Geography, Politics, and Arrogance

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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38 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Plus, it’s really expensive but you can’t make much money.

    How in the world is this sustainable?Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird,
      Can’t speak for Flagstaff, but lots of small towns around me are this way. Most are tourist havens where the real estate is insanely expensive (because most of them belong to the idle/retired wealthy or are vacation rentals) but the only jobs around are minimum wage type service/retail jobs or owning/managing those businesses. It’s only sustainable in that inflows of tourist cash and family money prop up the local economy enough that the non-wealthy residents can live in near-poverty but at least enjoy the view.Report

  2. Avatar Will says:

    I grew up in SE New Mexico. It’s similar to Arizona, though remarkably different.
    Flagstaff is right on the edge of the largest Indian reservation in the nation. Of course it’s the cultural center of No. Arizona– it’s the only sizable place there. But Phoenix, in the south, is really the center of Arizona.
    In NM, the North-South thing is opposite. In the south is Las Cruces, a sizable place with its own character. But Albuquerque is the big city, ie outsiders and universities. Santa Fe is the thriving cultural center. Taos & Raton are the big ski resorts. All the culture is to the north.

    I left there many years ago, and I travel widely for work. In my view, there are five main regions in the US, and the peoples there are divided in temperament: the Pacific coast, the West, the Midwest, the Deep South, and New England. The people of Kansas are closer to the people of Colorado, and the people of Texas are closer to the people of Alabama. They are grouped together geographically, but really it’s temperament that divides them.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Will says:

      @Will, I think Alabama and Texas would both take issue with that. Texas in particular is hard because there is an invisible line that separates the state between south and southwest (or Deep South and West, in your delineation) with Houston and Dallas on one side of it and Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso on the other.

      I also think that there are pockets which really don’t fit in with their region. Southern Louisiana is an entity unto itself and Utah is its own bird. They don’t fit in within their regions, but I can’t quite place them as being closer to any other region, either (Utah to Deep South, maybe?).

      Where would you put the Mid-Atlantic states?Report

      • Avatar Will in reply to Trumwill says:

        @Trumwill, El Paso is Western, but Houston & Dallas are definitely Southern.
        Agreed, Southern Louisiana is an entity unto itself; but it is nevertheless very Southern in temperament.
        Utah isn’t that much different from any of the other Western states.
        As far as the mid-Atlantic, I would draw the line between Maryland and Virginia. Delaware and Maryland go to New England.West Virginia is definitely Southern. Richmond is Atlanta with better landscaping.
        Pennsylvania is split in two. The eastern part is New England, the western part is Midwest.
        Of all the states, Oklahoma is the one that really doesn’t fit. It’s more semi-Western.
        The people I’ve known from Alberta & Manitoba seem more like Westerners to me. Oddly enough, they sound more like Americans to me than the people from Wisconsin or Eastern Iowa, who sound very Canadian to my ears.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Will says:

          @Will, I agree about Houston and Dallas. It was more the other side I was taking issue with.

          I have to disagree with you very strongly about Utah (if you get anywhere outside of Salt Lake City, anyway). The LDS church’s omnipresence there changes the culture into something else entirely. I’ve lived in the Mormon west and the non-Mormon west. There’s really no comparison.

          You may be right about southern Louisiana in the greater scheme of things. At least if I had to put it with a region, it would be its native one.

          Your comments about Alberta and Manitoba remind me: I remember going to Vancouver one year and then Toronto a year later. There was a tremendous difference. Vancouver felt like I was still in America. Toronto… didn’t. A feeling not unlike my stint in Deseret, in fact.Report

          • Avatar Will in reply to Trumwill says:

            @Trumwill, The LDS is like that in the boonies because they haven’t been around that long. The southernmost of the Western states went through that same thing with the Roman Catholics 300 years ago.
            Give them some time.

            As for southern Louisiana, say you’re going to do a movie there, a re-make. It’s either going to be Gone with the Wind or Bonanza. Which movie are you going to make?Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Minneapolis MN. Six words: Best kept secret in the mid-west. They’re like Canadians but without the maple syrup!Report

  4. Avatar Jivatman says:

    I definitely concur with your last paragraph

    Some issues really are ideologically intractable – famously, abortion.

    But the vast majority of of legislation is aimed at some particular problem and it’s success or failure is, at the very least, somewhat quantifiable.

    The two sides arguing about a law are really arguing about whether or not it will actually do what it intends to do. It is more charitable to not impugn peoples motives and assume they are either socialists or in the pockets of corporations, and instead regard arguments as mostly disagreements about practical effect.

    But when legislation is passed, it rarely sets out quantifiable goals and everything is generally just reduced to ideology. Ideology is undoubtedly useful – it simplifies issues that may be too complex for some of us understand, but in an ideal world it’s the refuge of last resort, rather than first.

    Without setting clear goals for what each piece of legislation is supposed to do, we can’t even begin to understand whether it succeeded, failed, or somewhere in between. Without being able to look back at it in a future date, we learn absolutely nothing, and the health of democracy is greatly deprived.

    Health Care Reform was an excellent example of this. A huge number of very complex provisions smashed together that few legislators even read that no one knows what the effect will be, rather than smaller bills being taken one at a time, provisions being considered and projections being made regarding their specific effects.

    Of course, we are told we will find out about how many great things there are for us after it comes into effect. Maybe, but again, democracy is deprived and the populace condescended too. We really shouldn’t be surprised then that some people, then, seeing this, revert to ideology and view it as an apocalyptic communist plot (Though Bush’s Medicare D was in most ways far greater in scope).

    What about the war on drugs? Has it had the intended effect? Or did it, as an experiment, fail in a way that scarcely any other project in human history? I think we know the answer.

    We could go even further, and adopt something like the always-fascinating 1776 Pennsylvania constitution where all non-emergency legislation is proposed, but cannot be voted on until after the next election, thus making elections a sort of collective referendum on a legislative slate.Report

  5. Avatar Koz says:

    But if you’re not an immigrant, who the hell are you to tell immigrants (or, for that matter, foreign tourists or business travelers) that this means the infringements on their civil liberties are only trivial or even non-existent?

    We’re citizens, look it up. Actually, I’ll spare you the trouble:

    Main Entry: cit·i·zen
    Pronunciation: \?si-t?-z?n also -s?n\
    …………
    1 : an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman
    2 a : a member of a state b : a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it
    …….Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz says:

      @Koz, 1. An inhabitant. All you have to do is inhabit.

      Dude. I would have at least scoured around until I found a dictionary that had “inhabitant” at 2 and just not posted that part. I could have pretended that I didn’t read that far.Report

  6. Avatar Koz says:

    Well yeah, but the point is to emphasize the tension between inhabitants and citizens. We might try to sweep it under the rug, but not all inhabitants are citizens.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

      @Koz, 1. What Jaybird said.
      2. What James Hanley said.
      3. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Whatever my feelings about the Arizona law (opposed, but not vehemently so), I see nothing in that sentence to suggest that civil liberties are merely the province of natural-born citizens.
      4. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s entirely possible to be an immigrant and a citizen.
      5. You’ve spectacularly missed the point, which is simply that someone who has no risk of seeing restrictions on their civil liberties has no basis to trivialize the concerns of those who do by pretending those concerns don’t exist at all. You want to argue that non-citizens aren’t entitled to civil liberties at all, so whether they experience infringements on their civil liberties is irrelevant to you? Fine, go ahead; I’ll disagree vehemently, but at least it’s an honest position. But if you want to tell people who actually will experience civil liberties infringements that those infringements are meaningless or trivial or whatever and pretend like you otherwise would care about their civil liberties, then you are assuming things you are in no position to assume.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Ok, see my response to James below but let’s note a couple other things as well.

        First of all, you’re bootstrapping the idea of civil liberties to argue something you shouldn’t. The burdens of the Arizona law are real, in terms of the anxiety of having to be accountable to law enforcement personnel at almost any time. But that’s not at all the same thing as lost rights, either in terms of natural law or our Constitutional jurisprudence. And that’s the same for illegal immigrants, legal aliens, or citizens.

        Finally, as President Adams said we are the friend of liberty everywhere but the guarantor only of our own. I am not trying to argue that non-citizens in whatever circumstance have no civil liberties at all against various arms of government. But in general we should expect that they are not the same as the rights of citizens upheld by various traditions in our jurisprudence.Report

  7. Avatar James Hanley says:

    OK, Koz, how about the infringement on the rights of citizens? Only the most naive could believe that it’s only immigrants that are affected by this law. So change the sentence to “But if you’re a citizen, who the hell are you to tell other citizens that this means the infringements on their civil liberties are only trivial or even non-existent?”

    That’s not so easy for you to sweep under the rug, is it?Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to James Hanley says:

      I don’t see what in particular that is supposed to change.

      In a republic, the citizens (collectively) are sovereign. Therefore they can in principle impose certain obligations on citizens (individually) if the purpose of the obligation is to serve the legitimate ends of the nation, and such is obviously the case here.

      More importantly, it’s the idea of citizenship (and citizenship in a republic in particular) which carries the hope of defeating the ever-growing security state, so we should strengthen it whenever possible.

      Once we’ve sorted out who legitimately gets to participate in the polity and who doesn’t, there’s less need to take harsh measures against citizen and noncitizen alike. It’s when other interests attempt to exercise control over the polity that the citizens have to defend their sovereignty as aggressively as possible. (That also applies to the political class as a competing interest to the citizens as well btw.)

      And for the sake of limited government we also have an interest to ensure that the inhabitants are citizens as much as that can be achieved. The enforcement apparatus of the state is, in principle, inferior to the sovereignty of the citizens. It’s much easier to enforce marijuana laws and wetlands restrictions and all the rest of it to people who can’t fight back.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Koz says:

        @Koz,

        Your position on immigration, both here and previously, seems to be that because the citizens are sovereign, they can do no wrong.

        Now, whatever they decide (filtered through the highly unreliable translation mechanism of representative democracy, which screws up lots of things)… whatever they decide, through this mechanism, is almost certain to become the law of the land.

        But sometimes, the law of the land is unjust, economically inefficient, or otherwise just foolish. Sovereignty doesn’t make for perfect wisdom. Pointing that out isn’t an illegitimate move. Indeed, given that I actually am a citizen, it’s part of my obligation as a part of that sovereign body.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          “Your position on immigration, both here and previously, seems to be that because the citizens are sovereign, they can do no wrong.”

          First, right or wrong, the citizens are sovereign if we are going to have a republic what they say goes. It has to be that way.

          More than that, I should also emphasize a little bit why I think we need a republic when the idea of lower-case-r republicanism seems to be going out of fashion. Essentially, the problems of modern society are too complex for the Establishment to handle. In a republic, those issues flow through to the citizens who have the opportunity and obligation to adapt to them. It’s pretty basic Hayek really.

          “Now, whatever they decide (filtered through the highly unreliable translation mechanism of representative democracy, which screws up lots of things)… whatever they decide, through this mechanism, is almost certain to become the law of the land. “

          No, not at all. In fact in most European democracies there is no amount of popular support which can establish something like the Arizona law because the people in those countries aren’t sovereign.

          Like you said, the verdict of the citizens may be unfair, inefficient or foolish. Obviously you believe that to be the case here. Then make your case to the citizens (ie, not the newspapers, not some Congressman, not the head of INS, etc) and listen to what they have to say.

          That whole bit about the corner solutions (and many other things like it) seems to me to be just a pile of wormy blllshit to make an end run around the sovereignty of the citizens. That might be unfair but I don’t think so.Report

          • Avatar Travis in reply to Koz says:

            @Koz, the Bill of Rights was written expressly to prevent the tyranny of the majority which you’re suggesting is legitimate.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Travis says:

              @Travis, On top of that, Koz seems to have forgotten the distinction between a “Republic” and a “Democracy.”Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Whatever else can be said about our little dialog, I can completely assure you that this is not the case. A lot of what’s behind many of my comments here depends on the difference between a republic and a democracy (and in particular advocacy for a republic).

                There was an intramural argument on the Right about fifty years ago about whether the US was a republic or a democracy. It was kind of a stupid argument back then because they both amounted to the same thing. But now the difference is crucial.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                “It was kind of a stupid argument back then because they both amounted to the same thing. But now the difference is crucial.”

                In particular not everybody has the means and intent to contribute to the common good after their own personal responsibilities and consumption are accounted for. But just because not everybody has these things doesn’t mean that nobody does. For the good of the nation, it is imperative that the people that do have that chance.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Travis says:

              Uhhh, not quite. The tyranny of the majority is real possibility, but is not the issue here. That’s why, God willing, we have a limited government (if you like that idea, btw, make sure to vote Republican).

              The Bill of Rights bans unreasonable searches and seizures but not all searches and seizures. And in our traditions of jurisprudence, the ones by Arizona law enforcement personnel to enforce this procedure are undoubtedly reasonable. I’m personally sympathetic to the idea that our jurisprudence is more deferential to law enforcement and other arms of government than it ought to be, but for now that’s the hand we’re dealt and that’s the hand we’re playing.

              More than that the important thing, is that this law is the execution of a core government function and the expression of the sovereignty of the American citizens at its deepest level. We can and should restrain the overintrusive government in the service of the nanny state or the drug war. But that doesn’t mean that the government should abdicate the responsibilities that it legitimately does have.Report

              • Avatar Travis in reply to Koz says:

                @Koz, yes sir, vote Republican and get a limited government that kicks gay people out of the military, won’t let them marry and supported, to the very last, criminalizing their very lives.

                Yay for limited government!Report

              • Avatar Travis in reply to Koz says:

                I remain stunned by the idea that anyone who lived under the Bush Administration would possibly believe that Republicans stand for limited government.

                From Terri Schiavo to the Patriot Act, Republicans did nothing but attempt to increase the number of ways government could control our daily lives.

                It’s as if you expect us to treat the eight years of George W. Bush as if they didn’t exist. Or was he not a real Republican?Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to James Hanley says:

      “But if you’re a citizen, who the hell are you to tell other citizens that this means the infringements on their civil liberties are only trivial or even non-existent?”

      This might be obvious already but these questions from James and Mark which are intended to be rhetorical actually have direct, straightforward answers.

      Specifically it is the sovereignty of the citizens which contains with it the authority to enforce the Arizona law. This is not at all the same thing as saying the costs of such enforcement are trivial or irrelevant, which is a separate topic altogether.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    This is a great discussion, fellas. I wouldn’t have guessed I come from a town technically twice or more as big as either of you, though in a broader sense i guess Mark sort of comes from a place called “the Northeast Corridor,” which is maybe the biggest place to be from in the world save Beijing or Ciudad de Mexico. I tend to agree with Mark that we have to proceed in debates keeping in the backs of our mind all the things that make our perspecive unbridgably different from that of our interlocutors, but not try to take them substantively ‘into account’ in such discussions, as that likely leads more just to entertaining stereotypes of others’ thinking and reinforcing our own limited sense of how our view is itself limited be our perspective. We can’t really get outside ourselves; it potentially just compounds the problem to even try. Rather, we just have to work toward good communication via clear language and so forth, relying on trust that different understandings of concepts will come out via open discussion.

    More concretely, do I take it then, Mark, that you did spend some time living in “the City”? I know you wrote about the place in some detail just recently, but in terms of living there, what’s you two-or-three-word verdict on it? From my (regrettably only) two years it would is: “(You) won’t regret it.”Report

    • @Michael Drew, Thanks, Michael.

      Actually, I’ve never lived in the City, although I’ve obviously spent (and, on the increasingly rare occasions where it’s possible, continue to spend) my share of time there and I’ve had plenty of friends and relatives who lived and worked there. The sense I’ve always gotten is that there’s no place on Earth I’d rather live in my 20s than Manhattan or maybe some of the more youthful suburbs.Report

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