Monday, August 21, 2006

To Flee or Not to Flee New England

Ross Douthat on the American Scene has a great post up about some of the problems with environmentalism as a conservative cause. Excerpts:

I want to agree with this, and I certainly dislike overdevelopment and uglification, and the Brandywine country is really quite pretty and it's important to make efforts to conserve it, but . . .

Crusading against sprawl, passing zoning restrictions, designating swamps as "wetlands" and old buildings in need of a wrecking ball as "historic properties," refusing to expand highways to keep up with population growth - all of these have been, for many many years, the tools that well-to-do northeasterners have used to maintain their privileges and their property values . . .

My beloved New England is increasingly the preserve of well-off rentiers, resting on their socioeconomic laurels and zoning the young out of the real estate market. And not coincidentally, the region is more liberal than it's ever been before . . . because the price of a home and the burden of a commute is forcing those twenty and thirtysomethings who do stick around to put off marriage and family - which are, of course, the two things most likely to turn indie yuppies into social conservatives.

This post also exemplifies the reasons why I'm finding "The American Scene" to be one of my "must-read" blogs.

1) I love the dynamic between Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat. It's one of the few group blogs that actually work: they post about equally frequently, they're different yet compatible, so they complement each other so nicely. For example, he adds parenthetically: "Reihan, were he writing this post, would recommend that you read this book." (Go ahead, follow the link -- it's a very interesting book).

2) Like me, he's a child of New England, and every time I go back, I feel the tug of the beautiful environment, warring against my rejection of what all that beauty stands for. He's holding out:

But this my home, and I want to be able to raise my family here, and I'll be damned if a bunch of "conservation easements" keep me from doing so.

Unconsciously, I did more or less what he says he's resisting:

There is, I suppose, a case to be made for heightening the contradictions of life on the eastern seaboard, until it becomes so unbearable for anyone who wants to have a house and a family on a middle-class salary that everyone suddenly snaps and joins a great diaspora out to the Midwest or Montana, where they will all have fat American wives and raise rabbits, and huge families, and vote for a revived right-wing populism.

(Except my wife isn't fat, we only have two kids, and I don't like Caleb Stegall much -- otherwise the portrait's perfect).

Speaking of going back to New England, I'll be doing that for the next week, before I spend a year doing research at Princeton. The transition should be nice and chaotic, and I probably won't be posting for a week or so.

Topics I'm thinking of writing about:

What if not just poison gas, but bombing too, had been banned after World War I?

What if we legalized all natural drugs, but banned only the techniques for artificially strengthening them? I mean if God made coca leaves, didn't he have a purpose therein?