A pretty definitive take on the decline of California from Joel Kotkin. The chief culprits today: "the gentry liberals and the public sector." On the former:
The most recent ascendant group are the gentry liberals, whose base lies in the priciest precincts of San Francisco, the Silicon Valley and the west side of Los Angeles. Gentry liberalism reflects the narcissistic values of successful boomers and their offspring; their politics are all about them. In the past this was tied as much to cultural issues, like gay rights (itself a noble cause) and public support for the arts. More recently, the dominant issue revolves around environmentalism.
I would add one item to Kotkin's list of issues important to the liberal gentry: abortion, or choice, as the brilliant euphemism calls it. Affluent California liberals are seeking through politics validation of their lifestyle choices even though they're mostly irrelevant to state public policy. (You could make the same argument about cultural conservatives seeking validation for their lifestyle choices, at least in states where they're thicker on the ground than they are in California.) State government in California is not going to criminalize abortion or even restrict it in any serious way (voters rejected that in referendum); it is going to legalize same-sex marriages some time soon (the legislature is already in favor, and the 52 percent who voted against same-sex marriage last November will fall below 50 percent in the next referendum as elderly voters leave the electorate and young voters enter); it is not going to provide any serious funding of the arts. The liberal gentry in seeking cultural validation has empowered the public sector unions to plunder the state's private sector economy with clearly disastrous results.
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By Michael Barone