The struggles of rural communities has led a number of recent writers to ask, “Why don’t people just leave?,” an attitude I groused about in a recent post. The Atlantic has been covering this beat in a series of articles. Now Brian Alexander has written another piece in that magazine titled “If Declining Towns ‘Deserve to Die,’ Where Should Their Residents Go?”
It includes this humdinger of a quote from Kevin Williamson in a 2016 National Review essay:
“The truth about these downscale communities is that they deserve to die…Economically, they are negative assets…They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need a U-Haul.”
But, as Alexander documents, if your house is underwater and not likely to sell anyway and you have limited job skills that don’t promise much better prospects in a new town, moving is no answer. And they certainly are no answer for the towns left behind.
Instead of seeing declining communities as pits to be abandoned, perhaps we need to see them as an untapped resource to be developed.