I had two noteworthy experiences recently that reminded me why I am a conservative.
I had some personal business in the college/university area in the Connecticut River Valley in central Massachusetts. Several big-name institutions are there – the far left behemoth University of Massachusetts; ultra-lib Mt. Holyoke, the elite women’s school; Smith College, which is called The Lesbian Capital of America; Amherst College, one of the most liberal in the nation; and Hampshire College, which might be called an ‘alternative’ school.
When I arrived in the area, I had driven from depressed, small-town Massachusetts into a thriving metropolis, with business booming, traffic everywhere and students all over. It just amazed me how much economic activity there was in comparison to other parts of Massachusetts, many of which are in severe decline.
And it made me realize why people think the way they do when they live in these college and university towns, which is: “Hey, things are great around here. Everyone is employed. Things are bustling. And we are all liberals. Therefore everyone should be a liberal so that they can have jobs and prosperity.”
But think about the real state of affairs. The University of Massachusetts is a state-funded school. Large chunks of the state’s taxpayer wealth is concentrated there. Amherst College, on the other hand, is one of those private, overcharging Ivy League-type schools that has jacked up tuitions three times faster than inflation in the last 30 years. Ditto Hampshire and Smith and Mt. Holyoke.
So when you visit these places, you are in an artificial environment that draws wealth in – either via the taxpayer or via the parents of America – and provides jobs and economic activity. So what else could you expect besides good economic times?
But once you get outside this ‘bubble’, you see where that wealth has come from. Families all over America are being bankrupted by high college tuitions, while the corrupt, Democrat-controlled state of Massachusetts crushes its citizens with taxes and fees of every kind, draining the economy and driving business and productive citizens away. Meanwhile the UMass professors and the Smith College elite have high standards of living inside their academic ‘bubble’. The students live on manicured campuses like something out of the movies.
So no wonder they are utopianists. They are living in utopia. Funded from the outside. They create no wealth inside their bubbles. This is classic socialism. They get the cash from somewhere else. But they never create it themselves.
In another case, I drove to Vermont where I went to college and also lived in the late 1970s. Vermont is so far left politically that it is laughable. Because during the ‘back to the land’ movement of the 1960s and 1970s, tens of thousands of educated young people, including myself, moved out to the rural countryside bringing along idealism, education and access to capital. And leftist ideas – except for me, of course.
I left Vermont after just three years, however. I couldn’t take the pounding liberal headache that I awoke with every morning up there.
Vermont historically had been a relatively poor, rural state with a strong Republican streak. President Calvin Coolidge came from Vermont and represented the character well.
The youthful influx of the 60s and 70s brought fresh prospects and new politics. And along with the ski-area boom of the 1950s and 1960s, the state changed. Dramatically. And throughout the 1990s, things in Vermont were economically good as the nation prospered, and as the state drifted to the hard left politically, influenced by the Ivy Leaguers and the city dwellers who moved up there.
Today, Vermont is bust and has severe economic problems. It was depressing to drive long stretches and see no people at all, through small towns with empty homes and abandoned buildings and hardly even a general store, while nearby some resorts, restaurants and inns were boarded up for good. Indeed with the demographic and economic shift away from the Northeast today, Vermont’s long-term tourism/ski prospects are not so good.
I lived with a group of Ivy Leaguers up there in the late 1970s. And while many of them were and are hard-working people who are succeeding today despite Vermont’s woes, they also brought with them an environmentalist no-growth mentality. They blocked development all over.
So for several decades, while the ski areas thrived, these ‘new people’ did well with their careers as well-educated, industrious small-business entrepreneurs. But they also sought to keep development at bay, to keep Vermont ‘green’. Today we see the results. Vermont‘s economic decline contrasts sharply with prosperous next-door New Hampshire, which had a long history of Republican conservatism even into the 1980s and 1990s. The two are like night and day.
Despite it all, the educated generation in Vermont that I knew is still doing fairly well. I visited with an architect acquaintance and he was prospering. But he was working on two major projects for the state of Vermont, not private interests. Behind his office he had two huge solar photovoltaic panels ($20,000 each, 2 kilowatt capacity, which is a pittance), both subsidized by federal and state grants. He described to me the wonderful ‘free electricity’ that they would be generating once their huge cost was paid off. I laughed inside but nodded my head in agreement just to be nice. This was the same stuff they were propagating in the 1970s. I had heard it all before and rejected it.
Another old friend was working for the local public-access TV station in a sparsely populated area. And I wondered why they even needed a state-funded channel in a time of economic woe. But there it was.
I visited with another contemporary of mine who lives way up in the woods. He is a funny, eccentric guy, a super-liberal ‘trust fund hippie’ but he has not let that get in the way of working hard. For 25 years, he has toiled as a stone mason building decorative and structural stone walls, which is a very tough job. Many of the walls have been for upper-income and wealthy homeowners who can afford his services.
Yet his socialist mindset is supposed to oppose private wealth, is it not?
I was amazed at our conversation. It was as if the 1970s had never disappeared. He talked about the evils of nuclear power and oil, and the good prospects for energy coming from ‘green’ tidal action. Yet he admitted that wind power and ethanol both had failed. So how does that compute? I tried to explain to him that all ‘green’ energy is a hoax, that I realized this in 1979, and that we need oil and nuclear. But he would have none of it. He figured that the magic bullet was something not yet tried on a large scale. In other words, utopia is just over the horizon.
My recent trips really reminded me of the idealistic ‘bubble’ that most libs exist in, living with and conversing only with like-minded people. And if you live in one of these ‘bubbles’, you may not even know it. You probably have put your blinders on to what is happening in the real world outside, oblivious to the truth. And that is a very unsound and irrational way of seeing things.
Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.