07 October 2009


We’re in Vermont for the week, doing some leaf-peeping. I have yet to come across any socialists, not a sign of them, (apart from an abundance of Venezuela-owned Citgo stations) which is odd insofar as this state has elected a bona fide Socialist to the Senate. I haven’t come across many Yankees either, and therein lies a tale. For generations this was a state of flinty Yankees, but two things caused this to change. First the Anglo-Americans failed to reproduce, as in much of the north and their culture faded away as they were replaced by others. Given the small population base of the state it did not take that many people coming up from New York and Massachusetts to cause a culture change, particularly insofar as many of them were Ben and Jerry types. Thus the whole political dynamic changed as the underlying culture shifted. The same thing is happening to a lesser extent in neighboring New Hampshire.

There’s not a hell of a lot to do around here and so the highlight of our trip so far has been across Lake Champlain in neighboring New York, where we visited Ausable Chasm, often called the “Grand Canyon of the east.” The natural scenery there is stunningly beautiful and our enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that we had the entire place virtually to ourselves. New York state offers a different kind of example of population change. Upstate New York has become depopulated and contains the most wide-open spaces you’re likely to find in the east. The state is continuously hemorrhaging population, which is partially masked by the large number of immigrants moving into the state.

When I was growing up the Empire state had the largest population in the union. It was eventually supplanted by California, which is now approaching nearly double the population of New York. It has been passed by Texas, and will be passed by Florida in a few years. As other states have progressed New York has declined. None of this was inevitable. It is largely a consequence of decades of miserable political leadership, high taxes, and government dysfunction. All of this has caused industry to flee the state leaving upstate cities a shadow of their former selves. Every election there is talk of reviving the state economy but nothing is done. If you don’t like living too close to your neighbors you definitely want to move upstate New York.

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