The conversation between my neighbors, Paula and Paul Plain, interrupts the enjoyment I get from sitting on the deck in the dark of the night. They generally agree on whatever subject they discuss, but their voices nonetheless displace nature's quiet. Thus, I find myself an unwilling participant in their nocturnal conversations. Last week, they were discussing the idea that young adult Hoosiers should be encouraged to remain in Indiana. "I'm so glad," Paula crooned, "that 80 percent of central Indiana's best students are going to Hoosier colleges." "Right, Sweetie," Paul said. "I, too, saw that in The Indianapolis Star, so it must be true. It's a real blessing for businesses to have our own youngsters, kids with our values, getting ready for tomorrow's jobs." "Darling," Paula sighed, "I think there's nothing like having the nests of the young close to the home tree." "It's how it should be, Honeybee," Paul said. They make me sick, I thought. "If our youngsters went away," Paula whined, "they might not come back and we'd lose all the joy we have a right to expect from our children and our grandchildren. That just wouldn't be fair, would it, Pookie?"
"You said it, Lover," Paul agreed. "Think of all the taxes we spend educating kids who just leave and take their skills elsewhere. It's nothing but waste."
I wanted to scream, but I stayed quiet. How can you make the Plains see that having people come from elsewhere enriches communities? How do you get them to understand that we want the best for our children? If that means our young find opportunity in Mississippi, Missouri or Montana, so be it.
When the Census was taken in 2000, nearly 70 percent of all Indiana residents had been born in the state. Nationally, only 60 percent of Americans were living in their state of birth. Indiana ranked 38th among the 50 states as far as enjoying the diversity of people born elsewhere. But do the Plains care?
"I'm so glad that colleges and companies are doing all they can, with the help of government and foundations, to create opportunities for Hoosiers to remain Hoosiers." Paula's joy was unmistakable.
"That's the kind of leadership we need, Passionflower," Paul gushed.
So backward, I thought. What we need are investments in our businesses and communities that invite young people from wherever to seek a better life in Indiana because Indiana offers a better life. Subsidizing our own to limit their range of experiences only stunts the growth of Hoosiers. Next, we'll encourage breeding among first cousins.
"You know, Dumpling," Paula said in a serious tone, "I'm most proud that luxurious new campuses for Ivy Tech Community College are being built all over the state to help keep our kids closer to home during those vital formative years just after high school. You know that when children go away to college, they often encounter new ideas. We can't take that risk."
"Orchid-of-my-heart," Paul emoted, "that's so true. With the plain vanilla education our kids get in high school, we don't want to let them suddenly discover all the flavors offered by a world of too many choices."
"You poet, you," Paula purred. "Want to whisper some of those sweet words in my ear?"
"Honey," Paul offered, "if the time is right, let's go."
Thank goodness, I thought. At least in the next hour they can't vote or otherwise do harm to our state, if they take proper precautions.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.