07 September 2011

"Nobody Made You Live in the Sticks"

National Review Online | Josh Barro | Nobody Made You Live in the Sticks

For some reason, politicians talk about living in rural America as though it were an involuntary disease whose sufferers deserve offsetting federal subsidies. But nobody is forcing anybody to live in a remote town in northern Maine. If you want to live there, you should pay a market price to have things delivered to you. If you don’t like paying for that, you can move. It’s not my responsibility to subsidize your postal service so you can live the rural lifestyle you enjoy at a below-market cost.
I agree that we should not be subsidizing people to live in rural areas. (Or urban ones, for that matter.) But allow me to be a bit more moderate than Barro is, if for no other reason than I so rarely feel like being moderate.

If we are going to subsidize living in rural areas, then let's simply subsidize living in rural areas. I vastly prefer cutting checks to everyone who lives in low-population-density census tracts directly to the byzantine, unaccountable, deniable, inefficient, occulted system we have now where we bestow upon them subsidized mail, and electricity, and agricultural prices, and so on. If we're going to do this,* then let's do it right out in the open and not with some smoke-and-mirrors bullshit that let's everyone pretend this isn't what's going on.

Besides increased efficiency and honesty, that will make it harder for people to delude themselves into thinking everyone can live at everyone else's expenses and more obvious that we have different programs which are simultaneously subsidizing rural, suburban and urban living choices.

* And please, let's not.

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