This is told as a fantastic story of human empowerment and social transformation, which it is. More and more of us are escaping the tyranny of location; thanks to the telecom revolution we can work where we want and when we want.
The rise of telecommuting will lead to better, richer lives. Families will be stronger. The environment will benefit from less commuting. All good.
But it also represents the death of the political philosophy and economic system that the Times is otherwise prepared to defend to the last: the blue social model. If this revolution continues—and it will—fewer and fewer people will be stuck in big, high tax, over-regulated cities. While some will still choose to live there, many, especially those raising children, will not.Quite apart from the "three's a trend, unless you're on deadline in which case one will do" angle, I have to say I'm amazed that conservatives are still doing this. We live in an era of mass migration to the cities. It's not like New York, San Francisco, Philly, Minneapolis, et alia, are emptying out. In fact rents in most big cities are going up -- and surely conservatives know that when people pay more for something it's because they prefer it.
This is an old routine for the brethren. For years I've been following Joel Kotkin's crusade to make everyone hate urban life and move to the suburbs and exurbs like Real Americans, or to pretend this has already happened, all evidence to the contrary. And Mead's "rise of telecommuting" reminds me of Ole Perfesser Instapundit Glenn Reynolds himself pushing hard for telecommuting 11 years ago as an alternative to commie light rail. Reynolds actually proposed as a benefit of telecommuting that unions don't like it "because it's harder to organize workers who aren't all in one place."
Which, incidentally, reminds me of one big reason why people flock to the cities: Because that's where the jobs are. Some of you may remember a few years back when conservatives were trying to send poor people to North Dakota to soak up those big oil boom bucks (or to get a long-haul trucking job -- but that was always an obvious fraud). During that boom, capitalism did what capitalism does and drove housing prices in boom towns sky-high. Michael Warren at the Weekly Standard called these oil-boom immigrants "The New Pioneers" -- "The oil boom that began in 2007 has transformed this area of sleepy ranching communities into America’s new energy powerhouse," Warren gushed, and he said that whether you were young or old, whether you were an able-bodied pipe-fitter or "a receptionist at a man camp, those groupings of dorm-like lodgings for temporary workers that flank the highways of the Bakken," there was a place for you in this bright economic future-land.
Well, fast forward a few economic cycles and things ain't looking so great. Thanks, @jfxgillis, for pointing out this September 2015 Bloomberg story of what happened in the Bakken:
Fracking’s success has created another glut, and crude prices have fallen more than 50 percent in the past year. Now North Dakota’s white-hot economy is slowing. More than 4,000 workers lost their jobs in the first quarter, according to the state’s Labor Market Information Center. Taxable sales in counties at the center of the nation’s second-largest oil region dropped as much as 10 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, data from the Office of the State Tax Commissioner show...
With the region’s drilling-rig count at a six-year low of 74 and roughnecks coping with cuts in overtime and per-diem pay, the vacancy rates in Williams County man camps are as high as 70 percent. Meanwhile the average occupancy rate of new units in Williston was 65 percent in August, even as 1,347 apartments are under construction or have been approved there.It's all well and good for Mead to tell people that telecommuting's where the boom is now, sonny! But you actually have to provide the jobs to back that up, and unless I'm missing something there is no boom in internet jobs that pay a living wage.
So why do guys like Mead tell people -- people who probably trust him; they aren't reading his shit for the scintillating prose style -- that cities are over and they should avoid them? That's easy. Look how people in the cities vote. The only hope for wingnuts is to keep their dwindling pool of supporters in the outlands -- cut off from culture, from minorities and foreigners, from the experience of living among crowds without packing heat all the time, from anything that would show them that one could have a pretty good life without fear, isolation, and bigotry. (And if you can't guarantee that your peeps will stay in Fritters, Alabama, at least give them the idea that they can live the dream on the internet, so it doesn't matter whether they relocate by choice or necessity, they'll still be isolated, and you may yet keep them in the fold.)
Then you can keep dangling the Next Big Boom in front of them -- some Eden of free enterprise where they'll be able to shoot off guns and make a living with their hands and no goddamn unions or homos. And they won't know it's a con. How would they?