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Ummm... No!

Barbara Ehrenreich's Fear of Falling, Blood Rites, and The Hearts of Men are among the finest works of sociology I have every read or ever expect to read. Which is why it is so very hard for me to read things like this--to which the only reaction is "that's simply not true!":

This Land Is Their Land: I took a little vacation recently... Sun Valley, Idaho.... I found a tiny tourist village... the boutiques were displaying outdoor racks of summer clothing on sale!... things started to get a little sinister... even at a 60 percent discount, I couldn't find a sleeveless cotton shirt for less than $100. These items shouldn't have been outdoors; they should have been in locked glass cases.

Then I remembered the general rule, which has been in effect since sometime in the 1990s: if a place is truly beautiful, you can't afford to be there...

And the essay has gone totally off the rails. The places she talks about: Sun Valley, Idaho; Driggs, Idaho; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Key West, Florida; skybox "suites" costing more than $100,000 for a season; The Hamptons; Cape Cod; Telluride. Yes, Sun Valley, Driggs, Jackson Hole, Key West, The Hamptons, Cape Cod, and Telluride are beautiful. Yes, they are expensive--as are Vail, Aspen, Back Bay, the Upper East Side, Santa Monica, Pacific Heights, and La Jolla. But it is a truly impoverished person who thinks that those rich yuppie watering holes are the only truly beautiful places in North America.

The place I really want to go back to right now is the spine of the Canadian Rockies from the corner of Moose and Squirrel Streets in Banff to Malign Lake outside of Jasper. But Yosemite is always tugging at my heart. What's your favorite truly beautiful place to go that's cheap?

The essay continues. But what's the point?

All right, I'm sure there are still exceptions--a few scenic spots not yet eaten up by mansions. But they're going fast....

Of all the crimes of the rich, the aesthetic deprivation of the rest of us may seem to be the merest misdemeanor. Many of them owe their wealth to the usual tricks: squeezing their employees, overcharging their customers and polluting any land they're not going to need for their third or fourth homes. Once they've made (or inherited) their fortunes, the rich can bid up the price of goods that ordinary people also need--housing, for example. Gentrification is dispersing the urban poor into overcrowded suburban ranch houses, while billionaires' horse farms displace rural Americans into trailer homes. Similarly, the rich can easily fork over annual tuitions of $50,000 and up, which has helped make college education a privilege of the upper classes.

There are other ways, too, that the rich are robbing the rest of us of beauty and pleasure. As the bleachers in stadiums and arenas are cleared to make way for skybox "suites" costing more than $100,000 for a season, going out to a ballgame has become prohibitively expensive for the average family. At the other end of the cultural spectrum, superrich collectors have driven up the price of artworks, leading museums to charge ever rising prices for admission....

If Edward O. Wilson is right about "biophilia"--an innate human need to interact with nature--there may even be serious mental health consequences to letting the rich hog all the good scenery. I know that if I don't get to see vast expanses of water, 360-degree horizons and mountains piercing the sky for at least a week or two of the year, chronic, cumulative claustrophobia sets in....

[N]ow I flinch when I hear Woody Guthrie's line "This land was made for you and me." Somehow, I don't think it was meant to be sung by a chorus of hedge-fund operators.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

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