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Nobody Shot the Messenger

So, what is being said about Behind the Carbon Curtain in Wyoming, the most politically conservative state in the country? In the last few months, I’ve spoken—and listened—in seven cities and towns: Casper, Cheyenne, Gillette, Lander, Laramie, Rawlins, and Sheridan (Jackson is slated for September 14th). That’s a fair sampling from which I offer three observations.

First, the people of the state are remarkably civil. Folks have directly but politely challenged my conclusions, such as doubting that the energy companies are as duplicitous as I’ve argued. In response, I explain that corporations aren’t evil, they’re amoral. Their sole purpose is making money for shareholders; their only duty is fiduciary. And I clarify that censorship is not the exclusive domain of conservatives. Rather it’s the modus operandi of power. Liberals are fully capable of silencing dissent (witness the recent brouhaha at Google). But the back-and-forth has been entirely respectful, which gives me hope during a time when angry rhetoric and physical violence prevails in the Unites States.

Next, people get it. They may not connect the dots in the same way that I have, but they see the relation between money and liberty. Given some reflection, folks understand that any community dependent on a single industry will face the brutal realities of being a company town. Economic diversification in Wyoming is not just a fiscal necessity, it is crucial to our liberty—and my fellow citizens are coming to this conclusion, even if grudgingly. In reality, freedom of speech (remember Wyoming is profoundly conservative and evinces great respect for the 1st Amendment) is intimately linked to a balance of power and wealth. A diversity of businesses sustains a marketplace of ideas.

Finally, I’ve noticed that most of the audience at my presentations is 50 years or older. I’ve pondered this and have developed a theory. There are, I believe, roughly two kinds of young people in the state (or perhaps anywhere?). There are those who are planning to stay and want the status quo to continue so they have the same opportunities as their parents. So these 20-somethings aren’t looking to rock the boat. And there are those who are planning to leave and don’t care about socioeconomic inequities in their state as their opportunities lie elsewhere. These young people aren’t interested in fixing a sinking boat. I’m hope that I'm wrong. Other explanations?

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