The New York Times editorial page is doing its level best to kill any chance of American recovery and prosperity by crusading against anything anywhere that might help our energy woes, but sometimes its news pages inadvertently remind us that prosperity and energy development are closely connected.
This story on the “woes” of the midwestern oil boom shows how towns are throwing up housing for an influx of workers drawn by the breakneck development of new energy resources. In places the story exemplifies the whiny perfectionism so characteristic of millennial liberalism: everything has its down side and if we look hard enough we are sure to find it. (A Times story on Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana would not be complete without a reference to the economic plight of unemployed winemakers.) So a part of the country that hasn’t seen opportunity in decades is suddenly bursting with growth and new jobs, and the Times frets that conditions in the temporary housing are poor. Mourns the Times:
But now, even as the housing shortage worsens, towns like this one are denying new applications for the camps. In many places they have come to embody the danger of growing too big too fast, cluttering formerly idyllic vistas, straining utilities, overburdening emergency services and aggravating relatively novel problems like traffic jams, long lines and higher crime.
Via Meadia advice: get over it. This is what economic growth looks like. It is sudden, disruptive, often inconvenient. It messes with the status quo. New stuff gets built and not all of it looks like the Cloisters. All kinds of rough and hungry men flock to it; they sometimes misbehave. They spit on the ground, say unpleasant things about women, and generally fail to meet the behavioral standards of the Upper West Side.
Decline is so much more decorous. Prairie towns slowly wither on the vine; the young people quietly leave, the stores gradually empty and close. Reporters from the Times write haunting and moving stories about the gentle, drifting sadness of it all. Novelists in creative writing programs can write delicate tales of rural decline; filmmakers can make understated little films about the lost hope and vanished promise of the American dream.
Sadly for the genteel minded among us, America’s era of brusque and rough growth isn’t over. The oil and gas underneath our country is coming up one way or another, and rough, uncouth boom towns will be springing up all over Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and the Dakotas. They will have saloons; they will have insalubrious dives. But they will also provide the basis for middle class prosperity in regions that are currently on the rocks. They will provide new hope for a generation that does not know where to turn. They will create stable blue collar employment at wages high enough to support families.
In time, the roughnecks and toughs will settle down. The schoolmarms will move into the boom towns. Churches will be built and kids will be raised. And all over the country, prosperity will work its magic in a new era of secure and abundant energy supplies. That richer society will find ways to clean up the environment among other things; growth is often ugly to look at but in the end that is what powers it all.
Boom towns: let’s hope we get more of them.