The Californication of America
Posted November 23, 2020
“Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”
- Mark Twain
"I read the signs of the times,” Mark Twain wrote in 1866 in his famous farewell to San Francisco, “and I, that am no prophet, behold the things that are in store for you. Over slumbering California is stealing the dawn of a radiant future!”
California was always ahead of its time. And San Francisco, as you know, was a city built on the gold rush. In 1849, the famous St. Francis hotel was built, along with the Boudin Bakery (which still uses the same starter yeast used in 1849), Olympic Amphitheatre, and Union Iron Works.
Twain arrived in San Francisco in 1863 by stagecoach, fleeing the Civil War draft and seeking adventure. He soon found himself drunk on champagne, indoor plumbing, fresh oysters, and the intoxicating energy of a spontaneous city on the rise. “A global seaport,” Ben Tarnoff writes in his book The Bohemians, “home to immigrants from five continents, San Francisco has become a complex urban society virtually overnight.” He discovered there that the Civil War had only served to make California rich. The newspapers and magazines, also to his pleasant surprise, were thriving and good writing was in high demand. This is where, unfettered by the heavy European influence which dominated the East, America found its voice. Where the new American literature, of which Twain was a part, came into fruition.
By 1866, with the war finally over, Twain found himself itching for a new frontier. Nevertheless, he saw a bright future ahead for his beloved San Francisco and California-at-large. Of course, he was right. Until, of course, he was wrong.
The Gilded State
In the 1800s, the hillbillies were clamoring to get a taste of the glitter. In the 2020s, the glitterati are clamoring for a slice of the hills. This isn’t a new trend. Starting in the 1990s, California has consistently, year after year, lost more residents to other states than it has gained from them. It’s only accelerated at the same rate that California’s insane asylum of leaders have stepped on the gas. (Today, the pedal is grinding against metal.) Twain once said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” In California, however, everyone talks about the high cost of living, the high cost of everything, the rampant corruption, the red tape, the mismanagement, the over-regulation, and the government overstep… but nobody does anything about it. They just wait until it gets beyond what they’re willing to tolerate, and then they says adios.
“California,” the Editorial Board at Issues and Insights (I & I) write in a new piece called Don’t Californicate the Rest of America, “was once a shining exemplar of everything a state should be -- inventive, creative, energetic, freewheeling, fast-growing and conservative. No more. Today, it’s a giant welfare economy run by far-left kleptocrats and union shills who can’t even keep the lights on. As hundreds of thousands of Californians flee the once-Golden State, the rest of America should ask itself: Will they bring their politics with them?”
In other words, will Californians, like a broken seal in the book of Revelations, flood into other major cities like locusts and “Californicate” the rest of the country? Will they seed the nation with even higher taxes, thicker gobs of red tape, “corrupter” politicians, infrastructure fragility, and slow growth? As the I & I points out, “California’s political class is widely regarded as among the most corrupt, irresponsible, hypocritical, hard left and incompetent of any comparable group of state politicians in the country, which is saying a lot.”
Examples abound from this year. Heck, from this month. You’ll perhaps recall that only a week after imposing sweeping new restaurant closures across much of the state and telling Californians not to gather for Thanksgiving, Governor Gavin Newsom was forced to admit he attended a birthday party for an old friend at the lavish, five-star Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry. But it gets better. The “old friend” was a lobbyist, and the party was full of medical industry lobbyists, all blatantly breaking Newsom’s rules (especially the one about having more than three households together at once), without masks in between bites, talking normally, all together with the rule maker and breaker himself.
Moreover, last week, a handful of California legislators enjoyed an expenses-paid five-day vacation in Hawaii where they attended the annual Independent Voter Project conference at a high-end resort. The Associated Press says the event “includes policy discussions and schmoozing with corporate sponsors.” The AP also reported that, “Organizers booked about 50 rooms and have about 120 people staying at the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui’s southwest shore.”
What does this cosmic slap in the face mean for the citizens of California? One set of rules for YOU… another for California’s political elite. (And the hits have been coming all year. Who, after all, will ever forget Pelosi’s “Operation Blowout”?)
Reverse Beverly Hillbillies
“With taxes soaring,” says I & I, “quality of life plunging as violent crime and homelessness surge, home prices out of reach, nonsensical government regulations spreading, an increasingly heavy-handed government and a slumping job market, California now ranks 47th out of 50 states on the widely followed Economic Freedom Index issued annually by Canada’s Fraser Institute.”
Californians (and New Yorkers, too!), in response, are voting with their feet. And in record droves. City Journal’s Steve Malanga pointed out in a piece called “Calculating the Californication,” a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that 52% of those living in California were considering moving elsewhere. They are considering heading, or are headed to Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and more.
“Among those,” says the I & I, “more than 71% blamed soaring housing costs and 58% cited high taxes, while almost half pointed to the state’s increasingly radical left, toxic political environment — everything from the “cancel culture” and rampant political correctness, to a reliance on green energy, a crackdown on religion, the release of violent felons, and a decaying, union-run education system that teaches kids to hate America but not basic skills.”
The First Bohemian
That was the shot. Now here’s the chaser: Californians seem intent on bringing their failed experiments with them. Today’s California is not only a far cry from the California of Twain’s time, it’s the precise opposite. Twain said farewell to a state on the rise and with a bright future ahead. Today’s Californians say farewell to a state headed down a dark and dismal path. Their biggest mistake, however, would be to think they had nothing to do with its downward spiral, and demand for the same mistakes to be made all across the country.
Indeed, California was always ahead of its time. Let’s hope that trend is beginning to reverse. Twain once wrote that, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” Unfortunately, some people carry the cat by the tail and never learn a thing. For them, we summon one more nugget of wisdom from America’s first bohemian: “The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
[Ed. note: The Californication of America, however, is only one part in a much larger debt tsunami set to ravage America by January 15. No matter who gets into office, this problem isn’t going away. And our day of reckoning is finally upon us. And yet, as we’ve said in the past, you’re far from defenseless. At the link below, our own macro maven Graham Summers outlines what he’s doing to protect himself and his family, and how you can, too, no matter your financial situation. For all of the details on how to get started head to the webpage right here at this link.]
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today