I write to comment on a column by Grayson Lookner which was published in your July 9, 2015, edition. In his column, Mr. Lookner bemoans the impending demise of Maine society as he knows or at least perceives it. Apparently, the Maine he prefers is threatened by gentrification, which is a product of some sinister combination of technology and people from elsewhere (not to be confused with Ellsworth). I may be incorrect, but I seem to remember that Walden Pond is in Massachusetts.



I have no problem with Mr. Lookner stating his hopes for Maine - that's his business, and it's his right to have those hopes. But I do take issue with the approach utilized by Mr. Lookner, which is to characterize changes in Maine as "gentrification." Maine is a state in the United States, and by law US citizens generally have unrestricted rights to mobility - meaning where they live and how they conduct business. More importantly, Mr. Lookner's general approach to voicing his opinions is to blame the current state of affairs. He has that right, but the responsible critic also proposes the means to alleviate the concerns. And that he does not do. In adopting the approach of laying blame but not suggesting the means of rectifying the perceived ills, he joins many other critics, including virtually all politicians, across the United States.



America these days is replete with people, including candidates of all political parties, complaining about all sorts of perceived ills and injustices. They are in many instances at least partially correct, but a common and serious oversight in these remarks and views is the lack of any real plan. And to be clear - to say that America should be a place where everyone has a good home, an adequate education and a remunerative and satisfying job is not a plan - it's a goal. Name a politician of any stripe who doesn't say that, and if none come to mind, then that's probably because it takes no thought or courage to say it.



If Maine is going to hell in a handbasket, what would Mr. Lookner propose? Turn the toll booths just over the border from New Hampshire into a border crossing? Require each out-of-state visitor to post a bond ensuring against damage (defined as any change) to the environment or the local economy? And, keeping in mind that we must maintain purity of thought and action, who are to be the arbiters of whether transgressions have been committed and how are rules and requirements to be enforced? I once knew of a country that adopted that regime, but as I recall it disintegrated not long after President Reagan demanded that its leader "tear down this wall."



Capitalism and gentrification are not, as Mr. Lookner maintains, the same thing. Maine operates much as does any other state, as a democracy. To blame "outsiders" for much of what most Mainers probably want is to propose a society which cannot realistically be a part of the United States. Capitalism and democracy are the handmaidens of progress and individual freedom. To propose outcomes that can only occur by rejecting those basic tenets is to wish for a country other than the one in which we live.



Just last week we commemorated a major event, probably the defining event, in the history of our country, the day of the declaration of our independence from those who would dictate how our lives are to be lived. The impact and importance of that event would be lost if we abandon the goals established over 200 years ago and the means we use to attempt to attain those goals.



If Mr. Lookner has specific ideas on how to achieve the goals he wants, let him announce them with specificity. Otherwise, he is just providing a general set of complaints, and our politicians routinely give us more of that than we need.



Wynne James, Nashville, Tennessee, with a vacation home in Friendship, Maine



Grayson Lookner responds:



Thank you for your thoughtful response. Had I this entire paper to fill, I could propose many solutions to the problem of gentrification.



As you so articulately explained: America is a democracy, and we had a revolution 239 years ago to do away with dictatorship. We've got to figure out how to move forward together or we will dissolve into a continent that much more closely resembles Europe as far as nation-states and border crossings. I am not a dictator or a politician. I'm merely commenting on the emperor's taste in fashion.



The solutions are abundant, and they all require government regulation if not intervention in the "free market."



One policy that we should bring back immediately: tariffs on foreign imports on commodities like paper, shoes, and food, which were all once produced in abundance here in the state of Maine but those markets have been undermined by globalization.



The most powerful interests in our country: multinational corporations and banks, have spent the last 40 years condemning "protectionist" policies as "isolationist" and enemies of progress. The neoconservatives insist that if we just allow these corporations to continue to import goods and services tax-free and without regulation, the gains will magically be distributed among the rest of the population. Wrong. These gains are not shared but are actually concentrated directly to the top, as any glance at a basic graph of income distribution in the last 30 years should demonstrate incontrovertibly.



Maine could be an east coast bread basket, but instead - astoundingly - we actually import more of a percentage of food than any other state, according to Environment Maine.



This is because we are out-competed by multinationals who have used their influence in national politics to write free-trade agreements. We could again make shoes here if we could institute some reasonable trade policies that don't just give the means of production away to the third world. We could make paper and do it in a sustainable way: why not bring back hemp? Maine has huge potential for wind energy, and these attempts have been stymied by our current governor and political climate. All these industries would bring viable and sustainable jobs to Maine in sectors that are not merely servicing tourists three months out of the year. This would allow locals to own the homes they live in rather than rent in an atmosphere of feverish competition that harms communities.



My point is: all these commonsense and pragmatic solutions have become politicized by a sentiment that you so poignantly describe: the notion that the free market and democracy are inseparable. This is a fallacy that has been disproved time and time again. Oftentimes the free market actually trumps the will of the people - just look at Greece.



The pope himself is touring the world pontificating my exact point of the column you responded to: he calls global capitalism a "subtle dictatorship," and austerity a "new colonialism."



I can attest it's not just one strangely dressed fellow in a pointy hat who has arrived at these conclusions.