Getting out of Fishtown

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

In Coming Apart, Charles Murray urges his elite readers to eschew “Belmont” communities in order to engage with the working class residents of “Fishtown” communities.

One City Paper writer gave that a go and was quick to say, “goodbye, Fishtown!” He didn’t like people yelling and throwing trash everywhere.

Over at Foseti‘s, commenter Sardonic SOB adds this:

I recently read the beautifully desolate book Deer Hunting With Jesus, and the author pointed out that a lot of the problem with the rural areas he was chronicling was that the smart kids grew up and got the Hell out.

Not that this hasn’t always happened, to some extent, but the thing that’s different now is that it’s more or less automatic. If you’re smart, the school’s going to pick it up in tests, and you’re going to get college scholarships, and you’re going to move away, and it’s easy for you to find a job in a city after you graduate. You don’t stay and become the town doctor, or the town lawyer, or the judge, or the mayor, or the county clerk, which before the bright but not blazing might be comfortable doing.

Before, you had to be smart and ambitious, brave enough to leave and driven enough to want to. Now the educational-/employment system is like a giant vacuum sucking all the talented young people out of rural areas, small towns and lower-class neighborhoods like Fishtown, ne’er to return. So the people there have no core of talented, intelligent (even relatively speaking) community leaders to keep things moving in a positive direction. Metaphorically, they take their top ten percent (or whatever) out behind the barn and shoot them on graduation day. Or rather, they might as well, since they leave and never come back: they are lost to the community forever. You can’t keep doing this for multiple generations and not expect serious negative consequences.


  1. L. C. Rees says:

    That efficient meritocracy is the slow decapitation of the lower orders is what I took away from The Bell Curve. Overproduction of elites a la Peter Turchin is the compensating mechanism. When there’s not enough sinecures to go around, aspiring elitists go downmarket in search of power. The lower orders agitate, society breaks down, existing ranks of elites get thinned, and the process begins anew. That many of today’s potential downmarket agitators think revolution is a dinner party (or faculty symposium) is one reason the current order continues to lurch forward despite building up kindling for the flames.

  2. Buckethead says:

    I can’t now remember where I read it, or who wrote it, but a decade or more ago I ran across the idea that one advantage of an aristocratic system is that it prevents this sort of hoovering. In a sort of backwards Peter Principle, it ensures that there are competent people who can be promoted. The moderately gifted among the lower classes, or the gentry, will advance to positions of leadership within their class — or in this case, in their locality. The truly gifted can of course move up to the nobility, but social pressures will keep that to a relative minimum.

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