Antiquarian and preservationist Bill Hosley is very well known in Connecticut, his home state.
Politically, he describes himself this way: “I am and will always be a center right conservative with libertarian leanings. I cherish freedom, and believe free market capitalism has raised more people out of poverty than any force in world history.”
A decade ago, these propositions would have been considered mundane. But we in Connecticut are now living in a political universe that in recent decades has been shaped by neo-progressives, the enemies of right definition.
Politics, in a pedestrian sense, is far less important to Hosley than the fairly remote though still living past. He has pursued that past relentlessly through several New England states in search of living history and likely would agree with William Faulkner’s notion that the past is not dead. “The past is never dead,” Faulkner said, “It’s not even past.”
Tramping through graveyards, a rich vein of history, and museums, repositories of the still living past, and educational institutions, still housing one hopes the remnants of undying truth, one cannot help but strike up a life-long friendship with history. Somewhat like Aeneas, fleeing burning Troy with his father on his back and his son in hand, Hosley knows, from personal experience, that history is a close and loving pater familias, the simulacrum of all good and noble things we wish to carry with us into the future.
And therefore, like a dutiful son, one must pay close attention when history speaks in whispers down the years.
Hosley is not, as are most post-moderns – especially politicians – preoccupied wholly with the ever changing moment, for it is the moment, as Faulkner would say, that passes and quickly expires, like a guttering candle. But the solid and fructifying past… well now, the past is like the Biblical mustard seed “which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches."
The difference between the moment and the eternal moment is the difference between temporary sensual intake and appraisal, or amorphous feeling, and history. And we ought to be guided by history, not passing fancies.
Hosley has spent a good portion of his career in the culture & tourism industries. He spent seven years on Connecticut’s State Culture & Tourism advisory board.
He is at home in this industry. “I was the rare person on that board with decades of in-the-trenches experience inside the industry.”
And he has not arrived from Hell with empty hands.
“I am perhaps the only person with that experience,” he will tell you, who has been persuaded that the state of Connecticut “should defund all of it. It’s corrupt, incompetent and immune to reform, but no one talks about it.” Instead, the petitioners keep “lining up for free stuff -- which is never free, of course. As the former commissioner of Culture & Tourism said to me - privately – ‘the big problem in government is there’s no feedback loop.’ The bureaucrats, at least in division I know best, really aren’t accountable to anyone.”
“The rare legislative panel or caucus that gives time and thought [to all this] - is inevitably populated with supplicants - folks in it to secure State money - which creates a massive spending bias - even as the results of that spending are poorly monitored or understood. Culture & Tourism, a division of the perhaps even more indefensible DECD [Department of Economic Community Development], has no sense of mission or purpose beyond securing state money and they do not get results but pretend they do - literally heaping money on consultants to spin their success ‘data’ with cringe-worthy videos.
“I care about politics and take citizenship and civic responsibility seriously. I devoted my life to telling CT stories and enhancing our self-regard and reputation - preserving things and places worth caring about - which is why it is painful to believe that we are stuck - spending more per capita on state government than most of our peer states, including Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire, and what states like Florida, Texas and Indiana cost their taxpayers. It's certainly not the pro-growth strategy that made CT rich in the 50s and 60s.”
All this may be tagged “extreme” by those who do not take citizenship and civic responsibility seriously or who pretend not to know from bitter experience that Gideon Tucker was on point when he said, “No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” a quip sometimes misattributed to Mark Twain who, we may safely assert, was never a follower of the recently indicted former President Donald Trump.
Hosley is not a fan of Trump or President Joe Biden: “The Biden/Trump years have been hard on the country. I am sure I am far from alone among center rights in praying that neither runs again and that we pass the leadership to a new generation.”
At the root of our discontent in New England and the Northeast is a mounting fear that those in charge of our wallets refuse to confront primal realities. Spending and taxation always have been the twin disrupters of state and national economies.
“Here in CT - I can’t even listen to the endless boasts about tax cuts,” Hosley says, “when neither party apparently will ever speak the unutterable words ‘spending cuts.’ Tax cuts without spending cuts just pass more debt onto our kids. If tax cuts without spending cuts really spurred growth and economic development, greater Hartford wouldn’t be losing jobs, competitiveness and stature - as we have been since 1992. And by spending cuts - I mean 20% not 1.2%. That - and perhaps only that - would get CT back in the game economically - given our extraordinarily favorable location - and we’d still be spending more per capita than most states!”
All this is well said, and too little heard by decision makers.