On our trip through Kansas, it was impossible not to notice the difference in average intelligence between Lawrence, the university town, and Liberal, a beef-processing and Walmart town. In 1900, the costs of moving away from one’s home town were high. You’d see your family and friends only once every year or two. You’d talk on the phone or communicate via telegraph only in an emergency. These costs discouraged enough folks from moving that every town had its intellectuals. They dreamed of moving to Manhattan, but they never did. You’d find them at the library, in the local theater company, running a Great Books club, etc.
In 2006, you can move 300 miles away and get back home every weekend on an Interstate highway in a few hours. You can move 2000 miles away and get back home every month for $300 round-trip on an airliner. For a fixed $20 per month, you can get a voice-over-IP phone and make unlimited long-distance calls. For free, you can exchange email and instant messages. You can get the benefits of moving, associating with other smart interesting people, without many of the costs formerly imposed on those who moved away from their home towns.
What’s the result of all of this investment in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure? Where formerly intelligent people were more or less randomly distributed and “lay where they fell”, our society is now sorting people by intelligence into smart and dumb towns and regions.