Of all the disheartening aspects of our modern public discourse, nothing saddens me as consistently as listening to people who are proud of their own ignorance. I'm not exactly a strong proponent of a Japan-style Shame Society, but being ignorant is one of those situations in which a little shame can be a valuable tool for self-improvement. You can only watch someone proudly assert that the world is 6,000 years old and Science is wrong so many times before hope for the human condition begins to fade. Ignorance is an easy problem to overcome if an individual is willing to learn. If not, though, it only gets worse.

One of the jarring things about living in the South has been seeing how proud the civic leaders are of things for which they ought to feel embarrassed. They love to boast, for example, about the rapidly growing population and industrialization in places like South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Look at all these shiny new factories! Take that, Detroit! Victory is ours!

Of course the reason that the Bible Belt is the new Auto Belt (among other major industries) is that these states are willing to hand employers billions in tax abatement, free infrastructure upgrades, and other "incentives" – in other words, we're winning the race to the bottom. And while it is spoken of only in euphemistic terms like "motivated workforce" or "right to work state", one of the big draws is that unemployment is high, the workforce is docile in the extreme, and people will work for pretty much anything. State and local politicians, not to mention the population itself, crow about the Business Friendly environment, which essentially means that people are ready to stab each other to get a $12/hr factory job, employees won't tell anyone if they get hurt on the job, and the state won't do anything about it even if they do. What employer doesn't cherish being able to use a line as effective as, "If you're not happy, I've got 20,000 people on file who want your job."

That's not an exaggeration. When I see a headline like "20,000 apply for 877 Alabama Hyundai plant jobs" I almost have to feel bad for said Alabamans on account of the fact that they elect people who see this as a victory for the state. Alabama lures Hyundai, much as Georgia lured Kia and South Carolina lured BMW, using the same techniques that bring manufacturing to Mexico from the US, to Eastern Europe from Western, and to China and Southeast Asia from the whole world.

So congratulations, Alabama. You're the Bangladesh of the United States. Your population is poorer, more desperate, and less assertive than anywhere else in the country. That's quite an accomplishment. Maybe it's time to update the state flags again; I'm thinking a job applicant bending over with his pants around his ankles and a big, inviting grin might be appropriate.