There’s a small town called Aurora about 75 minutes from where I live that I like to visit sometimes on the weekend, because it’s near some of my favorite local wineries (King’s Ferry and Hearts and Hands), has a little store where I can buy weird local stuff like squash seed oil that I can’t find anywhere else, and because the town is very pretty. The buildings in the center of town, in particular the Aurora Inn, are in beautiful shape, strangely so for the area — upstate New York tends to be comfortably run down outside of a few wealthy areas like Cooperstown. It turns out that this is because a wealthy alum, Pleasant Rowland, of the town’s main employer, Wells College, entered into some partisanship with the university to take over a lot of downtown and “beautify” it. This made some local residents very angry. I had a bit of a hard time understanding why and when I first tried to write about it, I found myself sounding like a condescending prick. Then I spoke to someone who lived there and he explained: the old sub-and-pizza place and bar had been replaced by stuff a little more formal and upscale, traditional access to the lake had been blocked, and there was a feeling that the whole town was now ruled by a multi-millionaire who might pack up her tent and leave at any moment.
Now, I think that the economic future of the Finger Lakes may depend to a large extent on fru-fru agrotourism, and having fancy hotels in nice-looking towns helps with that. But I can also see why locals resent having their town taken over.
Yesterday, I rode the bus for the first time from the stop near my house, and ended up chatting with a lifelong neighborhood resident who has just moved to Arizona, and was back visiting family. We talked about the vagaries of the city bus system, and then after a pause, he said, “You know, you may have heard us talking about you people, how we don’t want you here. A lot of people are saying you all are taking the city from us. Way I feel is, you don’t own a city.” He paused and looked around the admittedly somewhat seedy street corner. “Besides, look what we did with it. We had it for forty years, and look what we did with it!”
Now there’s nothing wrong with the McArdle-Suderman family using their hard-earned Bradley-Koch dollars to buy a place in DC instead of living in a suburban McMansion like real Americans. But, sheesh, trolling the bus for people who say they are ashamed of what “we” (whatever that means here) did to the neighborhood.
Does everything always have to revolve around making non-wealthy Americans eat shit? It’s not enough to just thank your Galtian overlords for paying their taxes, it’s not enough to let wealthier people buy up your town or neighborhood and turn it into a place you can’t afford or don’t feel welcome in, now non-wealthy Americans have to express shame for turning their towns and neighborhoods into shit holes.
Where does it end? Blue collar workers have to accept that even though free trade may cost them their jobs, it’s all for the best for our society, so shut up and smile and find a new job. Middle-class people who paid into Social Security need to accept that we need entitlement reform, i.e. not giving them their Social Security benefits. And it serves them all right for not being sufficiently successful.