There is a lot of ink that has been spilled (or bandwidth expended, I guess, to update the term for this digital age) over the Bakken oil boom, and unfortunately a lot of it has been negative. Some of that negativity is fair – nobody will deny that western North Dakota faces challenges – but a lot of it is unfair. Such as crime statistics that are given no context in terms of population growth, or stories about traffic accidents that have no context in increased vehicle miles traveled in the state.
But one of the most disturbing trends, one that runs through all of the media coverage and social reaction to the oil boom, is the distaste some in North Dakota seem to have for the “outsiders” who have moved into the oil patch to try and make a living.
I was talking to a friend recently, formerly of Minot and now living in Fargo, who told me that she wished someone would shut down the oil boom so that the oil “scum” would leave the state. She said the oil workers were nothing but thugs causing problems. I was taken aback, but sadly this view is not unpopular, thanks in large part to sensational and one-sided media coverage.
It’s worth remembering that while the oil workers can be a little rough around the edges, they’re still just people. Men and women who have come to a place with jobs looking to earn their way in the world. Reporter Dustin Hurst, writing for WatchDog.org, tells some of these stories which include one oil worker who came to the Bakken from Idaho, leaving his wife behind, to work as a mere laborer. Since he’s trained for and obtained his license to drive big rigs, but his ambition doesn’t end there, nor does it end in the oil industry.
Dan Wells is hoping to earn enough money working in the oil patch to pay for a degree in the medical field. “I’m not looking for handouts,” he’s quoted as saying. Contrast that statement with the entitled, self-righteous chattel who “protested” (more like vandalized, assaulted, raped and murdered) during the Occupy Wall Street movement last year because the dislike the very notion of what Wells is doing in the oil field in North Dakota which is earning their own way in the world.
There are no doubt a lot of people like Mr. Wells working in the Bakken. People pursuing dreams. People pursuing prosperity, but not at the expense of others. They’re pursuing the sort of success that comes from getting your hands dirty. There is no government program investing in them. They’re investing their own sweat and tears into building a better sort of life.
It’s easy to get caught up in the miasma of media coverage, much of it driven by one political agenda or another, surrounding the oil boom. But for me, stories such as the one about Wells cut through the fog and remind us of what has made America so great. Not government health care programs, not economic development, and not”stimulus spending” but opportunity.
The government doesn’t make people great. People make themselves great when they’re allowed to work and struggle in their own self interest. President Obama would tell these people that they’re not responsible for what they’re making for themselves. He would tell them that they’re no better than the occupiers lying around in their tents in parks beating drums and looking to live off the work of others.
I think people like Mr. Wells know better.