A frequent theme in this blog is the importance of local knowledge for development. David Brooks helpfully illustrated in his column today on my home region the Midwest. He brilliantly demonstrates how outsiders can get lost in the jungle in a region not their own. Brooks' Midwest is:
that region of America that starts in central New York and Pennsylvania and then stretches out through Ohio and Indiana before spreading out to include Wisconsin and Arkansas.
Mr. Brooks is apparently unaware from his vantage point on the Far Eastern Coastal Rim that central New York is still in the East, not the Midwest. And there has never been a single Midwesterner in two centuries who ever thought they were in the same region as Arkansas.
The Midwest has lost a manufacturing empire but hasn’t yet found a role.
Um, Mr. Brooks, were you aware that the Midwest has a few farms? Actually some of the best farmland in the world? and that it produces gigantic agricultural exports for the whole world?
Describing the electoral losses of the Democrats, he says:
The old industry towns in the Midwest were the epicenter of the disaster.
Great insight, except for the fact that the only places Democrats won in the Midwest were in the old industry towns. Mr. Brooks, you have just earned a one-month scenic tour to chat with the nonexistent Republican House members in Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron, and Toledo, Ohio; Detroit and Flint, Michigan; South Bend and beautiful Gary, Indiana.
So just to sum up how far a columnist can get without local knowledge, Mr. Brooks has produced some interesting facts that were not facts about a Midwest that was not the Midwest.
If you need a local guide through those remote wastelands, Mr. Brooks, I am at your service. I'd like to talk to you about some of your other columns I really like about things you know about.