Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Buy West Young Man (and South Too, Young Lady)

I have hit this theme many times (here, as an example). George Will gives it life describing it as the political/economic center of the country moving south and west at something like 1/2 mile per day.

Jeff Jacoby details the Massachusetts version. Today, the WSJ weighs in on New York's contribution. This phenomenon is hard to see on a daily basis and only in retrospect or at a major indicative milestone can we see the bigger picture (like in 1985 when Houston replaced Philadelphia as the nation's 4th largest city), but that doesn't make it any less real. Although the trend has become so pronounced that it is hard to miss if you are paying attention. If you are a young family living in New York, New York City in particular, it almost comically predictable that you will lose the majority of your friends and associates to other parts of the country over the next few years. New York has always had its peripatetic set, people relocating to London, LA or elsewhere for temporary stints, but the trend now is different. People are giving up on New York as a place to raise families. They are returning to their native cities in the South and West or just moving out cold turkey for a fresh start. (And it is not just young white professionals. My daughter's Dominican nursery school teacher just moved to Greensboro, NC because she just couldn't stomach having her own children in the the disaster that is the NYC schools any longer.) Technology has sped the trend. My old employer, a gargantuan NYC-based financial services company, was only too happy to relocate its employees out of NYC and hook them up with high-speed connections at home in pretty-much-anywhere, USA if they so chose.

State politicians should want to correct this as a matter of duty, but, failing that, they should want to correct it out of base motives. We know that politics works on a spoils system, and as places like New York and Massachusetts lose population and political influence, they will ultimately lose out on the spoils. You can bet that as Texas and Arizona gain congressional seats at NY and MA's expense, the money to modernize the public infrastructure will flow in the same direction.

There appears to be no sign that the trend will reverse (can you say Governor Eliot Spitzer?), so buy your kids a couple of acres of land on the outskirts of cities like, Phoenix, Denver, Boise, Greensboro, San Antonio, or Tulsa. They will thank you.


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