I was supposed to travel to Mississippi for work this week. Of course it didn’t happen. Flights going into Memphis International Airport were canceled due to the big winter storm battering the south. Well, it’s battering much of the US too, including up here in Chicago where we expect another 4” of snow on top of the 1” or so we got last night and the over some ungodly amount we’ve accumulated in the last few weeks. However, the difference here is that Chicago laughs at snow. Chicago spends about 1/2 the year in a deep freeze and typically covered in snow.
It’s all about infrastructure. Chicago, due to that whole 1/2 year thing, is much better equipped to manage the continued snowfalls and cold. There aren’t many power outages, few issues with roads, and even in the worst winter storm, people can typically travel freely in a few hours.
Conversely, Mississippi, like Texas and much of the other southern states, rarely see snow. A snowfall like what is taking place today and this week is literally something akin to a “snowfall of the century”. And thus, the state will likely be crippled as a result for at least a few days.
When these events happen, I tend to think in terms of politics in the way of Socialism vs Libertarianism. In the extremes are often where we can test ideas to see where they work and where they crumble. Another way of putting it is this: how much should the state control and contribute vs the individual?
I tend to lean Libertarian. However, over the years my view has changed from a stance of keep the government out of everything possible to maintain a minimum amount of government as possible based on the need and situation. Here in Chicago I am fricking thrilled that snow removal for the roads and streets are managed by the government, both state and local. It enables anyone to move as needed even despite the weather. Let’s imagine if it was a free-market based snow removal process… can you afford it in the moment? Can you wait for the person you hired to clean off the streets that someone else paid more to clear or called first?
Before I go much further, it’s not disparaging the southern states for their lack of snow response. For that, one can look at a risk assessment strategy. Maybe it only snows once a year with any sense of accumulation. Maybe the weather does not go below freezing very often, as opposed to Chicago which goes below freezing as early as October and might not get to and stay above freezing until April… even May in some years. Risk for snow and cold is high in Chicago and low in the south. The fact is that the south simply does not see the same issues as seen up north. Therefor, why spend the state and local populations’ resources on such things if it might only snow once a year if they are unlucky? In short, these big snowstorms and cold spells simply aren’t anything worth planning for until they happen and people wish they had in a sort-of better to be safe than sorry way of looking at it. It’s almost like planning for an earthquake in Illinois, which happens every so often, but not near the frequency of LA or San Francisco. It only becomes important when the bad event finally rears its ugly head.
Back to my point though on Socialism and Libertarianism. Both exist on an overall spectrum with their purest forms landing near the end of one extreme of the other. Most societies function best with some blend of the two. Society deems to some degree what is an important function that most to all people benefit from. Here in Chicago, it’s reasonable to say that a strong snow removal department controlled by the government is a necessary thing to have. Everyone pays a little into the pot so that they know that after a major storm, everyone can drive and get to their responsibilities with little interruption. And the Libertarian in me still gets to decide how and when my own driveway is cleared. But it wouldn’t work the same way in the south where it feels unreasonable for everyone to throw money and resources into a government controlled entity for the purpose of removing snow.
There are many examples that are like that, and it goes back and forth not only depending on the subject, but also depending on the locale. A Libertarian style might make more sense for snow removal in Mississippi where the occurrence is rare at best. Then again, that’s why we’re a Republic. But that’s for another day.