The Moldy Massachusetts Miracle: Elitism Doesn't Work Well in Economic Policy Either

By Kotkin, Joel | The American Enterprise, October-November 2004 | Go to article overview

The Moldy Massachusetts Miracle: Elitism Doesn't Work Well in Economic Policy Either


Kotkin, Joel, The American Enterprise


A midst the coverage of John Kerry's nomination in Boston last summer, the region that produced him--New England--received remarkable little intelligent scrutiny. For the most part, the area was portrayed as quaint, idiosyncratic, and brainy, a kind of screwball seafood stew of Harvard, the Red Sox, and ethnic diversity spanning Yankees, Italians, Irish, and a host of more colorful recent newcomers.

Some suggested that New England also provides a compelling economic model for the rest of the country. "What New England has achieved economically," gushed Newsweek's usually sensible Robert Samuelson, "is precisely what Democrats aspire to do politically."

There is a long tradition of looking to New England as an exemplar of what is best in America. This is particularly marked among the Eastern elites, many of whom have fond college and graduate school memories of the region. Yet as one looks at contemporary America--more Southern, more Western, and less Eastern than at any time in its history--New England may be an odd place for a national party to search for role models.

This is all the more true since New England isn't exactly booming. Over the past quarter century, John Kerry's native land has created far fewer jobs than the rest of the country, many of its people have moved elsewhere, and it has lost its position as high-tech Mecca to other parts of the country.

Massachusetts is particularly troubled. Between May 2001 and May 2003, Massachusetts alone lost over 110,000 jobs. Just since 2002, some 40,000 workers have dropped out of the Boston job market. After enjoying a small population gain in the 1990s, the city itself has been losing residents since 2000.

In most of the country, such developments would have local elites in a state of panic. But in New England, particularly around Boston, the response has been along the lines of "What, me worry?" Doug Fisher, director of economic development for Northeast Utilities, one of the region's primary providers of electrical power, traces this odd phenomenon to the fact that the area's dominant leadership, including the university-centered intelligentsia, are getting along just free.

"The sad fact is that there is little room for upward mobility here," laments Fisher, whose firm is headquartered in Hartford and covers some of the region's more decidedly blue-collar areas. "Our situation here is not sustainable. There are storm clouds coming in, but it's hard to get the leadership to pay attention."

Many local economists and business leaders, Fisher adds, increasingly do not focus on job creation, but on creating as much wealth per capita as possible. This notion, described by Case Western Reserve economist Paul Gottlieb as "growth without growth" represents an economic politics suited for the entrenched professoriate, land-owning gentry, media types, and stock market operators who increasingly dominate the finances of the Democratic Party.

"The real argument here is between jobs and income," believes Fisher. "We still have plenty of money, and people think that's all that matters. We are becoming an economic development cul-de-sac and a lot of people like that." The idea that that would resonate with Democratic tradition, however, seems peculiar at best.

The prescriptions now pushed by most New England Democrats favor regions with little population growth, particularly those with a dearth of children--the little tykes have quite a negative impact on per capita income. The ultimate hell-holes, by their standards, are places with strong rates of in-migration and family formation, like Phoenix, Houston, Las Vegas, or San Bernardino-Riverside.

As a California Democrat and Bush opponent, I find it distressing to see this kind of perspective gaining currency in my party. At its heart, New England-style economics replaces more traditional populist notions such as commitment to expanding opportunity for families and small businesses with an ethic that favors instead the environmental, cultural, and economic preferences of people who already have wealth and property. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Moldy Massachusetts Miracle: Elitism Doesn't Work Well in Economic Policy Either
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.