The PJ Tatler

Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of the Golden State?

Paradise, laid low by malignant morons. The great Joel Kotkin lays out the indictment:

California has met the future, and it really doesn’t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once renowned for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle- and working classes.

The water situation reflects this breakdown in the starkest way. Everyone who follows California knew it was inevitable we would suffer a long-term drought. Most of the state—including the Bay Area as well as greater Los Angeles—is semi-arid, and could barely support more than a tiny fraction of its current population. California’s response to aridity has always been primarily an engineering one that followed the old Roman model of siphoning water from the high country to service cities and farms.

But since the 1970s, California’s water system has become the prisoner of politics and posturing. The great aqueducts connecting the population centers with the great Sierra snowpack are all products of an earlier era—the Los Angeles aqueduct (1913), Hetch-Hetchy (1923), the Central Valley Project (1937), and the California Aqueduct (1974). The primary opposition to expansion has been the green left, which rejects water storage projects as irrelevant.

Yet at the same time greens and their allies in academia and the mainstream press are those most likely to see the current drought as part of a climate change-induced reduction in snowpack. That many scientists disagree with this assessment is almost beside the point. Whether climate change will make things better or worse is certainly an important concern, but California was going to have problems meeting its water needs under any circumstances.

They didn’t pave paradise and put up a parking lot: they deliberately and with malice aforethought turned it back into a desert, just so they could grab even more power and keep the grubby Okie rubes from the interior at bay.

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.

Indeed, if you look at California’s greatest achievements as a society, the Pat Brown legacy stands at the core. The California Aqueduct turned vast stretches of the Central Valley into one of the most productive farming regions in the world. The freeway system, now in often shocking disrepair, allowed for the construction of mass suburbia that offered millions a quality of life never experienced by previous generations. At the same time the development of energy resources—California still boasts the nation’s third-largest oil production—helped create a huge industrial base that included aerospace, semiconductors, and a host of specialized industries, from logistics to garment manufacturing.

In contrast, Jerry Brown has waged a kind of Oedipal struggle against his father’s legacy. Like many Californians, he recoiled against the sometimes haphazard and even ugly form of development that plowed through much of the state. Cutting off water is arguably the most effective way to stop all development, and promote Brown’s stated goal of eliminating suburban “sprawl.” It is typical that his first target for cutbacks this year has been the “lawns” of the middle-class suburbanite, a species for which he has shown little interest or tolerance.

Read the whole thing. They hate us. They really hate us.