Joel Kotkin has admirably chronicled the decline and fall of California. Over the past few years he has explained why California is failing. He concludes that if you are looking toward a bright future for America, don’t look to California. (Via Maggie’s Farm.)
California has met the future, and it really doesn’t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once renowned for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle- and working classes.
His most recent article in The Daily Beast revolves around the current problem: drought. California is fast running out of water. Apparently, the green policies adopted by Gov. Jerry Brown and his predecessors have contributed to the problem.
In Kotkin’s words:
But ultimately the responsibility for California’s future lies with our political leadership, who need to develop the kind of typically bold approaches past generations have embraced. One step would be building new storage capacity, which Governor Jerry Brown, after opposing it for years, has begun to admit is necessary. Desalinization, widely used in the even more arid Middle East, notably Israel, has been blocked by environmental interests but could tap a virtually unlimited supply of the wet stuff, and lies close to the state’s most densely populated areas. Essentially the state could build enough desalinization facilities, and the energy plants to run them, for less money than Brown wants to spend on his high-speed choo-choo to nowhere.
Among the problems are these:
And there needs to be, at least for the short term, an end to dumping water into San Francisco Bay for the purpose of restoring a long-gone salmon run, or to the Delta, in order to save a bait-fish, the Delta smelt, which may already be close to extinct. This dumping of water has continued even as the state has faced a potentially crippling water shortage; nothing is too good for our fish, or to salve the hyper-heated consciousness of the environmental illuminati.
Undoubtedly, green Californians are proud of themselves for having taken significant steps toward repealing the Industrial Revolution, especially the energy industry:
Energy development has always been in green crosshairs and their harassment has all but succeeded in helping drive much of the oil and gas industry, including corporate headquarters, out of the state. Not building roads—arguably to be replaced by trains—has not exactly reduced traffic but given California the honor of having eight of the top20 cities nationally with poor roads; the percentage of Los Angeles-area residents who take transit has, if anything, declined slightly since train-building began. All we are left with are impossible freeways, crumbling streets, and ever more difficulty doing anything that requires traveling.
These policies have had numerous impacts, like weakening California’s industrial sector, which cannot afford energy prices that can be twice as high as in competing states. Some of those who might have worked in the factories, warehouses, and farms of California now help swell the numbers of the welfare recipients, who remarkably make up one-third of the nation’s total.
In place of the industrialists and energy titans, California is now ruled by high tech oligarchs whose values are softer, cleaner and decidedly more liberal.
But, where the industrialists were providing good middle class jobs for the citizens of the state, the high tech oligarchs have not.
Kotkin, a Democrat himself, is well qualified to identify the problem. He defines it in terms that sound positively therapeutic:
Ultimately this is a story of a state that has gotten tired, having lost its “animal spirits” for the policy equivalent of a vegan diet. Increasingly it’s all about how the elites in the state—who cluster along the expensive coastal areas—feel about themselves.
Being fair and balanced, Kotkin remarks that the business community, for whatever reason, has walked away from the debate. In many cases businesses have simply left the state. In others, they have simply fallen silent:
California greens are, to be sure, active, articulate, well-organized, and well-financed. What they lack is an effective counterpoint from the business class, who would be expected to challenge some of their policies. But the business leadership often seems to be more concerned with how to adjust the status quo to serve privileged large businesses, including some in agriculture, than boosting the overall economy. The greens, and their public-sector allies, can dominate not because they are so effective as that their potential opposition is weak, intimidated, and self-obsessed.
It might also be that business interests have figured out that resistance is futile. Perhaps the green movement and its allies in the high tech world, the labor movement and the minority community have effectively silenced the opposition.
In some universities today opposition to the leftist orthodoxy has been labelled criminal and effectively silenced.
California, as Kotkin has been saying for some time now, is becoming a feudal state, divided between the very rich and the peasantry that work for them:
But it’s also becoming increasingly feudal, defined by a super-affluent coastal class and an increasingly impoverished interior. As water prices rise, and farms and lawns are abandoned, there’s little thought about how to create a better future for the bulk of Californians. Like medieval peasants, millions of Californians have been force to submit to the theology of our elected high priest and his acolytes, leaving behind any aspirations that the Golden State can work for them too.
Next stop, Texas.