Staying Golden

To the editor:
I wish Victor Davis Hanson’s optimism were well-founded [“California, Here We Stay,” Autumn 2012]. Unfortunately, I find optimism for the California economy to be wishful thinking. California seems to have passed a tipping point that allows public employees, government dependents, and the Green lobby to control voting and continue the slow-motion destruction of the California economy. All the wrong solutions will be tried before Hanson’s four-part solution becomes a viable option. The state faces decades of decline.

David Robertson
Louisville, CO

To the editor:
Dreams, Mr. Hanson, dreams. What made California prosper was its intellectual property, as evidenced by its people. That is no longer the case. Far too many have left the state.

Gary Mullennix
Naples, FL

To the editor:
Having been born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in the 1950s and 1960s, I can appreciate the things that once made California great. But I moved out of the state in 1970 and barely recognize it today. The only thing that has improved in the last 40 years is the smog. Hanson understates the state’s growing problems, never mentioning the crushing automobile traffic in Southern California and glossing over the fiscal ruin. Old-timers will hang on to what they have, but those looking for places without the problems and crushing taxes of California will go elsewhere.

Michael Grover
Tigard, OR

Victor Davis Hanson responds:
My last-resort optimism is, as I wrote, based on three principles: the state’s singular natural endowment allows for lots of human error; the rich inheritance from past generations is hard to squander in two generations; and the proverbial recognition that even the promoters of failure eventually don’t wish to live with the consequences of their failures. Napa Valley and Central Valley agriculture are booming as never before, despite, not because of, Sacramento. Even Jerry Brown and the California legislature can’t prevent a Stanford or Cal Tech from being rated among the top five world universities; and some are beginning to ask how a formerly top-notch high school like Menlo-Atherton is now shunned by Silicon Valley elites in favor of prep schools.

I agree that many of the state’s best have left, but the geniuses who built Napa Valley cannot move their land; Cal Tech cannot transfer its faculty to Nevada so easily; Harris Beef Ranch has fixed assets on the West Side; and Apple, Google, and Facebook rely on the culture spun off by Stanford University. I am not saying that we cannot become Detroit or Greece but only that we have a far greater margin of error.

As I write, I’m sitting in my great-great-grandmother’s farmhouse, looking out at the 40 acres left after five generations. I’m contending with stolen copper wire from pumps, occasional thieves in my barnyard, periodic extortion efforts that come in the mail from the California Franchise Tax Board, and a nearby community with record-high unemployment, food-stamp enrollment, criminality, and off-the-book cash wages coupled with unemployment and disability insurance—in 65-degree winter weather, with a spectacular view of the snow-crowned Sierras 30 miles away. I don’t know whether my hope is Thucydides’ “danger’s comforter” or merely all that’s left at the bottom of Pandora’s box after the many evils flutter out, but I plan to stay and fight.


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