Reading my friend Laer Pearce’s book Crazifornia: Tales from the Tarnished State – How California is Destroying Itself and Why it Matters to America made me crazy. Laer is a wonderful writer with straightforward, prose, a witty sense of humor that doesn’t overwhelm the narrative, and a commanding mastery of facts about California’s politics, business, education, and public policy. In theory, I should have galloped through Crazifornia in three hours. In fact, it took me three days to read.
Why did I have a problem with this fascinating book? Because, when I started I did not know how deep the Crazifornia rot ran in the state, nor was I aware quite how infectious the insanity is when it comes to the rest of America. To keep up with the deluge of evidence proving that California is indeed crazy, I repeatedly stopped reading so that I could scratch out little notes to myself: “California’s all-powerful bureaucrats are an army of Leftist Rube Goldberg’s with guns.” “This is a perfect example of voter credulity and bureaucratic overreach.” “California takes a legislatively created energy crisis and makes it worse with more legislation.” The scariest note I wrote was also the shortest: “As California goes, so goes the nation.”
That last note is why you should read the book — and give it to friends and family — in the days remaining before the election. California isn’t just a basket case, it’s a proselytizing basket case, with its environmental zealots, community organizers, and wishful economic thinkers aggressively selling their ideas to other states and to the federal government. As Laer demonstrates, while the recession is slowing the other forty-nine states from buying into California’s governing philosophy, the Obama government is an enthusiastic supporter. Another four years of Obama, and California won’t be the only bankrupt crazy place in America.
Unlike the federal government’s swift, Obama-driven belly flop into bankruptcy, California actually has a long and occasionally honorable history of Progressive politics. Crazifornia explains that back in the early years of the last century it was California Progressives who helped bankroll the movement across the United States. These early ideologues were actually fighting some legitimate battles, most notably against San Francisco’s utterly corrupt alliance between railroad moguls and local government. Take away these honorable battles, though, and you learn that the early California Progressives were exactly the same as today’s California’s Progressives: they were the rich and the educated, which meant that they could fund their ideas and pass them on to subsequent generations.
Because California had long been blessed with enormous natural resources and a vital, growing population, it had the wealth to keep the impractical Progressive dream going for decades. It could abs0rb the enormous financial and human losses from almost heroic bureaucratic ineptitude (Chapter 5); laws and regulations that suck the life out of both new and established businesses (Chapter 6); ridiculous educational experiments and an all-powerful teachers union that has little interest in student well-being and education (Chapter 7);* environmentalism run amok (Chapter 8); and public sector unions and pensions that have managed to go wherever one ends up when “amok” is a distant memory (Chapter 9).
Lately, though, things haven’t been going so well for California. Part of the problem is the national recession. The other part is the fact that California’s collection of Progressives, Environmentalists, Educators, and Reporters, whom Laer collectively christens “the PEER axis,” have destroyed the state’s ability to tap into her resources, both natural and human. Take, for example, the Prop. 50 fiasco, which is one of a huge subset of fiascos generated by a California citizen’s right to vote on legislative ballot initiatives.