Published in Commonwealth!

A trimmed-down version of my last post got published back at Commonwealth:

IN THEIR RECENT PIECE “Bridging the urban-rural divide in Mass.,” Lawrence S. DiCara and Matt Waskiewicz address the issue of regional inequality. They explain how the erosion of manufacturing jobs has caused the decline of outlying rural areas around Massachusetts. To address the issue, they propose, as part of “a framework of urban-rural mutualism,” three solutions: incentivizing large Boston food consumers to buy produce from Massachusetts farms, promoting rural tourism and recreation, and building commuter rail between Springfield and Boston.

Indeed, regional inequality has created large problems for our society. People who live in areas in decline have fewer career, educational, and social opportunities. In booming Boston, the high cost of living erodes the potential of cities to equalize outcomes and improve people’s lives. As the authors note, the diverging futures of Greater Boston and the rest of Massachusetts result in an increasing partisan divide in elections. So it is disheartening to see well-meaning authors misunderstand the nature of regional inequality and propose solutions that would only reinforce regional hierarchy. Regional inequality in the state is about the predominance of Boston compared to peripheral urban areas — not rural decline.

DiCara and Waskiewicz’s proposals are insufficient and aimed at the wrong targets. If anything, they would result in retrenchment of the metropole-periphery relationship between Boston and the rest of the state.

Read the whole thing here.

Two new thoughts I've had since writing the op-ed:

1) DiCara and Waskiewicz devote an incredible amount of space in their piece to talking about how great Boston is. It's almost pathological, the way Boston boosterism blinds them to seeing regional inequality clearly. And they take it as a given that Boston is dominant and always will be, while other parts of the state will just wither away. In the policy brief I found from 1994, researchers took it as a given that future growth would happen in Massachusetts' smaller cities. Who knows!

2) My argument could be reframed as an attack on neoliberalism. They think the way to solve regional inequality is by incentivizing the right businesses and incubating the right markets; we think it is direct social spending.

Anyway I'll save the anticapitalist critique and the neoliberal pathologies for the Jacobin version. (jk)