Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was correct in saying all politics is local. In fact, all meaningful decisions are made locally. Reason is the agents involved must know each other to some degree – whether in agreement or not – to influence each other’s behavior. Trust and relationships matter in decision making. Ask any business who pays the bills. Answer: repeat customers.
St. Mary’s County is a peninsula at the end of a state highway that starts in our nation’s capital. Actually, two state highways that start in Washington, DC end in the County. To my knowledge we are the only county in the state where major roadways end. Our unique geography defines us. It is our explanatory variable. In economic development, accidents of geography are either blessings or curses. Natural resources immediately come to mind as we learned last week that Qatar ranks highest, by far, as the richest country in the world based on GDP per capita. We even define or brand places geographically based on economics. Think of the difference between Silicon Valley and Death Valley. We will celebrate the 378th Maryland Day this month at the birthplace here in the Mother County. When the English discovered this land, the front door was our southern shores. As exploration moved inland and transportation progress occurred, the orientation of the colony changed. Before the 17th Century ended the state capital had moved north. For the next century and a half this county saw a steady decline of population and economic prowess. Our once geographic blessing had turned to a curse. By the time the automobile appeared in the early 20th century, we were now at the end (vs. the foot) of the road. Our remoteness enabled the selection by the U.S. military for vital test facilities necessitated by World War II including NAS Patuxent River, by far was the most prominent. But as we relearned this New Year’s Day, Newtown Neck Proving Ground was also a going concern, as was Piney Point and Solomon’s Island.
What is the “local imperative”? Simply, it’s the ethic to take care of one another. It’s essentially following the Golden Rule. Its importance is self-evident. But why emphasize here and now? The answer in a word is community. Let’s examine community at its most basic level, the household. When decisions are made within a household they are made for the good of the family. They