Our Late, Great State

Victor Davis Hanson on the “failed state” of California:

… a popular parlor game out here is to argue over what caused California’s mess—an inept Terminator as governor; a wacky state legislature that is the dividend of insanely gerry-mandered districts; refined, out of touch elite environmentalists who sued and blocked everything from agriculture and forestry to oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy production?

Or was it the murderous tax code that, to pay for income redistribution, demands the highest sales and income taxes in the nation, and drives out the best and brightest, while welcoming in the high-school dropout and eighth-grade graduate?

Or was the problem state regulations that make it almost impossible to run profitably a small business in compliance with rules that no one can fathom, and which seem designed only to employ more unproductive state bureaucrats?

Or was it the 4-million plus illegal immigrants who over a span of some 30 years, on average per capita will draw well over $50,000 more in entailments than they contribute in taxes?

Or was the rub a powerful state employee bloc, one that consistently demanded raises not tied to performance, but often well over the rate of inflation? (Indeed, many making over $100,000 got raises this year while the state remains nearly $40 billion in debt).

Or was it the out-of-control unionized, overcrowded prison system, that, after hundreds of law-suits and hundreds of millions in court costs, elevated incarceration into some utopian enterprise?

Or was it, to be candid, the screwed-up, shared California mentality, that wants everything now and in perfection, but has not a clue how to pay for it, or a care about the nebulous distant, but evil “they” who are to provide for it. (And a growing state work force that votes for its own excess, since it rarely sees any more the entrepreneur who once paid for it [and is on his way to Idaho or Nevada]).

I don’t know the precise calculus of failure.

…But I do suggest that one culprit was the state proposition system, our bi-yearly experiment in direct democracy in which for the last three decades we voted in all sorts of unfunded mandates, bonds, borrowing schemes and environmental prohibitions about this and that. And we did all this in a state whose high schools in many regions are only graduating 60% of their students. And of those who do graduate and go to college at the popular state college system, 50% must first take remedial math and English classes.

A half-educated, or indeed illiterate, electorate at the polls, voting for instantaneous entitlement, is, as thinkers as diverse as Aristophanes and Alexis de Tocqueville warn us, a rather dangerous thing indeed. And so it is as we see in our late, great California

We should have a Dantesque sign on freeway 80 as you enter the State:

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

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