This Thanksgiving, instead of staying in Maine, we went to Connecticut. The trip was fun, and had a couple emotional moments involving family members, but another take-away came from the shock I tend to have when I visit an opulent area of the country. Fairfield County, the Connecticut county closest to New York City, has a lot of money.
The houses are big. Across the street from my sister is a house that must by 7,000 square feet. I think there are three people living in that house. The cars are expensive. There is a Maserati dealership in Westport.
Interestingly, up here in Maine, I have been working with some people on housing issues facing Washington County. I think you know where I am going.
Washington County is dirt poor. We talk about trying to scrape together $2,000 for energy efficiency improvements on single wide homes. We can’t find the money.
Between these two data points, there has to be a nice middle ground. Sure, it would be great if we all have as much money as we want, but not really. Having as much money as you want leads to all kinds of problems. Having as much money as you need also leads to problems. Let’s face it, humans are wired to work. We like the fruits of our labor. To just get fruit without the labor is to invite trouble. To get no fruit no matter how much labor we expend is also no good.
So where is this middle ground? I think it’s out there. I think Maine is fertile ground for creating this middle ground. My sense is that Mainers know what hard work is, and they appreciate it. Perhaps we do not value the power of capital as much as our rich neighbors to the south, but perhaps that is not such a bad thing. Respect for the virtue of hard work is still here.
I am beginning to convince myself that the way toward a more perfect society is through the development of a certain kind of ethical existence: one that understands the limits that must be placed on greed, and one that does not hold itself back from reaping the benefits of capitalism.