Californian Exceptionalism

The golden state is aptly named. The state of riches and opportunity. California is High Sierra and endless ocean shores, redwoods, saguaro, rice, cotton, alfalfa, snow melt and seasonal squalls, rolling hills of oak and granite cliffs, breathtaking vistas and vast, varied terrain. California is rich in beauty, rich in natural wonders, rich in resources.

California’s people are a reflection and embodiment of the golden state, they are as varied as the landscape, and drawn from around the world, Californians have both created and sought this destination of dreamers. From Silicon Valley to Hollywood, from those who rushed to find the Mother Lode or worked to harvest the timber, the oil, the fruit of the land, the bounty of the sea, California’s people do its natural riches justice.

California is indeed unique, a teeming nation unto its own, drawing peoples from all the nations of the world. California is a geographically isolated region over a quarter-million square kilometers in area, located on the temperate western shore of North America, separated from the world by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Rocky Mountains to the east, high desert to the south and dense forests to the north. And California’s people are equally exceptional.

From making movies to inventing megabits or engineering life, California’s contribution to global culture and economic development is impossible to overstate. California is Athens, California is Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Friedrich Krupp. California culture and California technology are the vanguard of the world. This is California’s opportunity, this is California’s exceptionalism.

In this new century, among many other things, California now leads the world in green technology and green political savvy. This is ironic, of course, since California in 2009 is mostly perceived as mired in a political and fiscal crisis. But how this fiscal crisis is resolved – along with how California evolves in its environmental leadership – is California’s opportunity and challenge.

California’s finances are now in crisis because they, perhaps more than any other state in the U.S., have allowed their political class to become an elite, overpaid, anti-growth ruling class, completely alienated from their intrinsically entrepreneurial people. When California’s people reassert themselves, California will again surprise the world. Because the fiscal collapse happened first and was the worst in California, so too the cascading rebounds will also occur first in California. Few regions anywhere possess California’s literally incalculable innate wealth. If Californians can shrink government and roll back extreme environmentalism, the immense and diverse economic might that defines California will leap forward again.

Reforming government is relatively simple. Spend less. Stop borrowing.

Reforming environmentalism is harder, but here are a few suggestions:

(1)  Develop additional nuclear power, it is safer than ever. Reprocess and reuse nuclear fuel.

(2)  Build a liquid natural gas terminal off the California coast. Diversify and build overcapacity of electricity generation to become an electricity exporter.

(3)  Use high voltage underground direct current technology to upgrade California’s electrical grid.

(4)  With respect to air quality regulations, resume the emphasis on transitioning to clean burning fuel, instead of the inordinate, futile and flawed current emphasis on regulating CO2 emissions.

(5)  Develop massive desalination plants on or around Camp Pendleton and elsewhere on the Southern California coast.

(6)  Build a new statewide water conveyance system and upgrade existing facilities.

(7)  Build more and better roads and freeways, abandon the bullet train project, and develop intercity rail on existing tracks.

(8)  Let up a bit on the anti-growth, anti-sprawl fanaticism. Allow small homes on large lots in leafy suburbs to be affordable again.

California can still be green, but not at any cost, for virtually zero if not actual negative environmental benefit. If American exceptionalism is the city on the hill, Californian exceptionalism is the green planet in the universe. That is our moglichkeit.

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2 comments to Californian Exceptionalism

  • greg bryce

    “when California’s people reassert themselves”
    The trouble with California is Californians. It’s a democracy; you get the government you deserve.
    “Take my legislature…please” Henny Schwarzenegger

  • Ed

    Greg – I believe the Californian people are not the problem. The problem is California’s state and local governments, which are controlled by the bureaucrats themselves. Through their public employee unions, they buy every critical election – by controlling elections, they control the politicians, who either grant these bureaucrats unfair and unsustainable compensation or face oblivion. I wouldn’t blame Californians, nor underestimate them. Californians are a great, exceptional people. And I believe they are awakening.