Decline and Fall, California Edition

Yesterday I quoted Bernard Lonergan on civilizational decline.  Today I discover Victor Davis Hanson talking about the drought in California:

Let us face elemental reality. A 40-million person California is an iffy place. It is entirely dependent on a sophisticated, man-created infrastructure of dams, reservoirs, canals, pumps, freeways, rail lines, airports, and schools and universities.

Years ago the state should have ensured that its north-south state and federal laterals — I-5, the 99, and 101 — were completely three-lane freeways, if road carnage and bottlenecks were to be averted. Years ago, we should have added 20 million acre-feet of reservoir storage as our forefathers warned. We should have not released a single gallon of water for theoretical fish restoration, unless the reservoirs had at least a five-year supply of water, insurance for a drought like the present catastrophe.

There should have been direct, non-stop freight rail lines from Oregon to San Diego, before we even dreamed of high-speed rail, whose engineering and operational requirements seem beyond the expertise of the present state. We should have not instituted any “-studies” courses in our state universities until entering students met all math and English requirements and passed an exit exam upon graduation. What good does it do to be politically sensitive when one cannot read or compute at a college level?

We should have either curbed immigration into the state, or ensured adequate affordable housing projects for those whom we welcomed in. Instead, we ignored immigration law and then adopted a “I got mine, Jack” attitude of selfishness, of forbidding new housing construction on the logic that the Silicon Valley grandee would rather have his landscaper live in a Winnebago parked behind a Redwood City cottage than in an affordable condo in the vast empty 280 corridor expanse.

Victor Davis Hanson is the prophet of Californian decline. As a farmer he suffers the travails of the yeoman class, and as a classicist he has studied the rise and fall of ancient cultures from which he draws out parallels.

His essays record again and again how what was once the most wealthy and educated state in the Union is becoming poorer and dumber by the year. Middle class businesses like agriculture and manufacturing are being squeezed out of the state, the ranks of the poor and uneducated keep expanding, and the rich retreat to their enclaves.

The current drought which is wreaking havoc on agriculture is nothing new: droughts are predictable and recurring events in California which is why the state needs large reservoirs, a fact which has been obvious since the days of Lewis and Clark. What is new is the practice of diverting water from agriculture and poor communities to raise water levels in rivers to save the delta smelt and coho salmon.

Lonergan would point out the clear spiral of decline: 1) the effects of the drought are created by a foolhardy environmentalism (sacrifice the poor and the farmers for the smelt) and then 2) the drought is interpreted as an effect of global warming climate change, when it in fact is a recurring event independent of climate change. The next step will be 3) to enforce more environmentalist laws to deal with the effects of environmentalism, laws which will inevitably come down hard on the farmers, the manufacturers, and the masses of poor immigrants.

The feckless leadership of California can do no other than relentlessly destroy the state, thinking they are doing the right thing. Their failures have created new facts which are interpreted according to flawed major premises. They cannot be argued out of the death spiral.



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