The Corner

Vermont

Email from a “10th-generation New Hampshireman” in response to my NRODT piece, subject “You nailed Vermont.”:

When I was a boy in the 1960’s, we regarded Vermont as a similar state and friendly rival. It is now a foreign country (Belgium, perhaps), and your article captures a good deal of why this is. It has given me much to think about.

I would like to briefly expand two points: Because there is no manufacturing, little development, and less large retail, the bobos have not only overwhelmed the culture of old Vermonters, they have prevented them from escaping their low incomes. If a Vermonter doesn’t live close enough to the NY or NH border to work across state lines, his vocational options are sharply limited. The nighttime population of VT is nearly 10% larger than its daytime population. Because of Vermont’s Wal-Mart hatred, the poor pay higher prices for their goods as well, either by buying locally or by driving to NH. It’s a tough place to be in construction trades, for example. Even the subsidized dairy farming is no way to make a living. The farmers are not subsidized to wealth, but to getting by. There will be no getting ahead for them. And because putting houses on the land is so difficult, it is even difficult for the farmer to cash in and get out. It is a serfdom imposed by exiles from New York and Philadelphia, who really like to see dairy farms on their drive home. The phenomenon is not unknown in NH, but we hold it in check much better. We like development; our dairy farmers sell at a higher price and retire.

The colonialization by Flatlanders is very similar to what the original colonists did to the Indians. There were some battles in New England, but not wholesale slaughter. After our diseases wiped out 90% of the natives, the remaining Indians were kept impovershed by land use laws: the English considered that you did not own the land unless you fenced it and “improved” it. America’s first restrictive zoning laws, and it had the same effect as the 1970 legislation in VT. The natives saw the writing on the wall and moved out. So this group of bobos is unknowingly reenacting what they consider to be one of the most shameful chapters of American history. Invaders have moved in with their “superior culture,” and if the Vermonters won’t change, they can live marginally or leave.

I work at a hospital in Concord NH that gets its medical staff by contract from Dartmouth Medical School. A lot of these folks live in VT, or did until recently, and all came from outside. They don’t believe they have changed VT but have blended into it. If you encounter this attitude, try the question “How many New Yorkers do you know living in an old VT farmhouse?” They will think at first that the number is small. Six months later they will admit to discovering it is large.

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