The Midwest has always been the heart of America - both its economic bellwether and the repository of its national identity. Now, in a newly globalized age, the Midwest is challenged as never before.
In Caught in the Middle, longtime Chicago Tribune reporter Richard Longworth explores the new reality of life in today's heartland and reveals what these changes mean for the region and the country.
©2009 Richard C. Longworth; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"A passionate, probing and painfully honest book." (Wall Street Journal)
mostly nonfiction listener
I hope that this book is being included in the curriculum of a range of courses at Washington University in St. Louis (where I majored in history and graduated in 1991). Longworth asks, "is anyone dying to move to St. Louis?" Longworth is a longtime Chicago journalist with an important story to tell about the failure of the Midwest to compete in a globalized economy. States, cities and towns that fail to attract creative people, knowledge workers, and the educated and industrious foreign born are doomed to marginality and irrelevance.
The political organization of Midwest states has hampered a regional approach to education and economics, insuring that the loss of high-paying / low-skills manufacturing jobs lead only to the death of communities. Where other regions have been able to diversity and reinvent themselves, most Midwestern cities fail to make the hard choices to invest in education, culture and advanced industries (such as biotech or green engineering), preferring instead to try to hold on to dying industries (such as manufacturing) with ever larger tax subsidies and rebates.
The U.S. can't simply write-off the Midwest (for one thing the Midwest contains the largest concentration of institutions of higher learning in the U.S.), we must learn from the regions failures, widely apply it successes, and invest in insuring that the left-behind cities like Detroit and Cleveland receive the attention and investment they deserve.
Old & fat, but strong; American, Chinese, & Indian (sort of); Ph.D. in C.S.; strategy, economics & stability theory; trees & machining.
I had received some money from the ???Third Frontier???, a funding organization for entrepreneurs that claims to believe that that the mid-west will be the next ???Silicon Valley???. So I was expecting an argument that in spite of the problems in middle America, the ???glass is half full???. So I was surprised when the author basically argues that: 1) the glass is seven eights empty, 2) that the glass has a leak in the bottom, and 3) that the political coalition against fixing the leak has strong majorities in much of the mid-west. There are a few bright spots, but very few.
His methodology is that of a newspaper man, he has traveled extensively in the mid-west and interviewed a wide range of leadership(e.g., political, economic, academic, thought, etc ???). The result is a detailed introduction to the problem; at times the details become tedious. In addition, the methodology is not scientific, but in the end I was more convinced than not (I too have traveled around the mid-west).
The gem in the book is the argument that the mid-west is important because it is a kind of leading indicator for the rest of American. The argument is made explicitly on the bases of historical analogies, which I found week and it is made implicitly through the detailed consideration of the causes of the problems in the mid-west, whichI found unexpectedly compelling. So perhaps you don???t care about the mid-west per say, I can???t decide if I do or not, but thinking deeply about the mid-west may be the best way to think about economic future of most of America (or the world).
Perhaps the book is deeper when interpreted as being about globalization, and all the talk about the mid-west is just a foil.
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