Eye on the Pie and Opinion

MARCUS: Citizens unite to halt progress

November 21, 2009

Herbert Hubert is an attorney with Hem Haw Hack and Hew. We met at the local Hot Java. He wanted to solicit my participation in a variety of causes with a common theme.

“We know your reputation,” Mr. Hubert said. “That’s why we think you could be a strong voice for us in legislative hearings and in litigations.”

“I doubt that I could be much help in any matter,” I said. “No one in government ever has agreed with my thoughts and many legislators believe I am hostile to them.”

“Perfect,” he said. “Your atonement and conversion will be most convincing.”

“Atonement for what? Conversion to what?” I asked.

“Atonement for past errors in policy,” he said. “Conversion to our campaign to retain Indiana as it is and to return it to what it might have been in the past.”

“Tell me about your campaign,” I said.

“We want to stop spending on projects that will destroy our distinctive Hoosier environment and culture,” Mr. Hubert said. “Our clients are proud people who value Indiana’s traditions and virtues.”

“They sound like thoughtful folks,” I said, trying for a neutral tone.

“It’s clear,” he said firmly, “that we should not encourage any form of high-speed communication. Already we have allowed too many Hoosiers to fall into the traps of the Internet and personal devices that destroy family life and traditional community relationships.

“Life in Portland and Princeton, Madison and Munster has been damaged, perhaps irrevocably, by excessive communication. We want to show people the social and economic harm done by too many messages interrupting their lives, distracting them from customary human interactions.

“Our goal is to make Indiana an island of calm in a world of frenzy. We believe many Americans will choose our lifestyle if they know that Twitter, Facebook and their successors are not integral to our communities. We want the telephone back on the wall and a party line, at that. We look forward to being at the center of resurgence in the U.S. Postal Service. We anticipate entire communities burying their fax machines in mass ceremonies.”

“A noble cause,” I said sardonically.

“Our program seeks to preserve the calm of our state by seeing to it that the Interstate 69 extension is never built, that U.S. 31 is not upgraded to become Interstate 67, that no new bridges are constructed over the Ohio River, that no bypasses are built in northwestern Indiana or around Kokomo.”

“Hmmm,” I hmmmed.

“Why accelerate transportation?” he asked. “What’s the hurry? An all-day drive from Evansville to South Bend restores the tranquility of the traveler. It increases an appreciation of our Hoosierness.

“Do we need to have more links to Kentucky? Shouldn’t we learn to live within ourselves? Remember, each bridge just encourages more goods from the South to be sold in Indiana and is a path for in-migration we don’t need or want.”

“What do you support?” I asked.

“Historic re-creation fostering sentimental tourism. That’s our mission,” he said, smiling. “We foresee an Indiana that draws people who want to enjoy what they believe the past to have been. As other states advance, we will hold the line. While we cannot undo the ‘progress’ that has been made, we will stand fast against any new degradation of the glory that is our heritage.”

“I don’t think I can help,” I said. “I can, however, e-mail you the names of many business leaders and government officials who already are supporting your efforts.”

“Thanks,” he said, “but we don’t have an e-mail account.”•

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Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.

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