In this first part of a multi-part series, I will explore how Libertarians can solve the “Urban-Rural” Divide, starting with what can be done to solve the “Rural” part of the crisis.
Every State in the Union is wrestling with an unspoken crisis. Not the Drug War, the Police State, or Economic hardship, but something that involves all of them and more.
The so-called “Urban-Rural” divide.
What is it?
At first glance, it seems obvious what the problem is all about: Rural Communities do not have access to the same quality of healthcare, economic opportunity, and more as the Cities.
Charlotte is not China Grove and Greensboro is not Graham.
Leslie Boney, Director of the Institute of Emerging Issues at NC State published an editorial in the News and Record(which was republished on NC Spin’s website) addressing this issue and some solutions.
What did Boney propose?: More Funding, More “Economic Development” Programs(supported by taxpayers) and More Incentives(taxpayer funded bribes to Corporations) to set up shop in Rural areas. Taxpayer-subsidized Hospitals, Taxpayer-subsidized Stadiums, Taxpayer-subsidized WiFi(How well is that working out in Salisbury by the way?), and so forth.
In other words, the same siren song of “Give us more Money”.
But the State is taking some steps in the right direction, with the SAVE Act that was filed jointly in the State House and the Senate. The Bill removes obtrusive restrictions that prevent Advanced Nurses from practicing without a Supervising Physician. This bill would allow Nurse Practicioners(NPs), Certified Nurse Specialists(CNS), Certified Nurse Midwives(CNMs), and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist(CRNAs) to have the same freedom that they enjoy in 22 other states and the Federal Capital.
Of course, the NC Medical Society, which lobbies on behalf of the Physicians, has come out against the bill.
However, there is still more to solve the Rural-Urban divide.
What is first required is a mentality change by those who advocate solutions. This idea that the key to solve this is to obliterate Rural identity are clueless.
China Grove residents do not want their town to become Charlotte. If they wanted to live in a place like Charlotte, they would move there. Libertarians must do what so many of these Social Engineers fail to do: Honor the decisions people have made about where they want to live.
Perhaps there are connections of history and heritage, perhaps they prefer the slower pace, the quieter communities, or the lower crime. Whatever their reasons, the solution is not to drag Rural towns kicking and screaming into the 21st Century against their will.
One battleground for this debate was the failed attempt to incorporate the village of Denver, North Carolina. The primary complaint that Incorporation would bring with it higher taxes. However, Nic Haag, Chair of the Lincoln County Libertarian Party published an editorial in favor of Incorporation. If Denver is to Incorporate, it must do so on its own terms and with the consent of Denver residents, not according to the whims of local bureaucrats who are thirsty for State and Federal funding.
Elsewhere rural Wake County residents are fighting the proposed expansion of the Fuquay-Varina Extra Territorial Jurisidiction(ETJ), which is being regarding as a land grab by opponents. These Opponents have organized into a movement, Stop Fuquay-Varina ETJ Expansion, and have stated many legal concerns about the project.
Their primary issue is that it would force land use to be delegated to the Fuquay-Varina Town Council, where they have no say, due to being non-residents. Yet again, an irresponsible municipality is trying to squeeze concessions and land from ruralites who have chosen to live outside their domain. And more like a Daimyo from feudal japan than representatives in a Republic, the Fuquay-Varina Town Council is using the ETJ Expansion as a means to impose regulations on those who have elected to live outside their designated domain and cannot, as a result, hold them accountable(beyond those in the EXISTING ETJ area). The ETJ is yet another backdoor to annexation that cities and towns are using to impose their will on Rural residents.
The other aspect is to take advantage of the one resource that rural areas have: land. But the solution should not be to choke the landscape with Mini-malls and Industrial Parks(all at Taxpayer Expense), but to create a legal and economic environment that can draw investment in, without bribery while respecting the local landscape. It is not enough to cowtow to corporations looking for a quick tax shelter for a few years and who will offer a few thousand jobs, before they relocate to China. The only true solution is to make starting a business or nonprofit(which serve an important role by alleviating the system, especially when it comes to healthcare) as easy as possible, but to continue to offer tax breaks(not incentives) to those who setup in rural areas.
This can even extend to Transportation, as the limited transportation infrastructure is the primary why so many companies which come to NC prefer RTP or the Charlotte area. Depending on Government-managed transportation projects means that rural areas will continue to be under-served unless they poor millions of taxpayer funding and fall into to debt(or deeper) trying to support new infrastructure or wasted boondoggles like Sports Stadiums.
Is there a one-size answer to the Rural-Urban divide. Beyond removing barriers for staring businesses and nonprofits, rejecting Government-directed boondoggles, and acknowledging the unique character of our Cities, Towns, and Rural Communities.
To make every rural community an appendage of a Town or City is the wrong way to go, as it denies the rights of rural residents who choose to live in more remote parts of a county.
We cannot let cities and towns in this state become octopuses, squeezing the life(and taxes) out of rural communities and then wondering why those rural communities are in such bad shape.
China Grove does not want to be Charlotte.
They prefer drinking from local wells instead of City Tap. They prefer the quieter streets. The clear view of the night sky. The reminder that America is not just a network of metropoli, but communities with a history that predates the Internet and Skyscrapers.
Places where the number of Cows and Horses outnumber the people. People who know where their Great-Great Grandfather is buried.
In a Republic of Liberty, there is room for such places and such people. Liberty offers the best way for people to improve their lives while expressing their preferences for how those lives are lived.
This attitude of looking at Rural Communities as country bumpkins who must be “transformed” into good urbanized and industrialized citizens is erroneous.