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.
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 Times‘ website 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.
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?
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.