Bill Bishop’s book The Big Sort has an explicit normative message to it: the political self-sorting that he describes is a bad thing, leading to a host of problems in American life including extremism, polarization, and the disappearance of a “national narrative” and a “common path to unanimity”.
While I don’t necessarily disagree with many of the points that Bishop makes in the book, I found myself asking over and over again the same question: is it really so wrong to want to live by people who are similar to you? In other words, if I value having a strong public education system, a racially diverse community where I can get authentic Italian and Mexican food, a robust public recycling program, numerous bookstores, lots of public trails and parks… is it so wrong to seek out a community that offers those things? On the other hand, if I want to live in a place with access to a strong church community, a huge back yard, low property taxes, several hunting/fishing options… is it really such a bad thing to try to live in a community that offers those amenities?
Granted, there is strong evidence that this self-sorting along lifestyle lines produces some undesirable political effects. However, if forced to choose between living in a place where I will feel comfortable, safe, and happy… and doing something to help politicians not fight quite so much, is it so horrible to sacrifice some political unity for the sake of providing my family with the quality of life that we want to have and enjoy?