How do Maryland and Virginia differ?

From Jared Sylvester, a loyal TCEDG reader:

I was reading through your dining guide, looking for a place to go with my father this weekend. In your write up of Crisfields you said “The accompanying visit to Silver Spring is an object lesson in how Maryland and Virginia differ.” I was wondering if you would mind blogging on that topic.

Let’s restrict (most of) this to the adjacent parts of each state. The food says a lot: Maryland has kosher food and Caribbean food. Virginia has better Bolivian, Vietnamese, Korean, Afghan, Ethiopian, and Persian food. (Here is a new piece on minorities in Virginia.) Both have excellent Sichuan food. Both have very good El Salvadoran and Thai food. Neither has real barbecue. Maryland used to have better Indian food, now Virginia has much better Indian food, including dosas. Apart from Bethesda, Maryland has virtually no “fine dining.” Maryland has many more Russians, albeit without a decent restaurant.

Virginia has Tysons Corner, Tysons Mall I and II, The Palm, and a Ritz-Carlton, or in other words a lot of tacky, revenue-generating corporate assets. Virginia has better and more consistent school systems. Virginia has better Beltway on- and off-ramps.

Bethesda is better integrated into DC than is any part of Virginia, with Arlington playing catch-up. Virginia has the airports, the Pentagon, a better business climate, and lower taxes.

The Pentagon and the military are central to my theory of why Virginia is such a well-run state. Virginia has a major cash cow, to provide employment and taxable incomes, yet unlike Alaska’s oil revenue, it is not one that the state government can get its hands on beyond general sources of tax revenue. The Pentagon, as a natural asset, does not foster corruption or complacency in the Virginia state government. It is politically untouchable. It makes Virginia a conservative yet interventionist and technocratic state. Maryland has more inherited blight.

Virginia has more ugly colonial houses, and more arches and pillars, Maryland has more tacky old American box houses. I dislike ugly colonial.

Virginia feels more like an assortment of minorities working within an essentially Protestant framework. Maryland was originally founded as a Catholic colony.

Looking to the state as a whole, Virginia doesn’t have a proper city at all; Norfolk and Virginia Beach are agglomerations based around what are traditionally non-urban rationales. I bet people in California, or for that matter Shenzhen, don’t even know they are cities at all. The third largest city, Chesapeake, no one has heard of, or cares about, if not for the nearby Bay. Other parts of Maryland, such as you find along the Susquehanna, were long integrated into more northerly and westerly trade routes. Virginia’s major waterways lead to the sea.

I’ve long lived in Virginia, and never wanted to live in Maryland, even if I could equalize the commute.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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1 Response to How do Maryland and Virginia differ?

  1. laffingby says:

    I’ve lived in both for extended periods of time. My list of comparisons:

    Higher education: MD public colleges and universities have some great programs and campuses but VA array of choices is almost unparalleled: UVA, W&M, VPI, GMU, JMU, VCU, ODU, UMW, etc.

    Tolerance: Edge to MD, particularly with respect to African-Americans. Residual effects of ante-bellum and post-bellum Southern traditions still too strong in VA, but gradually diminishing.

    Local roads: Neither wins any prizes. Both jurisdictions need to get together and agree to reroute I-95 along the Route 301 corridor so that interstate traffic from Maine to Florida doesn’t have to clog the Beltway. An eastern bypass is the only long term solution.

    Restaurants: Arlington restaurants offer more diverse choices than those in Bethesda, and are on average less expensive. With the exception of the Kenilworth Ave. and Adelphi corridors for good Mexican/ Central American cuisine, PG county is a restaurant wasteland. I know. I desperately searched for the 15 years I lived there.

    Corruption in Politics: No contest. MD has a long tradition at the state and county level that VA will never match.

    Quality of State Governance: Both have quirky legislatures, but VA has historically more fiscal restraint than MD. This is a two-edged sword. If I were a Medicaid recipient, I’d rather live in MD, since the program there is richer. On the other hand, VA’s spending is more consistent (if frequently lower) resulting in less need to make drastic cuts in programs when recessions hit and revenues from taxes are reduced.

    Public schools: VA jurisdictions are more on their own than those in MD in financing their schools. As a result, there tends to be more disparity in quality between jurisdictions than in MD. PG schools suffer in part because of a self imposed cap on real estate assessments passed by the voters in the 1980s.

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