Slowly Killing California
God help any industry that gets sideways with California’s political elite, for it is doomed unless saved by outside forces or changes of public sentiment.
California has progressively killed of any number of solid industries that fell into political disfavor, a rank and growing pile of roadkill on a highway paved with good intentions and hatred of corporations.
Among the first was mining, a messy endeavor that denuded mountains and filled the state’s rivers with debris and toxic mercury and cyanide used to separate gold from dross.
Then fell the timber and lumber industry, the economic heartbeat of the northern state, stilling a vast region into economic Appalachia from which it has little chance of recovery.
Defense and aerospace were shoved over the border to other states, along with the military, navy and air force — victims at the hands of those who opposed the Vietnam war and spat on returning veterans, including this author. All that is left are aerobatic demonstrations by military precision flying teams and a fleet week without substance.
The state’s fishing industry is currently gasping for air, as the state dillies and dallies over what impacts its ill-considered management of the state’s water systems have had on ocean fish and the contribution made by changes worldwide we see manifest in the Earth’s oceans.
Agriculture is now on the chopping block, defending itself against the elite’s publicity campaign that consigns family farming and food-production to nefarious exploitation of land and farmworkers, along with despoiling of the state’s lands.
So is energy, at least the traditional kind based on pulling oil from beneath the earth so we can drive our decaying freeways and participate in the daily roller derby of commuting.
Can high-tech, banking and insurance — even fast food — be far behind?
One may debate at will the wholesale wrecking of California’s potential with at least two perspectives, the first being necessary evolution and the second being obsolescence.
California prides itself on being a forefront leader with feet firmly planted in the future, but it isn’t delivering on the promise today at the same rate as it did in the past. You can’t feed, clothe and shelter 40 million Californians with driverless cars, apps, customer-service kiosks, ATMs and shuttered shopping malls.
The Elon Musks of the future will build their batteries in Nevada, their rocket boosters in Texas and Florida, and their hyper-loop trains with offshore materials as California struggles to construct a high-speed rail system using 1960s technology.
Google and Amazon will suck the power grid dry in their data centers in Idaho, Washington and other states. Apple is evolving away from hardware into entertainment and operating systems.
The rest of the country, in short, is pleased and happy to accommodate the industries that California has divested, shed and killed outright. So are our international partners.
There are also those who say that California’s industrial discards were obsolete, meaningless remnants of a different era. Yet we still build California’s homes with lumber and our nation still defends itself with hardware and systems built by Boeing, Aerojet, Lockheed-Martin and other defense contractors.
We still eat the food and fish we grow and catch in California, though we are seeing more and more food come into our state from outside or offshore.
Military bases, airfields and ports still exist, they are just located in other states that extend welcome rather than march in protest against them.
Mining continues, as do all of the other industries that fell out of favor with California’s scolds. We run our cars, trains, planes and power generators on fossil fuels from Alaska, Canada and across the Pacific even as our political class seeks to stifle oil production in our state and make it ever more costly.
— — —
California faces a pivot moment. We must confront our collective fugue regarding private enterprise and corporations’ role in our future. We are learning that there are downsides to the noble causes of the past that rid our state of timber companies, defense contractors, drilling rigs and other out-of-favor industries.
If we fail to face these facts, California will transition to what the San Francisco Bay Area’s Peninsula towns of Atherton, San Mateo and Belmont already are: retirement homes for an aging anti-business elite.
All that will be left throughout the state will be the elderly, their caregivers and their servants. California’s creative and ingenious heart will be stilled. Dust will settle over the Golden State, and the sun will set on its Silicon Valley dreamers. There is no Hollywood ending; the movie industry already moved away to other states and countries.
The alternative to this slow slide into senility is rebirth and rediscovery of our purpose and principles. It is not to be found in the desired wishes of black-clad anarchist protesters or rabid socialist promoters.
Rather, California has a bright future if it firmly reaches out, grasps and holds as treasure of immeasurable value principles necessary to reversing the tide of irrelevancy.
Its youth need quality educations in competent curricula short on political invective and long on skills and competence.
Its entry-level workforce requires a firm grasp that their advancement and potential is irrevocably linked to their contribution and productivity, not to privilege or participation.
It’s middle-aged mainstream must recognize that they departed a path of sanity and misplaced their values by accepting as fact what was nonsense about business, capitalism, free-enterprise and opportunity.
And its aged and soon-to-be retired must content themselves with the recognition that they chose the wrong path, bear full responsibility for their actions and must now suffer the consequences of a degraded and deficient existence in what could otherwise have been their golden years.
As a businessman I knew personally once stated, “the past is clear. The future is clear. Only the present is hopelessly muddled.”
It’s time to take off the blinders, California. It’s time to allow the muck to settle and the water to become clear again. It’s time to embrace and rebuild California’s greatness again, turning away from our path of self-destruction before it is really too late to save this great state.