solution. The rural approach would be to do what Conservatives have been pushing for lately, namely getting rid of public/government welfare systems and replacing them with private charities and religious charities. This would assume that everyone would know everyone who needs welfare and it would assume that this would be more efficient. But again, its like assuming the Rural solution works everywhere, and assuming that the Rural solution is the best solution for taking care of those who are in need.

    It’s like the people who go into the rural hardware store to buy a pipe and don’t consider that it came from a different country and that to get from there to here took regulations to deal with all the anonymous transactions that took place that couldn’t be regulatied by reputation.

    It’s assuming the rural worldview applies everywhere, and that the city worldview is needless and wasteful. and it’s just wrong because it can’t see the city solution solves a problem that the rural solution doesn’t.

  141. And, i think that obviates a certain need for regulatory oversight beyond reputational ostracism.

    Especially since reputational ostracism isn’t perfect; people living in rural areas as prone to denial, favoritism and bigotry as people living anywhere else. The waitress at the Waffle House may tell you to just go up to the ATM and then come back and pay your bill, but that doesn’t mean she’ll instantly turn on that nice Mister Clay just because someone from the wrong side of the tracks say that he cheated her.

  142. The Rural way of life does not enable the industrial revolution or any advance that occurred after it. You need a level of specialization that is only available with cities. the amount of specialization needed to design, build, and manufacture a satellite phone, and the amount of specialization and infrastructure needed to put all those satellites into orbit is simply beyond the capacity of a Rural town. You cannot have milliins and millions of man hours dedicated to something that isnt food and shelter unless you have hundreds of thousands of people who can focus their time and energy on making a satellite and RELY on someone else to grow their food for them..

    Specialization needs inter-reliance on each other. Its not a weakness, its an advancement of civilization. Its not a bug. its a feature.

    As a completely random thought, it occurs to me that the solution that is Reputation uses as its first stage of enforcement the notion of Shame. And part of me is wondering if the Conservative reponse to gays, abortion, and the needy isnt part of a pattern of Reputation enforcement approach.

  143. Reputation survives in the city as “brand”, defeating the anonymity of the crowd of products. To make an example (which some may disagree with) in the 1970’s, Monster Cable had an enviable reputation for high-quality reasonable-price merchandise. Firms made counterfeits of their products. Their reputation has changed from then, and it’s not really due to the counterfeits; Monster Cable lowered their product quality and raised their prices. I suspect they’re making more money now, but other brands seem to be more recommended now. Regulation punishes counterfeiters, and puts a floor on quality (and sometimes a ceiling.)

    It’s assuming the rural worldview applies everywhere, and that the city worldview is needless and wasteful. and it’s just wrong because it can’t see the city solution solves a problem that the rural solution doesn’t.

    True, in a way. I’d use “doesn’t” rather than “can’t”, if rural — or city — can’t see, there is no hope of change or accommodation, but I’ll retain it below:

    It’s assuming the city worldview applies everywhere, and that the rural worldview is needless and wasteful. and it’s just wrong because it can’t see the rural solution solves a problem that the city solution doesn’t.

    Part of the rural problem is that there are so many in the city (what is it now, 98%?) who have no experience of the rural, and they don’t seem to see how their attempts to apply city solutions to the rural are so disruptive.

  144. htom: I’m going to make your point for you, actually, because you are correct in some ways. My example is the FDA, USDA, and USDC. These agencies have very strict rules about what sort of facilities are required for butchering and selling animal protein. Those rules are important to prevent the spread of disease, for worker safety, for tracking food-borne illnesses, etc.; however, the requirements are financially onerous and largely unnecessary for a small farmer selling free-range, organic eggs or turkeys to a few neighbors. The rules (mostly) keep large-scale commercial operations (also located in primarily rural areas) from poisoning huge swathes of the population, but they also keep small producers in the black market.

    My partner and I live in a really large city, and we buy eggs, honey, the occasional roasting chicken, and whole milk from what is essentially a black market operator, one of my coworkers. She and her neighbors have a back-yard coop that is completely underground. They don’t worry about getting busted, though, because they are too small scale to attract the attention of regulatory authorities. Folks in rural areas do the same thing, ignoring laws that technically apply, but just don’t seem relevant.

    It’s not that the USDC, USDA, and FDA aren’t aware that these people exist. Mostly they are ignored because they do no harm, and budgets make going after every family with six chickens and some left over eggs prohibitive. There is the occasional exception: a neighbor with grudge could report you, or some hard-ass with something to prove can tilt at your particular windmill, but for the most part, that is a lesser evil than abolishing food production regulations, altogether. Greatest good, and all that.

    Greg: You’ve made me think about the “reputation” culture within cities. It’s different, but it does exist. I’m thinking my own sort of mini-village w/in my city, in which everyone knows my name, I know theirs, etc. There’s a local bar, been around for decades, where regulars leave packages for each other, for example. When I was unemployed, the owner let me camp out for hours with my laptop, to use his wifi for my job search (I had to cancel my cable), and comped me endless plates of tater tots or nachos, and the occasional Bushmills. Now that I’m back to being employed, I once again pay for my food and bev, but he’s done that for dozens of us over the past decade, even while struggling to keep his business afloat during the worst part of the recession.

    The library, my favorite coffee shops, the bakery that saves one GF tea biscuit just for me, the cheese-shop, my favorite fishmonger, a couple of used-book stores… in many ways, I live in a village w/in the city. I don’t think this experience is all that uncommon. What do you think? Anyone else?

  145. David — I can order the pizza from the wilderness, but it there is no practical delivery method.

    Greg — the city and the rural have a symbiotic relationship. Without each other, they don’t survive and both slide back to the wilderness. wild –> rural –> hamlet –> village –> town –> city –> metropolis –> ? Perhaps part of the problem is that modern transport has eliminated the hamlets and villages. (Although mintwitch points out a stealthy hamlet within the city.)

    mintwitch — yes, to both the government example and the village in the city.

  146. I’m not saying the Rural doesnt need Regulations today. The gasoline sold at Larry’s Auto Mart is an international transaction. It needs regulations to get from where it came in the ground to where it got processed to how it got transported to the small town gas place. I was saying that from the point of view of the Rural resident, most transactions seem to be regulated just fine via reputation and that from the Rural resident point of view, a lot of regulation and bureacracy can seem wasteful and obstructionist. And this happens to fit quite nicely into the Conservative view.

    if you want to look at a conservative point f view and have it make sense then you might find that if you start in a Rural setting everything they’re saying fits. Not that its neccesarily TRUE. (Brad has demonstrated repeatedly that his facts are just wrong). But that what is being said makes sense if the Rural point of view were applicable everywhere.

  147. David — I can order the pizza from the wilderness, but it there is no practical delivery method

    If you stand under the 500 FOOT CELL TOWER, I’m sure that they’ll be able to find you.

  148. mintwitch, a reputation system can work wihin a subset of a city population. but i think the city shows that when just about anyone could be selling you a hotdog off a sidewalk vendor cart, that you need regulations to make it work at the scale of the city.

    Progressives arent against free enterprise. They’re not against Reputation making and breaking a brand. But there are situationz where Reputation is insufficient and regulations are needed.

  149. Random pizza delivery story:
    There’s a local chain that makes delicious, wonderful pizza. When we lived in another neighborhood, the chain’s delivery area ended across the street from us. We either had to drive down for take-out/eat-in, or order from the national, icky chain. A few nights, I offered to go stand across the street, if they would just bring me a damn pizza, please. They always said “no.” (Insert sad face, here.)

    If I’d had a cell-phone (this was before they were common, small, and cheap), I would have simply lied about my address, and waited outside my neighbor’s house.

  150. actually, I read somewhere that companies are looking into leveraging drone technology to do automated pizza delivery. by bypassing streets and using small helicopter drones, your range for deliverying in 30 minutes or less could greatly increase. if thats the case, maybe you could have a pizza delivered to the wilderness via a satelite phone order.

  151. I had visions of Felix Baumgardner with a pizza oven floating over the BWCAW. The problem is landing between the trees, and then getting him back up to the balloon (jetpack?)

  152. Boehner was unopposed in your district?

    Well, what to do about that is obvious. We need someone who can think on his feet, who can write, who has smarts out the wazoo, is experienced in running insurgent campaigns, and knows how to tell a good joke. .

    Scalzi for Congress!

  153. My point exactly! If I’m willing to stand on a street corner in my Yummy Sushi flannel pjs, waving money at the pizza guy, out in the freezing rain, why not just bring me the damn pizza? Meanwhile, htom is getting pizza delivered under the lone cell tower marring the MN wilderness… (kidding!)

  154. mintwitch, I understand completely. A couple of miles away, my sister-in-law lives on the wrong side of the street for her preferred pizza delivery. More than once she’s called us and asked if she can come over and order pizza to take home. (She used to order it from home, and just come over here and get it at the end of the driveway even if we were not here, but now her attempt to order is sent to the “correct” place in the chain for her location, so she has to order from here, too!) “Computers, are they really helping? Discuss.” How it is that one branch of a chain makes so much better pizza than another in the same chain is another question.

  155. A couple of miles away, my sister-in-law lives on the wrong side of the street for her preferred pizza delivery.

    She should go stand under the 500 FOOT CELL TOWER. They’ll find her there.

  156. mintwitch: why not just bring me the damn pizza?

    I don’t understand why you couldn’t just tell them the address across the street.
    Was your landline phone number of an area-code/prefix that put it out of their delivery area?
    Nowadays, an area code means very little.

    Meanwhile, htom is getting pizza delivered under the lone cell tower marring the MN wilderness

    Drone pizza delivery would be interesting. Though, I should probably contact my lawyer to see if it infringes on my pizza-trebuchet-delivery-system patent I filed a while ago. It might count as prior art.

  157. The pizza chains have maps that show where each location is allowed to deliver to; presumably there are penalties for delivering outside of your area (as that would take business away from another location.) Lying about the address can sometimes get you pizza, but if the driver sees you taking it across the street, you can end up on a list of “cheaters” and then you don’t get pizza. Why the line goes down the middle of the street ….

    We get pizza delivered maybe once or twice a year for us. I make my own pizzas, keeping a sourdough pizza dough in the refrigerator. It’s hard to do that in the wild, a high oven temperature is hard to get with a reflector oven in front of a fire or with a BakePacker and stove. Plus, carrying the sauce and cheese if you’re backpacking (canoe or horse, that’s much less of a problem.)

    There are so-called R/C Flying Pizza Boxes but it turns out they only look like pizza boxes. A quad-rotor drone, electric, that carried an insulated pizza box with pizza is a possibility. Leaving the box would make the trip back “easier”. The 35 km range from the tower would be a problem (assuming you’ve got the pizza shop under the tower, or beside it.) (35 km because that’s the normal limit for cell phone aGPS location finding.)

  158. Brad: And let me tell you about shocks to the system. When the trucks that bring everything to the city stop coming — either because of a war, a natural disaster, a financial collapse, or a fuel shortage — the city becomes a ticking time bomb.

    heh heh heh….

    Once again, Brad delivers right wing mythology as if it were historical fact.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/11/looting_after_hurricane_sandy_disaster_myths_and_disaster_utopias_explained.html

    I don’t expect Brad to change his mind in the face of actual historical data, given he has thus far shown himself immune to numerous attempts by numerous people on this and other threads to consider actual facts which contradict his belief of the world.

    But for everyone else, juxtaposing Brad’s “ticking time bomb” myth against the article behind the link, ought to be good for a chuckle…

  159. Confirmation bias. Because some do good, does not mean that some do not do bad. Because some do bad, does not mean that some do not do good. Both behaviors — unusual good and unusual bad — occur during times when the system is stressed, and at the same time and place. We tend to see what we expect, to see what we want, and not see what doesn’t fit our world view.

  160. Because some do good, does not mean that some do not do bad. Because some do bad, does not mean that some do not do good. Both behaviors — unusual good and unusual bad — occur during times when the system is stressed, and at the same time and place.

    Which says nothing about the inevitability of “the city becom(ing) a ticking time bomb”.

  161. Confirmation bias, htom? I could say the very same applies to you.

    Both behaviors — unusual good and unusual bad — occur during times when the system is stressed, and at the same time and place.

    ticking time bomb is bullshit. And saying there’s good and bad during stress utterly FAILS to address just how biased, prejudiced, and broken from reality the idea that is “ticking time bomb” is just bullshit.

    Brad isn’t talking from reality-based world. He’s talking from his view that the idea that the city is a facade.

    And you’re trying to find a way to still keep Brad’s myth “true” by saying its possible while ignoring the meat of his point which is the “ticking time bomb”, which is NOT true. And you yourself are doing this because of your own confirmation bias, namely that cities are a facade of nothing but sparkle and they’re one puff of wind away from collapsing into a heap of cards.

    That was your phrase, htom, heap of cards. And it’s not true. Cities are far more resilient than that. Rural living operates on the reputation system, but the reputation system only works for poeple you know. Therefore it is quite common to find feelings of distrust in Rural areas towards outsiders, out of towners, and people passing through. And in a city, you don’t know most people. So you distrust them, and you assume that the only hting keeping them acting nice is that you KNOW them. You assume its the reputation system that keeps people in line, and without it, such as in a city, its all a facade that will collapse with the slightest bump.

    The link doesn’t say that there aren’t criminals in the city. The link doesn’t say that people don’t do bad things in the city. But I also spent a couple decades in a Rural area, and I can tell you there are criminals and bad people in rural areas too. That isn’t the point. The point of the article is to highlight the prophecies of doom around disasters and compare it to the facts that show people working together, even strangers, helping one another.

    No where in your post, htom, do you acknowledge that your “house of cards” analogy is false. All you do is argue for an exception, that somewhere, somehow, someone might be doing something bad, all in order for you to preserve the myth you’re holding onto that, fundamentally, you can’t trust people you don’t know, and in a city you don’t know people, therefore a city is just one disaster away from total collapse.

    No. That’s not how people really work.

    Your worldview has been given by where you live. Reputation is the system used where you live to manage people and keep them behaving nicely. But that isn’t the only thing that regulates people. People in the City are given by the City. And in the city, people RELY on one another, especially people they don’t even know. It is not true that once you get outside the circle ofpeople you know that it’s just one nudge to armegeddon, one nudge to total social breakdown.

    Sandy did not bring about the end of civiliazaiton on the east coast.

  162. I suppose it depends on what you mean by “the end of civilization.” I don’t think it is false. I talked about spending my childhood in the West. I went to college at Michigan State University in the 1960s, and occasionally drove down to Detroit for a date, or for something to do with the FCC. Leave at 5, order dinner at 6:30, curtain at 8, home by 2 if we didn’t stay. You may not remember the riot in Detroit in 1967, I do, and I am very glad I was not there then. We had “intrepid reporters” (not the way they were described by those “in authority”) who drove down and made telephone reports about what was happening. They lost some equipment but none were seriously injured. “House of cards” is a very apt description of how fast and far that chunk of Detroit fell. Lansing’s, MSU’s, and our stations and network’s plans for “civic order” were modified because of that riot and tested the following spring with the MLK assassination.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=detroit+riot+1967

    The last time I was in Detroit (1978?) there was the new, modern downtown, and the suburbs were still there … and there was a ring of rubble between them. Looked like pictures of a German city bombed in WW2, with the Renaissance Towers growing from the ruins.

    Sandy and Katrina are natural disasters. Natural disasters have killed cities — Pompey being the obvious example — but Troy, too, fell repeatedly at the hand of man.

    I know I suffer from confirmation bias. Everyone does. I helped design and produce theatre shows to demonstrate it. The art of prestidigitation depends on it. The article talks about the good things being done — for which I commend the good-doers even if they are in violation of various city and union codes about electrical wiring — but the existence of such goodness does not mean human activity that produced the Detroit Riots of 1967 can never happen again, or that it will be that limited in extent.

  163. the existence of such goodness does not mean human activity that produced the Detroit Riots of 1967 can never happen again, or that it will be that limited in extent.

    Conversely, the existence of badness does not mean the cities are inevitably doomed to collapse into the Hellmouth because it’s inevitable because it is and IT IS SO! But that’s exactly what you and Brad have been asserting in this thread. Conversely, no one disagreeing with you has been asserting Cities Uber Alles Because The Country Is Bad And Smells Funny So Pave Everything Over or anything else as ridiculous as that.

    Yes, historically cities have been killed. But humans rebuild cities, rebuild civilizations when they have to, and save them from needing to be rebuild when they can. It’s one of the strengths of our species, our ability and willingness to do that, to recognize the strengths and advantages of the cities. Flee to the wilderness if you think you must. The rest of us, those who see each other as part of society rather than just rugged individuals, will maintain what we can and rebuild what we must. Send us a postcard, if you like. If you have postal service out there after the Fall you seem to treat as inevitable.

  164. htom: I know I suffer from confirmation bias. Everyone does.

    That doesn’t mean everyone gets to have their own set of facts.

    Cities are not “house of cards”. Sorry, but you don’t get that one. It’s not true.

    You think Rural is REAL and you think City is a facade of SPARKLE. And then you go looking for evidence to support it. I’m not saying Rural or City is perfect. But I can look at history and look at cities being around for several thousand years and I can say that they’re at least as durable as any wandering hunter/gatherer triber, and at least as durable as the small farm town I grew up in. At the very least. Given that Cities also have huge infrastructure, multiple hospitals, multiple fire departments, multiple ambulances, and so on, I think its safe to say that cities are quite a bit more durable than Rural towns in a lot of respects.

  165. Wait, htom, you’re arguing for the fragility of cities and your examples of cities that have been destroyed are several thousand years old? Pompey and Troy, sure, but last I checked Detroit and New Orleans were still there. You’re kind of proving everyone else’s point.

  166. You know what? It’s stupid to live on planets. Planets are dependent on stars for warmth and energy, and stars eventually burn up! You may think you’ve got it good on Earth now, but just you wait! Sol will drift off the main sequence eventually and swell dangerously as it starts fusing helium, and Earth will no longer be habitable! And all that spark and sizzle and dazzle that you have there will come crashing down!

    Before life appeared on Earth, what passed for life was pre-viral organic chemical chains in comets and asteroids and Kuiper Belt objects. That’s the true natural state of being, stripped of artifice, pure in soul.

    So enjoy your sunrises and seasons and conversation and sex and iPads and food and culture and sentience and language and love and joy while you can! Ha! You’ll get what’s coming to you! But the pre-viral amino acids will persevere! In our rocks and ice clumps and gas clouds, drifting through the vast desolation of space, we will continue long after all trace of your existence has passed from the Universe. So there!

  167. DAV1D: Pompey and Troy, sure

    well, the city of pompey was miles away from the volcano that covered it. And the volcano covered the city and rural equally. It may have even gotten a few hunter/gatherers wandering about. So, I don’t even understand how that indicates anything about any approach being better than the other.

    As for Troy, my understanding is it was a coastal city three thousand years ago, but the coast filled in, and its now 5 miles from water. I assume that had more do do with it’s abandonment as anything else.

  168. I would say that the wildernesses are real, and human constructs (family, clan, tribe, … megalopolis) are built (and re-built) on and of those realities with varying degrees of success. The Australian native peoples seem to have kept their cultures for 20k-50k years (and are losing it since the British disrupted them.) We don’t have any cities that have lasted that long (western and eastern history seems to start about 4000 BCE.)

    Troy. Which Troy? There were several, repeatedly built on the same and nearby sites. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy Migration, earthquake, war, fire, … desertion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy_VII appears to be Homer’s Troy.

    .”.. The site remained inhabited following the destruction of Troy VIIa. Troy VIIb dates to a time when Greek influence began to extend to the area (the “Greek Dark Ages”). Troy VIIb1 (ca. 1120 BC) and Troy VIIb2 (ca. 1020 BC) appear to have been destroyed by fires. Troy VIIb3 was deserted in the mid-10th century BC, and the site remained uninhabited for more than 200 years before a new settlement, Troy VIII, was established around 700 BC. The site was again uninhabited throughout Classical Antiquity, until the foundation of Roman Ilium at the site (Troy IX) in the 20s BC. …”

    This kind of thing doesn’t happen now. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indianola,_Texas

    Well, it doesn’t happen very often.

    I suppose I do have “different facts”. Cities fall, sometimes partially, sometimes completely. Cities are rebuilt. Sometimes successfully. Happens to wildernesses, too. We do a poor job of rebuilding them.

  169. htom: I would say that the wildernesses are real, and human constructs

    These are the words of a man betrayed by his fellow man. I don’t know what happened, htom, but I’m sorry. But people aren’t aren’t less real for being people. Wilderness is beautiful, and I say that as someone who always falls in love with the land every time I go back to my home town, but wilderness and land and such are indifferent. Certainly, it can never hurt you like people can, because people can care about you and then take that away. They can promise you things and then break those promisie. The trees don’t care if you visit them either way. They are “count-on-able” in the sense that you can count on them to never care about you.

    Cities are not a “house of cards” because people in the city (and people in general) rely on one another, and by working together, makes them stronger. people in the city rely on one another because they are better off for it. That’s called a feedback loop. It reinforces itself and keeps itself in place.

    If living in a city were a prisoner’s dilemma, where looking out for your self interest caused the worst possible outcome for everyone, then yes, you could say cities are a house of cards just waiting for people to betray everyone else. But that’s not how cities work. It’s not how civiliazaiton works. Each individual in the city benefits when the city succeeds. That’s no different than each individual benefiting when the nations economy succeeds. There is incentive to reinforce the city, therefore they do not shatter like glass. They are not fragile like eggshells. They are more resilient than any individual living alone in the wilderness could ever be.

    Ted Kaszinsky tried to bring down the cities, tried to bring down technology, he lived in the wilderness. He was aware of cities and technology, but he did not understand them, and as a result, he mistrusted them, he thought they were fragile. He thought they could be brought to their knees with a few acts of violence. he failed.

    I’m sorry for whatever caused you to lose your trust for humanity, htom. I’m not telling you you’re wrong out of spite. I’m telling you because I’d like you to look at that mistrust and see that is in need of serious recalibration.

  170. Eric Saveau:

    “Before life appeared on Earth, what passed for life was pre-viral organic chemical chains in comets and asteroids and Kuiper Belt objects. That’s the true natural state of being, stripped of artifice, pure in soul.”

    Arrogant, sirrah! Arrogant, I say. J’accuse arrogance! Asteroids and comets? Chemical chains? The true state of being, stripped of artifice, pure in soul can only be the infinite density that existed before the Big Bang. That, sirrah, is the one true way. Because it is the only way. The One. And until we gloriously return to The Oneness, existence is a pathetic doomed waste of time and space. A literal ticking time bomb of decadent waste.

    Chemical chains. I sneer at your chemical chains and your Kuiper Belt objects. Peh.

  171. . Cities fall, sometimes partially, sometimes completely. Cities are rebuilt. Sometimes successfully. Happens to wildernesses, too. We do a poor job of rebuilding them.

    I no longer have any idea what you’re arguing.

  172. Greg: “If living in a city were a prisoner’s dilemma, where looking out for your self interest caused the worst possible outcome for everyone, then yes, you could say cities are a house of cards just waiting for people to betray everyone else. But that’s not how cities work.”

    Well, it IS. It’s exactly why cities do work. You can win the PD under city circumstances.

  173. man, I feel like I missed out on the love fest. Is it too late to get in on the group hug?

    drachefly, you can’t win the prisoner’s dillemma. What you can do is perform some kind of strategic maneuvar which fundamentally changes the game, at which point it is no longer a prisoner’s dillemma, and therefore it is now a game you can win. The city is NOT a prisoner’s dilemma, it’s been modified to something winnable.

  174. Eric and Other Bill — thank you. To bring laughter is one of the great goods.

    Greg — yes, I’ve been betrayed. Betrayals (some intentional, some accidental, some unintended) that were sometimes trivial, some which cost me dearly. I’ve recovered, but bear the scars. That’s life. I’ve betrayed, too, in like ways, both others and myself, and bear scars from that as well. Betraying seems to be part of being human. My distrust of man (and his creation, city) is not because of a lack of faith in man, but because of my faith in him. “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” — Following the Equator, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar; Mark Twain.

    I’ve often said that man is not the rational animal, he is the rationalizing animal. What he seems frequently to be rationalizing is lying and betrayal — both to others and himself.

    The way to win Prisoner’s Dilemma (in all variations thereof) is to convince the others to let you be the jailor.

  175. htom, I’m sorry for whatever you suffered through. But I disagree with you that you can generalize your experience to reflect the nature of all mankind. (shrug) We’ll just have to leave it at that.

    As for the prisoner’s dillemma, there are many ways to solve it. If you can iterate it, then that solves much of the problem without requiring anyone be the jailor. If we all agree ahead of time that we will cooperate and anyone who does not will be held accountable when they get released early for betraying, then that’s anothe rsolution. No one is a jailer there either. We’re just promising ahead of time to cooperate and promising ahead of time that if we webray that we will serve out the difference outside the original jail.

    The jailor in the prisoner’s dillemma is a circumstance beyond your control. If we all agree ahead of time to cooperate, then that is a circumstance within our control, not part of the jailor circumstance.

  176. Greg, internet hug incoming!

    htom, the way to win the Prisoner’s Dilemma is realize that it’s a cruel setup and not play that goddam game. Change the game. Part of what it means to be a society is that human beings can look out for each other. It means we can change the game. Maybe not always, but often enough to make a difference. A rugged individual isn’t rugged forever. But a society can have that individual’s back.

  177. Eric — gotta disagree. The betrayals might be minor, self-justified, the right thing to have done, and concealed from the doer by any of a number of psychological self-defense mechanisms … but there. The world can place people in the position where they have to betray group A by telling, or group B by not telling, or themself by walking away knowing they should have decided to betray … all three paths are betrayal, the only questions are which and why. Betrayal it is. If you think you have not betrayed, you have not been paying much attention or have really hidden some of your behavior from yourself. (Humans seem to be good at both of those things.)

  178. Who betrayed you, htom? Or who did you betray?

    You know it is possible to be selfish without betraying, right? My wife and I do this thing where we will sometimes negotiate to sort out when we want different things or some such. And what we’ve been slowly getting better at over the years is finding ways so that we both get what we want. It’s called win-win in game theory terms. We’re both selfish about what we want, but we are willing to negotiate so that it works with the other person.

    I’ve been doing the dishes as a result of a negotiation a while ago. It’s not a big deal for me to do the dishes, but my wife hates doing dishes and also loves having no dirty dishes in the sink.. My wife does stuff like this for me. I do stuff like this for her. It’s possible to be selfish without invoking the betrayal that is the prisoners dillema betrayal.

    Now, if you’re talking about promises broken, that kind of bettrayal, then the first line of defense is to get it cleaned up. Baring that, forgive. It sounds like this betrayal has wounded you pretty badly. You may have an experience of life as pain, but from over here, it seems like it might have something to do with that arror sticking out of your shoulder, and maybe if you can pull that out, things might start looking better for you. The world might not look the same for you.

    depending on how deep it is, you might want to get professional help. Standard EMT/paramedic training for puncture wounds is to keep it in place, stabilize, and transport to the hospital for serious care.

  179. htom, what do you mean by the word “betrayal”? Because it sounds like you’re speaking of any way in which a person might in any manner, large or small, fail another person and weighting that down with the word “betrayal”. Which isn’t actually what betrayal means.

  180. Being selfish can motivate betrayal, but I think that it’s mostly different than betrayal, it’s a form of excessive desire.

    I think of betrayal as a bending or breaking of a trust relationship. Sometimes — especially if it’s only bent — recovery is possible, and indeed, the trust that results can be even stronger than it was before. Breaking calls for more than recovery, trust has to be rebuilt, and it’s much more difficult to build on the rubble of broken trust. Circumstances may make it at best impractical and at worst not possible.

    I overheard a conversation between a VP and an AVP in an elevator about the future of a group I led; we were to be laid off at the end of the month. I asked my boss about this, and he told me to say nothing about it to anyone. I thought about that, bought a ream of resume paper, and put in our common area, opened. When the layoff came, my boss leaned over and whispered “Innovate, adapt, overcome.” Most of us had different jobs in a week. (This was in the 70’s) Minor betrayal; whatever I did or didn’t, I was breaking a trust, up or down or self.

    Most of the arrows in my back left scars but were correctly treated. I’ll just say that sometimes (very very rarely, thankfully) it’s a professional who betrays, and then claims confusion as to who his client is. The medical board disagreed with his claim and he lost his license. Until recently, though,I found it beyond difficult to trust a therapist in a therapeutic relationship. Now I’m dealing with the arrows I’ve shot into myself over the years that damaged others as well.

    And that’s probably too much about me.

  181. No, Greg – you CAN win the prisoner’s dilemma when it’s done iteratively, in groups. Five iterations, round robin, a pair of TFT will beat a pair of defectors – and it just gets better from there. In cities, ‘nice’ strategies completely clobber overly aggressive ones.

  182. htom: Until recently, though,I found it beyond difficult to trust a therapist in a therapeutic relationship.

    I hope you find the help you need. All the best.

    drachefly: cities are…PD

    Regulations can be a strategic move that changes the game. i.e. it is no longer PD.

  183. Sure, they can be, but if you put PD players in a dense grid and evolve them without any sort of regulations, TFT beats defectbot handily.

  184. Greg — thank you. My wife and a couple of close friends think I’m doing better, which (to me) is even better than my therapist or me thinking so.

    Tit For Tat (or maybe TF2T) is very close to the country way of life, too. In the city you play hundreds of times a day, in the country several. Maybe in the country one of the differences is the lack of anonymity of the players; that Joe wouldn’t help milk Bill’s cows gets Joe a reputation of having defected that’s delivered to most, if not all, of the players, even though they’re not interacting with Joe.

  185. htom, a wise man once said you can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

    ;)

    keep up the good work.

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