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Daily Bread for 9.6.22: The Boosters’ Big Capital but Small Society

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with high of 76. Sunrise is 6:25 AM and sunset 7:19 PM for 12h 53m 53s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 79.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

 The Whitewater Common Council meets at 6:30 PM

 On this day in 1803, British scientist John Dalton begins using symbols to represent the atoms of different elements.


So if boosterism was (and is) grandiose, then how so? The answer is that boosterism was grandiose for publicly-subsidized capital projects, but small in its grasp of society.

In Whitewater, boosterism collected adherents of different politics, under a single banner, although most were traditional conservatives. 

Capital. Of capital, they invariably felt that if a community would only pay or subsidize a big capital project, then presto!: a shiny new world would emerge. If there is any group that held to the view that if you build it, they will come, it was the boosters. A pool, a bridge, a roundabout, a university office building masquerading as an ‘innovation’ center, a road project on the east side, etc. It was all about capital for them. 

Whitewater remained a low-income community all the same.

They were project men, business men, but not, so to speak, market men and women. 

They pushed particular projects and particular businesses, but had no theory whatever of markets. It’s not the project or the particular business that brings prosperity, it’s free and voluntary private transactions among people that bring prosperity. 

These free and voluntary transactions by their nature are not, and cannot be, within the control of a small-town group. 

Society. What the boosters didn’t have, and have never had, is a comprehensive view of society. They consistently conflated their small circles with all the city. From their point of view, they understood society very well, person by person, name by name. That, however, was a narrow view. They were ludicrously myopic, and thought of their small social circle as all.  In a town of thousands, they could see no farther than dozens. 

They weren’t less naturally intelligent than others, but they were instead dim by acquired perspective. (Almost all people are sharp; it’s a poor outlook and lack of knowledge that dooms some to error.) 

From their perspective, it would be impossible for someone outside their circle to understand the community better than they did. On the contrary, it was only by being outside their circle that an accurate understanding was possible. They couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Along the lines of their confusion, see Perspectives Narrow or Wide and The End of DYKWIA in Whitewater. 

There are various competing ideologies to libertarianism, some serious, some silly, some benign, some malignant. Boosterism is notably pathetic in its thirst for subsidies, willful ignorance of social ills, and hunger for self-promoting group-think. 

Old Whitewater ran on boosterism, although many from that time have now retired or passed on. (There’s still some of it around — the school district’s justification for a $1.6 million field project reeked of the if-you-build-it-they-will-come perspective.)

That perspective is, however, afflicted twice over: it doesn’t work, and its adherents will struggle to be remembered for it. The first contention is economic (it indubitably hasn’t improved individual or household incomes) but the second is (however harsh it must seem) equally significant.

The obliging local newspapers that printed boosters’ claims during the century’s first decade are mostly finished now, having withered and then retreated behind paywalls. A few in Whitewater spent so much time getting a favorable headline from a sycophantic reporter, but the collapse of local newspapers has left their efforts mostly inaccessible. Facebook, by its nature more immediate and participatory, doesn’t allow for the prominent, one-sided accounts that the boosters wanted and expected from an obliging reporter.

Families will, of course, remember their own histories (as they should). As a movement, however, boosterism today has neither the energy nor a prominent medium by which to tout its supposed successes. 

Sad, truly, but telling: this ideology is more alive (by way of criticism) on this website than elsewhere in the city (by way of support).

Criticism, however, didn’t do the boosters in. 

Actual conditions, beginning in the Great Recession, proved their outlook wrong. (These years later, those of this ilk who remain probably don’t understand as much. It’s unlikely they ever will.)

What has come along after them, however, is more trouble for the city than even boosterism has been: an assertive, agitated conservative populism wants what it wants without limits.

In their tenuous arguments and treacly claims, the boosters only true accomplishment has been to pave the way for something worse. 


 Chimp escapes from Kharkiv zoo before being given raincoat and taken back on bike

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Intrigued but woefully ignorant
3 months ago

Points of reference for learning more about boosterism?