Friday, January 30, 2009

City Dreams

A new Pew poll notes that a majority of Americans would rather live someplace else than where they are now. In particular, people who live in cities would prefer to be out of cities:

“City residents disproportionately are more likely than people living in other types of communities to say they would prefer to live in a place other than a city,” Morin says. “Fewer than half of all city residents say there is no better place to live than in a city.”

A smaller proportion of women express the desire to live in the nation’s largest cities. “Women are less drawn to big cities,” says Robert Lang, co-director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. “It could be safety.”

I used to have romantic notions of small town life. I've lived in two small towns, one of 20,000 and one of 2,000. The latter, Lake Butler, Florida, permanently cured me of this Mayberry-ish view of life in rural America.

This is the impression that I've gathered: small towns are more political than major cities. If 1 out of 100,000 people in a major city is an elected official, then 1 out of 100 is an elected official in a small town. And all of these officials, in small or big communities, have roughly the same destructive power.

Allow me to put this gently: politicians are scum. I have limited experience, but what I do have indicates that there is a certain personality -- a devious and manipulative one -- that goes into politics, from President to down to City Commissioner. This personality, if given a choice between being a small fish in a big pond and a big fish in a small pond, chooses the latter. Prestige is very important, if not critical, to this type's happiness.

And the smaller the town, the more likely you are to have contact with such people. Like the rabbi's prayer for the Tsar in Fiddler on the Roof, I say "May God bless and keep the Tsar -- far away from us." In a big city, this distance is a far greater than in a small town, where you are stumbling over politicians in the produce aisle of the supermarket -- all of whom know you by name.

I would much rather lead a quiet, anonymous life, choosing who I wish to associate with, rather than being forced into political relationships for which I have neither the time nor the inclination.

It is often easier to have privacy in the midst of a crowd of strangers than in a small group, which is why I prefer city life.

All of which is not to say that there are not good people in small towns, or that it is impossible to be happy in one. But there are real dangers to small towns, and in them, participation in informal, social politics is more mandatory than it is in a big city.

I am content where I am, but there is a city that I have thought of for a while as being ideal. I've never been there, but I am attracted to it from what I have read: Las Vegas.

It is a relatively young and fast-growing city. And Reason magazine recently declared Las Vegas to be the free-est city in America. It has an attitude that is both libertarian and libertine. As much as I have no desire for the libertine pleasures of Las Vegas, I am attracted to the middle finger that Las Vegas extends to the rest of the world. I want to live in a city that will give me a job and leave me the hell alone. From what I have read, Las Vegas sounds a lot like it.

Back when I was doing the Methodist Blogger Profile series, I used to ask the question that I will now pose to you, my readers.

Where would you most like to live -- other than where you do now?

HT: Instapundit


Stresspenguin said...

I;ve lived in big cities, military towns, college towns, and small towns and non-incorporated townships.

The only difference is the complexity of its systems, but the systems are all the same. There's a lot of truth behind the adage, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."

So I don't care, but I'd prefer it to be within a day trip or weekend trip driving distance from St. Louis, Missouri. That's where my family is.

But even then, I don't really care. As I learned a long time ago when I ran away to the Army, suck isn't a place, its a state of mind.

Dan Trabue said...

I like Louisville, my city. I've no desire to be anywhere else, really. That is, no other big city. This is my home.

Now, after a lifetime (45 years for me) and nearly half a lifetime (24 years for my wife) we've talked some here lately of moving out of the inner city where we've nearly always lived since getting married to a more rural place, but even if we did so, it would be just outside of Louisville.

We like our church and community too much to want to move far away.

Divers and Sundry said...

I'm a city girl. Right now I want to live in a city that's _warm_!

Larry B said...

Plainfield, Indiana.

It's just a few minutes outside Indianapolis, but it's got plenty to offer of it's own.

It's where I grew up, but when I was growing up it was a typical small town, now it's literally a bustling suburb with a big mall, restaraunts galore and great community facilities.

I'm currently marooned in small town Iowa (about 9000 people) and you can take it to the bank about people being big fish in a small pond. Fortunately for me, that big fish owns the company I work for and he does right by his employees (and tries to do right by the town as much as possible too).

We sure miss all the stores (online shopping saves the day) and the restaurants, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper living here than in a larger city.

For what it's worth, I think Vegas or any other place in the Desert Southwest is a terrible place to live. Especially if you grew up in the Midwest, the value systems are entirely different out there. There's a reason it's probably the most libertarian, nobody gives a crap what you do, period. Not the best place to raise kids.

doodlebugmom said...

I grew up on a dairy farm, raised my kids on a dairy farm. I love the country, the wide open spaces, the privacy, rabbits, foxes, and bald eagles, the amazing views.

I hate the bad roads and the coyotes, wolves, possums and skunks in my yard.

I don't think I could ever be a city girl. The crowds and traffic stress me. Its nice to visit, but good to come home.

Mark said...

I'm pretty much a city guy and would have to live in the Southern climes if I moved. Brutal winters, wide-eyed liberalism and people who don't understand "y'all" and down home cookin' would drive me nuts.

Divers and Sundry said...

"I don't think I could ever be a city girl."

I was born and raised a city girl. I've lived out in the country, too, and like it fine. Especially being able to see more stars. These days I just like being closer to things.

When I first moved out to the country the noise kept me awake at night. Crickets are _loud_! lol

DannyG said...

I prefer small towns. I've lived in Miami and Albuquerque and visited enough others to know that I don't like the hustle and bustle. And, you can opt out in a small town. I know the town cop, just enough to not be bothered when I come home late from the hospital. I know the county commissioner from my district, just enough to ask for Hope House's funding. As to the rest, the folks on this mountain pretty much keep to themselves. Now, if your car slides into a ditch there will be 1/2 dozen men with 4 wheel drives will be there to pull you out.

Keith Taylor said...


It changes for me overtime. If you ask again in 6 months, it might change again.

Right now, I would like to live in New Orleans in the French Quarter.

Not on Bourbon St, but on Royal St or Charters St on the east end down by Esplanade Ave.

bob said...

I love living in the Cleveland,Ohio area and couldn't really see myself living anywhere else permenently. I'm a half an hour from downtown so I have the best of both worlds small community,big city.

If I had to move I would like to live in southern Utah, it's so beautiful.

John Wilks said...

I love the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and I feel blessed to live here.

That said, I could be happy in Austin or the ABQ.

John said...

Austin might be another good pick. My wife speaks very fondly of it -- especially the music scene.

TN Rambler said...

For me, Nashville would be where I would want to be. I would prefer to live in the Hillsboro Village neighborhood, but anywhere in the area would work.

The Nashville area is home. It is where I grew up and it is where I've lived most of my life.

John said...

Nashville would be in my top 5.

Jeff the Baptist said...

"When I first moved out to the country the noise kept me awake at night."

A friend of mine grew up as close to "the country" as you cat get in Delaware. Cityfolk were constantly moving into the new subdivisions being built on and next to old farm land and complaining about the noise. They moved out to "the country" assuming it would be like some sort of massive city park, only to find out that working the land usually means industrial activity starting around sun up. And that's not touching on the smell of all the livestock or when said animals get out.

As for me, I like where I live in the suburbs. Most of my common wants are within a 5 to 15 minute drive. I see my parents and brother once a week. Two major hub airports are within an hours drive. I have little traffic to speak of. I suppose moving out of the NY-DC metro corridor to a place with lower property rates might be nice, but then you generally lose a lot of convenience. No, I'm good.

The Bass Player's Wife said...

I live in Las Vegas, and Reason magazine is not completely accurate these days. Nevadans tend to be more libertarian, but I see more populism than anything else. I though that was wonderful until my third local election with ballot questions numbering in the twenties.
If I HAD to stay in this area, I would prefer to mover over the mountains to Nye County-- close enough for the Vegas "stuff" but out of the range of the Clark County crap.
Our two-year plan includes a move to OBX.

truevyne said...

I live in heaven, but have to drive everywhere else...
Let's just say, my gasoline usage would keep Arabia happy.