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Ozarks...We Been Languished!

     America has had 50 States for a long time now, and at least 48 States for 5+ generations.  Some States ongoingly prosper and some, to use an old word, "languish".  Missouri, and The Ozarks in particular, just never seem to find and/or sustain a prosperity streak.  We  are coming up on 200 years of Statehood and excepting a minor "Heritage Entertainment" surge from 1975 to 1995, the Ozarks looks sadly similar to 1821.  Why?  Did powerful forces beyond our control do it unto us?  Did we do it to ourselves?  Or are we, like the Ozark Deer Population in 1950,, totally unaware that we have experienced a wholesale "failure to thrive"?

     Many of us, convinced that statistics are lies naively say  "it just aint true".  Believing and acting on "alternate facts" may be part of the problem.  It is however, a fact that Missouri has forever been in the bottom half of the US GDP (gross domestic product) rankings.  A recent (stat) summarizes that between 1990 and 2010, Missouri contributed 723B to the US Treasury and the US Treasury contributed 794B bacl to the Missouri Treasury. Iif we had not been getting charity from "Our Uncle" we would be...well, whatever is worse off than languishing. 

     Here are some possible explanations as to why the Ozarks always languishes:

  • We are too far from an ocean
  • Our mountains are too high
  • Our mountains are not high enough
  • We lack sufficient natural resources
  • We have to many minorities
  • We have too few minorities
  • We have too few churches
  • We have too many churches
  • We hold to strong conservative values and therefore choose status quo leaders
  • We have too many liberal/progressive leaders following unproven policies

    For what it is worth, my guess is that almost all people who have grown up in a "rural culture" reach adulthood have been saturated by media delivered imagery portraying urban lifestyles as more advanced than the "country kids" can imagine challenging. Sure there will always be the Bill Clintons and, the Oprah Winfreys,  but these exceptions say little about the 98% of "rural young adults" who have internalized that their competing with urban contemporaries would surely be disappointing or disastrous.  With rare exceptions, these 98% choose economic lives as small town retail/construction/health workers at near minimum wage. The more conscientious of these few pursue trade school experience to reach managerial positions in these same service sectors.

     What all of these small town wage earners share in common is an almost absolute lack of access to "capital".  Excepting a  lottery win, a personal injury windfall, or a Shark Tank Catch, they all face 40 years of survival economics with their minimal discretionary income being forfeited to aging parent care and maybe a boat.  They do not differentiate between passive and active investments; they have no investments except for the extremely frugal who somehow have mustered some home equity. Sadly, for many, by 60 they will have given up their modest nest egg  to solve the problems of their children growing up at the margin. 

     Most thriving businesses in rural America are modern day "carpetbaggers".  The pharmacies, the restaurants, the retailers are all urban investors taking capital out of the local economy.  Yes Walmart and Chilies provide jobs with wages just adequate to sustain another generation to work, and consume, but little more.  What capital does stay local is commonly controlled by the "local elite".  These "big fish in small ponds" hoard capital like their children won't survive but for their thoughtful rationing of Capitalism's DNA.  They prosecute life in a feudal mode, seemingly satisfied that "the poor will be with them, always:  Yes, they count the poor, they give them sweaters and free sack lunches, but not capital, the magic  elixir that helps a people thrive. "These local elites, not surprisingly,  are afraid of everything;  afraid of usurping urban investors as well as afraid of undiscouraged wage earners trying to break out of subsistence living.  By denial and deceit, they constrain as many as possible.

It is these local elites that bring the "languish".  Toward their objective to not get eaten by "Corporate Capital" from above, or up-starts from below,  they keep serving up the lives of those that inhabit their serf kingdoms. They do so by keeping wages low, property values low, taxes low, schools marginal, and most of all capital inaccessible.  Who knows, this neo-slavery paradigm may prevail for another 200 years.  The "local elites" are doing their best to prove Darwin wrong, so let's give them a hand.  Oh, I guess we already do!














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Reader Comments (1)

Very few Roofers and CNA's have 401k's. Except for Licensed Professionals, without access to capital,, the only realistic path to economic success is "significant corporate advancement". The hard question is: Will OTC really get me past Springfield?

February 15, 2017 | Registered CommenterAn Unnamed Baldnobber

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