Thursday, December 20, 2012

Civilization

Doing data visualization is kind of trendy these days but that doesn't mean it isn't fun. Here's something I whipped up that maps US counties by population density vs. % Democratic vote in the last election. Interactive version with map is here.

It's no surprise that denser areas (note the log scale) tend to vote more Democratic, although it was a bit startling how pronounced the correlation is. If you ignore the small smattering of low-density counties that went Democratic (and pretty much all of them are areas dominated by a racial minority) then it's almost perfect. One party represents urban cosmopolitans (that is, the civilized, which just means living in cities) and the other rural hicks.

3 comments:

Fsascott said...

"...rural hicks."

Would you consider Cato the Elder, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison to have been "rural hicks"?

How about Andrew Lytle, Robert Penn Warren, or any of the Vanderbilt Fugitive/Agrarian men of letters? Rural they were, but hicks does not seem to be quite accurate.

The word civilisation derives from Latin civis, a citizen, and this in turn from cio or cieo, summoned (i.e., to the common defence) - as opposed to hostis (stranger or enemy) or peregrinus (a traveller). It has only remotely to do with civitas, a union of citizens, a state, or a commonwealth - latterly translated as "city."

Let it be noted that civilisations take their character from their foundational stock, and that this is later denatured by the strangers that flock into it opportunistically. Juvenal complained of this as long ago as the second century of the present era:

"... non possum ferre, Quirites,
Graecam urbem; quamvis quota portio facies Achaei?
ima pridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes,
et linguam et mores et cum tibicine chordas
obliquas nec non gentilia tympana secum
vexit et as circum iussas prostare puellas."
[Sat. III, 60-65]

So don't be so proud of your Democrat-voting, wlefare-dependent urban denizens. They did not build those cities or their great institutions. They, and perhaps you, belong to the modern equivalent of Syrian Orontes that poured into the Tiber in the first part of the Christian era - not to the proud stock that created the civilisation onto which these latecomers have attached themselves like ticks to a dog.

Anonymous said...

The biggest "welfare recipients" are rural states who take more welfare from the feds than they provide in tax revenue. Google around for the chart correlating those two.

Fsascott said...

The "blue" states, however, receive an annual tax subsidy amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars from the Federal government through the deductibility of state income taxes from Federally taxable income. The claims that rural "red" states (most of which have very low state income taxes, or none at all) enjoy a disproportionate subsidy from the Federal government do not take into account the indirect subsidy that urban "blue" states (which typically have high state and local income taxes) receive in this way. California, with its high state income tax, is one of the principal beneficiaries of this Federal tax expenditure.

Similarly, the tax exemption of interest on municipal bonds is an effective subsidy to states and localities that are in debt. It does not really benefit the bondholders, because they have settled for a lower rate of return in exchange for tax exemption. The real beneficiaries are the municipal governments that have issued the bonds, since they enjoy lower interest rates than do the issuers of non-exempt bonds bearing comparable credit ratings. Thus, the Federal government's tax expenditure in this case subsidizes state and local governments that are deeply in debt at the expense of those that are not. Again, "blue" states like California are the principal beneficiaries, and, again, this indirect subsidy is not included in the calculations on which the claims you cite are based.