You know the story of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, right? The City Mouse comes to the sticks to visit his Country cousin, and makes a lot of disparaging remarks about the rural nature of Country Mouse’s life. So Country Mouse visits the big city, and discovers that it’s dangerous, dirty, and confusing. Sure, there’s food and entertainment, but he quickly realizes it’s much better in the country.
This story comes to mind every time I start thinking about big cities like NYC or Chicago, Boston or Baltimore.
The problem, as I see it, isn’t so much that the city is dangerous, dirty, and confusing. It’s more that the city has so many people jammed into it, like sardines in a tin, that there have to be Extra Special Rules to keep it all moving. In the country (rural areas, and even suburban areas), there’s more space. That space allows for more home-made “social lubricant” and less rules.
In the big cities, there might just be a true need to disarm people (this is NOT me saying I agree with doing so, just that I see where the need might arise from). Since you don’t know everyone in your neighborhood (or even in your apartment building!), you can’t know that you’re living with good people. There’s simply so much population stacked one on top of the other that the freedoms taken for granted in less peopled areas can’t be enjoyed.
In big cities, you have smog. You have noise. You have traffic. You have people, oh so many people. You can’t get away from any of it, either.
Have you heard of John Calhoun’s experiments on rat utopia? TLDR: Rats like unlimited food, cozy rat condos, and lots of space. And if they get it, they rapidly overpopulate, overeat, and begin to do horrible, awful things. The studies talk about how rats would eventually get to the point where they would spend all of their time in open areas, surrounded by hundreds of other rats, waiting on the arrival of food. That’s basically all they’d do. The mothers didn’t carry to term, and the few that did often abandoned their infants. Sounds an awful lot like the Big Cities, doesn’t it?
I think that the dense population clusters of the handful of large cities are skewing all of our data… on everything. If we want to know how politics are really going, if we want to know how medicines are working, if we want to know what children are learning, we MUST start removing the top five largest cities (NYC, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, and Louisville KY apparently, by density, though technically if we go by densest “metropolitan area”, NYC takes the first 9 out of 10 spots… let that sink in). I don’t think we can make any honest determinations about America as a country so long as those five cities are part of the equation.
I’ve thought about it. What if we brought back the city-state? What if the top ten densest cities (just to randomly pick a number) were declared separate, their own entities. They could use American money and passports, but their laws, rules, etc would all be curated by themselves. Just a note, that would cut the population of the rest of the country pretty much in half. And I think that half would be a lot happier.
If America could be Constitutional Carry… but you had to have whatever special permits to go into a city, that would be different. And possibly workable. I can happily avoid going to New York City. Let them worry about their own messes. Leave the rest of us alone, as we feed and clothe the rest of the country. Because we do!
I realize this is not something that could happen. We simply aren’t set up for it. But at least it’s AN answer, even if it isn’t THE answer. The other answer I rather like was introduced to me by Robert A. Heinlein in his book Starship Troopers. People who don’t serve their country, don’t get to vote. That doesn’t mean you have to fight… But you must serve to be given the right to vote. If you don’t have the right to vote, it’s not a big deal (for those who choose it). They can still own businesses, do commerce, work, drive, and everything else. They just can’t make any decisions that affect the country as a whole, because they haven’t learned how to put the country first. While Heinlein, in the book, admits that it’s not the only or necessarily the best sorting system in the world, it makes sure that the people doing the voting actually have some skin in the game. I think that’d be nice. Franchise for those who do something for the country they live in. Two years of service in return for the right to vote. But that’s another discussion.