The Battle for California Will Determine America's Future
By now, this is a familiar story. California is a failed state. Thanks to years of progressive mismanagement and neglect, the cities are lawless, and the forests are burning. Residents pay the highest prices in America for unreliable electricity. Water is rationed. Homes are unaffordable. The public schools are a joke. Freeways are congested and crumbling. And if they’re not still on lockdown or otherwise already destroyed by it, business owners contend with the most hostile regulatory climate in American history.
It is understandable that conservatives in the rest of the United States would be happy to write off California. But California is not writing off the rest of the United States, and therein lies grave danger to American prosperity and freedom.
What if California doesn’t implode, a victim of its own political mismanagement? What if California instead completes its transformation into a successful plutocracy, run by a clique of multi-billionaires in a partnership of convenience with environmentalist extremists and backed by the power of a unionized state bureaucracy?
What if the people who would resist this tyranny leave, and the remaining population peacefully accepts universal basic income and subsidized housing? What if all it takes to be a feudal overlord in progressive California is to proffer to the proletarians a pittance of alms, while reliably spouting incessant, blistering social justice and climate change rhetoric?
Why won’t that work? After all, it’s worked so far. California has the most progressive electorate in America.
California is by Far the Wealthiest, Most Influential State in America
Not because of California’s regulatory state, but in spite of it, California is by far the wealthiest, most influential state in America. With 40 million people, a diverse economy, and a gross domestic product of $3.2 trillion, California is almost a nation unto itself. And the progressive zealots who run California have been acting like an independent nation, with the avowed goal of transforming the entire United States to match its image.
What happens in California matters to the rest of the United States because California’s internal market is huge, its political and financial influence is powerful, and it rallies political allies throughout the U.S. If what California does to transform its own culture and economy isn’t stopped, the rest of the U.S. will fall into line. The result will be a comprehensive reinvention of society in all areas, political, economic, and cultural.
The difficult reality that conservative Americans must accept is that while California may be a failed state by the standards Middle America has come to take for granted, California may not fail by its own standards. The society California is building may prove viable, even if it is hideous to contemplate and morally wrong. It may prove viable even though the alternatives that it displaces offer more prosperity and freedom to more people. It amounts to an all-powerful tech plutocracy ruling over a micro-managed, dependent population, with rationing and redistribution in the name of social justice and saving the planet.
This model, which is a modern form of feudalism, may work not merely because it is politically and economically sustainable despite its many shortcomings, nor merely because it offers more power and profit to its handful of resident billionaires who already possess obscene levels of power and wealth. These reasons don’t fully explain the popularity of progressive feudalism. There is one more piece in the puzzle.
The progressive model also becomes viable because of a moral narrative that is flawed but nonetheless compelling: We live in an inherently oppressive society, so we must reduce the privileged middle class in the interests of social justice. We live in an era of limited resources and a stressed planet, so we must reduce everyone’s standard of living. Countering that narrative is the mission that must be sent into California. The misery that Californians have condemned themselves to live is not a moral choice. They are victims of a con job.
What follows in Chapter 15 of the California Madness textbook are detailed examples of what’s happening in California. These examples are selected based on the level of transformative impact they are having, as well as their potential to be rolled into the rest of the United States. But this compendium, while lengthy, only scratches the surface.
This article content is from the October 2020 report “The Battle for California is the Battle for America” from the California Policy Center’s Edward Ring.