By Hunter Wallace
“EVERY so often, you hear grotesquely wealthy American chief executives announce in sanctimonious tones the intention to use their accumulated hundreds of millions, or billions, “to lift people out of poverty.” Sometimes they are referring to Africans, but sometimes they are referring to Americans. And here’s the funny thing about that: In most cases, they have made their fortunes by impoverishing whole American communities, having outsourced their manufacturing to China or India, Vietnam or Mexico …”
In National Review, cuckservative Kevin Williamson responds by saying that some towns just deserve to die:
“The town where my parents grew up and where my grandparents lived no longer exists. Phillips, Texas, is a ghost town. Before that it was a company town, a more or less wholly owned subsidiary of the Phillips Petroleum Company. Phillips had already lost a great deal of its population as highway improvements sent residents off to the relative urban sophistication of Borger, and there were fewer than 2,000 people living there in 1980 when an explosion at the refinery destroyed practically all of the town’s economic infrastructure, along with a fair number of houses. …”
The New York Times has a review of “Deep South”:
“In “Deep South,” Theroux set out to do something different. This time, he would travel within his own country, through some of the poorest sections of the rural South — the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Alabama’s Black Belt, the Mississippi Delta and the Arkansas Ozarks. Instead of climbing aboard a train or pushing off in a kayak, he would drive, and rather than pick a destination, he would meander, visiting and revisiting the same “smaller places and huddled towns” through four seasons. A road trip in America is a “picnic,” he writes. “In the travel narrative of struggle, I was not the struggler. I was the bystander or the eavesdropper, recording other people’s pain or pleasure. I knew very little discomfort, never sensed I was in any danger. No ordeals, few dramas.”
The truth is somewhere in between Theroux and Williamson.
My hometown was originally an antebellum plantation and later became a railroad depot in the early 20th century. It ceased to have any viable economic purpose after the demise of the railroad. In the 21st century, truckers driving down US-82 have replaced the railroad which used to run between Eufaula and Montgomery.
At the other end of the spectrum, take a look at Birmingham, which used to be one of the biggest cities in the South. The “Magic City” never recovered from the demise of the steel industry and the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement. In the case of Selma, it was a combination of the Civil Rights Movement and the shuttering of Craig Air Force Base. Nearby Prattville, which used to be a textile town, has reaped the benefits of White flight from Selma and Montgomery.
The Alabama Black Belt counties which Theroux toured have been losing population for generations now. King Cotton lost his throne in the 1920s and new technology made black sharecroppers superfluous in the agriculture of the region. While that is irreversible, countless factories have also been shuttered in the region due to globalization. There are many layers to the economic malaise of the Black Belt, but tax and trade policy are unquestionably one cause of it.