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Ed Driscoll

Interview: Heather Mac Donald on California in Decline

October 28th, 2013 - 11:34 pm

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In his introduction to The Beholden State: California’s Lost Promise and How to Recapture It, Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal magazine, writes:

A generation ago, California was widely expected to be the dynamo of the twenty-first-century American economy — “California, Inc.,” as Joel Kotkin and Paul Grabowicz called it in a book published in the early 1980s. The Golden State had everything going for it: a famously sunny, temperate climate; a culture of innovation and entrepreneurialism; a growing population that easily found work in a diverse economy; good public schools that prepared students for success, and an even better state university system; sturdy infrastructure; and geographical proximity to increasingly prosperous Asian nations. The future was Californian.

Today, few would describe California as dynamic. Signs of decline are everywhere. In 2012, the state’s economy seemed to be recovering, at last, from the Great Recession — but that was long after the national recovery had gotten under way. In fact, California’s unemployment rate has remained above the nation’s for years now, climbing to a frightening 13 percent in 2010 and still hovering around 10 percent. In parts of the state, the numbers are worse still. New business investment, both from within California and from without, has vaporized. The public schools, once near the top in national rankings, have sunk to the bottom. Roads and bridges creak and crumble as infrastructure spending dwindles. State and municipal budgets have reeled from crisis to crisis, with several cities falling into bankruptcy. People and firms are leaving the state in record numbers.

What caused this reversal? In the broadest terms, the answer is misguided policy, rooted in a political culture too often disconnected from reality.

Heather Mac Donald, a contributing editor of City Journal magazine and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who contributed several articles on California’s woes to The Beholden State (along with PJ Media’s own Andrew Klavan and Victor Davis Hanson), believes that while there’s much to still enjoy about the formerly Golden State, there’s much that’s gone wrong as well. As she told me at the start of our recent interview:

I think it’s the most beautiful state in the country; as a native, I’m obviously a little prejudiced, but I think it is a exemplar of identity politics, for one thing.  There’s too many institutions that are convinced that the most important thing about its residents is their racial or ethnic national origin identity and — and increasingly, of course, gender and sexual identity.  And we see that playing out in university admissions, in ideas about crime and policing and immigration policy, and I think that’s a betrayal of what California used to mean, which was a real meritocratic ideal, that anybody who came, through hard work could really move ahead and the — the state welcomed talent and achievement and did not worry about disparate impact or racial proportionality.

That’s no longer true of course; during our 25-minute long interview, Heather will discuss why, along with her thoughts on:

● The Golden State’s seemingly unending Mobius Loop and inability to change its death spiral.

● The role that bilingual education plays in California’s woes.

● California’s bifurcated higher education system.

● Radical graffiti chic.

● Can California be saved before it’s too late?

And much more. Click here to listen:

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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

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Top Rated Comments   

"SF writer John Scalzi, then the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, wrote an article about "white privilege" that stated how the 'straight white male' has the easiest life in America of anyone."

You know, there is some truth to that. We are far less likely to come from a broken home (OK, "a single parent" home), to have a police record or get caught up in the drug culture, far more likely to finish high school, to get married, to get a job and keep it and work at a career rather than wasting time complaining about how much we are discriminated against.

But I'm just prejudiced.


46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
H. Mac Donald has her ear to the latest manifestation of identity politics. Here is a blurb for a new science fiction anthology that was given positive reviews by Locus Magazine, Publisher's Weekly and Tor.com, the largest publishers of science fiction.

"This anthology of speculative fiction stories on the themes of colonialism and cultural imperialism focuses on the viewpoints of the colonized. Sixteen authors share their experiences of being the silent voices in history and on the wrong side of the final frontier; their fantasies of a reality in which straight, cis, able-bodied, rich, anglophone, white males don’t get to tell us how they won every war; their revenge against the alien oppressor settling their 'new world'."

Reviewer Lois Tilton at Locus wrote "There is a sad irony in the fact that these stories have been written in English, arguably the most dominant imperialist tongue since Latin, which still exercises its influence from the grave of history."

If I said that about millions of people force-fed Arabic across the Middle East and half the Mediterranean in a far longer historic time-frame than English and in far more nations, I'd be fitted with a KKK hood.

How any human being could parse that anthology's blurb as anything but straight up racial profiling, animus, defamation, hate-speech, stereotyping, racism, and bigotry is beyond me to comprehend.

The feminist science fiction convention called WisCon, first held in 1977, has re-introduced institutional racial segregation in America, having both a non-whites-only dinner and "safer-space" for so-called "people of color" only.

During last Spring's WisCon, co-founder of the "safer-space," Jaymee Goh Tweeted "Come join us for delish Nepalese fudz and non-white company!"

Goh is a foreign national - not even an American citizen - who co-founded the "safer-space," and is a WisCon panelist, and has referred to whites on Twitter as "sour dough-faced" and America as a "white supremacist" country."

SF writer John Scalzi, then the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, wrote an article about "white privilege" that stated how the "straight white male" has the easiest life in America of anyone.

I could list many more examples. Success can't survive in that type of atmosphere and the rhetoric is similar to beer gardens in Nuremberg in 1933. This is the newest face of liberalism today, and it is straight up racist and sexist, while stridently asserting it stands for the exact opposite. Since this crowd sees nobility or lack of it in a face, they will continue to vote accordingly, and the influx of immigrants, 90% from the Third World in recent decades, will assure this beer garden party maintains momentum.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The trouble with California is its inhabitants. The sane ones are fleeing, dying, or giving up. Soon to be an invasion on the country as a whole, they are an extension of Mexico. It's a shame really. I visited some relatives there last week and just got back home. I was visiting one of the shore communities and the weather, the scenery, the food, all glorious and stunning. But in the end, no matter the backdrop, it is the PEOPLE who make a place an attractive and comfortable location. And for the most part, I felt like I was no longer in America. And here's the thing: THAT IS BY DESIGN. From the TSA experience flying there and back, to the many third world faces, and the sense of surrender, it no longer "feels" like my country. BY DESIGN.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (26)
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my classmate's step-mother makes $63 an hour on the internet. She has been fired for ten months but last month her payment was $16174 just working on the internet for a few hours....>>>>>>>> http://xurl.es/3mzv7
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Since I live in the middle of the SV "bubble", the odd thing is how remote all this stuff seems "on the inside". I'm well aware of the disasters in places like Stockton and Modesto, but few people, particularly if they aren't from CA, have ever been outside SV/LA, other than possibly weekend trips to Yosemite or Lake Tahoe.

And if you're in the Valley, you forget how "ordinary" places work: everyone is brilliant, many of them are rich enough that hallway chitchat drifts to discussions of which wealth management company is best, and everyone (even "white" people) have connections and relations overseas that they visit often.

Politically, the problem is the R's are basically dead here, and SV/LA types pretty much ignore the D's activities, partially because many of them aren't from the state and others because their "voting issues" are social liberal causes, so even if they agree with the R's on economic issues, they'll vote D - or not at all - because of the social stuff.

And if you live in the rich areas, life is pretty good: the weather is great, restaurants excellent, pollution is minimal, crime is low, schools are good, infrastructure decent, and even though houses are hugely expensive, a couple working in tech at good companies will make $250K or more in a year, and can afford a house.

The people who get screwed by CA's awful government - at least for now - are far away in places SV types never see. I've been trying to volunteer at the local "Republican Liberty Caucus" (basically libertarian-minded types trying to work within the existing Republican Party), but it's a huge struggle.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Think-tankers are so behind the curve. California's cracks were already showing by 1980. Eight years of Gov. Jerry "Era of Limits" Brown version 1.0 firmly set the state on the road to ruin and the Democrat legislature then and now has only pressed harder on the accelerator.

California remains the state where America's future is already here. Kind'a like Dickens's Ghost of Christmas Future.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
my roomate's sister-in-law makes $74/hour on the computer. She has been fired from work for 9 months but last month her income was $17954 just working on the computer for a few hours. explanation.....WWW.Rush64.Com
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Part of California should form a new state: Far West Texas.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
California used to vote Republican, until Lefties moved to California cities from the Northeast, then—mirabile dictu—California voted overwhelmingly Democrat.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dust Bowlers were a deep shade of pinko in their populism too. They came from Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado and other states. Then they corrupted California. Now when those locusts have done their damage and move back where they came from, their homebody cousins complain about "Californians" coming and changing the local political landscape.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you want to see a contrast, go to San Diego and then cross to Mexico.

Same soil, same climate, same air...shockingly different systems.

But California, as Dr. Hanson has stated, has become Mexifornia. Many California towns now look like the hopeless Tijuana -- full of corruption, destitution, gangs and slums. Look at the cities of Bell and Cudahy in particular. Direct import of the failed, corrupt Mexican political system, complete with fearful residents cowering in terror while "elected" officials skim money from the till.

Come to think of it, it sounds like DC....
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Come to think of it, it (California cities) sounds like DC...."--Koblog

As I pointed out elsewhere, California remains the state where America's future is already here.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
California is doomed by changing demographics. The simple fact is that there are significant race-based differences in intelligence. That is reflected in capability for work that allows a person to support himself and his family and to make a contribution to the well-being and advancement of society. California was able at one time to carry a population of Blacks (average IQ 85) and Latinos (average IQ 89) that were more taker than giver. They constituted a small enough portion of the population that while they were burdensome they could be supported. That day is long gone.

We have pretended for decades that inherent racial differences don't exist but that stance once taken in charity is now a cause for cynicism. No one believes that any longer including those who parrot it loudest. It is a puzzle what to do with this knowledge.

One thing is sure. We do not need anymore non-European Mexican or Central American immigrants in California. We can't afford them.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem isn't race, the problem is culture.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
California, my native state and in spite of its vaunted "diversity," honestly doesn't want me or people like me living here.

Like many, many others, we will be out of here soon.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
California is fast becoming the world's remaining example of an Apartheid state. That's what you get from decades of increasingly Progressive policies and a now utter dominance of the Democratic Party.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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