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Living in Big Cities is Bad for Your Mental Health and Decision Making

 "I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe." - Thomas Jefferson in an 1787 letter to James Madison.

 2012 Presidential Results by County, in a state won by B. Obama with over 57% of the vote. Note the concentration of votes in counties with large urban areas, a pattern which repeats in other states.

An article in the Boston Globe presents powerful evidence that city life impairs people's judgement.   The overwhelming amount of stimuli wears down people's filtering mechanism.   It makes their brains 'tired'.   The result is that they perform worse on various aptitude tests.  They are more aggressive, more impulsive, and in short, have worse judgement.    A hectic environment does not allow them to think things through like they would be able to in a small town or more rural setting.    As a writer, I can vouch for the power of peaceable settings to contribute to one's work.    

Liberalism offers quick, loud, direct fixes to individual's troubles.   These solutions are unworkable, but they seem superficially plausible to people who don't have an opportunity to meditate on consequences.   This makes liberalism appear more attractive to city dwellers than it would be if those same people were granted the luxury of considering the long range viability of those ideas in a more down-to-earth small town or rural setting.    

Did blacks vote overwhelmingly for Obama because he was black?   Maybe, but not just urban blacks voted for Barack Obama, virtually every group in major metropolitan areas voted for him.   Romney was a wretched candidate of course, but pick any election.   The big city population, overwhelmed with sensory stimuli, go for the alleged quick fix of big government while the rural areas eschew it.  

Big cities tend to vote for big government.   The presumption of our big-city based media is that this is because 'with it' city folks are just so much smarter than rural yokels who don't appreciate the government's power to run your life better than you can.     I am suggesting the reverse may be true.   It's almost like the Star Trek Episode of The Could Minders in reverse.    In the story, the Trogs were not really inferior to their upper castes, but rather something in their environment made them impulsive, aggressive, and less capable of reflective thought.    The main difference between this TV episode and America; its not the lower class that has impaired cognitive abilities, but the people running the country!

People who live in cities tend to have less time to think and ponder, but now the majority of of population is living in that condition.  But it gets worse, environmental stupidity has achieved escape velocity as government policies now favors herding people into cities and chasing them out of rural areas.     Mass transit is subsidized at the expense of private transportation.  Cites get bailouts, grants, and subsidies not available to rural areas (not that they should be available to anyone).    Agenda 21 is focused on depopulating suburbs and rural and small town areas, in favor of stacking people like cord wood in "sustainable" high-rise densely occupied communities.  

Advances in technology enable people to live more spread out than ever before.    Increasing concentration of the population is no longer being driven by technology, but rather by flawed government policy.    Democracy (would that we still had a Republic) is no guarantee of good government, especially when virtue and good judgement are eroded, as predicted by mega-genius Thomas Jefferson.     How much longer will the minority in small town and rural America accept the decisions of "leaders" elected by people whose judgement is impaired?

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This is one of the most fitting posts I've read

My comments may be long as I address some of what you wrote, which by the way was not too long nor too short, and written succinctly. I live in an urban area with what I believe right now is seeing more migration than any other area in the United States.

"Tired" - I often tell my dad I'm tired. So then he asks if I'm getting enough sleep. Yes. Then he asks if I'm depressed. No. Then he asks if my thyroid is OK. Yes. I just get tired. Part of it is caregiver burnout but I think much of it has to do with the hustle and bustle and being a wage slave and not being able to put my hands into soil to plant things.

I'm tired of traffic, tired of car alarms, tired of having to hear everyone yelling, tired of loud noises, tired of sirens, tired of nutcases, and I can't stand setting foot downtown. I'm neither aggressive nor impulsive, but having lived in a major city for the past 15 years, I have noticed my judgement has been compromised at times. I do see the aggressive and impulsive all over though. People are at their wits end.

I do have a minor liberal streak running through me, although not much. I take the time to read books and research things (in particular bandaids) and have witnessed firsthand the desperation of people wanting help from who think they can save them, when in fact those people enslave.

I have a friend who leeched off the unemployment system for two years until it ran out and got a job for a while, got another 6 months, who says "I paid into unemployment all my life, I deserve it." I've told him I believe it's employers who actually pay into unemployment. But he is a dear friend whom I don't want to lose so now I am trying to find him a wage slave job. He's so desperate right now he says if he didn't have a wife and kid he would kill himself. Add on top of that he's over 55 years old.

It is true that many dowtowners as I like to call them look down upon "hicks" or "NASCAR loving idiots". I tell people I'm a hillbilly who is stuck in an urban lifestyle. I hang out in both circles, rural and city, and I can say, without a doubt, is that the rural people have things right. I say I am stuck but I know that some day I will escape and I keep taking small steps.

>>>in favor of stacking people like cord wood in "sustainable" high-rise densely occupied communities. <<<

This is what I see daily and what I contribute to in my wage slave job. I like helping to things however, it's a skill. But the massive influx of people into these communities where I live see these structures as actually more free than where they came from.

I wouldn't buy one of these 1.8 million dollar 3 story reach out and touch your neighbor homes with no yard, ever. They are horrendous and disgust me. Very rarely are single family homes being built. Instead, the beautiful artisan homes that were built long ago by families, are being bulldozed and turned into fortresses of the elite, like the facepalm lady in Menlo/Atherton. Her place is a blight on the neighborhood.

Very good post. Thank you.



I've always said I never

I've always said I never thought the main divide in this country was ever really North vs. South or black vs. white or anything like that, but rural vs. urban.

Virginia, my home state, is a great example of the divide between urban and rural areas. Obama won northern Va(naturally, they are all government employees), Richmond and Norfolk and that was basically it. The overwhelming majority of the State, territory wise, voted for Romney, and Obama took the State.

I live in a very rural area, and I hope I can stay here forever. But all the young girls are moving to DC, Richmond, Charlotte, etc., because there are no jobs to be had in rural areas, this makes it hard to meet anyone, anyone worthwhile anyway. Very unfortunate, but it is in my opinion another bad effect of fiat money. Things become much more centralized, the big companies get bigger, while the smaller ones go out of business.

Michael Nystrom's picture

It is a good point - the rural vs. urban divide

I think it is valid. I think that race is a manufactured divide that TPB uses against us.

There is definitely a different mindset between those who choose to live in the city, vs. out in the country. There is a different value system.

The problem, as you correctly note, is the lack of jobs out in the sticks. This causes the cities to become the great attractors of all the young, making it hard to meet anyone. Of course, if you go to the city & meet someone, then you can hitch up and move back to the country.

The land is cheap, the pace of life slower and there is a different attitude. As I described about my recent trip to NY - people don't look you in the eye in the big cities. It is the same in Boston, which is a backwater compared to New York.

In the city, you're not really seen as a human. You're seen as a means to an end. A tool. What can you do for me? What can I do for you so I can get what I want from you? People are impatient. We want what we want and we want it yesterday.

But again, the bottom line is the jobs, because even if you own a house out in the country free and clear, and grow all your food, and have a little windmill & solar panels for electricity... You still have to pay your taxes in FRNS.

The don't accept anything else in payment.

And at the end of the day, that is how they keep their power, because if you don't pay your taxes, you know what the government does. They come and take your house away.

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

Extremely well put. It's like

Extremely well put. It's like Hazlitt said, the money issue is the main fight libertarians have to win in order to succeed. The vast majority of what our government does wouldn't happen if they couldn't print the money to pay for it.

And it's like Ron Paul said in his book "The Case for Gold", money isn't the root of all evil, but bad money. Bad money leads to moral hazard, people do things they wouldn't normally do, and to speculative booms and busts which ruin so many lives.

Honest money please.

bigmikedude's picture

Joe Walsh - The City:

The problem, as you INcorrectly note, is the lack of jobs out in

the sticks". Really? The problem? No. The problem is "centralization" into the hands of the Presidency. Ever heard of "fishyculture"?

"If you want something you've never had before, you have to do something you've never done before." Debra Medina

Michael Nystrom's picture

They're two sides of the same coin

Unless you're an absolutist. In that case, you're right and I'm wrong.

Feel better?

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

Are you serious!?

No I don't feel better...One has to be an Absolutist to be self-reliant???

Like 'fishyculture'? who I gather is somewhere between urban and rural...naturally....where we'd all like to be...about now...

"If you want something you've never had before, you have to do something you've never done before." Debra Medina

PS, Brion McClanahan and

PS, Brion McClanahan and Clyde Wilson's book "Forgotten Conservatives in American History" has a chapter on the Bayards of Delaware, who also shared Jefferson's belief of the danger of the urban life in regards to human virtue. I would recommend this book to anyone.

Michael Nystrom's picture

p.s. thanks

I just finished the Globe article you linked to.

I was in New York over the weekend attending this conference: www.2045.com. If you think a city is unnatural, wait until you get a load of that!

But as we were walking down Broadway, I said to Samantha, my wife, "Let's count how many people make eye contact with us on this block." We were right near Times Square. And if you've ever been in Times Square on a Saturday evening, you know that it is a sight to behold. It is incredible. Pictures do it no justice. It is exhilarating. Each time you go it is just as overwhelming and incredible.

(Again, a very nice place to visit - something everyone should experience at least once.)

But in that throng and crush of humanity, under the neon lights of New York City, you can guess how many people we made eye contact with: Zero.

Samantha, who is a neuroscientist by training, said, "New York is like a brain high on crack." And it is. Overwhelming.

The other thing about a city like NY is that it is dominated by young people. It is a great attractor of the young and energetic. People stream in. "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere..." By the time you hit 35, it is probably too much. A friend of mine who lived there until he was about 35 said it would drive him crazy to stay forever. And he noted that a lot of the old timers were indeed crazy. Indeed, we saw a lot of crazy people on our trip. Harmless crazy. They lock up the dangerous ones.

At any rate, thank you again for the article. I'm going to share it with Samantha.

The author's book, How We Decide looks interesting.

As a final aside, there is a difference between de-ciding and choosing, and it is an important distinction. Look at other words with the -cide root: Suicide, homicide, patricide, etc. The act of de-ciding is one of killing off alternatives. Kill off all the alternatives until there is only one left standing.

To choose, on the other hand, is a different dynamic altogether. There is nothing there about killing anything else off. To choose is a mysterious process that has more to do with attraction than murder.

Look at the process by which the GOP "de-cided" on Romney: "Not this guy, not that guy, not the other guy, not Ron Paul. Ok, the only one standing is Romney. That is our de-cision."

Contrast that with how most people here arrived at Ron Paul: They chose him.

Over and out. Thank you again.

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

wow. What an excellent comment--

I was going to make a comment before I read this. Now I've forgotten what I wanted to say. That's never happened to me before.

I think it was something about self-reliance in the city vs the rural...mute point now! lol.

"If you want something you've never had before, you have to do something you've never done before." Debra Medina

Michael Nystrom's picture


Great post.

On the other hand, there are also great advantages to living in the city.

I was in NYC over the weekend. Wow - what an incredible place. But again, as the old saying goes, "A nice place to visit..."

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

A Plausible Hypothesis for why city dwellers skew towards....

....quick loud direct fixes (that don't work because they don't take into account subtle facts of reality).

Localism is for people who can still sleep at night even though somebody they don't know in a city they have never been is doing things differently. ("Localism, A Philosophy of Government" on Amazon for Kindle or Barnes and Noble ebook websites)