Saturday, March 31, 2007

Protecting Work Spaces

This story is a few days old now, but it's still worth mentioning. The insatiable drive of Americans to own property has placed the working ports of Maine in serious jeopardy. Baby boomers with their massive amounts of expendable income all want a second, third, or fourth home somewhere. They are buying up every available inch of land in Colorado, driving home prices in Santa Fe through the roof, and making it impossible for normal people to live anywhere near most of the California coast. Now they are limiting access for Maine fishers to work. There are only a few deep water ports in Maine and these of course are where much of the second home buying is taking place. Everyone wants their picturesque little town in Maine where they can eat their lobster during the summer.

The larger point here is the question of what role work has in the modern United States. Is there any place in post-industrial America for actual work to take place? Now, I have a real problem with the idea of post-industrialism because the U.S. is as much involved in industrialization as any time in its history. But we have exported all the visual evidence of making things and we don't want to think about. What is land for in the modern U.S.? For many people, it's clearly for personal enjoyment and that's it.

I have a major problem with this. First of all, there are millions of working-class people in this nation who will never have the capital to think of land in this way? What are these people supposed to do? In the concrete, what in the living hell are Maine fishers going to do if they don't have port access? How will they survive? And does anyone care? Do the people who are buying these second homes give a tinker's damn about working-class people? I think the answer is clearly no, except to the extent that they can hire them cheaply to clean their homes and perform other services.

Via Yglesias