[Text from my TED talk “West Virginia: Probably Time to Just Cut Our Losses on That One.” Will upload video when available]
In today’s economy, West Virginia may simply be unsustainable. Can it be disrupted? Or must it simply be abandoned?
Put simply: is West Virginia a luxury we can no longer afford?
We have to be realistic and put aside sentimental attachment. With coal reserves on the decline and mass de-industrialization, it’s hard to make the economic argument that West Virginia has any real purpose anymore. Why would you put all those towns next to chemical storage sites? Or on top of coal reserves? Or in the floodplains where valuable chemical dumping can occur?
We must learn from our mistakes, and fail forward.
For example, many people blame deindustrialization for the immiseration of the population. But what if West Virginia’s real problem is that it hasn’t been de-industrialized enough?
Think of it this way: while the strategic employment of high levels of unemployment and poverty has already convinced many younger West Virginians to leave the state, many still remain, and are still breeding.
We need to be more aggressive.
West Virginia’s real problem is that valuable industry growth is being impeded by the presence of inert, non-productive West Virginians. Too many job-hoarders (and job-coveters) can discourage job-creators from creating value. We need creative solutions.
How do we convince dead-end West Virginians to move out of the state? If they refuse to face reality, they must be forced to face reality.
Flip the Script
Everyone knows that poisoned water is bad for supporting human life. What my argument presupposes is, what is it good for?
Disband West Virginia
Poisoning the air and water and blowing up the ground have persuaded many West Virginians to leave the state or expire painfully, but half-measures will not depopulate the state at the rate we require. If pollution remains merely at the present level, it will only impede development of a sustainable organ harvesting industry, all the while failing to empty the state completely.
Yet if poisoning the water for 300,000 people is what it will take to get Disband West Virginia off the ground, can we really call it a tragedy?
No. We can call it a good start.
The Freedom to Not Be a West Virginian
Henry Louis Gates grew up in West Virginia, but left. Now he’s a famous Harvard professor. Shouldn’t all West Virginians leave?
Let’s give all West Virginians the opportunity to not be a West Virginian.
Unbundle West Virginia
Several parts of West Virginia still have value. I bet we could sell off the Eastern panhandle to Virginia or Maryland. We could dump the northern panhandle on Pennsylvania, or Ohio. The proceeds from these sales can be turned into tax breaks to corporations like Freedom Industries, to increase their operations and bring jobs. Southern Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, and Eastern Tennessee might be convinced to join in.
Some West Virginians can be retrained and resettled in the Dakotas, put to use in the fracking industry. Most can simply be left to expire in whatever way seems appropriate.
But we should be realistic: permanent temporary camps will probably be necessary to house the excess populations.
The Void Creators
We must think big. Creating jobs for West Virginians will only impede the process of abolishing West Virginia.
Already, it is possible to track the progress of West Virginia’s Void Creators using technology.
But while it is important to honor the void-creators in the extractive coal industry, who are doing so much to unbundle West Virginia already, we need to remember that we cannot let the free market carry the entire burden of destroying a way of life.
Should tax-payers subsidize sending West Virginians back across the Atlantic to where they came from?
No. But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t use the national guard to convince West Virginians to move out of the state.
America’s first Western frontier was the trans-Appalachian. Reducing it to a depopulated void will be our final frontier.
Back to Basics
West Virginia has always been mostly owned by a handful of absentee corporations.
What if *all* of West Virginia were to be sold off to absentee corporations?
West Virginia’s ontological dilemma is this: if it continues to exist, the problem of its existence will not be solved in our lifetime. And if we don’t propose bold solutions now, it is likely that the status quo–in which West Virginia continues to exist–will only get worse.
Life is a Beach
West Virginia was once an ocean floor, you know.
How can you poison the drinking water if it’s already too saline to drink?
We must find an answer to that question.