(Check in with Part I here)
So does Scott County really have to be as bad as it is? Realistically, yes. Its fate is sealed. Here's why.
There is no reason to stay in Scott County, Indiana. There's nothing to do there, no economic opportunities. It's ugly. The weather sucks. It has a lot of crime. Its only real asset – low cost of living – is a direct function of its status as a void in the universe and therefore not worth much. So like any half-rational person, you leave. You find the nearest big city or make the big move out to New York or whatever. You leave just like everybody leaves.
Well, not everybody. The people who are capable of leaving – young, not tied down, not incarcerated or on probation, not dirt poor – leave.
So who's left behind? Old people who refuse to leave. Young people counting down the minutes until they can leave. People who can't pay their bills let alone the cost of moving. People with life-obliterating problems (with drugs, with booze, with gambling). People who have no skills or education that might be salable elsewhere. People who are barely adults and have four kids. People who don't have a parole officer. People who don't think that (insert name of essentially city anywhere) is better than Scott County. People who can't get their shit together even if they have the means. People who either had their asses kicked by life or are losers, basically.
So who ends up in charge? Who makes the decisions that make the Scott Counties of the world so spectacularly and consistently backward? Well. The idiots elect a handful of other idiots, who hire their idiot relatives to perform important jobs very badly. The Chief of Police in Scott County is behaving like some kind of reactionary, pitiably stupid backcountry hick because he is a reactionary, pitiably stupid backcountry hick.
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We know that with certainty because if he were any good at his job or had marketable skills he would move 25 miles away to work in the safe, fancy suburbs of Louisville, KY and do the same job only easier and at double the salary. And that's the reason communities like these are in a death spiral – anyone good enough to do the job(s) of running the place well is good enough to get a better job in a better place at a better salary. If a few capable people do stick around, they'll find it impossible to accomplish anything against the tendencies of the elderly, the ignorant, and the ignorant elderly.
How do we fix it? We don't. Communities need people with a mix of skills in order to prosper, and short of handing out Ferraris and a blowjob to anyone who agrees to move there it is not going to get a mix. It is going to get people for whom getting through one day is a struggle and therefore unwilling to focus on anything other than their own lives.
It is going to get knuckleheads and miserable old people. It's going to get a lot of people caught up in the justice system or on meth.
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And they're going to be on the school board, in the police force, teaching in the schools, and raising their inevitably terrible children.
They will try to fix the local economy with ideas that were stale 20 years ago. They'll take ineffective, counterproductive, and punitive approaches to dealing with social problems like drugs, poverty, and crime. They'll teach their kids that the Earth is 6,000 years old and girls all want to be raped and The Messicans are comin' to take their part-time job at Casey's General Store. The courts, justice system, and law enforcement will be corrupt, petty, and inept. And that's just the way everything will be, and everyone will be used to it, and everyone will accept it as their lot in life and that will be that.
The only hope is that a higher level of government – particularly the state legislature – is run by less incompetent people who can enforce some half-decent choices on rural and failing urban areas. Good thing Scott County has Mike Pence and the Indiana Legislature handling the really important things in the State Capitol.