New Pilgrim Chronicles:
One man's story of the trials and rewards of moving to Free State
Week Five: Observations During Absence, Part 1
by Brian Wright (copyright 2005)Back to the former home state now for a week, I want to take some time to reflect on the main differences between here and there. Especially, regarding pace of life, population density, and population composition. These are subjects I brought up in the previous columns.
Recall I mentioned that the pace of Free State and the pace of say, Montana, are similar. People don't hurry as much and in terms of driving, virtually no one climbs up your rear end as a matter of their daily motoring behavior. Is pace of life, a healthy rhythm or lack thereof, a function of population density, population composition, both, or something else entirely?
If you go by population density per state, New Hampshire ranks 20th at about 20 people per square mile from the top while Montana ranks 48th at about 1 person per square mile. Obviously, the much larger area of Montana, a lot of it uninhabited, skews the comparison when you do it statewide. All I can say is from experience, living in a small town like Bozeman or Belgrade, MT, feels similar to living in a small town like New Boston, NH.
You don't sense being hemmed in by people everywhere. A lot more elbow room. Driving through suburban Detroit areas this week, geez we got people everywhere. Dense-packed. It feels crowded. I'm pretty sure the sociologists have done studies that show bad karmawhether crime, stress, anxiety, accidents, fights, etc.is exacerbated by population density. Imagine the effect in Southern California or New York City, or in the extreme, say, Third World cities.
When it comes to human population density, what's healthy?
My mom has always told me I was an easygoing, well-adjusted kid. But I would get uncommonly nervous and anxious, even start crying, in large crowds. Surely most people are sensitive to being pressed in upon by others. Part of the Free State's appeal has to be that masses of human beings aren't swarming you. Here, and in other lower-density areas, every individual becomes additionally special by virtue of the amount of space surrounding him/her.
So Free State has the quality of open space.
How long can that last? Good question. This is the classic conundrum we'll be facing as time goes by. To the extent our freedom from congestion is desirable. more people will want to immigrate for that reason alone, thus, at some point, possibly increasing congestion.
Every system has a limit to the number of individuals it can support without experiencing the overcrowding most of us would like to escape. Look at any white-flight suburb (WFS) surrounding big citiesby the way, WFS is largely a creation of eminent domain, federal highway money, tax policy, and subsidized mortgagesand you see how not to solve the problem.
I remember taking a drive one Saturday while I worked on a contract in Houston. Houston is a hub city, with wide circles of automotive pavement surrounding it; effectively, three of these rings are in place now. I picked a section of the second ring in the north where I knew the neighborhood would be affluently homogeneous. It took me an hour to travel five miles to the next spoke, where I hurried back south. I was suffocating!
This is another irony: reliance on automotive travel in big cities increases crowding. A good book on how the cities have been basically destroyed by the federal government (and its affiliate governments) over time, neighborhoods covered by asphalt, quality of life disintegrated, is Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. And the automobile, by virtue of state preference, is our fiat transportation (no pun intended). Reasonable, open-space market alternatives to one-man one-car are impeded by law.
Down here on Practical Street, I'm going to learn to do what I can to preserve the open-space feeling of the Free State. I'm wondering if I'll succumb to zoning or restrictive land-use policies implemented by the towns. Could be a dilemma. Obviously, any ideas readers of this column may have along these lines will be greatly appreciated.
In the long run, thinking of population pressure on the human race in general, we have to encourage a practice of quality vs. quantity in the procreation sector.
Note: At this point I went into "heavy columnist" mode for about three paragraphs. Backing off now, boss. We can deal with the whole "quality of humanity" issue some other day.
Like it or not, we Free Staters are representatives of the productive class. Producers are going to need to step up and make some important decisions regarding what to do about nonproducers. Here is an area where private initiative is sorely lacking, and the governments have created an illusion of humanitarianism. The response to Hurricane Katrina is grim evidence of the failure of the current system.
I look for Free State to make some imminent improvements to health, education, and welfare systems, mainly via government divestiture. Many regard the idea of taking HEW away from the state as mad ravings, but at one time many regarded the idea of freeing the slaves as lunacy, too. Guess what! We're on the leading edge of the reason-liberty movement, now, here. I believe these improvements are going to happen remarkably soon and quite quickly.
I want to end this week's ruminations by talking a little about ethnic composition.
Both Montana (91%) and New Hampshire (96%) are predominately white, and both have less than one percent black population and each approximately 2% Hispanic populations. Have opponents of the Free State Project pointed out the preference of the project for white-European regions? Don't some leftists want to tussle with us here?
The conventional wisdom has it that areas that are mainly white-European have less real crime, fewer sociological problems in general. A quick surf of the Web reveals little to confirm or deny the conventional wisdom.
Obviously, any scholar who produced a study that demonstrated conclusively a "more-white less-crime" thesis would be skewered by mainstream media. Posturing politicos would try to pass laws, kids would protest in the streets, the scholar's career would be in jeopardy. Personally, I think it likely a journalistic correlation exists between ethnicity and crime. That is a far cry from a causal connection.
If there is such a journalistic correlation, we owe it to ourselves to inquire as the reasons for it.
It is certain the drug laws have disproportionately destructive effect on minority populations. All the government aggression that keeps down minoritiesespecially the drug laws, minimum wage, forced government schooling, licensing and regulation rulesskews the data and our perceptions. My feeling is that race is a nonsignificant causal factor in real crime; rather a strong correlation exists between government aggression and race/crime. In other words, the amount of government aggression visited upon an ethnic groupespecially "aggression for the group's own good"makes members of the group more susceptible to social dysfunction.
What we find more in white-European communities in America is a traditional resistance to government aggression. Especially in New Hampshire we see this insistence on self-government, maintaining control of government by all the citizens at the level where we all live. Government on top of this self-government is largely viewed as aberrational. Less aggression, fewer social problems.
In other words, particularly in the Free State, we have highly functional, self-governing society. It happens to be mostly white-European because that's who founded it... and the day is still young! For the most part, that's where the historical ideas lie. Nobody needs to be defensive about this. Indeed, we have the privilege of extending the blessings of the freedom methodologytotally race-neutralto all mankind. In the end, minorities will benefit the most.[~/1] Indeed, I look forward to the Free State becoming the multicultural haven/springboard for 21st-century freedom lovers.
[~/1] Remember what Rand said, "The smallest minority in the world is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." More positively, those who advocate and defend individual rights are minorities' true champions.
(to be continued)