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The Future Is Unevenly Distributed

February 20, 2014, 10:52 pm

This map:


ZuWVXza


reminded me of this map:


EngIndRevBig

The first is US economic output split 50/50, showing how concentrated much of the US economy is. The second map is the concentration of British population pre- and post-Industrial Revolution. The 1911 part of it, seen on the right, illustrates how concentrated the British people (and as a proxy, their economic activity) became as a result of the revolution. The William Gibson quote applies extremely well: “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

It’s an obvious point, but the economy that those in the northeast megalopolis or southern California or the Miami axis experience is a completely different one than most of the rest of the United States. This is just as true as the point that the economy of those who lived in London or Liverpool/Manchester in 1890 was completely different than that of the rest of Great Britain.

As with the economy, so too the politics. It’s interesting to note that the areas where American economic activity is so concentrated come largely in Democratic states (Democratic on a Presidential level, at least): the Northeast, Illinois, Michigan, California, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Washington. More than that, the actual cities themselves are highly Democratic. There’s not a major city in the northeast corridor that went Republican, not a city over 500,000 in the whole country, in fact, that went Republican. The cities most advanced in this economic revolution – New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles – gave Obama a margin of victory of 3.2 million votes, roughly equal to his entire national margin of victory.[1] The echo with Britain comes here as well. The nascent British Labor party, born around the turn of the century, was nurtured in the economic foci of the new economy, and it would rise to displace the more broadly based Liberal party in the 1920s. The industrial revolution remade the cities of Britain, the cities remade the politics, and the politics remade the country. I think that the same thing is happening to the United States.

[1] Used figures from here.

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