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The Noble, Misguided Plan to Turn Coal Miners Into Coders

Expensive high-speed internet and job training won't transform Appalachia into "Silicon Holler."

Even in coal's heyday, Appalachia was still relatively poor and backward. At the time, policy makers blamed its lack of economic development on mountainous inaccessibility. Their solution: End the region's isolation with massive infrastructure projects, most notably a network of four-lane highways that would connect the region to the rest of the country.

So in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Appalachian Regional Development Act, creating the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Over the subsequent five decades, ARC has spent $27 billion (in 2015 dollars) to build nearly 3,000 miles of the Appalachian Development Highway System that is threaded throughout the mountains.

The highways, constructed along officially designated "Corridors," are splendidly engineered—and largely empty. They utterly failed to spark an economic renaissance. Despite tens of billions in federal money, the "region's performance relative to the national average is similar to its position in the 1960s," reported economists Carl Kitchens and Taylor Jaworski in a 2016 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. They calculate that the gigantic transportation investment boosted incomes in the region by just $586 per capita.

Far from being discouraged by this result, policy makers are at it again. This time, they want to drag Appalachia into the 21st century over newly installed information superhighways, known—God help us—as "eCorridors."

Here's the plan: First lace the mountains with high-speed broadband fiber-optic networks to connect the region to opportunities in the outside world. Then train unemployed miners in the art of computer coding. The first step aims to generate new jobs by luring companies to the area; the second is supposed to let people stay put and work.

I grew up as a hillbilly in central Appalachia, on a dairy farm in Washington County, Virginia. Like many folks, I left to seek an education and better opportunities beyond the confines of the Mountain Empire. I returned for a week in June to cruise the mountainous Corridors and meet with some of the people in Eastern Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia who are trying to jumpstart a hillbilly tech revolution. But instead of a burgeoning tech sector fed by glorious new fiber-optic cables, I found pure deja vu: Underutilized, debt-saddled infrastructure projects and an ever-growing number of Appalachians being expensively trained for jobs that are unlikely to show up.

Hope or Hype?

"Silicon Holler: How workforce retraining is bringing tech jobs to Appalachia," blares the headline in TechRepublic. "Can an Appalachian 'Silicon Holler' rise in coal's shadow?" asks Reuters. The Guardian informs us that the fiber-optic cables being built across Kentucky could transform coal country into "a new place on the map the hopeful call 'Silicon Holler.'"

The hype began as far back as 1999, with a project launched by Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU), the city agency in charge of providing water, sewer, and electricity services to the 17,000 residents of Bristol, Virginia. That year, the utility proposed and the City Council approved a fiber-optic network to connect its eight electric substations and all city offices, including City Hall, public schools, libraries, and the police and fire departments.

That might have been seen as a logical extension for a utility company. But mission creep was inevitable, and in 2002, BVU began deploying a fiber-to-the-home network for residential customers. At the same time, it started to expand its OptiNet broadband network into Southwestern Virginia using revenue bonds, plus grants from the federal and state governments and tobacco settlement money—for a total of $132 million spent. In the end, OptiNet managed to pick up 13,000 customers and get spun off into an independent authority with its own board of directors.

"Everyone knew that broadband would help the economy in the future, but nobody knew how."

Cash inflows from successive government grants enabled OptiNet to function like a Ponzi scheme, masking the fiscal rot at the heart of the enterprise. Eventually in 2013, an audit found extensive misuse of funds—personal trips, bribes, and kickbacks—by board members, officers, and contractors. In 2016, nine people associated with the BVU Authority, including its CEO, chief financial officer, and board chairman, were sent to prison for conspiracy and fraud. The state government's 2016 final report noted that the OptiNet division was operating at a net loss, that this was expected to continue, and that therefore it was unlikely to generate enough cash to pay both the principal and interest owed on $45.5 million in bonds it issued in 2010.

The audit also found that the BVU Authority used an improper methodology to account for and cancel debt when it became an independent entity, and as a consequence it now owes the Bristol city utility division nearly $14 million. The auditors' blunt assessment: "These conditions raise substantial doubt about OptiNet's ability to continue as a going concern."

Fiber-Optic Funeral Home

"If you don't have broadband, you can't compete," says Paul Elswick. Elswick's office is located in a repurposed funeral home in an office park in Duffield, Virginia—a setting that would be a little too on-the-nose in a work of fiction. His company, the thematically named Sunset Digital Communications, provides fiber-optic broadband service in the mountain counties of Southwestern Virginia and Eastern Tennessee.

As the BVU Authority's problems mounted, Elswick and Sunset Digital, backed by a Miami-based private equity firm, swooped in and made an unsolicited bid of $50 million for OptiNet in February 2016. No strangers to working within the Appalachian aid-industrial complex, Elswick and his son Ryan have already deployed broadband networks in Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee for regional development agencies funded by government grants and loans. In 2010, Sunset applied for federal stimulus funding and received $24.5 million—90 percent grants and 10 percent loans—to construct 279 miles of fiber-optic broadband in Claiborne and Hancock Counties in mountainous Northeastern Tennessee. "Everyone knew that broadband would help the economy in the future, but nobody knew how," says Elswick.

Since there are many local and regional government stakeholders in BVU OptiNet, the process has taken nearly two years to negotiate, but Sunset apparently cleared the final hurdle when the Virginia Coalfield Coalition voted to approve the purchase in August. If the deal holds, Sunset will have bought assets that cost various government agencies $132 million to build for only $50 million—less than 40 cents on the dollar.

This was a smart move for Elswick: Since the public networks have been purchased so cheaply relative to their construction costs, it is highly likely that the new private proprietors will be able to operate them at a profit. In the meantime, any outstanding bond payments will be borne by hapless taxpayers.

'Will Your Bill Go Up?'

A similar story has been playing out in nearby Dickenson County, where the board of supervisors created the Dickenson County Wireless Integrated Network (DCWIN) authority in 2004 as a way to connect businesses, government agencies, and residents to the internet. "Without wireless communications services the county will grow further isolated from the industrial and technical advances" in the rest of the country, the supervisors warned. This, they promised, would "be an outstanding investment for the future of Dickenson County and its citizens."

In 2005, the Board of Supervisors authorized a bond issue of $1.5 million to finance DCWIN's system of 10 high-speed cell towers. The minutes from that public meeting show county resident Gary Harless objecting, arguing that the bond issue would in effect "be mortgaging everyone's property for 15 years." He pointed out that DCWIN at the time had only 150 customers and would need to expand to 1,500 in order to earn the cash to pay off the bonds.

David DoranDavid DoranHarless' observations proved prescient. Five years later, the Board of Supervisors dissolved the authority and assumed its debts. A review of DCWIN's budgets since 2009 finds that expenditures always exceeded revenues. In July 2017, the county finally offloaded the wireless network to a local company, Hillcom Inc., for $227,000.

The minutes from a previous Board of Supervisors meeting show that Hillcom founder Brandon Hill had tangled with DCWIN a decade earlier. He'd heard rumors that the authority was trying to put him out of business after he set up high-speed connections to 20 of his neighbors, and he was worried. Looks like he'll have the last laugh.

The Hillcom site minces no words: "Will your bill go up? Well, there was a reason DCWIN was sold. It was not profitable. $39.95 is an extremely low price for internet." The new owner plans to upgrade the service, offering 40–100 megabits per second (mbps) download and 15–60 mbps upload speeds for $100 per month. The company hopes to have 500 customers eventually using its refurbished wireless network. That'll keep it profitable, thanks to the enterprise's ability to grab wireless infrastructure at fire sale rates.

If You Build It

Despite this well-established track record of failure, publicly funded internet infrastructure improvement projects in Appalachia keep getting bigger and more ambitious.

In 2013, Kentucky announced plans to get middle-mile broadband into every one of the state's 102 counties—3,400 miles of fiber by January 2017. The KentuckyWired network was supposed to be finished in the Appalachian counties by April 2016. After $30 million from the state budget, $23.5 million in federal ARC grants, and $232 million in bonds, all the project has to show for itself are 129 miles of not-yet-lighted fiber. In July, Kentucky Communications Network Authority director Phillip Brown flatly declined to set a firm completion date for the entire network.

What's worse, the network threatens to push out private development. Before it began, the state had an agreement with AT&T to bring broadband to Kentucky's 173 public school districts. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear promised to break that deal to guarantee anchor clients for the network and make the math work to put KentuckyWired in the black—which would also mean the state's taxpayers would foot most of the bill for paying off the bonds. After AT&T threatened to defend its contract in court, the matter was quietly dropped.

This is common. A 2016 analysis from the State Government Leadership Foundation notes that such subsidized broadband networks first remove a major anchor tenant (the government) from private networks, thereby weakening the economic case for private investment. Second, the subsidized networks seek to capture market share from already established private-sector providers. And third, the mere threat of government broadband tends to reduce private-sector investment. Thus, government-subsidized broadband likely impedes rather than speeds up the delivery of broadband service to customers in relatively remote areas.

In 2013, Kentucky announced plans to install 3,400 miles of fiber-optic cable by January 2017. Almost $300 million later, all the project has to show for itself are 129 miles of not-yet-lighted fiber.

"Our big problem with these public-private partnerships is that they never have the private-sector companies carrying most of the risk," says Jim Waters, head of the Lexington-based pro-market Bluegrass Institute. He's right. Macquarie Capital—which holds the contract to build, maintain, and operate the system over a 30-year period—and other private partners are being reimbursed through a fixed set of availability payments over the life of the agreement, regardless of any revenues earned. Kentucky's taxpayers bear the entire risk of revenue shortfalls with respect to the network.

Alarmed by the delays and escalating costs, Republican Kentucky state Sen. Chris McDaniel said at a July hearing, "I want a shutdown plan, with financial costs to shut it down, stop work. What's it going to cost us to get out of this?" McDaniel is right to be concerned. The private partner in a very similar project in Massachusetts, MassBroadband123, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Waters agrees that the state should cut its losses now. "The way things are going, it might take $700 million, $800 million, or even $1 billion to complete the project," he says. Waters also makes the salient point that progress and advancement could make this decadeslong enterprise obsolete. "What about technological change?" he asks. "How do we know that this is the type of infrastructure we will need in 30 years?"

Even as officials were concocting KentuckyWired, access to broadband networks was steadily expanding throughout the state, rising from 85 percent in 2014 to nearly 94 percent in 2016. Waters argues that the bigger problem in Appalachia is not lack of access but the failure to adopt broadband when it's available. This notion is backed up by a 2014 study in The Annals of Regional Science by the Oklahoma State University economist Brian Whitacre and his colleagues. They found that increases in broadband adoption between 2008 and 2011 in non-metro counties did bring increases in income and the creation of new businesses. But "simply obtaining increases in broadband availability (not adoption) has no statistical impact on either jobs or income." If you build it and they don't come, there's little benefit.

Instead of spending hundreds of millions on KentuckyWired, Waters argues, a public information campaign explaining how broadband services can help businesses in Appalachia would be more effective at boosting employment and economic growth.

Coal Miners to Coders

If it's wishful to think you can spark growth with a policy of "if you build it, they will come," it sounds even more fanciful to form a strategy around "if you build it, they will stay." Yet the government has embraced exactly that idea.

The feds think subsidized high-speed internet connections could support newly trained digital workers. In 2015, the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (EKCEP)—which was still pushing training for coal jobs as recently as 2006—began dispensing federal grants to train mountain folk in the art of computer coding.

The Corridor G highway leading into Pikeville is impeccable. Thanks to the presence of a university and a regional medical center, its downtown, unlike that of many other fading Eastern Kentucky communities, remains relatively vibrant. The electronic sign outside the courthouse proudly declares that Pike County is "America's Energy Capital." In 2016, Fortune listed Bit Source, which is headquartered there, as one of "7 World-Changing Companies to Watch," and in 2017 Fast Company declared its president "one of the most creative people in business."

The outfit is the brainchild of local entrepreneurs Charles "Rusty" Justice and M. Lynn Parrish, who developed the idea in 2014 after a fact-finding trip to a computer-coding incubator in Lexington. Fueled by $150,000 in National Emergency Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bit Source selected 10 former coal industry workers out of 900 applicants to be interns. Ranging in age from 33 to 48, they were paid $15 per hour during a 22-week crash course in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Drupal. All 10 of the selected applicants made it through the training—funded by another $166,000 federal grant—and are still working for the company. Bit Source's software developers now earn from $21 to $23 per hour.

James Johnson, 47, grew up about 8 miles outside of Pikeville. He worked for years selling heavy equipment to coal mining companies for Brandeis Machinery; as the mines shut down, Brandeis downsized and Johnson lost his job. When I meet him at Bit Source's headquarters in a refurbished Coca-Cola bottling plant, I ask why he didn't leave to seek employment elsewhere. "My wife has a good job at the local hospital and my two sons were in school," he replies.

He applied for a lot of jobs at lower wages than he had been earning, but he couldn't get hired. Then Johnson heard about Bit Source and dutifully put in an application without much hope. "By that time, I was so heartbroken and filled with a sense of failure that I didn't think that there was much of a chance that I would be accepted," he recalls. The training was intensive but he found that he could handle it. Did he like coding? "My old job was very routine, very comfort zone." He smiles. "This job is a lot more exciting. You never know what new thing you've got to learn. You sit at your computer and make things out of nothing."

Johnson is convinced that his fellow Appalachians can compete with coders in India, Europe, and South America. "We just need a fast-flowing internet," he says. "We are hoping real hard for the KentuckyWired fiber."

Bit Source Creative Director Payton May, a 29-year-old native of the area, spent two years in architecture graduate school at the University of Virginia studying urban and environmental design. "At 18, I never thought I would be back here," he says. "I now see the value that the area really has. It's home and it's family." One interesting tidbit from May: He says the company's connection to the internet has 15–50 mbps download and 15 mbps upload speeds, well within the parameters of the formal definition of broadband.

The next day, I drove up another congestion-free highway to Paintsville, Kentucky, to talk with several people in a computer training program at the downtown campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College. The program was being run by Interapt, a Louisville-based software development company that specializes in mobile applications and wearables.

Unlike Pikeville, Paintsville had clearly seen much better days. The main street was mostly deserted and lined with empty storefronts, although a Pokémon Go charging station was attached to a lamppost downtown. Some of the yards sported "Friends of Coal" signs urging people to "Support Kentucky Jobs!"

Interapt's TechHire Eastern Kentucky (TEKY) program involves 16 weeks of intensive training followed by a 16-week apprenticeship at the company. The TEKY program was funded with $2.75 million in grants from ARC, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of Labor. Fifty participants were selected from a pool of 850 applicants. None of the Interapt coding trainees had previously been coal miners.

The participants were paid $10 an hour during the training period. "You can't expect people to learn something hard if they are worried about how to feed their families," says Interapt founder and CEO Ankur Gopal. If all 50 completed the program, that would have amounted to $320,000. According to Gopal, between eight and 15 of the company's engineers and designers were typically on site at TEKY. Those staffers charged less per hour than they would for regular client services. Only 33 of the initial 50 students made it through to the apprenticeship phase.

Alex Hughes, 43, grew up in nearby Prestonsburg. He worked for 15 years as a self-employed videographer, often for local law firms. As with much else, the collapse of the coal industry caused that source of work to dry up. He stayed in Eastern Kentucky because "that's where my family is."

Melissa Anderson, 40, grew up in Vergie, near Pikeville. She had worked in administrative positions at a local law firm and then at Big Sandy Community College. Budget cuts at the school resulted in her being laid off in January 2016. She and her fiancé went to Florida for two months looking for jobs, but came back when he could not find steady construction work. She found the TEKY program a "little strenuous" and didn't think she'd make it through to the apprenticeship program. So, taking her business background into account, managers at Interapt offered her a position starting in May as a marketing analyst.

As with the highway construction project before it, the internet infrastructure push has not created a detectable boom. Population in the counties covered by various government-subsidized broadband networks continues to fall.

Lucas Lell, in his early 20s, was the youngest TEKY graduate in the group. Reared in the town of Stopover, he was warned as a boy not to go to work in the coal fields. "You'd be broken by your 40s," his parents told him. Lell had just finished his associate's degree in science at Big Sandy. He was thinking of attending Morehead State, just an hour and a half from Paintsville, when he heard about the Interapt TEKY program. "I've always had a passion for computers," he says. At the end of the apprenticeship program, Interapt offered him a full-time job as a quality assurance analyst. "I do want to stay around here," says Lell. "I'm already far away from my true home, Stopover."

Ultimately, Interapt hired 15 of the TEKY program participants, most of whom work remotely from locations in Eastern Kentucky. Their salaries range from $37,000 to $42,000 a year. Some other participants found tech jobs in the area, but many are still searching. One way to look at the TEKY computer coding program is that it subsidized the training of Interapt's new employees at the rate of $180,000 per hire. Bit Source managed to train folks for considerably less: about $31,000 per employee.

By comparison, the nonprofit Eleven Fifty Academy across the Ohio River in Indiana offers a highly regarded 12-week coding boot camp for $13,500. Students at Big Sandy Community and Technical College can take a year's worth of computer programming classes toward an associate's degree for under $15,000, including tuition, books, room, and board. In July, Gopal suggested that the company would relaunch its TEKY program this fall, but EKCEP has announced that it will not use Interapt in its job training programs in the future.

A Future for the Holler?

I loved meeting the folks in Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, and I was impressed by Sunset CEO Paul Elswick's business savvy and determination to provide new opportunities to people who live in the region he loves. The drive, enthusiasm, and optimism of the newly minted coders at Bit Source and Interapt was likewise invigorating. Nevertheless, it is hard to see the seeds that are supposed to someday sprout and grow into a nascent Silicon Holler.

It's difficult to tell how many employers, if any, have decided to relocate to Southwestern Virginia due to better access to high speed data networks. As with the highway construction project before it, the internet infrastructure push has not created a detectable boom. Population in the counties covered by various government-subsidized broadband networks continues to fall, dropping from 334,000 in 2000 to 324,000 now. Between 1980 and 2000, by contrast—without any high-speed internet to speak of and with the highways uncompleted—the area's population dropped by a smaller amount, from 336,000 to 334,000.

For more than 50 years, the feds have poured billions in job training and infrastructure funds into central Appalachia with the goal of spurring economic growth and reducing endemic poverty. There is very little to show for all that effort.

In September, I contacted Dickenson County resident Gary Harless, the brave citizen who spoke up at that Board of Supervisors meeting 12 years ago to warn that poorly conceived infrastructure investment would end up "mortgaging everyone's property." I asked him what he thought now. "Looking back, I just feel sorry for the county," Harless told me. "I don't feel smart; I feel like it was just basic economics. Government has never been good at management."

Photo Credit: David Doran

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  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Build it and they will come" only works for baseball movies and brothels, kids.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Actually, for brothels, it is "Build it and they will cum!"

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Come" has the meaning of the vulgar slang "cum" as one of its own official definitions, you provincial lech.

  • Entelechy||

    That's no way to address a great Polish statesman like Pan Walesa.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Only a running dog wrecker and saboteur would use such terms to describe a lumpenprole class traitor like that mudak.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    That's what I said.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    If only they'd thought of building some coal mines in the Dust Bowl during the Depression.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    They got nothing on my stimulus package,

    I've noticed a correlation between economic development and Starbucks.

    Hence, I will bury them with my "Cafe Au Lait Valley Authority."

    Step 3: profit.

  • ALWAYS RIGHT||

    There will never be anything close to full employment again because the machines do the work. This is something that Libertarians can't get into their dogmatic heads, or they would not be advocating the virtue of the arrival of poor brown people. The solution is not freedom. The solution is population reduction. Japan has figured this out.

  • Mark22||

    You sound like a Bernie-troll trying to impersonate an alt-right person.

    There will never be anything close to full employment again because the machines do the work.

    History says otherwise.

    or they would not be advocating the virtue of the arrival of poor brown people

    Many libertarians oppose unrestricted immigration, but not because of the kind of the Luddite and racist views you hold. Instead, it's because immigration of low skill, low wage workers is a net negative in a nation with very high per capita social spending; that is, low wage immigrants cost the government more than they pay in taxes. And that relationship holds regardless of skin color: low wage Brits are as unwelcome as low wage Mexicans; the difference is that the Brits can suck at the teat of their own welfare state, while poor Mexicans are implicitly encouraged by their government to come to the US.

  • <Unpastable>||

    History says otherwise.

    Presumably you're referring to the last couple of hundred years which amount to a flyspeck in the timeline of human history? And even during that time, the majority of people in the world have been living on the edge of starvation.

    The Industrial Revolution and Internet Revolution created more jobs than they destroyed because they enlarged the realm of the possible. The new technology made it economically viable for a worker to do new things. Whereas, the Automation Revolution doesn't make any new things possible -- it just removes the need for a worker to do things that are already possible.

    Not a Luddite at all. The Luddites always lose. Just realistic. And this argument is a necessary arrow in the quiver of the secure borders debate, as the open borders crowd always trots out the argument that the birthrate is declining and we need to import more workers to sustain our economy.

  • Sevo||

    "Whereas, the Automation Revolution doesn't make any new things possible -"

    You're either 10 years old or a luddite.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Name some things that automation makes possible, that humans couldn't do before.

  • Sevo||

    Oh, flying to the moon, for one. Calculating the requirements for nuclear power. De-frictionalizing retail and delivery. Doing what we are doing right about now. Lowering production costs by orders of magnitude.
    You really are not real bright.

  • <Unpastable>||

    You're referring to information revolution products, not automation revolution products.

  • Agammamon||

    75% of IT products are automation. Another 20% are better communications.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Oh, flying to the moon, for one.

    You're seriously referring to things that happened almost 50 years ago as part of a future revolution?

    Calculating the requirements for nuclear power...Doing what we are doing right about now.

    Very little to do with automation, these are computing and network advances.

    De-frictionalizing retail and delivery...Lowering production costs by orders of magnitude.

    this isn't making new things possible, it's making existing things more efficient by getting rid of jobs (and much of these was also Information Revolution).

  • Sevo||

    OK, I see I'm dealing with an a tulpa sock or something close enough. Go ahead and define terms as you please so there is no way you can possibly be 'wrong'.
    Put another way, go fuck off.

  • <Unpastable>||

    You don't know what the Automation Revolution is? Or that it doesn't include things that happened 50 years ago, or the development of the Internet? Hint: it doesn't include blast furnaces or steam engines either.

  • Robert||

    Please explain the Automation Revolution. Maybe it doesn't include steam engines per se, but doesn't it include the negative-feedback speed controls on them, so doesn't it go a long way back? Or was there just so much automation, & then the revolution in it started?

  • <Unpastable>||

    Please explain the Automation Revolution.

    Seriously? Do your own research. Are you not aware of the revolutionary changes that automation is bringing right now? Self-driving cars, automated food production and order taking, drone package delivery, etc?

    yes, technically steam engines had some features that were automated. That's not what I'm talking about. The Romans had some gearing systems, that doesn't mean they were part of the industrial revolution, and telegraph operators were not part of the information revolution despite their transmission of information.

  • Robert||

    So what's the important distinction here, a qualitative or quantitative one? Where or when did this become a "Revolution", and what makes it different in any way but scale from what preceded it? Are people reacting differently somehow to automation from the way they used to react to it?

  • Sevo||

    "You don't know what the Automation Revolution is?"

    Oh, I know full well.
    It's an invented term devised by luddites hoping for a new fantasy to whine about. It is empty of other than invented content.
    Fuck off, luddite.

  • <Unpastable>||

    The hilarious thing here is that I'm a proponent of automation, despite its effects on employment.

    But all the dogmatists can see is someone questioning the cosmotarian narrative on immigration, so out come the insults, regardless of whether or not they make any sense in the context.

  • Agammamon||

    So, the automation revolution is not something that has been happening since Ogg discovered the wheel?

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "this isn't making new things possible, it's making existing things more efficient by getting rid of jobs"

    Whereas our beloved tractors and shoemaking machines would never DREAM of doing such a thing to us. Tractors aren't like these weird new robot thingies, with their creepy beeping and whirring and stuff. Tractors are our FRIENDS.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Tractors and shoemaking machines increased output and decreased time for the tasks they performed. On the other hand, delivery drones, self driving cars, fast-food kiosks take the same amount of time as a human and don't increase output. Their sole purpose is to get rid of a human worker.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    So, according to you, no farms ever bought tractors "just" to "get rid of a human worker"? They only bought tractors to exceed their previous output and speed, not to equal their previous output and speed with fewer workers? Please.

    Tractors, shoe machines, self-driving cars and fast-food kiosks all do the exact same thing: they "increase output and decrease time" *proportional to the number of humans needed to achieve the same output and time*. And they all cause job losses *in their specific sectors* as a result. Fewer laborers vs. wheat harvested? Fewer taxi drivers vs. taxis driven? Fewer shoemakers vs. shoes made? Fewer Mesopotamian art majors vs. McSnacks dispensed? The difference is only in your mind, and whether the result is "more of product X sold than before" or "same amount of product X sold as before" is quite irrelevant to the decision to use fewer workers to achieve either outcome.

    As if it makes the slightest difference to the fired workers whether they lost their jobs because a "robot" can do their job the same as before, or a "vehicle" can. 1 man driving a tractor gets 12 laborers fired; a self-driving tractor gets 1 tractor driver fired. Which causes more job loss? According to you, the second one, somehow.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    And approaching it from the other direction, eg your assertion that what you define as "automation" doesn't increase "output" (eg capability): how many UPS drivers have you known that could deliver packages across a 40-foot-wide flooded creek by *flying the fuck over it on their conveniently provided helicopter rotors*?

  • Agammamon||

    So, they get the same stuff done while freeing a human worker to do something else.

    And it sounds exactly like what a both a tractor and a self-driving car do.

  • Robert||

    I'd be open to evidence that, due to either qualitative or quantitative differences in automation, it either won't go on having the net benefits it's always had, or its detriments will be distributed in a way that'll be too ugly to bear. But I'm not seeing that evidence.

    BTW, one thing I'm not seeing brought out in the article about economically depressed areas is that as people move out of there, housing & business space becomes cheaper for those who stay.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    The problem this time around is that property taxes and government run schools give local governments an incentive to restrict the housing supply. Limits on home construction make homes expensive and make it difficult to start a family. If rent was cheap, Americans could enjoy the new demonetized economy, but homes are the one product consumers cannot forgo when they are overpriced.

  • Mark22||

    Presumably you're referring to the last couple of hundred years which amount to a flyspeck in the timeline of human history?

    Finding ways of increasing output per unit of labor is pretty much what defines us as a species.

    And even during that time, the majority of people in the world have been living on the edge of starvation.

    Yes, and the countries where people didn't starve were the ones that embraced automation, liberty, and free markets.

    Whereas, the Automation Revolution doesn't make any new things possible -- it just removes the need for a worker to do things that are already possible.

    The ability to repeat a manual process precisely millions of times always leads to new possibilities. The automation of weaving, for example, has made fabrics possible that simply couldn't be created by hand. In addition, the labor that automation displaces can be reallocated to something more useful and of higher value.

    And this argument is a necessary arrow in the quiver of the secure borders debate, as the open borders crowd always trots out the argument that the birthrate is declining and we need to import more workers to sustain our economy.

    I have no idea what you're trying to say. Countries with low birth rates and secure borders need automation to maintain and increase their living standards.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Finding ways of increasing output per unit of labor is pretty much what defines us as a species.

    Killing each other over scarce resources has been a far greater part of our species' definition for nearly all of human history. That's the norm, not the last couple hundred years of relative harmony in this one tiny corner of the world.

    The ability to repeat a manual process precisely millions of times always leads to new possibilities. The automation of weaving, for example, has made fabrics possible that simply couldn't be created by hand.

    Which is another decades-old innovation (and one example doesn't prove an "always" statement). Why are you guys continuing to bring up examples from the industrial revolution as proof of the automation revolution's job-neutrality? They're totally different animals.

    Countries with low birth rates and secure borders need automation to maintain and increase their living standards.

    I think you're interpreting what I'm saying backwards.

    I am not against automation. I am against blithely sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that automation is not going to decimate the job market. Such errors give unsecured borders proponents the argument that we "need to import more people" when the contrary is true -- the declining birthrate is a good thing as there will be fewer jobs for humans, and the last thing we need to do is fuck things up by bringing in a bunch of Democrat-voting mouths to feed.

  • Sevo||

    "I am not against automation. I am against blithely sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that automation is not going to decimate the job market."

    OH, OH me first!
    "What is the definition of luddism?"
    Did I win, Merv???? What did I win, Merv?????

  • <Unpastable>||

    So you don't know what a Luddite is either? (and you clearly don't if you think what I'm saying is ludditism -- luddites would fiercely oppose what I'm saying in fact) Maybe you should look words up before using them.

  • Sevo||

    "So you don't know what a Luddite is either?"
    So you hope you won't be called on this bullshit also?
    Fuck off, luddite.

  • Mark22||

    Killing each other over scarce resources has been a far greater part of our species' definition for nearly all of human history.

    That's a red herring and irrelevant to the current discussion. It's also wrong because that sort of killing is common in many species.

    Which is another decades-old innovation (and one example doesn't prove an "always" statement). Why are you guys continuing to bring up examples from the industrial revolution as proof of the automation revolution's job-neutrality?

    Why? Because you obviously don't understand the new tech, so in order to bring this down to your level, we have to explain it in terms of old tech.

    I am against blithely sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that automation is not going to decimate the job market

    I.e., you are a Luddite, pretty literally. You're also ignorant, bigoted, and a troll. Now go away and troll somewhere else.

  • Brian||

    "The Industrial Revolution and Internet Revolution created more jobs than they destroyed because they enlarged the realm of the possible. The new technology made it economically viable for a worker to do new things. Whereas, the Automation Revolution doesn't make any new things possible -- it just removes the need for a worker to do things that are already possible."

    Oh that's your problem: this is all complete bullshit.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    I have been hearing this Automation Revolution argument for over fifty years. The first time I ever heard about how automation was going cause widespread unemployment was on the evening news in 1961. I later read about the automation argument in the children's publication Weekly Reader.

    Fear-mongering about automation goes back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Politicians love it.

  • Brian||

    Luddites never change.

  • <Unpastable>||

    A prediction's failure to come true in the past does not decrease its likelihood of coming true in the future under different circumstances. I can see the Emperor Honorius looking out his balcony in AD 410, taking comfort in the fact that Rome had been predicted to fall many times in the centuries prior, but it never came to pass. Until it did.

  • Sevo||

    "A prediction's failure bullshit, bullshit, bullshit..."
    Were you born an ignoramus, or have you studied long and hard to become one?

  • <Unpastable>||

    Or more succinctly:

    Everything that has ever happened had never happened until it happened.

  • Sevo||

    "Or more succinctly:"
    Possibly as ignorant and purposely obtuse as trueman. Or, if not trueman, a true contender in the competition.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    *No one* competes with "mselectivereaderman" in ignorance or willful obtusity.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Presumably you're referring to the last couple of hundred years which amount to a flyspeck in the timeline of human history? And even during that time, the majority of people in the world have been living on the edge of starvation.

    More like the last several thousand years. The Roman Empire used water-powered flour mills to help feed their population, as did the ancient Chinese dynasties. The Egyptians were using water-powered saws to cut stones for the Pyramids. Humans have been looking for more efficient ways to perform tasks since the first caveman tied a sharp rock to the end of a stick, you fucking dullard.

  • <Unpastable>||

    You're making my case for me if you start citing the flerking Roman Empire as evidence that unemployment will never go down.

    And of course, a self-driving truck is not more efficient than a human-driven truck. They accomplish the same task in the same amount of time. Likewise with a fast food robot.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    You're making my case for me if you start citing the flerking Roman Empire as evidence that unemployment will never go down.

    Where did I make that claim. dolt? Unemployment will continue to fluctuate just as it always has when innovations come along.

    And of course, a self-driving truck is not more efficient than a human-driven truck. They accomplish the same task in the same amount of time. Likewise with a fast food robot.

    Nope. Automated vehicles that continually know the locations and speeds of every other car on the road will have no need for traffic lights except for when they stop for pedestrian crossing.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Automated vehicles that continually know the locations and speeds of every other car on the road will have no need for traffic lights except for when they stop for pedestrian crossing.

    1. We're nowhere near that level of sophistication yet, and may never be. Furthermore, that's not really an automation thing, it's a communication thing. If human drivers knew the locations and speeds of every other car on the road we wouldn't need traffic lights either (as illustrated by the second video at that link).

    2. Removing the traffic light doesn't change the fact that intersections can only be traversed by some of the vehicles which intend to traverse it at any given time. Busy intersections wouldn't become any more efficient. You might get more vehicles in the intersection at once, but they couldn't be moving as quickly as they do now, so it would be a wash.

  • AFSlade||

    Hey, fuckface, you do know that the CAR is a form of automation, right? Guess how many wheelwrights and buggy whip manufacturers got crushed by that bit of automation? Entire industries went kaput. But here you are ignoring that rather salient fact. Please, keep telling us all how "automation" (as ever-shiftingly-defined by you) will lead to mass unemployment.

    You want me to use my rhetorical point on myself? Okay, it would take all of human history and its concomitant innovation to be exactly the opposite of what it is to falsify my opinion. IOW, we would have to be arguing in front of a firepit over the venison that I killed ('cuz I know you're not capable of that w/o having to even meet you) for me to reconsider my opinion.

    Now, it's your turn.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    We're nowhere near that level of sophistication yet, and may never be. Furthermore, that's not really an automation thing, it's a communication thing.

    You sure do love to redefine terms in the middle of an argument.

    If human drivers knew the locations and speeds of every other car on the road we wouldn't need traffic lights either (as illustrated by the second video at that link).

    Key word: IF. the people in that second video aren't moving at anywhere near the same speed as an intersection filled with self-driving cars.

    Removing the traffic light doesn't change the fact that intersections can only be traversed by some of the vehicles which intend to traverse it at any given time. Busy intersections wouldn't become any more efficient. You might get more vehicles in the intersection at once, but they couldn't be moving as quickly as they do now, so it would be a wash.

    Busy intersections would become AT LEAST marginally more efficient, unless you think the maximum number of cars already cross such an intersection every minute. Less busy intersections would become vastly more efficient, as you eliminate sitting at stoplights waiting for your light to turn green. You'll also be reducing fuel usage, speeding up delivery times, operating the vehicle for fewer hours per year because it's not idling at intersections, and so on. In the aggregate the result would be far from 'a wash.'

  • Earth Skeptic||

    -Brought to you by the Soylent family of food products

  • <Unpastable>||

    We have a below replacement birthrate. Population will naturally decline so long as we don't have massive immigration.

  • Sevo||

    Pretty sure this is commie kid under a new handle; same idiocy.

  • <Unpastable>||

    What did he say that's wrong?

  • Sevo||

    You can't read or are an ignoramus:
    "The solution is not freedom. The solution is population reduction."

  • <Unpastable>||

    How is that wrong?

  • Sevo||

    "How is that wrong?"

    So long as you are stupid enough to believe that Malthus was right, you're stupid enough to think that's right.
    Fuck off, slaver.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Malthus was right on the fundamentals as they lay before him at the time. He didn't anticipate technological advances or crashing birthrates due to contraception. Technological advance is slowing down by any non-cherry-picked metric, so it's likely he'll be proved right in the long run (aside from contraception's influence).

    A lot of the criticisms of Malthus are completely dimwitted; for example, the claim that population growth leads to technology advances. As if the billions of people living in utterly miserable poverty on this planet are helping to advance technology.

  • Sevo||

    "Malthus was right on the fundamentals as they lay before him at the time."

    Lefty ignoramus? Righty ignoramus? General, fucking stupid ignoramus?
    Ignoramus without doubt.
    Fuck off.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    He seems to think that automation is an argument against immigration, and expresses distaste at importing "Democratic voters"- survey says: Righty ignoramus.

  • Sevo||

    "survey says: Righty ignoramus."
    Had one of those over on the NN thread, and we get SIV on a regular basis, so it wouldn't be a surprise.

  • gagster||

    Technological advance is slowing down by any non-cherry-picked metric

    This is nonsense. It's accelerating.

    The amount of new technology from the last 30 years or so would dwarf that of the previous 100.

  • SIV||

    Quantity is not quality.

  • Sevo||

    SIV|11.25.17 @ 9:04PM|#
    "Quantity is not quality."
    But SIV = stupidity. With that we all can agree.

  • <Unpastable>||

    The amount of new technology from the last 30 years or so would dwarf that of the previous 100.

    If you count the ever changing shape and size of a touchscreen and algorithms to better trick people into watching ads for things they don't need as "new technology" maybe.

    Nothing remotely approaching the transistor, nuclear power, or radio communication in impact.

  • SIV||

    Much of "new" technology is radio.

  • Sevo||

    "If you count the ever changing shape and size of a touchscreen and algorithms to better trick people into watching ads for things they don't need as "new technology" maybe.
    Nothing remotely approaching the transistor, nuclear power, or radio communication in impact."

    Keep making up new definitions; it's the only way Malthusians can keep saying 'IT'S ALL GONNA END!'
    Were you born an ignoramus, or did it take long years of study to get so stupid?

  • Sevo||

    "If you count the ever changing shape and size of a touchscreen and algorithms to better trick people into watching ads for things they don't need as "new technology" maybe.
    Nothing remotely approaching the transistor, nuclear power, or radio communication in impact."

    It's amusing to watch a certified ignoramus keep ducking and jiving in the hopes that someone as stupid as you might be convinced.
    Pretty obvious you're failing at this as we can assume you've failed in general.
    Stupidity only succeeds in government.

  • MarkLastname||

    Are you his sock puppet?

    Despite my best judgement I will deign to enlighten you: in as much as automation and technology (or trade) eliminate jobs, they do so by reducing costs of goods and services, driving down prices, allowing people to 1) live on a smaller income, work less, and spend the increased disposable income on other goods, thereby creating demand for those and people who create them.

    In the long run, technology cannot, by definition, increase unemployment. Even in a fully automated society, no one would work because everything would be free.

    If this weren't true, the modernization of farming would've left us with a 97% unemployment rate.

  • <Unpastable>||

    allowing people to 1) live on a smaller income, work less, and spend the increased disposable income on other goods, thereby creating demand for those and people who create them.

    If their job is gone, they won't be working less, they'll be working not at all. And automation means there are no (or at least far fewer) people who create those goods they're buying with their unemployment check.

    In the long run, technology cannot, by definition, increase unemployment.

    By which definition, that of technology or unemployment? I don't see how those definitions relate to each other. It's funny, I see the term "by definition" thrown out all the time these days when someone has no evidence for a claim, as a sort of "get out of proving free" card.

    Even in a fully automated society, no one would work because everything would be free.

    Baloney. Unless this fully automated society has ended resource scarcity (energy, food, water, etc) things will not be free. Not all costs are labor costs.

  • Sevo||

    "Baloney. Unless this fully automated society has ended resource scarcity (energy, food, water, etc) things will not be free. Not all costs are labor costs."

    Bull
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    shit,
    bullshitter.

  • AFSlade||

    Sevo -

    Never. Change.
    Please.

    I know there will be people on here who will claim your acerbic lashings of the trolls/tulpas/morons don't do enough to fully explicate why libertarian solutions are vastly superior in both outcomes and morality in comparison to the statist, authoritarian ideologues... but I ain't one of those people.

    Having engaged with the luddite bullshitters in meatspace, I can assure all that they can't be convinced. No amount of facts, reason, logic, teleology, metaphysical explaining, will ever change them.

    Ergo, watching you simply beat on them makes me all warm inside. Carry on, good sir. With vim and vigor.

  • AFSlade||

    One other point so I can at least try to add some value. I offer this rhetorical tool for the Tools.

    Ask any statist ideologue this question and watch their head explode:

    "What would it take to falsify your opinion?" [Pause]

    "IOW, if arguments/opinions are the byproduct of facts and analysis - via logical deduction or induction - what facts would have to be the opposite of what they are for you to believe the opposite of what you do? What analysis/logical assumptions in your argument might also be incorrect?"

    See if anyone can get past that. That's how you know you're having an honest discussion or not. You will quickly find out 99% of the time you are not by the blank stare and non-response.

  • <Unpastable>||

    "What would it take to falsify your opinion?" [Pause]

    Maybe you and Sevo should try that on yourselves, regarding your faith that new jobs will magically appear from the technology fairy? What would falsify that opinion?

    Oh wait. You're above such niggling things as rational argument and proof, and can just say "bullshit" and you've won, at least in your own minds.

    As infuriating as self-sure idiots can be, they are ultimately the primary victims of their idiocy.

  • Sevo||

    "Maybe you and Sevo should try that on yourselves, regarding your faith that new jobs will magically appear from the technology fairy? What would falsify that opinion?"
    Maybe you, shitbag, should learn to read. Nowhere did I claim what you suggest.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Maybe you and Sevo should try that on yourselves, regarding your faith that new jobs will magically appear from the technology fairy? What would falsify that opinion?"

    Evidence that the reduction of agricultural jobs from 48% to 2% of US jobs over the last 100 years led to permanent unemployment? Produce evidence that the machines which eliminated 95% of agricultural jobs caused irreparable damage to America's "lump of labor", and maybe I'll buy that the machines which promise to eliminate 95% of factory, driving and cashier jobs will end up doing the same.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Evidence that the reduction of agricultural jobs from 48% to 2% of US jobs over the last 100 years led to permanent unemployment? Produce evidence that the machines which eliminated 95% of agricultural jobs caused irreparable damage to America's "lump of labor", and maybe I'll buy that the machines which promise to eliminate 95% of factory, driving and cashier jobs will end up doing the same.

    BUT THAT TIME WUZ DIFFERNT! THIS TIME IT'LL BE DOOOOOOM!

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    VERILY

  • Sevo||

    "Sevo -
    Never. Change.
    Please."

    Danke. Gracias. Domo.
    Lying shitbags like unpastable need to be called out as the ignoramuses they are. They are in now way due civil dispute.
    Fuck 'em.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Yep, ALWAYS RIGHT is the latest sock of Robespierre Stalin/AmSoc. I believe Unpastable is also The Commenter Formerly Known As Liberty > Equality.

  • Sevo||

    Dunno who 'unapastable' replaced, but he sure is dum. That D-U-M, DUM!

  • <Unpastable>||

    Correct about the second sentence. You would think Sevo of all people would be able to figure out that I'm the same as Liberty =>

  • <Unpastable>||

    aaaarrgghhhh

    Correct about the second sentence. You would think Sevo of all people would be able to figure out that I'm the same as Liberty =X= Equality since he flew off the handle so often about the name being "unpastable"

  • Sevo||

    Fuck off.
    I didn't 'fly off the handle'; I called you the asshole you are.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    Sevo is a fucking moron. Just wanting to suck Drumpf's cock.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Seeing you "= >" yourself was worth the price of admission all by itself.

  • Sal Paradise||

    " The solution is population reduction. "

    You first. Lead by example.

  • AFSlade||

    -1 No courage of conviction. (+1 on your comment)

    This reminds me a lot of the college philosophy "imponderable" about how we can never know if we're all just in some dream. i.e. We can't ever "know" reality. (Wonderfully lampooned in 'Animal House.')

    I always ask people who say that crap if they will allow me to smash their hand with a hammer. I mean, if they really believe they're bullshit, then it's not gonna hurt... it's all just a dream! Nothing real about that metal driving into that soft, pulpy flesh and bone, covered only by a few thin layers of skin. None have ever taken me up on it.

    Unpastable, if you really believe population reduction is the answer, then please LEAD THE FUCKING WAY, DINK.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Population reduction doesn't require that you commit suicide. It just requires that you have fewer kids then needed for replacement. A couple having two kids (and two kids only)? That's less then replacement, and achieves population reduction.

  • geo||

    Apparently you have never been in a coal mine. The miners are the ones OPERATING and MAINTAINING the machines. Coal miners these days are essentially specialized and highly trained mechanics, electricians, and machine operators. When there are fewer mines operating there are fewer machines doing any work, so there are fewer miners to run the machines. This is something that Progressives can't get into their delicate little indoctrinated heads.

  • Mark22||

    Then train unemployed miners in the art of computer coding.

    Why this obsession with coding? Why don't they train coal miners and fast food workers to be lawyers instead? The legal profession is intellectually much less challenging than coding, and lawyers can make a lot more money!

  • MarkLastname||

    I'd second fast food, but a lot of miners think working in fast food or at Walmart is a step down and beneath their dignity.

    Lawyers? Eh, many of them owe their existence to unnecessary laws and regulations, in not excited about getting more of those.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    Not enough people in Appalachia to have as many fast-food workers as ex-coal miners. Nor enough disputes to be lawyers.

    Same reason they cannot be retrained to be orthopedic surgeons who make a lot of money too.

    Coders can work offsite.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Of all white collar/middle-class jobs, software development is probably one of the most amenable to telework, least likely to require employees be geo-located, and there's a perception that you can cram all of needed knowledge into a few weeks (rather then 4 years).

    That said? There's a reason these things call them "coders" and not "software developers"†.

    So yeah. It is kind of fad-ish, but the reasoning is superficially sound.
    ________
    †And it's not just because you can easily get away with paying a "coder" much less then a degree-having "software developer", though I do admit to bias.

  • Robert||

    So in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Appalachian Regional Development Act, creating the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Over the subsequent five decades, ARC has spent $27 billion (in 2015 dollars) to build nearly 3,000 miles of the Appalachian Development Highway System that is threaded throughout the mountains.


    Wow, so that started before the Silver Br. (Pt. Pleasant-Gallipolis, US 35) fell! Didn't see that coming, huh?

  • Response||

    Being good at programming takes a person with a certain aptitude and most people cannot do it well - let alone make money at. Then flash came out and I was proven wrong... about making money at. Now that flash is dead, those that had no aptitude will drift away.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Depends on how intense the coding is.

    From the article, they're basically writing HTML and CSS, which require very little understanding of algorithms, data structures, or optimization.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Eh, depends on what they're doing.

    There's some tasks that I have no problem with that I wouldn't trust to other developers on the team because they lack the "certain aptitude", but even on big projects there's always going to be some amount of coding that's pretty simply. So once the architect defines the planned interfaces and overall structure, you can hand off those smaller pieces to junior or less-able developers.

    That said, I think what flash proved was that, as far as making money goes, the coding wasn't the hard part, it was the creativity. While flash may be mostly dead, this continues to be true for mobile apps. As I told a co-worker a few months back, I could absolutely make some app or other and try to sell it. What I can't do is come up with an idea that's fresh enough to be worth the effort.

  • Sevo||

    "Government has never been good at management."

    This should be carved into the stone above the entrance to every legislative body.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    There are some activities that governments manage very effectively. Most of these activities involve killing people and breaking things.

    For an extreme example of government managerial effectiveness, consider Eichmann's bureaucracy that managed the containment, expropriation, and subsequent transportation of Jews and the Auschwitz bureaucracy that managed the extermination and disposal of Jews. Or the Soviet government that managed the gulags. Or the Khmer Rouge government that eradicated Cambodian elements that Pol Pot thought undesirable. Or the Enola Gay.

    On the other hand, some governments have been pretty good at managing water systems and roads. But they're even better at destroying them.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "There are some activities that governments manage very effectively. Most of these activities involve killing people and breaking things."

    Now you see why I'm a steadfast authoritarian.

    More seriously, add the development of the AK-47 and MiG-29 to the list. Government can only do a fraction of the work of a free market, because its command structure possesses only a fraction of the brain power of an entire society working unrestrained- but what brain power it has, goes to the instruments that maintain its survival and suzerainty first, second and third.

  • bshep19||

    Might I suggest a simplification?

    Government has never been good at...

  • sharmota4zeb||

    "Everyone knew that broadband would help the economy in the future, but nobody knew how," says Elswick.


    So it's like going to college before you pick a major.

  • <Unpastable>||

    Or going to a restaurant without already knowing what you're going to order.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yeah, unpastable, you seem like the type of kid who thinks college is an entertainment and leisure product, not a capital investment.

  • <Unpastable>||

    For most of the "students" it is.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    Bezos knew how.

  • EscherEnigma||

    In the case of many students, not going to college immediately after high school is leaving money on the table. So while it might theoretically be better if folks knew what they wanted to do for the next forty years at age 16 (when a high schooler will start picking colleges), they have more (personally) to lose by waiting, even if they (as a group) would be better served by waiting.

    That said, what's a high-schooler with no college going to do in this economy if they don't go straight to college? Other then "military", there aren't too many options that won't make it increasingly harder for them to get to the middle-class.

  • SIV||

    splendidly engineered—and largely empty

    US 48

  • <Unpastable>||

    Caitlyn Jenner's vagina.

  • <Unpastable>||

    And Interstate 68 is the most useless road ever. They advertise it as an "alternate route west", presumably for those wishing to avoid the hell that is the PA Turnpike, but it ends at I-79 a couple hundred miles west, so the only way to continue west on an interstate is to drive all the way up to Pittsburgh to get on the same turnpike you're supposedly avoiding.

  • <Unpastable>||

    And Interstate 68 is the most useless road ever. They advertise it as an "alternate route west", presumably for those wishing to avoid the hell that is the PA Turnpike, but it ends at I-79 a couple hundred miles west, so the only way to continue west on an interstate is to drive all the way up to Pittsburgh to get on the same turnpike you're supposedly avoiding.

  • SIV||

    US 48 is so empty no one here uses it. It is a wonderfully constructed limited access super highway from just west of Wardensville to at least MT Storm. You get a minute or two of Verizon coverage passing by the "major city" of Moorefield. It was probably useful for hauling in all those wind turbines. You'll use it if you're traveling between California, PA or Accident, MD on the way to Lost City, VA

  • SIV||

    Lost City might be WV. It gets tricky in the Lost River Valley

  • <Unpastable>||

    Bailey proves too much here. His implication is that coal miners can't be taught to do anything involving computers.

    Assuming that's true FTSOA, doesn't that completely undermine the idea of creative destruction, which is really the only compelling libertarian argument against Ludditism and protectionism in general? The "durka durrh" crowd would cream their collective pants to have it conceded that a person whose current job ceases to be economically viable is doomed to be forever unemployed.

  • MarkLastname||

    His point is that that corralling them into favored industries is inefficient. Let them look for jobs in the service industry on their own, we'll all be better off.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    The service industry in Appalachia? yeah, ok.

  • Qsl||

    Given the time for training and enough experience to become proficient, there is the very real possibility of people not having the time or resources to train for new careers. Creative destruction has its own untended consequences. You end up with government pork projects just to ensure certain skillsets are still available nationally and the expertise isn't lost.

    While not pleased with the methods (and apparently since the Appalachian broadband market isn't the promised libertarian invisible hand of companies to provide service... might want to rethink that net neutrality pose), I wonder if having greater access to everything from cat videos to educational opportunities will ultimately make more local entrepreneurship viable. At least it is a window to what is outside the holler.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Eh... it doesn't really "undermine" the idea, so much as "expose the bad parts".

    Fact is, that while "creative destruction" may ultimately "create" more then it "destroyed", there are lives, livelihoods, and towns that are in that "destroyed" column. And the "creative" parts don't happen there, they happen somewhere far away.

    In short, it's requiring personal sacrifices for the "common good".

    So it doesn't undermine it, it's just the folks don't want to talk about.

  • ReadyKilowatt||

    Seems to me if they really wanted to encourage broadband buildout they'd wave franchise fees and tariffs in the under-served areas. And ask municipalities to reduce some of the permits and insurance requirements for working in the utility easements.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    So in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Appalachian Regional Development Act, creating the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Over the subsequent five decades, ARC has spent $27 billion (in 2015 dollars) to build nearly 3,000 miles of the Appalachian Development Highway System that is threaded throughout the mountains.


    Compare that with around 10 billion for the proposed rail tunnel under the Hudson River to New York City. Spending $27 billion for an entire region during half a century is not bad. Maybe the local government should look at home affordability first and let the jobs follow. If you let them come, they will build stuff. What's preventing developers from building new sprawling cities in Appalachia?

  • <Unpastable>||

    I don't think affordability is a problem in Appalachia.

  • Sevo||

    "What's preventing developers from building new sprawling cities in Appalachia?"
    No demand.
    People aren't moving into Appalachia, they're moving out.

  • Rat on a train||

    I read somewhere that building roads creates demand. Maybe they need to build high speed railroads.

  • <Unpastable>||

    High on meth railroads, maybe.

  • Trollificus||

    Jerry Brown will be needing a job soon enough, and he is, I hear, an expert on the benefits of high-speed rail. I mean, he got that LA-to-SF line built promptly and under budget right? And the economic benefits have soared through...aw fuck I can't do it....

    /

  • Trollificus||

    Jerry Brown will be needing a job soon enough, and he is, I hear, an expert on the benefits of high-speed rail. I mean, he got that LA-to-SF line built promptly and under budget right? And the economic benefits have soared through...aw fuck I can't do it....

    /

  • Ken Shultz||

    There are cultural differences in the way different people look at success.

    Having a 9-5 job, where you wear a suit and tie, live in a McMansion, etc. isn't necessarily everybody's dream come true.

    I think you find this anywhere there's a disparity in wealth. Wealthy people who care want to see the have-nots embrace the haves idea of success. But you hear the same things about the indigenous people of New Zealand, minorities in western Europe, immigrants to the U.S., . . .

    Margaret Thatcher tried the same kinds of programs when the coal mines in the UK were closed, but the English working class and the Oxbridge graduate don't necessarily share the same vision of success. It's the same thing on Indian reservations, inner city communities of African-Americans, or even immigrants from Latin America. In some cultures, being just like white suburbanites isn't necessarily attractive. In some cultures, waiting until your late twenties to have children isn't the ideal. The government can spend a lot of money trying to fight teen pregnancy, but maybe their idea of success is getting married young and having a lot of children. Why are we trying to impose our idea of success people?

  • <Unpastable>||

    If their vision of success involves being subsidized by my tax dollars to squeeze out little Democrat voters, then yeah, I'm going to insist on imposing.

  • Ken Shultz||

    So, you're claiming that welfare dependency gives you the right to forcibly stop people from getting pregnant or to forcibly stop people from screwing? Do you ever think about what you write before you write it?

    Regardless, the point is that forcing "progress" on people against their will is absurd when the government's vision of success may not be theirs. Not everyone wants what I want.

    And those who are trying to make these people evolve into something they don't necessarily want to be are completely missing the boat with their welfare, education, and development plans.

  • <Unpastable>||

    @12:59 PM

    The government can spend a lot of money trying to fight teen pregnancy, but maybe their idea of success is getting married young and having a lot of children.

    @2:34 PM

    you're claiming that welfare dependency gives you the right to forcibly stop people from getting pregnant or to forcibly stop people from screwing?

    Goalpost Moving 101

  • Ken Shultz||

    Asking a question isn't moving anything.

    Do you or do you not think that being on welfare makes it okay for the government to forcibly stop people from getting pregnant or having sex?

    "The government can spend a lot of money trying to fight teen pregnancy, but maybe their idea of success is getting married young and having a lot of children. Why are we trying to impose our idea of success people?"

    That means the government doesn't have any credibility or success in trying to change people's cultural values or qualitative preferences in regards to what success looks like. If that's the root of the "problem", then they're banging their heads against the wall.

  • <Unpastable>||

    If you're treating welfare payments as sacrosanct then the NAP is out the window already and we're haggling over which kinds of initiation of force we like.

    Your original point, which I rebutted, was about the govt "trying to fight teen pregnancy", which a reasonable person would interpret as referring to advertising campaigns and the like, of the sort that are already done. You then moved the goalposts by equating it with forcible prevention of sex and pregnancy.

  • Sevo||

    Ken doesn't need my help, but stomping on assholes like you is entirely too enjoyable to pass up:

    "If you're treating welfare payments as sacrosanct then the NAP is out the window already and we're haggling over which kinds of initiation of force we like."

    Ken made no such claim that I saw. The asshole known as 'unpastable' made such an assumption, I'm sure in the hopes that 'unpastable' might possibly avoid answering the question.
    Am I right, 'unpastable'? Assholes tend to do that.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If government has any legitimate purpose at all, it is to protect our rights. It is not to change our values. Perhaps the most important difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism is that where authoritarians are satisfied with controlling what people do, totalitarians also insist on controlling what people think. The government has no business imposing itself on people's qualitative preferences or cultural values.

    My original point was that many of our various form of welfare betray an attempt to impose the personal preferences and cultural norms of the upper middle class on the rest of society. The progressives are supposed to be all about opposing that--but it's central to their mission. They judge the desirability of various programs by monitoring how closely Native Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, etc. emulate white, upper middle class America.

    However, ultimately, measuring outcomes by those standards is really measuring how much those people have abandoned their own preferences and cultural norms and adopted those of upper middle class, white suburbanites. You can read about white, do gooders trying to impose their own cultural values on sub-Saharan Africa in Heart of Darkness. You can see it in white, suburban progressives trying to impose their cultural norms on the "hillbillies" of Appalachia, too.

  • Kaatje||

    That's a great book! The State of Africa is phenomenal as well, on par with Gulag (Anne Applebaum) and Mao (Jung Chang).

  • mtrueman||

    "If government has any legitimate purpose at all, it is to protect our rights. It is not to change our values. "

    Governments have also traditionally provided leadership to the society. The president for example is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Good leadership is about inspiring people and making them into devoted followers. That often involves changing minds and shaping values, as violating as that sounds.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The government has no business trying to change people's culture and qualitative preferences. Trying to change that through infrastructure projects is remarkably stupid. Another example might include trying to make people abandon their cultural preferences for having children young. People aren't failures just because they refuse to emulate white, middle class values.

    You'd think progressives with their hypersensitivity to racism would understand that, but they don't. In fact, using the coercive power of government to force people to make sacrifices for their idea of the common good is what being progressive is all about. If they believe using the government to violate people's rights is in the best interests of society, then they want the government to do that.

    So, it shouldn't surprise to see that they're willing to use the government to change people's cultural and personal preferences to accept the norms of the progressive suburbanites' own cultural values--even when the target is immigrants, inner city African-Americans, the people of Hati, or the "hillbillies" of Appalachia.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    Appalachia is squeezing out genetic deadends. And they vote Republican.

  • Bra Ket||

    I'd say the wealthy people generally know better.

    The problem is getting from point A to B. Everyone trying to push these economic interventions is trying to push shortcuts, which rarely works anywhere in life (though a few standout smart kids will take advantage). The only sure method to climb the social ladder takes generations. From working any job you can get but instilling a work ethic, to the son working a steady job, to his son becoming a professional. It takes more than one lifetime to leap from farming to the top.

    Communities and cultures willing to invest for the next generation succeed, while those that don't stay where they are. And that does include stigmatizing of teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock intercourse. Luckily we have "progressed" past that cultural norm so people can stay stucker than ever in these dead ends.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Back to my experience in Latin America, they love their kids as much as we do--they're probably even more family oriented than the average native born American.

    But they don't necessarily have the same preferences we do.

    Some people think that white America has no culture. We actually do have a culture, and a lot of it has to do with what people used to call the Protestant work ethic. Your material success is an expression of your value. Not everyone shares that.

    Especially in societies that are more family related and still tied to tribal traditions--lots of other societies don't have social stratification like we do, and stratification they have may not be tied to material possessions like our society is.

    Again, it's a progressive conundrum that, on the one hand, they want to blame everything but culture for poverty, but on the other hand, they're pushing minorities and others to assume their own cultural preferences.

    On a Native American reservation, the most highly respected member of the community could be the school bus driver. It may not be the doctor, the lawyer, or the richest entrepreneur in town. Saying that the most respected guy on the rez is somehow a failure because he doesn't conform to white, suburban America's idea of success is to miss the point. This guy is just a failure in some people's eyes.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The rural denizens of Appalachia don't necessarily want to be just like the rest of us either. When yuppies move from Los Angeles to Montana, they've got all kinds of great ideas about how to improve things, but the people of Montana might like the way things are just fine. We're talking about qualitative preferences here. If a kid from Lost Holler, West Virginia finds out he can't be a coal miner, he might not want to become a civil engineer or an executive. Maybe his idea of success is joining the army, working on cars, selling firewood, or doing something else.

  • EscherEnigma||

    The rural denizens of Appalachia don't necessarily want to be just like the rest of us either.
    Then the rural denizens of Appalachia probably should stop voting for local, state and federal representatives that promise infrastructure/retraining/whatever projects, and start voting for "keep Appalachia poor and rural" representatives.

    So while your argument theoretically has merits, it doesn't seem to apply in this case.

  • EscherEnigma||

    The government can spend a lot of money trying to fight teen pregnancy, but maybe their idea of success is getting married young and having a lot of children


    Interestingly enough, the most effective way to "fight" teen pregnancy is information. Fully inform teens about the reality of sex (not the scare-mongering they get from abstinence-only classes), about how pregnancy works, the life-long consequences of early pregnancies, and so-on.

    And at the end of such a program, teens and adults are better equipped to make informed decisions on whether and how to have kids. So those that view child-rearing as "success" are better empowered to do so, while those that want to hold off on kids are also better empowered to do so.

    So yeah. Science-based sex-ed doesn't really undermine folk's ability to choose to have kids. It just means it'll more likely be a choice and not an accident.

    Also? We've seen that when teens know enough to make informed decisions they do tend to wait. One of the many things that Baby Boomers are complaining about regarding Millenials is that we aren't squatting out babies as fast as they wish we were.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Because people don't necessarily embrace the opportunities we afford them doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with them. I've spent time with people in rural Virginia. I've lived in predominately African-American neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I've spent time in Mexico and the U.S. with people whose first language isn't English. They don't all want the same things I do.

    The problem with utilitarians is that they can never properly account for other people's qualitative preferences.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    We strive to bring them civilization, and this is how they thank us.

    /19th century colonialist, or 21st century central planner, take your pick.

  • Ken Shultz||

    +1

  • Domestic Dissident||

    There's absolutely nothing even the slightest bit "noble" about deliberately destroying people's jobs and livelihoods just because your sick, twisted ideology makes you think it's a good idea.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Dum Dee doesn't get that the "noble effort" the article refers to is the one to try and replace those jobs, not the effort that destroyed them.

  • AFSlade||

    Agree. I hate that Bailey even concedes (and the title claims) that it's a "noble" idea. Why is it noble in the first place? By whose definition? Because it somehow is "well-intended"? To do what: turn people who previously selected physically demanding work into data dinks??
    And this all assumes that it really is a genuinely well-intended idea of the politicians and not, for example, a pork project to pay off campaign donors.... of course, it could never be that! Never!!
    There are currently almost 6 million open jobs in the skilled trades, but what we really need is more coders. Of course.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Exactly Bailey's problem isn't that this Stalinist-style "plan" is even being perpetrated in the first place, it's that he thinks (knows) that it won't produce the results it's allegedly supposed to achieve. Being the liberal technocrat that he is, if he thought the plan would actually work, he'd be pretty cool with it.

  • Robert||

    So Homer Hickam made the wise decision becoming a rocket engr. rather than a mining engr. Since then of course he'd want his kids to go into something else.

    Sure, this is pretty silly. Places get settled for certain reasons. No reason for them to stay settled, let alone to try to settle them into something else in particular. But then, inefficient, unnecessary farms are propped up too.

  • Bra Ket||

    So communities that were poor 50 years ago are still poor today?

    The only explanation can be institutionalized racism. We need some new laws up in here to fix that situation right up.

  • Jerryskids||

    Central planning at its finest. Don't sell those dumbass red-neck hillbillies short, do *you* know how to make meth? Because I know a few dumbass redneck hillbillies that do. Before that, their daddies grew pot and their grandpappies ran shine. Those dumbass redneck hillbillies can figure out how to take care of themselves, they can spot opportunities and run businesses that exploit those opportunities. Almost like finding opportunities to seize is a human instinct.

  • mtrueman||

    "Almost like finding opportunities to seize is a human instinct."

    One doesn't 'find' a billion $US internet infrastructure. It has to be built from the ground up.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    And given that this eCorridor plan has not constituted an "opportunity" for ex-coal-miners, Jerryskids' point remains correct.

  • mtrueman||

    "And given that this eCorridor plan has not constituted an "opportunity" for ex-coal-miners,"

    Maybe for young ex coal miners.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Not for nearly enough.

  • Entelechy||

    The high tech Silicon Valley solution is to give the displaced miners silicon nitride files and scrapers and put them to work as IC foundry handimen.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "The first step aims to generate new jobs by luring companies to the area; the second is supposed to let people stay put and work."

    Companies aren't going to go there until there's an established base of high skilled (in tech) employee base, or a large number of skilled high tech prospects willing to move there.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Its unfortunate that central planners believe that one type of job, and one type only are the future of this nation.

    Good luck keeping the lights on when everyone is just a coder.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Sexual assault Roundup, Thanksgiving weekend edition. Richard Branson accused of sexual assault.

  • Jerryskids||

    I was thinking of filing a complaint against myself, I've been taking advantage of myself for years. But then I saw a piece on CNN questioning if this whole thing has gone too far, based on the fact that they're going after journalists now. Journalists who perhaps exercised some poor judgment but are in no way sexual abusers just because they groped a woman or two. (We're talking about *real* journalists here, the sort who work for the NYT or CNN, not the fake journalists like at Fox News or other places that might hire a Republican.)

  • In Time Of War||

    Just like the Salem Witchcraft trials. It was all fun-and-games until "important" people were accused. Then it was shut down right quick.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    +1 DEA van doing a U-turn from a white middle-class suburban neighborhood

  • Sevo||

    So this is PM Lynx?
    Hate the sinner, love the sin department:

    "Trump defends decision to appoint consumer bureau chief"
    [...]
    "President Trump on Saturday defended his decision to appoint an acting director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) despite the outgoing head naming a temporary successor, calling the agency a "total disaster" under officials from the Obama administration.
    "The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, has been a total disaster as run by the previous Administrations pick," Trump tweeted. "Financial Institutions have been devastated and unable to properly serve the public. We will bring it back to life!"
    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-.....f-agency-a

    OK, I really don't hate the guy, it's just that he is a loose cannon and a blow-hard.
    But he's done more good than the last, what 8 POTUS; maybe by accident but I'll take it.
    Here, he'd do better by letting it die instead of 'bringing it back to life'.

  • Robert||

    Is there anything he could do that would let it die? AFAIK, it would go on spreading its interference w or w/o his assent. All he's allowed to do is to adjust it to minimize damage. Only Congress could kill it.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You're idiocy is on full display, Sevo.

    Financial institutions were decimated in 2008-09 BEFORE the CFPB was even created. Today they are making more money than ever before.

    Amazing how you conservatives forget the Great Financial Crisis.

  • Sevo||

    "You're idiocy is on full display, Sevo."

    Natch, turd shows up with lies and irrelevancies.Way to go, turd! But it's not like we need you to prove how stupid you are every day.
    Fuck off.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "You're idiocy is on full display, Sevo."

    That is a beautiful sentence.

    Also, Correlation = Causation Fallacy FTW.

  • Robert||

    When I was teaching Environmental Sci., an exercise I would put my class thru would be to consider what happens if & when we develop cheap teleport'n. Like, step into a booth, put a quarter in the slot, dial another booth's location, & you're there, or your package gets sent there. The need for proximity vanishes for nearly all purposes. There's hardly any reason for cities any more. Location becomes meaningless. Other transport'n facilities become worthless.

  • mtrueman||

    "Nevertheless, it is hard to see the seeds that are supposed to someday sprout and grow into a nascent Silicon Holler."

    Because there's no Stanford University. How about Bangalore Holler? With the proper infrastructure no reason why Appalachians can't go head to head with those doing IT serf work in India.

    "It's difficult to tell how many employers, if any, have decided to relocate to Southwestern Virginia due to better access to high speed data networks. "

    Telecommutioning. It's the latest think.

  • Mizchief||

    Turn them into bitcoin miners, obviously. Give each one a calculator and the algorithm and put them to work!

  • HenryC||

    High speed internet won't employ coal miners, but it might bring in telecommuters for the low cost of living, mountain views, rafting, hiking, etc. That would improve the tax base.

  • Priscilla King||

    About the only thing this article hasn't covered...a lot of people who are here for "the low cost of living, mountain views, rafting, hiking, etc.," with "etc." presumably including family and heritage, *do not want* our homes "wired." I live a couple hours' walk from Duffield, and I *like* having (a half hour's walk anyway) between my home and the Internet.

    I may be a tourist whisperer, but does anybody think I want to deal with those people *all* *the* *time*? Mercy.