This Article offers an extended rebuttal to the suggestion to move residents away from dying communities to places with greater economic promise. Rural America, arguably, is one of those dying places. A host of strategies aim to shore up those communities and make them more economically viable. But one might ask, “Why bother?” In a similar vein, David Schleicher’s provocative 2017 Yale Law Journal article, Stuck! The Law and Economics of Residential Stagnation, recommended dismantling a host of state and local government laws that operate as barriers to migration by Americans from failing economies to robust agglomeration economies. But Schleicher said little about the fate of the places left behind. Schleicher’s article drew a number of pointed responses, urging the value and preservation of Small Town America. But those arguments failed fully to meet the rational economic thesis, countering instead with more sentimental or humanitarian concerns. This Article offers a way to reconcile the two views, refracted through a health care lens. Health care is a particularly apt perspective for considering the question of whether America’s rural places are worth saving because it necessarily, under longstanding U.S. policy preferences, walks the line between economic principles and human rights; individual responsibility and communitarian values; the rational actor and the deserving recipient of aid. The health care exceptionalism case against agglomeration economies urges consideration of the real, quantifiable costs of migration and, correlatively, the value of home, as well as the market imperfections inherent in health care and, even more so, in rural health care.
2021 ULR 319 (2021)