This morning finds me in Watkins Glen, New York. It's at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, one of the largest of the Finger Lakes. From here, the C.S.O. and I intend to sweep around both forks of the Seneca Wine Trail, to discover what new vintages and blends the vintners of New York State have concocted these two years past.
Our interest is purely as citizen-journalists and amateur historians, of course.
(What's that I hear? "You'll drink anything with alcohol in it, you old Irish-Italian reprobate, you" -- ? Well, yes...but so what?)
But seriously, if you enjoy wine, there's no better vantage point from which to start a vineyard / winery tour. Some of the best wines in the world are made here -- and that's not just a lifelong New Yorker's chauvinism speaking; international awards have been landing on New York State wines for decades now.
But I'm not here to talk about that (or about the draft). I wanted to reflect, briefly, on a trend in New York enterprise.
New York, outside the Metro district, has been a dairy-farming state for many years. Indeed, in its heyday the state was barely behind Wisconsin for milk products. But New York dairymen haven't been doing so well in recent years, despite a battery of state and federal subsidy programs that strove to counter the national trends in dairy consumption and marketing.
What has been doing well are the vineyards and the wineries. There are perhaps twice as many around Seneca Lake today as there were two years ago, when we last undertook such a survey. And they're raking it in, Gentle Reader; even the humblest of them are virtually overrun with patronage.
The dairy farms are visibly idle. I don't recall seeing any activity at any of the ones we passed on our drive up here yesterday.
There are no subsidies for New York vineyards or wineries. Indeed, if memory serves, it's still illegal to ship New York wines out of state; only a retail purchaser is permitted to do so. But "retail purchasers" have been coming here from all points of the compass, at least if I can judge by the variety of the license plates I've seen. And yes, a couple of the out-of-state plates parked at the larger wineries have been affixed to rather large trucks.
I think this is called "the free market at work." It's been a long time since I've seen it so vividly.
Continental New York is one of the poorer regions in the Northeast. You'd never mistake Watkins Glen for Westchester. Despite that, there's a sense of optimism around us, an unmistakable feeling that things are moving in a good direction. Owing to the unique culture of the Five Boroughs, New Yorkers have an unfortunate reputation for being excessively brisk and got-to-hustle. You wouldn't get that impression from the folks around Seneca Lake.
Yet things are moving, and I can't help but feel that continental New Yorkers are generally pleased with recent developments.
Which suggests that D.C.'s minions will shortly arrive with intent to intrude concealed beneath offers of munificent help.
I fear for these people. Not are they improving their own lot without anyone else's help; they're as friendly and accommodating a crowd as you'll meet anywhere, and more than pro forma hospitable toward a couple of drunks from Long Island. (You wouldn't believe the amount of free stuff we've already been offered, after just one evening here -- and not all of it is wine.) But they're doing too well; they're going to attract the wrong sort of attention...or perhaps, the attention of the wrong sort of people. Statists detest persons who manage their own affairs to their own satisfaction. They tend to step on such manifestations of individualism as soon as they pop their heads above the prevailing sewage level.
But for now, it's a respite from the relentless statism and the beggar-thy-neighbor wars that ravage the rest of the United States. A little reminder of the sort of country we were once, and could be again, with the application of about half a megaton each of farewell wishes on the District of Columbia and the various state capitals.
In Florida, the tourism marketers use the slogan "Come on down!" Today, I'm chanting "Come on up!" See what people responding to marketplace incentives can do for themselves when not hobbled by busybodies and looters. But leave your bureaucrat brother-in law at home. Please.