Friday, April 11, 2008

Living Small

The Isthmus runs a lead story about Madison residents living in really tiny houses. The piece ends with an almost textbook example of the Orwellian reasoning embraced as virtue by our environmentalist neighbors.

Living Small: Big, historically, has been considered good, and small inferior. …"That's no longer an appropriate way of looking at the world. We're reaching a point where people who build McMansions will be considered immoral."

I take this seriously because cultures change over time and money and power can completely alter public values. It has been twenty years, for example, since organized money set out on a deliberate strategy to stigmatize tobacco smoking to great success.

But that’s not my favorite part. That honor goes to a featured quote: “When you free yourself from your stuff, you actually can become freer”. There you have it. In poverty lies freedom. In the more common vernacular, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. If that comes off glib, it shouldn’t. The political discourse uses words like freedom with the assumption the public agrees on the meaning of the word. Clearly freedom means very different things to very different people.

This Madison reasoning is not hard to understand. Even 18 year old fledgling adults can learn the basics. If freedom from want is served by dependency on the government then advancing government dependency is advancing freedom. If wealth and resources are fixed sums and the population grows, then mathematics dictate that fairness requires each individual receives a smaller portion of the total. All that is left is to codify the meaning of happiness as accepting having what you have.