The Last Honest Place


"The selfish spirit of commerce…knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain." — Thomas Jefferson

There’s a disturbing trend going on in the battle over Bozeman’s future. A growing number of the aggressively pro-growth, pro-development crowd, unable to respond logically to legitimate concerns on the part of Bozeman’s thinking, caring citizenry, has resorted to name-calling to discredit and silence their opponents. A recent letter to the editor in the Chronicle illustrates this pusillanimous propensity: the writer opined about the inestimable contributions of affluent newcomers and how anyone who dares object to them or their actions is simply jealous. He defended Las Vegas millionaire David Lipson and his attempt to trademark the phrase “The Last Best Place” for his exclusive commercial use—declaring, matter-of-factly, that such an act just makes good business sense.

Well, so does using child labor, or dumping waste into the river instead of paying to dispose of it properly. Commerce is always more profitable when unencumbered by conscience. And therein lies the problem: the wealth-worshipping growth mongers have reduced everything to economic terms. If it makes us more money, it’s good. If it doesn’t make us more money, it’s bad. And if you object to this philosophy, well, you’re just envious of us and our money.

If only things were that simple. If only we could revert to a more primitive era when the acquisition of food (the prehistoric equivalent of cash) was the only concern. Like a grizzly bear snatching a kill from a pack of wolves, we could roam the streets of Bozeman, taking whatever we wanted from weaker (i.e., less wealthy) citizens. None of this pesky morality to hold us back—take what you want, when you want it, no questions asked. “Give me those french fries, old man, before I grab your cane and beat you with it!”

As happy and idyllic as that world may sound, it’s not quite the reality. We happen to be a civilized society that frowns on such cretinous conduct. And Montanans in particular happen to frown on the self-serving, dog-eat-dog mentality that slithers its way through the meeting rooms and executive suites of big cities. We’re small-town folk: kind and charitable, glad to give of our time and money, quick to trust others, and more than happy to do business with a handshake instead of a pile of legal documents. Around here, you don’t just prance in and take somebody else’s slogan, trademarking it for your own material gain. As Governor Schweitzer explained, “We just don't like big shots coming from someplace else and claiming they own something they don't. Who is he? The Wizard of Oz? We don't think he is the Wizard of Oz, and I sure as hell ain't the scarecrow!”

Well said, Guv’na. We here at Outside Bozeman don’t think Lipson is the Wizard of Oz either, and no matter how many money-grubbers he may impress with his own considerable fortune, we sure as hell don’t think he has any right to steal something that belongs to the people of Montana. Sorry, Lipson, but that dog just won’t hunt. Now there’s a Montana phrase you can take back to Vegas with you.