Perhaps it’s fate. Our state, named after a mythical island of paradise, as described in a 16th century Spanish novel, may have been too good to last. Whether you blame incredible amounts of immigration [nearly 12 million people in the last 25 years or so into a current population of around 35 million], overcrowding, high taxes, or the most socialistic state government in the country bar none, Californians are leaving at an alarming rate.
Of course, there are those who are taking a more sanguine view. They would argue that there have been plenty of migrations in the US, starting with the general “Manifest Destiny” trend westward, even before that term was coined in 1845. There was much movement of industry out of traditional New England centers starting in the 1920’s, and there was significant migration of Southern blacks to the North starting even earlier in the 20th century. Notably, there was much movement to California, spurred first by the Gold Rush, and then by the aircraft boom of World War II, not to mention the mild climate. Relax, they would say. This is just another population shift.
Point well taken. Still, it’s cold comfort for those who have grown up here, and have seen the changes first hand. We remember when California public schools were the envy of the nation, and we remember when the Los Angeles Times took an arch-conservative editorial stance. We remember city, county, and state politics before their every aspect was dominated by racial overtones, and we remember when film production actually occurred in Hollywood.
Indeed, the very industry that gave California most of its glamour has all but vanished, leaving behind little more than office towers and historical studio buildings filled with administrative functionaries. What other industries might depart the state? Rather, we should ask what industries have to stay here.
Fortunately, agriculture, the foundation of the state’s wealth, will top the list. Mining, fishing, forestry, and their secondary processes would round out those basic endeavors that are intimately tied into the physical geography. The military is well entrenched here, but bases have been known to close. Government has been a major employer, but will be affected by an ever shrinking tax base as industry moves out. Public sector cutbacks are inevitable, as are higher taxes, which will cause more businesses to leave, in a truly vicious circle.
Population-fueled enterprises such as education, health care, and construction will change dramatically. At some point, the state will have to bail out of running its impossibly expensive elementary and secondary school system, embracing, I predict, a voucher model. Publicly funded hospitals will be crushed by the burden of illegal aliens, and as the state loses its middle class, builders will either be erecting large apartment blocks or mansions. There will be scant need for new commercial or industrial development.
Given the disastrous employment prospects, many productive and able bodied young people will continue to leave, further intensifying the basic problems. At that point, the state will be forced to create tax-favored enterprise zones to lure industry back into California, but the long-term benefit of such policies is dubious at best. New Hampshire, to name one state, has shown that the most splendid “gimmick” is to have no gimmick at all. Just keep taxes low, workers educated, and the environment favorable for business.
But this precept is lost on an arrogant and despotic Leftist leadership class, that ultimately survives based only on the ignorance and naïveté of the have-nots, and the desperate guilt of so many of the haves.