America’s Greek tragedy, California style

by Ryan Streeter on March 13, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

OK, we’re back from nearly 2 weeks in California, where I found plenty of distractions to blogging and keeping up with the news, such as this…

this…

and this…

As one who has written a fair bit over the past couple years about California’s demise (several links in this Enterprise post, for instance), being out there is always such a conflicting experience. The Golden State is home to unbounded beauty and inviting cultures, and yet it’s also home to one of the most cynically self-destructive political classes the nation has ever known. That the political elite can exact such extensive damage on so beautiful a land year after year seems criminal to me.

So it only seemed fitting that after arriving home late last night, I awoke this morning, still dreamily wishing I was out west, to a WSJ piece by Michael Boskin and John Cogan, “California’s Greek Tragedy,” in which they write:

Many Americans fear the federal fiscal train wreck will turn us into Greece. But, barring major change, they need look no further than California to see what this future portends. Relying on ever-higher taxes to fund payments to an outsized population of benefit recipients is a recipe for exporting prosperity. That is one California trend that other states emulate at their peril.

I was in California while one of her eminent sons, James Q. Wilson, passed away at 80, and I couldn’t help but think about how decades ago Wilson aptly characterized ills that now plague California. Wilson wrote in Bureaucracy about how public organizations have a culture in the same way that individuals have a personality – it’s what causes them to react differently to the same stimuli.

Organizations often begin to serve interests other than their stated mission, Wilson noted. Whatever California’s mission is, or was, it’s clear that it is serving different – and self-destroying – interests compared to 50 years ago. It is no longer the land of opportunity, flush with reasonably priced land, good schools, and an environment welcoming to enterprise. It is now the reverse of all those things, not because of forces from without, but because of stupidity within.

It’s such a tragedy. The mere word, “tragedy,” makes one think of Greece…

  • CitizenHill

    There are none so blind as those who willfully will not see. . . and state after state are also becoming as willfully blind as well.