Friday, February 27, 2009

Vermont Socialists

In the recent article making the rounds showing that it is 5 states which are creating most of the foreclosure crisis, Vermont was listed as a counter-example of a state that was having no problems at all in this area. Vermont bankers apparently did not foolishly overextend credit, and Vermont citizens did not foolishly take on debt they couldn’t pay. Good on them, then. I get annoyed with Vermonters for their socialist leanings, but I continue to root for them in many ways and see them as kindred spirits. Old Vermonters, definitely and even some of the new ones.

I wonder if the willingness of the residents of the Green Mountain State to accept more socialist ideas stems in part from their belief that other people will generally be as frugal, hardworking, and honest as they are. Such attitudes are certainly what drive Scandinavian socialism, and they are having some difficulty with this as they take in more immigrants who are, er, emphatically not Nordic. Sweden, et al, are trying hard to maintain the same social contract they had when the whole country was basically distant cousins to each other. Good for them and I applaud the effort. But it adds another level of difficulty. Scandinavians have been so far above average for honesty and kindness that virtually anyone moving in must bring down the average. Socialism requires enormous amounts of social virtue – some would say an impossible amount once you get beyond the tribal level.

Even the Vermonters who moved up from NY to escape the rat race and adopt a simpler lifestyle were pretty clear that those simpler lifestyles often involved hard work. Even if you’re into local organic produce, alternative education, or researching corporate malfeasance, somebody has to eventually do some work. Lobbying the government may take effort, but it’s not real work – it’s getting other people to do work. Those who don’t get that crash and burn pretty quickly in northern New England.

The amount of corruption, free-riding, and power politics common to the rest of the country is less common in Vermont. Not that they’re angels – peoples is peoples. Yet I suspect they believe that others are like them, and those idealistic progressives from around the country are as practical and hardworking as they are. Extending this, I can see why they might take it a bit personally that conservatives don’t trust them to manage this more socialistic government wisely. As a good example, Howard Dean is not my favorite person. He is a deceitful campaigner. But note that he didn’t start that way going into the 2004 primaries – much of that has emerged since he went national. Before that, he showed the ability to cut budgets when necessary, and was not especially radical on the social scale. Oh, he was undoubtedly a liberal, but not doctrinaire. Vermonters who go to Washington turn more liberal, but that’s true of everywhere.

Vermont, if you guys were running the Democratic show I could swallow a lot of this big government more easily, because you would do big government in a small way. I still wouldn’t prefer it, but I could deal with it. Yet the larger point is, it’s not Vermont Democrats running the show, it’s Chicago, and New York, and Detroit, and San Francisco. I can’t see why you’d have anything to do with those people. They’re not you.

I think we can find some common ground here.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your essay. I think we Vermonters try to show respect toward ordinary people and wariness of the rich and/or famous, knowing that their problems are, happily, not our problems.
Mixed in somewhere is the old adage
"Give a dog a good name and he'll (maybe) live up to it".
I'm a pre-postliberal and I hope you have a good day. Randy

Anonymous said...

When I was in college there, they had the only elected Marxist mayor in the country - and an active "Burlington-Leningrad Coalition" (declaring themselves "sister cities" - 'nuff said ;-)

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I don't think the AVI really understands Vermont. For example, Vermont has one of the highest rates of state public employment per capita. The Vermont of which AVI speaks unfortunately disappeared several decades ago. For a more au fait view of Vermont, go to, a free market website dedicated to the economic growth the state so desperately needs.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well Anon, your view was my initial suspicion, and I'm hoping Vermonters talk me out of it. Sounds like you are one vote that says "not by half."

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