Friday, May 05, 2006

Lo, the perils of transmogrification

Weird column by Mary Wentworth in the Bulletin this week. Another example of that classic Amherst attitude – “Nothing can change – everything must stay exactly the same.”

According to the column, change has costs. True. Change causes other changes. True. Change offers no guarantees. True also.

But the column portrays all of these with abject pessimism, and that is sad. No wonder people fear change – and seek to frighten others about it – if they can only imagine worst case scenarios.

She cautions that “costs often outweigh benefits,” but I would argue that in smart and thoughtful economic development, they never do. That is not the same as saying there are no costs, or that the costs don’t impact some more than others. There are and they do. Competition, which she portrays as a negative rather than a reality, does weed out the weakest competitors, and for them, the costs are high indeed. But is stifling change in order to protect the marketplace’s weakest competitors rational economic “policy?” And “hidden costs” such as new infrastructure requirements, increased noise, etc. aren’t hidden any more when they are part of the discussion. Careful consideration of all relevant factors is what makes smart growth smart.

More optimism, more-openmindedness, more willingness to look at situations from different perspectives – these will help Amherst find its best future. Fear and loathing rarely foster good outcomes.