Christopher Solomon's article "An Unlikely Shangri-la" is a classic example of what HCN does that no one else seems to do: An otherwise obscure not-quite-news story that, when treated with careful and exhaustive reporting, provides insights of profound importance to the future of the West (HCN, 8/18/08).
There are a number of significant inferences one may draw from the article, but one that grabs me is the destructive social role played by the ultra-wealthy in a democratic society. Manhattan can no doubt absorb a few tycoons without great repercussion. But particularly in the rural West, where populations are low and often relatively non-affluent -- which regrettably equates with being relatively powerless -- the ultra-rich and their fellow-travelers act out their grand schemes almost at will, as if civil society does not exist. They bypass the public legal and political process because they have direct access to the top of the governmental food chain. They then create their extravagances that, apart from resource impacts, literally sneer at the lives of ordinary people and mock the principles upon which this nation was founded.
My edition of the Declaration of Independence doesn't say a thing about the inherent right to appropriate an obscene share of the earth's, and mankind's, limited resources. It's probably not polite to eat the rich, but nothing says we can't tax them back to a point where the middle class once again plays the stabilizing and moderating role that is necessary to a vibrant democracy. Should the wealthy respond by loading their yachts and jets and abandoning us for the welcoming shores of Granada, is that really such a tragedy.
Three Rivers, California