Hillsdale, MI. A Mormon friend of mine once argued that the LDS prohibition of alcohol was right and proper not only because it was revealed, but because he had tried alcohol once and had ended up puking in the gutter. My grandparents voted for the Prohibition Party candidate every presidential year from 1896 to their deaths in the late 1950s, so I know all the arguments. But, as I told my friend, there is something in between total abstinence and lying in your own vomit.

It is becoming way too fashionable now, even on such a generally intelligent forum as FPR, to mistake irony for paradox and to substitute Cartesian for Aristotelian dualisms. This is just a high-fallutin’ way of saying that when we talk about drinkin’ and fightin’ and politics we should know when to prop a man up and when to take him down.

It’s called measure, or prudence, or as (my favorite) Cicero said, decorum. It is of course not likely that many Americans will stay in Place nowadays, or that Limits means the same thing to President Obama that it meant to President Coolidge, or that Liberty means what it meant to our earliest American generations, They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, and none shall make him afraid. But even a term like LOCAL has its limits.

To talk about “subsidized localism,” for example, is to fail utterly to understand that Cartesian dualism is something else entirely, a fake dualism that cannot produce decorum. Robert Frost wrote to a friend, “In my book of 1923 I dealt with the crude importunacy of those who would have you a prude or a puke (mewling and puking in the public arms). Choose you this day to be a puke or be disowned by the intelligentsia.” In his poem “Build Soil” he warned against joining “too many gangs;” “We’re always too much out or too much in.” You don’t have to curse the city to love the country, or fly over the country to prove how cosmopolitan you are.

Decorum demands, however, that you try hard not to come down on the side of paradox at the expense of irony. “Subsidized localism” might be an attempt at paradox but does not rise to the level of irony; and as I have said elsewhere, might be “the mother of all oxymorons.” It is also a branch of progressive ideology, which is anathema to anybody who wants to conserve anything valuable.

Now let me get real. My local newspaper announced yesterday that our “Community Action Agency” got a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development “to help with its housing counseling and loan services.” The grant was for $47,724. They no doubt have it figured to the penny. In a community where the unemployment rate is just about the highest in the nation, the Feds give us money to talk to people who have lost their jobs about keeping their homes. One of the local government employees explained that 1,306 “clients” were seeking help to resolve or prevent mortgage delinquency. Ignoring the fact that the only people who have jobs are those paid by the government to counsel those who don’t have jobs, just what kind of “local subsidy” do we see in operation here? The answer is, the only one you will ever get.

Local communities have to take charge of their affairs or lose control of them. No, this does not mean secession, but it means that exploring ideas like “subsidized localism” has its end already in sight. Rep. Mark Schauer announced that this “Community Action Agency” program will “help more families in our area experience the American dream of home ownership.” If our dream of home ownership is reduced to hand-holding by bureaucrats, and if the best idea we can come up with at FPR is “subsidized localism,” I suggest that we practice truth in advertising: “Every place. Globalism. Nannystate.”

Ok, enough emoting. But the answer to being “too much out” is never being “too much in.” Our community has, in addition to the Community Action Agency, a free clinic that resides in a local church and provides basic medical treatment (one night a week) to people who otherwise couldn’t get it, because they couldn’t pay for it. Doctors and nurses and others (including college students) volunteer their time. It’s classic localism. What will happen, however, if it gets to the point that the free clinic applies for or has to accept government subsidy? The list of regulations, sanitary inspections, multiple levels of liability, building inspections boggles the mind. I love what the clinic is doing, but it’s just a matter of time before the Feds find out. They will have to subsidize our localism.

Scott Richert over at Chronicles has been writing for almost a decade about local matters in the mid-sized city of Rockford, Illinois. One sees in his columns how hard it is to be local. I’ve worked for several decades for a college that has so far stayed local. Ask any of its faculty, staff, or Trustees if it’s easy to be local. But ask any of us if it’s worth it. We’re not out, but we’re not too much in.

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  1. “Classic localism”. Hmm. Maybe I’m just new, but I still have yet to decipher any workable definition for what constitutes “localism.”

    Let’s think about this. You’ve got your local free clinic. Okay. How many of the doctors went to medical school in Hillsdale? Or even in Michigan, for that matter? How many of the nurses? Do your supplies come from Hillsdale? If this counts as localism, as well it might depending on how you all want to define it, it’s a localism that involves a rather high degree of non-local inputs.

    The same is probably true of Hillsdale College itself. Don’t get me wrong, I have a high opinion of the school. I have the privilege of knowing a number of Hillsdale alumni, all of whom are great people.

    None of them are from Michigan. Most of them aren’t even from the Midwest. Hillsdale college students constitute something like 1/6 the population of Hillsdale, Michigan, so there’s no way the college can exist mostly for the benefit of the town. The vast majority of Hillsdale faculty aren’t from the area either. Their degrees are from institutions all over the country, some even from different continents.

    So the college doesn’t take federal money. Great. More power to them. I’m all in favor. But if this is a sufficient condition for counting as “local,” then it seems to be so inclusive as to be meaningless, as it’s an institution operated by and for the benefit of people who are not from the area, most of whom will not stay in the area.

    Thus far, the working definition for “localism” I see in operation around here is basically “activities which involve no obvious non-local parties in the last step on the logistics chain,” i.e. the one which gets something on the shelf just before you buy it, or the equivalent for services. This arguably works okay for some foods–oranges being a notable exception–but there rarely seems to be any kind of deeper, more penetrating analysis, which makes the whole thing seem more aesthetic than practical. It certainly doesn’t have any obvious tight connection to the more anti-liberal, pre-modern concepts of membership, tradition, and relationship that are also firmly rooted on this site.

    Those are concepts I can get behind. But the more I hear the term used, the more “localism” seems shorthand for “a really naive view of how the modern logistics chain actually functions.” Note that I didn’t say “the modern economy,” though I could have. I’m a lot less concerned with monetary policy here than I am with the process by which, say, raw iron ore moves through the various processes and places on its way to becoming, oh, I don’t know, paperclips. Or how wood becomes paper. Or how electricity is generated and transmitted. None of these can possibly work under any serious concept of “localism” with which I’m familiar, because almost nothing we eat or buy has any part of its origin within a hundred miles of where we happen to be sitting.

    So basically, this is a plea for someone around here to give me a serious definition for “localism” which isn’t either laughably impractical or so inclusive as to be irrelevant. If all you’re on about is nostalgia for a world that never existed, hey, have fun with that, but count me out. But it seems that there’s a more serious undercurrent on this site of people who actually want to make a difference in their communities. Which would be encouraging if it weren’t for the fact that “localism,” as a concept, doesn’t seem to have any real substance to it.

  2. But there’s something else that troubles me in all of this. I did a little background reading and stumbled across a comment here (#27), which I found rather insightful.

    It may seem like I’m doing exactly what that author rightly says is beside the point. But though I probably am at least suggesting some hypocrisy here, it is not the standard tu quoque of which the author complains. An agrarian partisan eating at McDonald’s occasionally, even regularly, doesn’t bother me all that much, because as the commenter points out, hypocrisy of this sort does not invalidate critique. Rather, my uneasiness comes from the fact that an agrarian lifestyle that is not purely subsistence farming absolutely requires large numbers of people who are not engaged in an agrarian lifestyle.

    The antebellum South, heralded elsewhere on this site as a paradigm of a localist, agrarian ideal, could not possibly have existed without either a large pool of slave labor or, more to the point, huge industrial markets for both corn and cotton in both the North and across the Atlantic. Agrarian? Local? Hardly. Even the hardy freehold farmers who settled the Midwest were significantly dependent upon manufacturing centers in parts far distant for the essentials of their livelihood, e.g. steel plows. Manufactured goods were expensive and hard to come by, and thus avoided where possible, but nonetheless indispensible. This requires that someone, or rather a lot of someones, not live the agrarian ideal. It’s inherent in the very concept. So the ideal, it seems, is one which contains exclusion of the vast mass of the people as a first order matter.

    In this context, it’s no good to say that this kind of system makes the industrial laborers better off than they would have been because they have jobs now. One might say that if all we were interested in was material well-being But remember, the point of the agrarian lifestyle, if our commenter is to be believed, is not the “material organization of human life,” but the connection between that organization and the spiritual life. Requiring others to live in conditions which are antithetical to human flourishing that we ourselves might flourish seems like a far more significant kind of hypocrisy than the one which bothered the commenter I referenced above.

    This bugs me. It’s one thing to be a fallen human being in need of grace. I mean, no worries there; take a number and get in line. It’s another thing entirely to advocate for a position which inherently excludes the majority of the population from the benefits to be derived therefrom. That can’t be the solution.

  3. Caleb, I read that article a while ago, but don’t think it adequately addresses my concerns. I would agree that medieval Europe constituted what may be robustly characterized as localist communities. Fair enough.

    The problem is that these communities were already starting to fracture, for reasons totally unrelated to liberalism or the industrial state, in the fourteenth century. Plague and insufficient population were already contributing to the growth of towns by then, and two or three centuries of more or less constant warfare–and the Little Ice Age of the seventeenth century–didn’t help things very much.

    So at best, I can’t get away from the conclusion that you and others are simply taking a snapshot from history of a lifestyle that appeals to you, idealizing it, then blaming modernism for its demise when far more pedestrian forces, many of which were completely beyond human control. I just don’t think the history gives you what you want. But at worst, you’re vulnerable to the accusation that all you really want is to have the privileges and prerogatives of medieval aristocrats. While this does admittedly seem like a good gig, it’s also more than a little self-serving.

    Also, it seems odd to me to characterize the pre-modern period as one of “liberty,” given that the body politic probably included something like 5-10% of the population. This certainly isn’t how the word is used today, though it does seem to be the direction the New Pantagruel author is headed. Though I might ultimately agree with his destination there, it’s not obvious from that piece that this will look anything like “liberty” in the contemporary sense of the term. Why not just say that liberty is actually a rather modern idea which ain’t all it’s cracked up to be? Using the term makes you sound like a Jeffersonian, and I don’t think you want to be one. You certainly don’t seem to have any inherent commitment to the idea in its modern instantiation, for which I must applaud you.

    Heaven isn’t a garden. We came from a garden, but that’s not where we’re headed. Heaven is a city. This whole thing seems distressingly anti-urban, and while that’s certainly a tried-and-true trope in Western culture, this doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

  4. Ryan,
    This is terrific. You’re a feisty sport, and I love every single point you make. Now, do you want me to DEFINE what is local? If I did, I would become an instant ideologue. Instead I would suggest a series of questions: Do you know your neighbors? Do you care if you know your neighbors? Is it important to know who went to medical school where? Do you love where you live? Why or why not?
    My Dad got home from WWII in the spring of 1946 and found a little town in western NY and bought a medical practice and stopped on his way out the village and said, “This is PHELPSNEWYORKHOMEOFTHEBRAVE.” I was only six at the time, but I knew what he meant. If you need a better definition, I’m not the guy to give it to you.
    And please, let’s not keep beating up the South. That’s the tiredest, gosh-awful thing we keep doing. Hillsdale, by the way, does not have slaves, but it does have flawed citizens. If you Google Hillsdale you will probably find murders, scandals, poverty, ugliness, and a welcome sign that says, “It’s The People.” If you really have an interest in this I can tell you some things that the slogan means.

  5. As somebody who sees as much “localism” …defiant or otherwise…..on a stroll down the streets of Brooklyn as he does in many a small town in Connecticut, I can recognize some of Ryan’s frustrations with what might be perceived as a prosaic and even hypocritical view of localism. But I don’t think it is quite so easy to discount the sentiments here expressed in total and to do it with a vigor that would seem to quiet the dialogue that is slowly formulating a complicated definition of localism. Some of the confusion and lack of comprehensive definition might be placed at the feet of the current prevailing disregard of the local by the forces of centralization and their over-rated efficiency. In any productive regime of localism, scale should be immaterial to a degree because the principle of “community” can and should shoulder a wide latitude of scales. However, I think there is an unfruitful urge to attempt complete clarity of definition which, even in the smallest locale, is impossible to achieve. More importantly, a best possible definition of “localism” would be the kind of cultural richness and cross fertilization which creates a productive relationship between urb and rus…instead of the steamrolling centralization of the current paradigm where rus is something primarily to be exploited and discarded while the informing constraints of cause and effect are confused or forgotten.

    It is akin to the discussion that anybody who posits a check upon technological abundance is a “luddite” rather than someone who is attempting to perceive certain limits which include the external costs that
    Leviathan would rather not be accounted for. We have been in thrall of a regime which is almost anti-local in its “progress”. Winners and losers have been magnified and the unique flavor of regionalism is being slowly abraded away, to be replaced with a plastic sameness that values quantity over quality. We even have an interchangeable name for the citizen : “consumer” ….as if the new “service worker” does not produce anything or that the highest and best use of the citizen is as an open and yearning maw.

    Is there some sentimentalism afoot? Certainly! But this reveals , at essence a sense of love that is at the very basis of any right ordered community. Not the intemperate love of enchantment but the kind of open-eyed love that does not need every hair to be in place. This is the love that includes faults and defects for their many charms.

    But, your call is for specifics and so to this end, I’ll offer some :

    1. A marriage of community and individual worth and occupation
    2. A reinvigoration of self-reliance that also acknowledges the opportunities and dynamic contributions of a wider public intercourse while retaining a sense of compassion. The citizen as steward rather than mere consumer. I believe we are less compassionate as a people directly because we are less self-reliant.
    3. A diminishment of the deadening pall of spectatorism.
    4. A stewardship of unique regional identity and the respect for others this entails.
    5. An aversion to the centralization of State Power as antithetical to the Checks and Balances and Separation of Powers intended by the Framers. With this comes a recognition that the power of the collective State has its uses and need but that a powerful collective should never come at the expense of things local. At this juncture, we are faced with a State that thinks it can defy gravity and that there are in fact, no limits and that furthermore, the so called American Experience is one size fits all.
    6. A recognition that the efficiency and abundance of the age comes at a cost and that a system which obscures cost is not only hostile to locale, it is most hostile to the locale where the costs are most directly borne.
    7. Bottoms up….the New England Town Meeting…as opposed to the excessive Top Down of the current regime.
    8. Reinvigoration of local vertical and horizontal economies .
    9. Agriculture that feeds its region before it feeds the globe but does not blindly eschew the opportunity of excess production to both benefit the local economy and provide food for those less able to produce it. Agriculture that acknowledges terroir and uses this recognition to good effect.
    10. Education that promotes intelligence, communication, personal expression, responsibility and the pleasures and opportunities of the intellect rather than providing a forum where the population is leveled and made same and prepared for the life of the consumer. Education which identifies and encourages different modes of intelligence, kinetic, intellectual, artistic, scientific, lingual while providing a firm respect for craft. Education that does not stop with the satisfaction of graduation criteria or as a means to an end but as a very human end in and of itself.

    This enumeration is not as easy as it sounds…..and I think some of the charges of sentimentalism may result from the fact that there is very little in the current regime that looks like “local” and so we are almost forced into citing historical models for lack of any current models to illustrate the point.

  6. Ryan,

    I think the misguided perception in your comments is reflected by a lack of familiarity concerning the many discussions of localism that have occurred prior to this post by Mr. Wilson. Many if not most of those discussions recognized the interest of those who did not see themselves actively living the agrarian lifestyle (as opposed to partaking in a more agrarian economy). I would recommend that you read up some more on the broad definitions that have been posited. Given these broad definitions, I would agree with Mr. Wilson that there certainly must be “limits” on any such definition. Having said that, it was still a worthy conversation that took place following Dr. Deneen’s post about the possibility of subsidizing localism, as a method to get us all thinking about the ways that we can bring about more local alternatives vs. the paths that may not be so fruitful or desirable. Following the many conversations had here, I think ultimately that may be one of the goals of this website, despite the challenges of hypocrisy that are inherent in any type of “choice” toward something better. Further, the charge that those here are pursuing self serving goals of establishing medieval fiefdoms seems a tad over the top, no? However, I’ll let the authors on these pages defend themselves, for they are more than capable of the task.

  7. John Willson,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Obviously I’m not trying to turn anyone into an idealogue here. I’m all for “organic communities,” as Carlson puts it, and firmly believe that there are certain types of community that cannot develop in the absence of dedicated, deliberate physical proximity. If you’re content with a “Who is my neighbor?” analysis then fine.

    But what exactly does this have to do with taking or not taking federal money? Aren’t you moving the football a little? In your post, you seem to want to move beyond knowing and caring that you know your neighbors to some kind of locally-motivated, i.e. “localist,” politics. I won’t you to define “local” anymore than I’d ask you to define “neighbor,” but I do think I can ask you to define what is meant by “localist,” as this seems to leave the realm of purely interpersonal interaction to some kind of larger project. D.W. Sabin definitely starts to get at this in his reply, confirming my suspicion that there’s definitely more to this than just a penchant for being That Guy at township supervisior meetings.

    It is possible that that really is all you’re doing, issuing a call for a more engaged and vigorous local politics. I can get on board with that. Having covered local political functions for a local paper I can tell stories about the lack of participation in local politics (with the unfortunate exception of some that we wish might not participate quite so much). Washington gets all the news, but the decisions made across down in the drafty municipal building on a Tuesday night are far more likely to impact you on a daily basis than anything Congress could dream up.

    It’s also possible that you’re advancing an argument for the subsidiarity principle. If so, it’s one of the least direct I’ve ever seen. Subsidiarity has been covered in such detail in Catholic social teaching that it’s actually a little surprising to me that I don’t hear more about it around here.

    But both of these stike me as a rather more modest move than you’re trying to make, and I’m still not sure exactly what that move is. Assuming you agree in principle with D.W. Sabin‘s post, that helps some, but there’s a lot going on there too which doesn’t have all that much to do with things local. Of his ten points, only four, maybe five, have, as far as I can tell, anything much to do with locale, so lumping them together under the moniker of “localism” strikes me as counter-intuitive at best unless, again, the term is used as a shorthand for a much more ambitious project.

    Also, in my defense, I wasn’t bagging on the South because of slavery. I wasn’t trying to bag on it at all, to be honest. It’s the dependence on foreign industrial centers which is of interest here, i.e. “King Cotton” would have been anything but without robust exports. I’m not saying this is good or bad–I frankly don’t have any problem with it as such–but I do think it makes using the South as an example of agrarian localism problematic at best.

  8. Mr. Davidson,
    You really are quite something. You ask for some form of specificity and when I offer it as a form of respect and in a collegial manner, 60% of a first pass is summarily thrown out with nothing more than vague assertions of some crypto agenda. What exactly are you looking for? Never mind. Maybe your idea of a Front Porch is different than mine. Really different.

    To bring you up to speed, an admittedly impossible activity , Subsidiarity has been an oft-mentioned subject on this site as has been an urging for a more vibrant local politics.

    Lastly and in the realm of the counterintuitive, comparing the budget and hence taxation rates of the local Town Hall with that of the Federal Government should put to rest any cocksure notion that the Town has anywhere near the impact upon our lives as does the Federal Government. I believe I work about a week to satisfy the property taxes of my little town and perhaps a few more weeks for the State. The Feds indenture me for anywhere from four to five months. For this indentured servitude, I receive the majority of services in an accumulating debt and wars on the other side of the world……hardly “local”. In fact, together with the banking and real estate industries, the Feds inflated the value of my domicile and then deflated it while tanking the greater economy thus furthering the Federal Government’s impact upon my life. My Town, thankfully…generally leaves me alone and I volunteer frequently to return the favor.

  9. D.W. Sabin, I wasn’t really trying for that or attempting to suggest a “crypto agenda,” it just struck me that a lot of your points can be maintained independent of any commitment to identifiably local concerns. I don’t see why a “commitment to the marriage of community and individual worth and occupation” doesn’t require commitment to my locality. Same goes for a “re-invigoration of self-reliance,” combating “spectatorism,” and adjustments to our philosophy of education.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like all of the things you list, I’m just trying to understand how the parts fit together under the rubrik of “localism.” I typically just associate most of those with sound polity in general.

    Your point about taxation is well made, but I’ll stand by my statement. Yeah, we pay to much in taxes, and yeah, it sucks. But many people find things like road maintenace, trash collection, police protection, and zoning ordinances, or the absence of those things, to come more consistently to mind than income taxes. The IRS may take way too much of my money for things I don’t want or care about, but it’s City Hall that adds fifteen minutes to my morning commute due to its approval of boneheaded intersection design and horrifically managed construction projects. The former is arguably greater in objective magnitude, but the latter is more pressing in its own way, yes? While there are a few concrete ways in which life could be better with less federal government, most of the government agencies that immediately affect our day-to-day affairs are state and local, and the government we interact with the most is often our municipality.

  10. Well, I’m not sentimental. Maybe the least sentimental guy you will ever hear from. And I wish I could have written the ten points that D.W. puts forth. As my old friend Stan Evans says, “Right arm!”
    D.W. makes a firm point about walking down a street in Brooklyn. Communities don’t have to be the size of PhelpsNewYorkHomeoftheBrave to be local. Here’s a suggestion, Ryan: read Booth Tarkington’s novel “The Lorenzo Bunch.”
    I lived in a St. Louis suburb for a few years, 32 miles from where I taught, 21 miles from where Helen worked part-time, 4 miles from our oldest daughter’s school, 3 miles from the two other girls’ school, 12 miles from where we went to church, and nobody in our neighborhood did any of the above with any member of my family. I felt that every morning somebody took off an arm, another a leg, and then, if I were really faithful, would put them back on at night.
    Really, if you think that I am the one that needs to justify “local,” I want you to give me the alternative.

  11. If one really wanted to see localism, a good place was in New York City in the 50’s, when I grew up their. A great city to be sure, but really a collection of a thousand villages, each with its own character.

    Then came Robert Moses.

  12. I believe the geographic component of local is overstated. Perhaps community is a better term? While close proximity may promote community, it is neither a guarantee nor a prerequisite. I am lucky, I know many of my neighbors. I know their kids, and I have met many of their parents. I know what most of them do for a living, and who they work for. 4th of July is more or less a spontaneous block party. Demographically, it is not a particularly homogeneous group, but we managed to interact as neighbors should. A few of them do merely schlep from their cars to their TV’s without ever more than a wave or a smile, but that is the exception. (My neighbor across the street is infamously known as “Runaway Dave” for a mysterious ability to disappear from his front yard whenever anyone walks by.)

    It is really interactions and interdependency that creates localism. If the farmer comes town to buy his flour from Walmart, he can’t be really surprised that the grocer doesn’t really care about buying local produce.

    Although my city, Eugene, Oregon, has a largely deserved reputation for knee-jerk liberalism, I am seeing a growth in localism here. People do buy at the farmers market, and businesses prefer local businesses. Although too often overly focused on consensus building in lieu of action, local government does endeavor to heed and temper public opinion. I believe that through these interactions people gain a sense of place. (FWIW, Eugene also has a pretty good handle on limits, but eternally confuses liberty with other issues.)

    Perhaps a better question is to ask yourself what did you do this week to promote localism? Through action a better definition of what is local will be forged. This definition will be truer and more understandable than any philosophical discussion. Although we are reluctant to admit it, humans suck at planning. We are much better at doing things and cleaning up our mistakes after.

  13. Whoops, forgot my manners, although it is not manners that prompts this response. John Wilson, thank you for a good essay and perhaps better comments. I look forward to your future contributions.

    Mr. Medaille, Robert Moses, sigh! He did his best to ruin a city though he believed he was liberating it. Cars tend to corrupt, intercity freeways corrupt absolutely.

  14. Ryan,
    My point about taxes paid to the Federal Government is not that they are inherently bad or, as you say “suck” but that there should be some form of rudimentary direct representation with the bargain of said taxes and more importantly, a certain equitable use. While some of our tax dollars go to prudent programs, an increasing percentage of them go to debt service and military adventurism…the largest chunk of the Federal Expenditure Pie. Currently, we are amidst a project that requires us to fund an erosion in our civil liberties. Soon, we will be embarking upon a program to putatively reduce medical costs in order to secure the health of all the citizenry…a noble task…without really examining the cost issue nor fully addressing it besides the notion of a public option. The doubt I have about this idea is directly tied to the abysmal record of the State in the area of economizing. Not that a Corporate America is particularly good at it either.

    While the citizen may interact with the local community more than their Federal Government, the fact remains that their obligation, as exacted by taxes, remains far greater toward the Federal Government , inordinately so. Accordingly, you interact with your Federal Government quite a lot more than you do with your locality, despite daily transit upon neighborhood roadways or the municipality gathering your garbage or perhaps handling your sewage. The fact that this distinction is blurred for the majority is precisely why the Leviathan continues to metastasize and blithely extend one foolhardy project after another.

    Moses, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright were fully enamored of the automobile and had not enjoyed the benefit of analyzing the downside of the car to the degree we have. When they were proposing a car dominated landscape, the assumption was that there might be some endless sweet nougat of oil filling the center of the earth and that mobility was building a new ownership society rather than a debt society. Fortunately, they stopped him in the Village and we have all started to come to our senses …to a degree. Moses had a suburban mindset but it produced a wonderful amenity at Jones Beach. New York did survive Moses as well as the era of the film Taxi Driver and it remains, in many areas, a city of distinctive villages with a fascinating public life. I wonder how close to the abyss it may be staggering now though. Though hardly a one industry town, the impact of the Wall Street Bunko Program of the last 30 years spread a lot of improvements around to an extent that I ‘ve actually heard someone use the word “gentrify” and Bed Stuy or East New York in the same sentence…for substantiated reasons! One wonders if the party is coming to a close and Travis Bickel is going to come back from the grave.

    rex, I envy you your Willamette Valley. Seems like you can drop a seed there and it leaps out of the ground. The transect you can drive from the high desert towards Bend, down the McKenzie River in the Cascades , through the Willamette and then out the coast range to the dunes of Florence and Heceta Head is one of the more interesting condensed botanic and geologic 3-4 hours you can find anywhere in the country. What a landscape! Downtown Eugene can’t seem to quite gel but they are working on it. I think it will get there, particularly if we begin again to decentralize agriculture to a degree…or , at the very least, re-balance the hegemony of Industrial Agriculture .

    “Do you know your neighbors, do you care if you know your neighbors?” A great summary anthem to the task at hand.

  15. “But, as I told my friend, there is something in between total abstinence and lying in your own vomit.

    It is becoming way too fashionable now, even on such a generally intelligent forum as FPR, to mistake irony for paradox and to substitute Cartesian for Aristotelian dualisms.”

    Is there anywhere else on the web where one can find writing of this quality? It reminds me of the one time I heard Pavarotti live at Covent Garden.

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