When the ideology doesn’t produce: California

What’s up with California and water? Joel Kotkin describes the Big Idea: California Is So Over. “California’s drought and how it’s handled show just what kind of place the Golden State is becoming: feudal, super-affluent and with an impoverished interior.”

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.

What we are witnessing the breakdown of a once-expansive, open society into one dominated by a small group of plutocrats, largely in Silicon Valley, with an “amen” crew among the low-information donors of Hollywood, the public unions, the green lobby, and wealthy real estate developers favored by Brown’s pro-density policies.

What is behind this regression of progressive ideology?

The biggest reason California has been so slow, and uncharacteristically feckless, in meeting this existential challenge lies with psychology and ends with political power. The generation that built the sinews of modern California—most notably the late Governor Pat Brown Sr., the current governor’s father—sprang from the old progressive spirit which saw in infrastructure development a chance not only to create new wealth, but also provide opportunity to working- and middle-class Californians.

it’s not just water that exemplifies the current “era of limits” psychology. 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 top 20 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.

Meanwhile, there is that multi-billion dollar railroad project. Instead of providing water for irrigation or (gasp) even water for the lower class to have showers, let’s build a train that will most likely never be anything more than a monument to a failed ideology whose dreams are really nightmares.

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