Friday, June 19, 2009

Self-Reliance in the Recession

If this isn't an argument for self-reliance, I don't know what is. Christina Davidson of the Atlantic visits rural West Virginia to see how the recession's hitting America's second-poorest state. Turns out, it isn't. According to lifelong resident Marietta Stemple:
We don't have foreclosure here because most people own their homes and have always owned their homes. Most people have jobs, and if they lose one, it probably didn't pay much anyway. We don't have much bankruptcy because most people know their limits. We don't have the expenses of people in the cities. I always sewed and made all my kids' clothes--I have five. I always cut their hair myself. We never bought what we didn't need. That's just how we live.
Maybe a lot more of the country will learn to live this way again.

4 comments:

Bruce Gee said...

The rest of the country will probably not be as self-reliant as the WVa'ers. It is an entirely different thing to just be doing this all along than to have to learn from scratch how to exist without text messaging. The level of disconnect is very high.

However it happens, getting simpler will have an enormous impact on the world's economy, particularly China's. If people start doing without, and start saving, it might just be the thing that saves us from Washington's monstrous policies. We created this mess with our profligate ways. If we--graciously or not--reform our ways, the economy will boom once again. I keep forgetting that in the past, at least, Americans have been very good at this sort of thing. It is when we have shined the brightest. I am waiting to see if we've educated ourselves out of that character trait yet, or if the seedbed of sturdy, individual character has been passed on to this generation.

Evan said...

There's some hope. I'm amazed at the enthusiasm of my generation to embrace thriftiness. Blogs like ApartmentTherapy, which is sort of the epitome of urban hipster lifestyle all all full of backyard gardening and canning advice now. I don't know how deep-rooted it is, though. I suspect for many it's a passing style.

Fearsome Comrade said...

West Virginia receives $1.70 in aid for every $1.00 its citizens and businesses pay in taxes. Calling a welfare state that relies on the government distributing the wealth of other states to it "self-reliant" is something of an abuse of language.

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

Thanks, Comrade. I meant to put up that update once I saw that fact, but didn't get around to it.

It makes me curious to see a more detailed breakdown of precisely where that money is going. Rural areas do take in disproportionate per capita funds for infrastructure simply because of their lower population density, and WV is very very rural. That's not nearly enough to be the whole story, though. I'd be curious to see some clearer data on the situation. It is perhaps quite telling that all the posterchildren for self-reliance interviewed in this article were elderly. Maybe Appalachian self-reliance is as moribund as it is elsewhere.