To Have, or Have Not

Annika Backstrom
in misc, on 6 November 2004. It is tagged and #Personal.

My parents grew up in Rockport, MA, a cozy town of a few thousand people overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The War had ended not many years prior to their births, families were growing, and the town was full of roving bands of children. The fishing industry and "the tool company" (the only name I have ever heard it called) and the granite quarries fed my parents and my parents' parents.

After graudating from Rockport High School, my parents, not yet acquainted with each other, traveled to San Diego, CA. Fast forward to 1986: they are married with a family of their own, looking to move away from the city and settle in an environment like the one they were raised in. Rockport was considered, of course, but property values had risen so high they could not afford to move to what had once been their home.

I have not been alive very long. I never experienced the Rockport of my parents' childhood, and I will never really grasp the difference between what was and what is. I only have ten years' worth of memories of family visits, but every time I go it feels more crowded. Million dollar houses line the perimiter of half the cape, the rich build houses on lots where such a thing seems impossible. A modest lot with a house and a yard is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars; such a prime piece of real estate is a candidate for a bulldozer and three new residences. Climbing property values are great for those that wish to sell, but it's nothing but increased taxes for the ones that call Rockport "home."

I try to place the feeling I get when I think about this. I have been reading Atlas Shrugged recently. I am nearly two-thirds through the book, and it has been enjoyable so far. I find many of the characters unrealistic, caricatures that take certain emotions to an extreme. Rand wants you to hate the Jim Taggarts, the Orren Boyles, everyone who believes success is a right, not something to be earned through hard work and intelligence.

I can see Rand's point. The rewards received for a job well done are our motivation, whether those rewards be monetary, or spiritual, or whatever else feeds the fire that keeps us moving forward. If a man works hard all his life, builds a fortune, and decides he is going to build a \$1.5 million summer cottage on the last remaining lot in Rockport, who am I to tell him "no?" By what right? By what standard?

But still, my gut tells me that it is wrong.

Maybe it's envy, jealousy. Maybe I want to be surrounded by people like me, people that don't buy a third house or car on a whim. Maybe I don't want it to happen in my town. What if I came back one day and found out I couldn't afford to live across the street from the house I grew up in? What if property taxes began to climb, making country life too expensive for those who have lived here for their whole lives? I don't really have to imagine, it's already starting. New Hampshire is becoming the bedroom community for the greater Boston area.

At least some people have the right idea.