I had missed this Friedman column from last week where he argues that we should throw rural people under the bus on high-speed internet access, instead focusing our resources on ultra-high-speed internet for the top 5%. There is proper outrage over this column, from Daily Yonder and Ann Treacy.
A couple of thoughts:
1. I know the fact that people live in rural areas and small towns is inconvenient for people obsessed with national planning and technological fetishism, but that’s the reality of the United States. You can’t just marginalize these people and their futures by dooming them to second-rate access to resources. I mean, you can, but then you have to deal with endemic poverty, high rates of drug use, domestic violence, and any number of other social problems. Remember too that a very large percentage of the Latino population are rural dwellers because of agricultural work. There are lots of kids moving around from rural place to rural place and if we want them to have a better future, we have to allocate resources to them.
2. Friedman’s 5% fascinates me and is a sign of just how elitist he is. I suppose all Times readers think they are part of that 5% so they aren’t outraged by this. But Friedman quite obviously supports a Gilded Age society where the rich and powerful become more rich and powerful. He’s pushed policies promoting this for years. So it’s not just rural dwellers that don’t get the resources, it’s the urban poor and middle class. I suppose all the wealth generated by the increasingly powerful 5% will trickle down to the plebeians and troglodytes. I mean, isn’t that what’s happened ever since Reagan?
…..Shorter Tom Friedman circa 1937: “Let’s not waste our time providing electricity to rural dwellers. We should focus our technology on cities because that’s where we’ll create the future.” Luckily we had people like Franklin Roosevelt and David Lillenthal and Lyndon Johnson at that time fighting for equitable distribution of resources to people regardless of where they lived.