When I was about 14 years old, my family moved to a small city with a population of about 12,000 people. I thought we had moved to the end of the world.
I hated Jasper, Ala., for several years and I chafed at feeling stuck there. I had lived in bigger cities before that, places such as Birmingham, Atlanta, Washington, Pensacola and some smaller cities. Not huge places, but big enough that Jasper felt like a greasy spot on an old paper map.
I eventually came to appreciate some things about the city, but it was always a love/hate relationship. By the time I left college for the last time, I left Jasper behind fore good. I soon had no family there, so my only ties were memories of the early triumphs and pains of a teen-ager.
Other than a couple of years when I worked for a newspaper chain that transferred me to two small towns briefly, I’ve been back in Birmingham ever since. I swore I’d never live in a small city again, but I’m rethinking that lately.
In fact, I’d say that if you’re not already giving serious thought to leaving bigger metro areas behind, you’re not thinking very clearly.
I had already started thinking that a less-populated area might be a better place to raise children and a better place to build the sort of community I’d like to find or build. Smaller communities are places where more conservative social values still thrive in many ways — and that’s much closer to what I want my family influenced by than what will be found in more politically progressive leftist areas.
(Note that I don’t necessarily mean conservative political values as they’re defined today. That’s a different issue altogether.)
More and more of the things we do to make a living today can be done from anywhere that has decent digital infrastructure — and that’s true in most places today. The rise of the big metro areas was driven by the concentration of job opportunities in the factories and offices of densely populated areas. Today, there are more opportunities available in small places for those who have the knowledge and talent to pursue them.
But in the last few months, we’ve seen two big additional reasons to get away from bigger metro areas — and even away from the suburbs where we still feel safe today.
I read today that roughly a third of Americans are strongly considering moving to less densely populated areas because of fears related to the newest coronavirus. More and more people are realizing that densely populated areas are far more susceptible to the strains of a disease which requires us to stay away from each other as much as possible.
Those who still speak of a quick vaccine or other cure for this latest issue don’t seem to be very realistic. This is the seventh coronavirus that we are aware of. The existing six are bugs that we routinely deal with. At least a couple of them cause variations of what know as the common cold. Even though science has been trying for decades to figure out how to immunize us against these bugs, we currently have vaccines against none of them.
A reasonable person knows it’s very likely that there won’t be a vaccine for this bug anytime soon. Maybe never. It’s very possible it’s something we have to learn to live with. And that would be much easier in smaller communities than in the tightly controlled urban and suburban centers.
And then there’s what I consider to be the biggest reason to get away from urban and suburban areas. The cities of this country are piles of dynamite which can be set off by almost anything. You got just a small taste of that in riots around the country in the past few weeks. It would be foolish to think things are magically going to go back to normal for the long term, especially if you factor in the economic devastation that’s coming.
If you think the economic problems won’t be bad because the stock market has done reasonably well so far, you’re fooling yourself. Look deeply into the reason for the stock market remaining at higher levels. The Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world continue to pump massive amount of new currency into the system — and those newly created dollars are flowing to the equities markets.
The Fed is avoiding a market collapse by further inflating a bubble which was already on the brink of bursting. This is not sustainable, especially since the “real economy” doesn’t match what’s going on in the world of finance.
When riots and looting started a couple of weeks ago, it immediately spread far beyond Minneapolis. Even in Birmingham, my little suburb was the subject of rumors which caused us to be under a curfew for more than a week. The downtown Birmingham area saw some fires and looting, but it was just a shadow of what might easily come after this. (Listen to my podcast episode called “Minneapolis riots might be preview of future.”)
I was surprised to read today that so many other Americans are considering some form of moving away from metro areas. You can read some of their thinking in this Forbes article called, “Pandemic Leads To Urban Exodus As Families Turn To Self-Reliance And Off-The-Grid Living.”
Ultimately, the safety issue is the most important one for me. I don’t believe urban areas are going to be safe — and I think suburban areas will quickly become war zones. In the same way that police found themselves unable to control rioting and looting crowds, a bigger conflict will see things get even worse, especially in a day when more and more police officers are quitting their jobs in anger.
I don’t want a conflict with anybody. Getting away from the groups most likely to believe they have grievances with me is the biggest way to avoid such conflict. But if conflict comes, we would be in better positions to defend ourselves in smaller places than in the urban or suburban areas of big cities.
There are very few things in this world for which I would fight and risk my life, but if anyone were to threaten my family, I want to be in the best position possible. If conflict came anyway, I would gladly die fighting to protect my wife and children. I don’t want it to come to that. I’d like to do all I can to avoid such a fight altogether — but I’d also like to be ready and able to wage such a fight if it comes.
If you’re living in a metro area surrounded by lots of other people — as I am in my suburban home — I’d say you’re crazy if you’re not making plans to get out when you reasonably can.