Two of our favorite Californians have written incredibly prescient articles on California leading our culture’s way towards Third World Status. This is not hyperbole in the least but a very accurate blending of data, personal experience, and an understanding of culture.
Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, the wonderful historian, wrote a passionate article on the negative changes that have occurred in his beloved home state over the last 40 years. This article was so well received that fellow Californian, east coast transplant Dr. Thomas Sowell, to comment on it with a full article of his own.
First…Victor Davis Hanson:
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.
For three weeks Mr. Hanson would bike his way thrice weekly on 20-mile day trips over various county roads in southwestern Fresno County. He also took different ways to work, driving, shopping, and touring through the rather segregated, poor areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier, and Selma. As Mr. Hanson puts it:
My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in math and English.
His observations are incredible, to say the least:
…remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general depression in farming — to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California, for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.
Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas — which used to make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment — have largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itself — from almonds to raisins — has increasingly become corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed. So unemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.
Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie business — rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections — but apparently none of that applies out here.
The essay reads almost like poetry…which brings the story of the degradation of California down to a more personal level for the reader. This is a must read for anyone attempting to grasp the problems facing California while illuminating the differences of this downturn in The (Formerly) Golden State from previous ones.
Thomas Sowell is so impressed with Mr. Hanson’s essay that he begins his critique with a command to all Americans in general, let alone to Californians specifically:
DR. VICTOR Davis Hanson’s quietly chilling article, “Two Californias,” in National Review Online, ought to be read by every American who is concerned about where this country is headed. California is leading the way, but what is happening in California is happening elsewhere — and is a slow poison that is being largely ignored.
Mr. Sowell then weighs in on Mr. Hanson’s view of California’s direction and shares his own opinions:
This is a Third World culture, transplanted from Mexico, and living largely outside the scope of American law, state or federal.
Ironically, this is happening in a state notorious for its pervasive and intrusive regulation of the minute details of people’s lives, homes, and businesses, but not out in the Third World enclaves in the Central Valley, where garbage is strewed with impunity, and unlicensed swarms of peddlers come and go, selling for cash and with no sales tax.
While waiting in line at two supermarkets, Hanson realized in both places that he was the only one in line who was not paying with the plastic cards issued by welfare authorities to replace the old food stamps. He noted that these people living on the taxpayers were driving late-model cars and had iPhones, BlackBerries and other parts of what he calls “the technological veneer of the middle class.”
Mr. Sowell shows in his article that these changes are not unique to California. In fact, they are not only unique to this country but have been happening for years in Europe:
Sadly — and, in the long run, tragically — this is not unique to California, or to illegal immigrants from Mexico, or even to the United States. It is a pattern to which the Western world has been slowly but steadily succumbing.
In France, for example, there are enclaves of Third World Muslims, living by their own rules and festering with resentments of the society that is content to let them vegetate on handouts from the welfare state.
This is a unique opportunity to read two great thinkers of our time on the same subject and to educate oneself on a world problem that is overwhelming our own hometowns. Please take the time to read both.
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