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January 05, 2016

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Thanks for this fantastic post, Jon. I really enjoyed it and I always learn something new from Phoenix 101 posts.

World War II might have bequeathed a Phoenix recession after it ended, but as we oldtimers know, it didn't last long. In that decade, Phoenix grew from 65,000 to 107,000. Agriculture was no longer dominant. Everything else grew crazily, from manufacturing to tourism to homebuilding to government.

It was probably going to happen with or without the national war mobilization that definitively ended the Great Depression and ushered in a period of unparalleled economic growth. Phoenix, of course, was one of the most stunning examples of post-war prosperity. We can - and do - question whether the end result was worth the rush itself.

I'm a conservative in this way: I think the best things in life evolve slowly. What happened after World War II was a boom that changed dramatically the character and very nature of America. Phoenix is the emblem of this problem, a cautionary tale about too much change too quickly. Phoenix could reinvent itself successfully only when the boom itself carried it onward and upward. This is not natural, of course. If your growth model is the Roman candle, you'll eventually collapse (see: Jared Diamond).

@Solari re: “I'm a conservative in this way: I think the best things in life evolve slowly.” So very true. For the same reason, I think in addition to “evolved” situations, “chosen” actions should be undertaken slowly.

A corollary I think you’d agree with: Change can be good or change can be bad – and it’s almost impossible, beforehand, to know which outcome will result.

wkg, we've had this discussion before, but I'll note it one more time: the greatest agent of change is not government or the role it plays in our lives. Yes, it's very important, but it's usually a response to antecedent economic and technological change, which is much deeper in terms of its cultural and social impact. This is the irony, I think, of conservatism today. It wants to judge the response of government as wrong while extolling capitalism as somehow tangential to this change. It's anything but. The primary driver of change in the world today is the role of markets as they supersede ordinary traditions, social ecologies, and the very ideas we employ to describe and understand ourselves.

America in 1930 was dramatically different than life in 1950, which in turn pales by comparison to life in 1970. The culture war would suggest we can time machine ourselves back to Mayberry by simply putting government in its place (particularly if we got rid of civil rights). This is a shell game. The only reason civil rights became important was that enough blacks went from virtual peasant-like conditions in the South to greater economic stratification elsewhere. Similarly, religion becomes less important as people become more educated and understand the cosmos more from a scientific perspective than a magical one. Liberalism is less about imposing "secularism" than simply recognizing the cosmopolitan nature of society itself.

Conservatism is not wrong as a cultural expression but it tends to get a little crazy when it wants to stand athwart history and yell stop (per William F Buckley, Jr). That said, I think conservatives can be trenchant social critics when they're simply not playing political games but telling people what is fundamental about life itself. So, I can read people like Wendell Berry, Ed Abbey, and Ivan Illyich or the Southern gothics like William Faulkner and Flannery O'Conner and completely understand them. I can even wish that America still existed. I can't wish, however, that we play a game where a bunch of suburbanites pretend to be rugged individualists or yeoman farmers living on a quarter-acre for no greater purpose than helping hedge-fund billionaires pay lower taxes than the rest of us. It's a giant con. I welcome the day when conservatives can admit they look at porn on the internet, gaze at their smart phones while walking, fly to far-away tropical paradises for a weekend, and watch television with 150 channels. Just tell the truth. Someone like INPHX tells the truth in this way so you understand what his politics really are about. He's not conservative, just greedy. Still, telling the truth is the most important thing any of us can do. When enough of us do this, then we can start making sense to one another again.

Very good comment, Soleri. So much of modern political discourse is willful lies and mistruths, saying things you don't believe or don't meant to achieve rhetorical points or chase votes and money.

One of my prayers for the new year was that I would have more strength and courage to speak openly and honestly about my faith and values and beliefs despite my concerns about how people would respond or feel about them. It is surprisingly hard to do! Honesty is not a trait that is encouraged in so many of the ways we are socialized, but it saves a lot of time when we have the courage to engage in it openly and kindly with people we care about.

Thank you all for the thoughtful reflection...a true joy.

soleri:
I'm afraid the entire West went through a sudden and dramatic change during WWII and the following Cold War. I grew up in Central Utah where US Steel quickly built two steel plants taking advantage of the nearby coal supply as well as a location safely isolated from Japanese attacks expected on the West Coast. Hill Air Force base came into existence as well as the Clearfield Depot becoming the largest employers in the area north of Salt Lake City.
We always had an ugly brownish-pink layer of smog over our valley trapped by 360 degrees of mountains and constant high air pressure. You could be 10 miles away from either plant and still have to deal with a sickening noxious smell in the air. While giving the state a ski industry with incredible powder conditions, the winter inversions can be so thick it may be possible to really walk on them and airliners must turn on their sides in order to knife through the crap.
When the steel plants and allied industries closed, the county lost a third to half of its good jobs.
Denver became DC-West with more federal employees than all but Washington DC, as well as housing the largest Army hospital, Fitzsimmons. North of the now demolished Stapleton Airport was home to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal storaging what we were told to be very dangerous chemicals and compounds, likely nuclear weapons, a secret hidden in plain sight. Little was ever written about this place or a twin west of Arvada. The Denver area had a larger population making it better suited to recovery from the loss of war related industry than Phoenix or the Wasatch Front in Utah. Sleepy little bergs isolated by race and religion were introduced to people dramatically different than the residents. Ignorance and the unknown begat conflict. The camps where the Japanese were housed were generally in the rural West near communities that viewed their existence as a threat. I'm sure that the many Black soldiers passing through or housed on bases had the same effect not only in Phoenix but in the other population centers of the West. As an aside, the first time we took my youngest daughter to Disneyland we had a strange experience that may have been similar to the curiosity White people had upon viewing the hair of the Black men for the first time. Erin was probably 6-8 months old and on this day there was a very large number of Hispanic people in the park. When we were in line, we discovered that Hispanic woman were running their fingers through Erin's very blond hair, (friends would refer to her hair calling it "angel hair"). Now and then one of the ladies would try and pull out some of her hair, and she would of course let out a scream. Either I or my wife would be holding the child but that wasn't enough to stop the woman from sneaking a quick touch. The poor kid didn't have that much hair to begin with.

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