I’ve been warning about the “company state” dynamic whereby an area’s core industry essentially becomes the provision of government services, with the revenue pulled in from the few productive residents and other cities, towns, and states. The goal becomes to attract and create as many dependents as possible so as to justify sending a larger bill to those who have no choice but to pay it. Eventually, though, the productive locals will leave or decide to join the dependent club, and other cities, towns, and states will refuse or no longer be able to cover the bills.
I wonder if that sort of civic and economic structure will set Rhode Island to be akin to the frontier areas as the Roman Empire receded. Here’s Jakub Grygiel:
In those frontier outposts, the locals have to make difficult decisions based on an assessment of how resilient their empire is, how persistent and dangerous the enemy appears, and how strong their own will is. And they experience different stages of geopolitical grief from denial and delusion to perhaps, in the best case, an attempt at indigenous security provision.
Clearly, Grygiel’s talking about security against invaders, but something similar seems likely to happen when a large class of people rely on handouts that simply cease to be handed out, whether one sees the recipients as a replacement for the invaders or you see them as the villagers failing to prepare to defend themselves against events that will damage or take their resources. Grygiel describes the stages as follows:
- “First, there is the gradual recognition that imperial forces were not what they used to be.”
- “Second, after the reassuring presence of imperial might has vanished, the next stage does not include calls for defense or balancing or stronger walls. No. It is the stage of disbelief and self-delusion.”
- “Third… the people of Comagenis … recognized that security was a creation of force, not a self-sustaining reality. But even before the technical question of how to defend themselves, the locals needed a reason to do it.”
In some ways, we may already be well into the first stage, perhaps into the second. Government funds cannot be increased at the rate to which officials have become accustomed. Some things (roads and pensions) are showing the pressure on the finances, and intra-progressive political battles are beginning to pit special interests against each other. Next comes the refusal to adjust policies to the obvious future and a desperate search to find any and all sources of new revenue to keep the game going.
When that no longer works, we can expect a fatalism as some sit and stare at the financial wasteland and others refuse to let our society return to the principles of freedom, self control, and self reliance that allowed our society to be so successful in the first place.