Saturday, July 17, 2010

The California Dream: Entrepreneurship and Activist Government

This was the right formula, but unfortunately this era was followed by one dominated by an intolerant, anti-capitalist, radical leftism that was incapable of comprehending or tolerating these "two seemingly contradictory principles." Part of our task is recovering from the boomer generation's disastrous ideological tendencies and finding a way to build a 21st century American System based on entrepreneurship and activist government.

These places grew before the current malaise infected the state. As Starr points out, California based its ascendancy on two seemingly contradictory principles: entrepreneurship and activist government. Under Gov. Earl Warren, but also Goodwin Knight and finally Pat Brown, the state made a commitment both to basic infrastructure—energy, water, roads, schools, parks—and expanding its economy.

By the early 1960s, this system was hitting on all cylinders. New roads, power plants and water systems opened lands for development for farms, subdivisions, factories. Ever expanding and improving schools produced a work force capable of performing higher-end tasks, and capable of earning higher wages. New parks preserved at least some of the landscape, and gave families a place to recreate.

For Pat Brown, arguably the greatest governor in American history, this was all part of California’s “destiny.” Starr describes Brown’s California as “a modernist commonwealth, a triumph of engineering, a megastate committed to growth as its first premise.” Yet within this great modernist project was also stirring opposition, on both left and right, that would soon place this Golden Age at its end.

Many of the objections were legitimate. The Sierra Club and its many spinoffs rightfully saw the Brown development machine as threatening California’s landscape, wildlife and, in important ways, the appeal of its way of life. More careful controls on growth clearly were needed. The battle over the nature of those controls continues to this day.
Some more angry voices, then as now, targeted the very existence of suburbia, the dominant form of the state’s growth, and eventually sought its eradication.

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