The Story of Suburbville and Big City

By on March 19, 2019

From NextSTL:  Big City is flourishing. It’s densely populated, full of bright and industrious citizens. It’s also loud, crowded, and expensive. If you look a couple miles to the west of Big City, however, you will find huge plots of vacant land. This land is so cheap, that for the same price you might pay for an average apartment in Big City, you could instead buy some land and build a big fancy house on it, complete with a backyard and a white picket fence. For most of Big City’s history, nobody has wanted to live on this land because it would simply take too long to walk to work every morning. It was way easier to live close to work and deal with the noise and cramped conditions of Big City. But then, Henry Ford invents the automobile! Suddenly, the commute doesn’t seem all that bad. A bunch of people buy cars and take out bank loans, moving their families west to build the house of their dreams on that cheap, vacant land. Out here, they are no longer officially within Big City limits. They decide to name their new enclave “Suburbville.”

There are benefits and pitfalls to living outside of Big City. On the bright side, people in Suburbville are no longer obligated to pay taxes to Big City! Woo hoo! One of the downsides, however, is that Suburbville no longer has access to any of Big City’s infrastructure. This means they will have to build their own water and sewage systems. Fortunately, Suburbville is much smaller and less complex than Big City, so their infrastructure can be similarly smaller and less complex. They dig a couple of wells into the ground and, voila, drinking water! There aren’t that many people in Suburbville, so they can simply flush their toilets into a nearby river, a simple and inexpensive solution to a dirty problem. Suburbville also has to train and hire their own Police Officers. Fortunately, crime is very low in Suburbville because, originally, it was just a big empty field. Additionally, the only people who can afford to move away from Big City are families with enough money to buy a car and to convince a bank to lend them money. Gainfully employed people such as this don’t tend to commit many crimes. This means that Suburbville only needs a very small police force.

Thanks to the minimalist nature of their infrastructure and a small police department, Suburbville can afford to set tax rates much lower than Big City. This is working out great! Every day, residents of Suburbville drive into Big City for work, collect their paychecks, and then drive home to their big houses in Suburbville where they are only obligated to pay low Suburbville taxes. Life is pretty good.

Meanwhile, back in Big City, people begin to look upon Suburbville with envy. They see low taxes, low crime, and big fancy houses. Many of them, at least those who can afford to do so, pack up their families and move. As people flood into Suburbville, its tax base grows substantially. Suburbville’s City Council is able to lower the tax rate every single year. They cite their responsible leadership and stewardship of taxpayer money.

Big City has a big problem: Everybody with money is moving to Suburbville. Why deal with the tax rates of Big City when you can just move a couple miles west, keep your job, and pay substantially less for a newer, bigger house? The average income of Big City residents plummets. The banks won’t loan money to poor and unemployed people. These people can’t afford to move and are stuck behind in Big City. Poor people are more likely to fall into lives of crime, so the crime levels of Big City stay about the same. The infrastructure of Big City hasn’t changed, so the cost of maintaining it also stays about the same. As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer people left to pay taxes in Big City, despite the fact that it still costs about the same to maintain infrastructure and pay for police service. Left with no other option, Big City increases its tax rate. Unfortunately, this only encourages more people to move away from Big City into Suburbville.

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About Dede Hance