Friday, May 16, 2003

A retired lobsterman named Ted Buswell owns a lot of land on the small island in Maine where he lives. He wants to sell off some of the land but the state has laws to protect the coastline from overdevelopment. One law says he can't sell his coastal land in less than 4 acre lots, and whoever builds there can only build one house per lot. This is one of two things that have been bothering Ted recently. His other concern is for the preservation of the way of life on the island. Summer people have been moving in more and more and the economy is changing. The world he knew and was a part of is fading away and being replaced by a community of servants. This makes him sad.

Ted Buswell has never known a day of freedom. He has lived his entire life within boundaries that he did not choose. He is uneducated. He was a lobsterman for 50 years on an island that 40 years ago he laughs, you could pick up for $10,000 (the Rockefellers bought half of it.) Now $10,000 wouldn't buy you an outhouse. Ted has a wife and 4 grown children. He has a church. He has a community. He has lived his life in a controlled political economy, not one controlled by a government, but by an enclosed system. Let's just call that system: "The way things are."
Ted has never had too much of a problem with this system. He bitches a little. It's been a hard life, but he never expected anything else. He's a proud man and he's done pretty well. He's 92 years old, and happy.

Ted has had his entire life circumscribed by a system over which he had little control, but he has accepted it, and loved it, because he was not alone. He may have spent his life locked in a cage, but everyone he knew or cared about was in that cage with him. But the law that pisses Ted off, that says he can't sell the land he wants to the way he wants to, is someone else's law, made by someone outside the cage. It angers him, even though it is meant to help him keep the island the way he wants it to be. Ted has always worked for the rich, but he has not been their servant. They haven't told him what to do. Economies have been manipulated and rules have been changed, but for Ted all of this has occurred by an indirect process. Things are not "changed", "thing's change." Is the distinction clear?

A controlled economy is one where there is someone outside the cage, telling you to stay in it. A manipulated economy is where the control is indirect and therefore psychologically acceptable.
As I said yesterday: "What is the difference between the cutting off of nourishment to a terminally ill patient, which is allowed in some cases, and the administering of an overdose, which is not? The difference is in the sense, perhaps illusory, of a buffer zone between the act and the result."

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