One of the most controversial social policies that has taken shape in the United States, over the last 30 years, has been the idea that dispersion of social ills is an effective way to reduce concentrations of urban dysfunction and poverty. Of course, such policies always nominally work, by definition. When concentrated social pathologies are dispersed, their concentration is necessarily less.

 

But such policies have the familiar old ring of failed socialist policies, which often look great on paper but in practice involve making everyone equal by crippling the most successful and talented. When social problems are dispersed, they don’t just reduce the concentration of problems in the areas where they existed. They create higher levels of social pathology in the areas to which they’re sent.

 

This can be seen in the recent decision to shut down the four beer stores in the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, where the town’s sole industry was providing a loophole, for over 130 years, which allowed circumvention of the ban on alcohol sales in the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

 

By all accounts, the closure of the four stores has, indeed, dramatically reduced the amount of social ills that plagued the town for the entirety of its existence. Many activists are trumpeting this result as a resounding success.

 

However, some of the leaders of neighboring towns are not nearly so enthusiastic. Chris Heiser is the mayor of Rushville, Nebraska, the next closest town, in that state, to the Pine Ridge Reservation. He says that his town was forced to pass a slew of new ordinances, shortly after the May 1 closures of Whiteclay’s four beer stores. The mayor has seen a dramatic uptick in vagrancy, loitering, public urination and public drunkenness. He says that the sheriff’s office has reported an increase in drunk driving stops, and the town has seen a couple more arrests for driving while intoxicated than normal. He fears that the Whiteclay closures have done little but push that town’s pathologies into Rushville.

 

Categories: Native American, Native American History, The Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation, Whiteclay

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