Growth is (good|bad)

Note: This will probably only be of interest to folks in the central KY area. I suppose I should create a “Kentucky” category for these sorts of things.

I saw some bumper stickers on the way to work today. Some said “Growth is Good”. Others said “Growth is Bad”. Or “Growth Destroys Bluegrass Forever” or “Growth Pays Your Bills” or “Jesus Loves You, Everyone Else Thinks You’re An Asshole”. Ok, so that last one is not related to my topic, but, there it was.

I’m continually amazed at how politicians take simple matters and make them complex (Do you like Estrada or not? Vote, and get on with the job we pay you for.) and take complex issues, like the issue of growth, sum it up in one word, and ask us to be for it or against it.

Is growth good or bad? Well, no, of course it’s not. Unchecked growth for the sake of growth is silly, but nobody is advocating that. Demonizing your opponent does nothing for understanding of an issue. Mischaracterizing your oponent’s position in order to make your own seem more attractive has always struck me as a tacit admission that your own point is rather weak.

So here are some rather more useful questions.

Do you want your kids to have good jobs? If so, do you want them to stay near home, or are you content for them to move to California in order to get a decent wage? Are you ok with the fact that beautiful horse farms are being converted to housing developments? Or, asked differently, do you think it is more important for a plot of land to support one multi-millionaire family and their dozen horses, or for it to support hundreds of families working to put money into our local economy? It’s really all about your perspective.

I have always been an advocate of supporting local businesses whenever possible. Given a choice, I would rather pay a few dollars more at a locally-owned bookstore, for example, than buying from a national chain. Why? Because it enriches my community, rather than someone else’s. And I try to do the same thing when I travel, going to restaurants that are clearly local, rather than the chains I could eat at at home.

How is this connected? Well, if local businesses are to prosper, this is going to cause a certain amount of growth. Not wild, untrammeled growth for the sake of growth (see the east end of Man-O-War for examples of this, I think) but purposeful growth, with an eye to improving the quality of life of the people that live here.

So, once again, I’m rambling. But take note, the next time you see these bumper-stickers, that the “growth is bad” people are driving expensive, new cars, which they would not have without said growth. And the “growth is good” ones tend to be on older cars, driven by people looking for a brighter future in which their kids won’t have to worry about their next paycheck. Perhaps this is an unfair generalization, but it seems accurate thus far.