Half Past the Month: The Problem With Indiana Is Indianans?

June 15, 2017

READING RECENT REMARKS on the state economy by the president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, you are right to be troubled, even take offense. Was he saying that the problem with Indiana is Indianans?

“It is evident that a lack of (skilled) workers, unhealthy lifestyle choices and limited Indiana-based funding to grow promising companies is keeping the state from realizing its full potential,”  he was quoted as saying by the Goshen News.

That can be read as mere constructive criticism, kindly exhorting us to be better people and more generous with our money. It tracks, though, with a leadership trend of recent years of lamenting the unworthiness of a citizenry.

The pluperfect example is Charlestown, Indiana, where the city has decided that an entire section (and by implication the citizens living there) is unsightly. The mayor is using every means possible to push these deplorables out.

This is not new. Rulers have always coveted a higher class citizenry within their realms. And even though kings on occasion took action to improve the peasantry’s lot — health, living conditions, etc. — it was not to be confused with humanitarianism. Here is the economist Ludwig von Mises writing about commoners living under the Prussian House of Hohenzollern:

“A king was eager to increase the wealth of the peasantry and the townsfolk because their income was the source from which his revenue was derived. He was not interested in the subject but in the taxpayer. He wanted to derive from his administration of the country the means to increase his power and splendor.  . . . They encouraged commerce, trade, mining, and agriculture in order to raise the public revenue. The subjects, however, were simply pawns in the game of the rulers.”

Dr. Maryann O. Keating and Dr. Barry Keating have an idea. The two economists, summarizing research on the sense of well-being in various Indiana communities, suggest in the summer issue of The Indiana Policy Review that leadership adopt policies that serve current citizens, warts and all, not import better ones.

“Good democratic governance is not about changing the occupational structure or population of a town in order to improve its rankings or to mimic amenities preferred by affluent communities,” they conclude.

In any case, it would seem easier to replace a ruler, a leadership, than a citizenry, which, crudely, is the core thought of Western Civilization. And come to think about it, although I don’t know the president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce I have a friend in another state who carries a more impressive resume. Perhaps it is time for new blood at that institution.

My friend tells me that Hoosiers seem to him to be a fine bunch of people. Moreover, he is photogenic and — this must be said as kindly as possible lest anybody take offense — he isn’t overweight or losing his hair. — Craig Ladwig


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