Thursday, September 12, 2013

Coasties vs. Alleghenies

Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Dan Rodricks snarks about the Western Maryland Initiative, spearheaded by Scott Strzelczyk, which aims to break away five western Maryland counties to form their own state:

He no longer wants to be part of the Maryland associated with Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County. Being a Republican, he’s miserable. The Democrats control the Maryland General Assembly, hold all statewide offices and, he says, gerrymandered legislative and Congressional districts. The state has only one Republican member of Congress, Andy Harris.

It’s not just Republicans. Maryland Democrats are miserable, too. That’s why they cling to their dreams and keep electing liberals, to redistribute what few blessings are left of a once great state, destroyed by liberal policies. That’s also why they’re leaving in droves for Virginia and Delaware.

I don’t know the historical ties between coastal Maryland and western Maryland. But I did live in a Baltimore suburb for 5 years, and I got a sense of both places. Maybe 200 years ago these disparate regions had a lot in common culturally. They don’t now. Rural western Marylanders have nothing in common with the yuppies D.C., Annapolis, and Baltimore have attracted like flies. Western Marylanders can’t afford the yuppies’ disconnection from reality, liberal guilt, and faith in government, but live with them they must, for they constitute a solid majority in bluest Maryland.

Ironically, Rodricks himself makes a good case for secession. He runs through the list of Strzelczyk’s grievances, barely concealing his disdain. As a coastal Marylander, he knows nothing of the destructive effects of his state’s policies on western Maryland. To him it’s just a place to unwind on weekends.

Flush taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, rain taxes, income taxes, unemployment taxes, payroll taxes, inheritance taxes, OSHA regulations, labor regulations, environmental regulations, car registration fees, etc. What good do they do? They haven’t stopped rural hubs like Cumberland, formerly the “Queen City,” from falling into a depression. Rodricks’ accusation of “something-for-nothing libertarianism” rings hollow. Call it less-for-more reactionism.

What the meddling Governor O’Malley and his functionaries have done to isolate western Maryland is create an oppressive system of governing formulas that replace the civil society’s functions of maintaining growth and stability as Maryland transitions from a manufacturing economy to a services economy. These formulas apply to where the population is densest, where government services and infrastructure have the greatest impact with limited reach. Those services and infrastructure don’t reach way out to the Alleghenies.

Maryland doesn’t need its western counties to preserve its current economy or even its political and cultural identity. If anything, the western counties hold Maryland back from the dark abyss its ideology inevitably leads. Whether western Maryland secedes or not, the region’s sunny quaintness Rodricks shows cynical appreciation of will still be there to experience whenever he pleases.

Doubtful, though, is whether he’ll ever understand why. Why does the city slicker, assured of his superiority, keep returning to the forgotten places? Where the people you know and the resources at hand are what you have to live and work with.

Further reading: “Density, dependence, destruction.”

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