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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 23-Apr-07


Monday 23-Apr-07

Net losses

A while ago I heard about moves for big businesses to take control of the internet and was rather alarmed. Stories at about the danger to free enterprise moved me. But even more, they had an open writing competition going to write something about this. Never one to refuse a challenge (and particularly one about changing minds) I wrote the short story below.

I deliberately took a different angle: rather than going on about how important freedom of the internet is, I use an accessible analogy of a small fishing community, deliberately intended to sound real although it is actually fictional. It nevertheless uses a very real effect that has killed small fishing communities, again intended as a credible lever. Anyway, here it is, for better or for worse (and as the author I am the last one to know this):

Net losses

West Penna Cove has long been a thriving community that has contributed more than its fair share to the country. It has produced a number of respected military officers and business leaders who regularly attribute their success to a local culture of industry, opportunity and mutual support. At its root, the fishing industry and related commerce provided an economic engine of success for this model community.

And now all of this is gone.

It started with legislation that allowed larger fishing nets and bigger catches. At first this seemed harmless or even helpful, but it also meant that big fisheries moved in, blocking the fish lanes and taking the shoals. In a short space of time, the vast majority of the catch was taken first by ships from way up the coast and then by foreign-owned conglomerates who likewise bought and bullied their way in.

And West Penna Cove just died. With their main source of sustenance gone, many were forced to move away. To be sure, there are still people there, but the spirit is gone. The young people leave and the churchyard is burgeoning. And, as the fish stocks fade, even the visits from foreign fishermen are dying away. Like the now-barren seas, West Penna Cove has lost the heart that asked so little and gave so much.

Legislation is such a delicate and dangerous thing. When unseen hands on the scales of power change simple rights, the scene is set for cataclysmic changes that benefit few in the short term and none in the long term. When greed outstrips intelligent capitalism then the net gain is always negative.

This is why we have democratic government. This is why our representatives must never forget who they represent. This is why we sometimes need to remind them of this fact. Companies serve their own interests. The government serves the interests of the whole country, now and into the future. This is why legislation is needed that protects and nurtures the communities and small businesses that are the future of our nation.


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