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SARAH HOYT: Where We’re Going, We Won’t Need Roads—or Collectivists

(Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP)

One of the obsessions of the left is roads. If you tell them that you’re for minimal government intervention, or against socialism they ask, “what about roads?”

Forget about the fact that roads were built by every regime in history; they have decided anything the government is responsible for is “socialism.” And regardless of the fact that the U.S. had many miles of roads built and paved by private citizens, the one common-purse expense they obsess over is… roads.

Somewhere on Facebook years ago, there was a meme that said, “When I say I don’t want socialism, socialists be like” and it showed a guy rolling up a thin, thin layer of asphalt off the road. (Must have been in some Third-World country.)

In retrospect, I should have saved that, because it would have come in handy. But I was new to arguing with socialists on social media. (Yes, yes, in my free time I also wrestle pigs.) And, of course, I could never find it again.

However, the truth is that the more socialist the government, the worse the roads. Why? Well, because socialists have pet causes, usually having to do with, oh, bringing in more homeless to vote for them, or making more people dependent on government handouts. Roads, no matter what they say, are usually at the bottom of the list, at least in my experience. For instance, as my state of Colorado turned increasingly left, our roads became a disgrace. Driving cross-country recently, I figured out when we were back on Colorado roads right away, because it was like one of those things that shake you to make you lose weight.

Anyway, what I find interesting about the results of the lockdown is that if we avoid letting the socialists fraud themselves into power—or even if we do. I don’t think the Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight can possibly HOLD power for much longer than a decade if that—we are going to need roads less than ever. And, in fact, the future bids to be fairly hostile to socialism and collectivism in general.

No?

Well, if you think about it, what the lockdowns have done is accelerate some trends that were already underway. Take working from home.

My husband and I had a long discussion about an article (and I can’t remember where it was, now. Might have been City Journal) which said that, at most, 2% of people could work from home full-time.

Both of us agree that the number is ridiculous. After much discussion and argument, we both believe that the number is closer to 20%.

And no, we’re not being blinkered and privileged. If we went by our circles, we’d say that number was closer to 80%. Because most in our circle are “knowledge and mind” workers. (No, that doesn’t mean we’re rich. Most writers make less than a retail clerk.)

Sure, remote teaching has mixed results – at least for now – in the lower levels particularly (although I honestly think that’s a matter of habit).

Anything having to do with health services is difficult to digitize, though several friends have moved into telemedicine because, frankly, I shouldn’t have to drive to the center of town and spend three hours in the doctor’s office to just get a prescription renewed and/or get told I have the common cold or that, yep, I do in fact need a stronger antihistamine. I don’t know what percentage of doctor’s visits are “routine” though, so I don’t know what inroads telemedicine will make into healthcare. I know it will be a boon to people in far-off isolated locales.

Anything having to do with hands-on repair, be it of a highly advanced machine or your blender, is almost impossible to do remotely (not impossible).

And then there’s retail and the various service industries.

We think – on gut feeling, because finding statistics for the whole country is very difficult – that this leaves about 20% of the country who can work from home.

But what the article I read — which, in the tone of Publishers Weekly assuring the publishing industry that indie publishing is a passing fad – insisted that only 2% could work from home and “most people don’t like it,” missed is that even if it were only 10 or 20% who actually work from home, what matters is who these people are and where they live.

Almost all of the people who can now remote-work live in cities or close to them. Almost all of them are in the middle-middle and upper-middle of income. Which means that these are the people who patronize the restaurants and stores in the big cities and their suburbs, those who contribute to museums and symphonies, and those who generally patronize the “intellectual life” of the society.

So for those areas and those institutions, the change will be profound.

Once the geese who’ve been laying golden eggs realize they’re being fleeced, and that they have no reason left to put up with it, they… fly the coop. (Or the coup, if November goes the left way.) They go out of reach of the cities, who have been asking for tax increases for “roads” and then spending it on social programs that bring in more people requiring more social services. They go away from congested highways in and out of cities. They move. They go do their work elsewhere.

And more often than not, retail and services will follow, changing into a pattern that I can’t quite figure out (which annoys me, because I write science fiction, and should know).

I don’t mean that every person who can now work from home will want to move away from a large city. I confess that I, myself, am a fairly urban creature and would prefer to stay near where I can go to museums or lectures or zoos. Except, frankly, the cost has grown too high for me. A lot of my friends are simply abandoning center-city for the suburbs, where they can have a yard or some lawn.

But a lot of others, probably half or more, will just take the opportunity to move either to the middle of nowhere (an American obsession that puzzles those of us who became Americans as adults) or to small-town America. Where, frankly, the roads aren’t probably that great, but if they really bother you, you and your neighbors can fund paving. And at any rate, you won’t be using roads that much.

For me, the tipping point (so to speak) came when I was able to buy books from anywhere, which made living near an urban center with bookstores far less necessary. Now that we both work from home? Well, a plethora of places to live has opened up.

And I don’t think we’re alone.

This was coming, by the way. The way of tech in the digital age is to make it possible for the trained individual – who can access training (though not credentials) on the net, often for free – to be able to do his job just about anywhere he wishes.

Even some services will soon be available that way, given drones and remote sensors.

What this means is a return to the pre-industrial age. Not in comforts – unless you live in California, which is fighting the future with all its might – but in the way of life.

Look, there have always been cities—even though the “big cities” of the ancient world might have numbered six thousand people.

What there haven’t always been are mega-cities as we saw at the dawn of the twenty-first century, where all over the Western world the countryside was becoming depopulated as everyone decamped to the city because that’s where jobs and money were.

Being able to work from practically everywhere for those who work from home, and therefore distributing services and retail all over the country (or countries)? It’s a return to the older way of life, where cities might be administrative centers and fine places to visit. But they’re too expensive and you wouldn’t want to live there.

Partly this is what the election is all about. The left has seen this coming for a while. It’s hard to have unions and organize labor when there is no uniform labor pool.

While the interests of all line-workers might be the same, the interests of all gig-worker are unlikely to be.

It’s hard to get power over groups of people when people won’t group up.

This is why the left has fought so hard against gig work, even if they hide it under “concern” for the workers. (We’ve seen that before. If they were so concerned they wouldn’t import low-paid foreign workers to compete with the locals, by the batch lot, as a matter of policy.)

What they are doing is fighting the future.

And unless they manage to get their boot on our neck to such an extent we become North Korea, the future will win.

Sure, they’re going to try to take us into some kind of North Korea redux. But the culture is not on their side. And I don’t think, one way or another, we’re going to let them.

Where we’re going we don’t need roads. And if we do, we’ll pay for them.

It will cost us less than socialism, which is the most expensive luxury of all.