I'm reading two books right now that deal expressly with this issue. I bought "Hollowing Out The Middle" after Richard Longworth made the following comment:
This gets to his big question: Why should we care? [Aaron Renn is right] that, in my book, I painted a bleak picture of small-town and rural life and its probable future. This was descriptive, not prescriptive. Small towns like "Ellis" have a lot of strikes against them in this global society. Perhaps they will simply die out. So what?For one thing, all these places are little civilizations unto themselves. All have value, recognized by most of us who left and cherished by those who stay. This is a human problem and can no more be shrugged off than we shrug off the condition of lives in inner city ghettos.If we lose these little towns, we lose part of our Midwestern culture. Perhaps we will lose them, but the preservation of this culture seems worth the struggle.
I would retort that the fate of these rural towns isn't so much a question of whether or not we should save them, but one of whether or not we can. Avent is pointing out Florida's concession that this is a lost cause and then explains why this is a reasonable conclusion. The discussion then turns to how to best manage the decline.
Which brings to the other book occupying my thoughts, "The Paris of Appalachia". Author Brian O'Neill writes about Pittsburgh's shrinking city problem and contends that many of the neighborhoods (particularly the North Side where he lives) are worth salvaging, out-migration be damned. O'Neill answers the "so what" question roughly in the same way Longworth does. Should we put aside geographic triage on these grounds?
I've grappled with urban triage before, starting with the neighborhood stabilization program in Youngstown. To be blunt, Youngstown is strategically letting some of its neighborhoods die. Should we be doing the same thing at the national level? I'm imagining community death panels.
In essence, that's how Chicago rose to global prominence. It invested in the urban core and left the rest of the city to fend for itself. By and large, that worked.
China washes its hands of the cities with the highest legacy costs. We might be wise to follow their lead. Sorry, but your hometown won't make the globalization cut.
Richard Florida is staring at the same decisions concerning Ontario. The province hinterlands understand all too well what the "World is Spiky" means for their towns and cities. There might be a middle ground, but some communities and neighborhoods will be left for dead. Keep that in mind the next time Collegia or Next Generation Consulting comes round to your neck of the woods peddling salvation.