Once in a while it's nice to get off this speeding bullet train called life. From the back porch of our temporary home, the lakeside tree house, we witness progress of a different sort. What we think might be a northern river otter, Lutra canadensis, pops its head up from the muck and chomps noisily on some crunchy morsel. A fish made sluggish by the cold winter water or perhaps a frog venturing forth from the cold mud becomes supper for this member of the weasel family. As I try unsuccessfully to capture it in focus on the camera, I think about the trappers and fur traders who once made a substantial income from its ancestors' hides.
Beavers, otters, muskrats, and minks were at one time so popular as winter outerwear for wealthy Europeans that our own Congress under President George Washington agreed to subsidize the fabulously profitable fur industry. Something unthinkable today, this subsidy encouraged the slaughter of thousands of animals for the sake of a fashion statement. Thank goodness that was short-lived, the fashion I mean. Subsidies continue in perpetuity even though entrepreneurs like John Jacob Astor proved without a doubt that private industry prevails over the lumbering giant known as Government. Just about anything you can think of in this country is subsidized in part or in its entirety by tax dollars: Education, healthcare, ethanol production, farming, ranching, solar power, wind power, oil and gas production, churches.... Help me out here. I know there are more things to add to the list.
Aristocracy never really disappeared from this country. It just morphed into elitism that preys on sluggish minds: We know what's good for you. We must continue those subsidies, or else!
There is something so massive, stable, and almost irresistibly imposing, in the exterior presentment of established rank and great possessions, that their very existence seems to give them a right to exist; at least, so excellent a counterfeit of right, that few poor and humble men have moral force enough to question it, even in their secret minds. Such is the case now, after so many ancient prejudices have been overthrown; and it was far more so in ante-revolutionary days, when the aristocracy could venture to be proud, and the low were content to be abased....
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, 1851