Will Westport Be Fine Too?

I like reading David Brooks.

The New York Times columnist often infuriates me.  Sometimes he surprises me.  Always, he makes me think.

Yesterday’s piece — “Relax, We’ll Be Fine” — was particularly thought-provoking.

David Brooks (Courtesy of the New York Times)

Slapping down the doom-and-gloomsayers, Brooks describes “a great luscious orgy of optimism. ”  Despite all the problems, he wrote, “America’s future is exceedingly bright.”


Not one to simply declare, oh, say, “Morning in America,” Brooks backs up his sunny prediction with a slew of statistics.  (He also gets slammed hard in the Timeswebsite comments, by both the left and right.)

Seeking to make limoncello out of the columnist’s lemonade, I wonder if Brooks’ optimistic orgy applies to Westport, as well as New York, Washington, and all the normal places that are not those 3.

For one thing, Brooks says, as America’s population surges by 100 million people over the next 40 years, our country will become “enterprising and relatively young.”  In 2050 only a quarter of us (er, you — I don’t think I’ll be around) will be over 60.

Will this still be viable housing in 2050? If so, for whom?

That should put a spring in your step.  But:  Will Westport follow suit?  Will our town be more affordable to young people in 2050 than 2010?  Will we attract young singles?  Perhaps people will have more children, realizing that the large homes being built today can contain “Big Love”-size families.

Brooks notes the trend toward “neo-downtowns — suburban gathering spots where people can dine, work, go to the movies and enjoy public space.”

That’s one of the ideas behind the current revitalization of Saugatuck.  There will be retail space, offices and residences.  It’s envisioned to be a lively, exciting place — the 2010s version of that 1910s neighborhood. 

Will Saugatuck stand alone, or will other sections of Westport follow?  Who knows?  But it’s certainly an exciting prospect (particularly the part about a movie theater ). 

Brooks hails America’s position as a “magnet for immigrants.”  Half the world’s skilled immigrants come here, he says — and they start a quarter of all new venture-backed public companies.

Despite its Stepford stereotype, Westport is a magnet for those abroad too.  I wouldn’t call them “immigrants” exactly — most here work for international corporations and banks — but keep your ears open at the beach any day, and you’re bound to hear a number of foreign tongues.

Will Westport continue to attract these global citizens?  What should we do to keep them — and how can we leverage their experiences and talents to improve our community?

Will Wall Street and Westport be synonymous in years to come?

Brooks also calls the U.S. a world leader in economic competitiveness.  He cites our cutting-edge scientific and technological development.  In addition, the average American worker is nearly 10 times more productive than his Chinese counterpart.

But those are 2 areas in which Westport does not compete.  We’re not an R&D center or a manufacturing hub.  Our economic engines are finance and media.

In 2050, will those sectors continue to serve us well?  Will Wall Street still be around, and will our own Main Street be tethered to it?  What about Madison Avenue, and 30 Rock?

David Brooks peers intriguingly toward the mid-century mark.  Tuesday’s column might be eerily prescient — or 4 decades from now it could be passed around whatever succeeds the internet as a hilarious example of delusional thinking.

A lot can happen between 2010 and 2050.  Hell, a lot can happen between 2010 and 2011.

But it never hurts to look ahead, think, and wonder about where we’re going, how we’ll get there, and what our Westport world will look like if we arrive.

3 responses to “Will Westport Be Fine Too?

  1. The Dude Abides

    Interesting input from an intelligent columnist. My view on 2050 (sorry Dan, I plan to be around) is that with the increasing disparity between the rich and poor and the slow erosion of the middle class, ole Westport will return to an aristocratic rich and perhaps even farms that service such class. Mansions will prevail to a greater degree with fifty or one-hundred acres. The poor will be a service class and the other working stiffs confined to the cities. I am updating my resume was we speak. Let me see, experience with a donkey . . .

  2. Betty Lou Cummings

    Absolutely Westport, America will be fine or even finer…loved David Brooks article. I guess I am an optimist …and I am glad I am…all the negitively is draining on the soul etc. I have been to 68 countries of the world…we are the BEST. My relatives were immigrants way back from Sweden…we are a nation of immigrants!A melding pot of humanity…hurray!

  3. Innocent Bystander

    Well I wish I was as cheery! My grandparents also migrated from Sweden in the 1890’s with $3.10 in their pockets. They were ostrcized from New York City and fled to Rhode Island to farm. Somehow they fostered 8 children who all attended college. Close to 150 years later, we have immigrants risking their lives to cross the Rio Grande only to find no jobs and terrible discrimination and a Congress that has failed to pass any meaningful legislation since Reagan. I am not sure that makes us BEST. That is not negativism but reality. The question is not whether Westport will be fine in 40 years but rather, who will live here?