What’s likely to be the best place to live in the U.S. for the coming decades?
I don’t know. I not only probably do not know you, but also it depends how a number of relevant factors unfold in the future and that is impossible for anyone to know.
Let’s consider some of those factors. They lead me to the conclusion that, in general, the Northeast will be the best part of the country.
Even if you disagree, you might be wise to consider the justification that conclusion.
It’s helpful to divide the relevant factors into personal and impersonal. My focus here is on the impersonal, but let’s mention some of the personal ones first.
Age is an important personal factor in deciding the best place to live. If you are a senior with not long to live, even if you picked a better location than where you are now and could afford to move, moving might not be worth the hassle and stress. However, if you are young or middle-aged, it might be better to select where you want to live now rather than later having events that are not of your making select your location for you.
Health is an important factor. For example, for some people living in an arid rather than a humid location would be a blessing rather than a curse. Remember that health, too, is changeable – in either direction.
Family is an important factor in selecting the best place to live. If you are single and childless, you need not worry about establishing yourself in a community that will be good for your children many years from now. On the other hand, the relationship between you and your loved ones is changeable.
Community is related to family. It’s certainly good to have friends, acquaintances, and organizations with which you are already familiar as support and to support. This is why many people prefer to live not far from where they grew up even if they have the option of living elsewhere.
Although personal factors may be more important to you than impersonal factors in deciding the best place to live, my sense is that, because many people seem much more uncertain about the impersonal factors, this post may be most helpful to you if I emphasize them.
Climate and Geography
You undoubtedly already know whether you’d prefer to live in Hawaii or the middle of Alaska.
Why aren’t climate and geography merely personal factors?
They are relevant to choosing your best place to live, but there’s more involved than you may initially realize.
Geographical location and climate are related to the economy, which is critical to choosing your best place to live.
If your job has you living in a place you’d rather not live, you have weighed your job as being more important than the factors of climate and geography in your decision concerning the best place to live. That may be a mistake.
How are you going to shelter, feed, and protect yourself (and your loved ones) in the coming decades? This the key question for you about the economy.
If all of us could have as much of whatever goods we happen to desire, there’d be no need to distribute goods, which is what an economy does.
While hoping for the best, isn’t it wise to prepare for the worst?
Unfortunately, the global economy is entering a sustained period of contraction.
There are a number of well-understood reasons for making this assumption. For example, stocks of nonrenewable supplies of oil and natural gas are rapidly declining (see Peak Oil). This is important because many of the economic blessings, such as factory farmed food, we enjoy today are directly dependent on those supplies. For example, the effects of global warming will continue to get worse. For example, just as all fiat currencies do sooner or later, the dollar standard will collapse (see Currency Collapse). For example, the wonders of antibiotic medicine will diminish as microbes become drug-resistant faster than new drugs can be produced. And so on.
If so, understanding the question changes. Instead of just asking, “What is the best place to live?” while assuming all the relevant impersonal factors will remain the same, it becomes, “What will be the best place to live during the economic collapse?”
Again, my answer: The Northeast.
This does not mean that I think that, during the economic collapse, the northeast will be the best place to live for everyone. After all, personal factors may still outweigh impersonal factors. There will remain some parts of the country that will be good for living as a homesteader or for trapping, hunting, and fishing.
This also does not mean that I think that the northeast is now the best place to live or that it will always be the best place to live.
It only means that I think that, for most people, the northeast will be the best place to live during the long economic collapse that we are entering.
I think this because the impersonal factors favor that conclusion. The Northeast will be the best place to live because all the other areas of the country will be worse. This is the same conclusion that James Howard Kunstler argues for in his The Long Emergency.
In recent decades many people have moved from the Northeast to warmer, sunnier parts of the country. Why might this have been a mistake?
The Dry Sunbelt, the Southwest, will be especially hard hit by the demise of cheap oil. Agriculture based on cheap oil and gas will have to be replaced by more local agriculture in a desert! Transportation, water, and energy for air conditioning will soar in price. Increasingly serious political disruption caused by massive Mexican immigration into the Dry Sunbelt should be anticipated. I expect loss of resources to create conditions ripe for violence, especially if there are natural disasters such as drought or a huge earthquake in California.
The Wet Sunbelt, the Southeast, is dependent upon rural electrification and universal air-conditioning. Its economy has been driven by real estate “development” that extended suburbia. Coastal areas, including cities like New Orleans and Miami, will disappear under seawater as sea level continues to rise. Rampant religiosity, hyperindividualism, and the cracker culture will exacerbate political turmoil and paranoia. Newly poor, undereducated, angry whites will be a new class of economic losers who will be prone to violence. Turn up the already intense heat and humidity and you have an area of the country that will be good to avoid.
The economy of the semiarid Great Plains depends upon cheap fossil fuels and water from underground reservoirs. As those supplies diminish, the Great Plans will become increasingly unproductive and, therefore, more depopulated and desolate. It’s been happening for years already. As transportation costs soar and agriculture declines, what else could be expected?
What about the beautiful Rocky Mountain area? It, too, is arid. How will food be produced there? Except for a few hardy souls who can rely on, say, trapping and homesteading, without cheap fossil fuels expect people to leave. As the interstate highway system begins to crumble and gas becomes ever more expensive, leaving today might be better than leaving tomorrow.
The Pacific Northwest, Kunstler suggests, may find itself the target of displaced hoards of Asians. As bad as the economy will get in the United States, it will be worse in Asia. Might turmoil among Asia’s billions cause millions of people to escape towards the west coast of North America? Could Seattle and Portland become the world’s next Beiruts? It’s possible.
With much less appealing options elsewhere, the Northeast will become the place to be. It’s the states in the New England, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes regions. Even there, though, avoid low-lying coastal cities and areas.
It is favored by the virtues valued by its Puritan past such as industriousness, thrift, perseverance, and community allegiance. It’s much more secular than the Wet Sunbelt. The climate is temperate, and there’s plenty of water. Much of it is very beautiful.
Furthermore, within its borders today there are people who, I think, are role models for how to live and produce food during the long economic winter just ahead. (My intention is to discuss this more in future posts.) The place to live will be small towns in the Northeast that are surrounded by small, productive farms.
It won’t be easy anywhere; the notion of the best place to live is relative. Kunstler: “Climate change is going to combine with the termination of oil-and-gas based farming to very negatively [sic] affect the world’s food supply. A lot of people will go hungry in the decades ahead and . . . [m]illions of human beings are going to die” [The Long Emergency].
Let go of the idea of a growth economy and replace it with that of a nongrowth economy.
If you are serious about feeding your loved ones in future years, consider the idea of soon putting whatever wealth you have acquired into purchasing land or a small farm that has plenty of fresh water (and, perhaps, some wetland) in the Northeast just outside a small town and making it productive.
Why a small farm? Wind and water power are insufficient to make fertilizer or pesticides. Think in terms of farming the old-fashioned way, without reliance on fossil fuels.
So, if you agree with Kunstler and me and aren’t already living in the best place to live for you, consider moving soon.
The prolonged recession that began in 2007 is the beginning of an economic collapse that is actually long overdue. Because political leaders have managed to delay it, it will actually be worse than it might have been. It may take even more years, more decades, to work out of than otherwise.
If you decide that the Northeast is, indeed, the best place to live for you, what will you actually do there? How are you going to support yourself (and your loved ones)?
I have some concrete suggestions in answer to that question that I intend to offer you in future posts. If you are not yet signed up to be notified of them, I encourage you to do so if those suggestions might interest you.
Reading Suggestion: James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency. I know of no better book related to your choice of the best place to live.
Dedication: The publication date of this post is 12 Feb 12, which happens to be the birthday of my best friend. I dedicate this post to Anna.
As always, please forward this to any loved ones who might benefit from reading it.