Beyond Feudalism: A Strategy to Restore California’s Middle Class

Beyond Feudalism: a Strategy to Restore California's Middle ClassIn this new report, Beyond Feudalism: A Strategy to Restore California’s Middle Class, Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky examine how California has drifted toward feudalism, and how it can restore upward mobility for middle and working-class citizens. An excerpt from the report follows below:

“We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta. California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta. Not only can we lead California into the future, we can show the nation and the world how to get there.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, January 2007

California Preening: A State Of Delusion

California has always been a state where excess flourished, conscious of its trend-setting role as a world-leading innovator in technology, economics and the arts. For much of the past century, it also helped create a new model for middle and working-class upward mobility while addressing racial, gender and environmental issues well in advance of the rest of the country. Read more

California Becoming More Feudal, With Ultra-Rich Lording Over Declining Middle Class

In the imaginations of its boosters, and for many outside the state, California is often seen as the role model for the future. But, sadly, California is also moving backward toward a more feudal society.

Feudalism was about the concentration of wealth and power in a relative handful of people. Historically, California created fortunes for a few, but remained a society with enormous opportunity for outsiders, whether from other states or countries. One of Pat Brown’s biographers, Ethan Rarick, described his leadership as having made the 20th century into “The California Century,” with our state providing “the template of American life.” There was an American Dream across the nation, he noted, but here we had the California Dream. Read more

Orange County Focus: Forging Our Common Future

How can Orange County become a better place to live for all of its residents? Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky explore the challenges and solutions in Orange County Focus: Forging Our Common Future, a research brief from Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy. Read an excerpt from the report below:

<em>Orange County is, in many ways, among the nation’s best of places to live and work, but also one whose very attractiveness threatens its long term social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Much of this report is built around the assumption that Orange County will retain its allure for those who have the means and opportunity to live here. Few locations possess its combination of cultural and natural assets, talent, and innovative spirit. These attractions have helped make Orange County the nation’s sixth largest county in terms of its output, which is larger than that of 25 states.

Yet, as we discovered in our initial report, “The OC Model,” Orange County faces severe challenges on numerous fronts. The area has continued to lag competitors in high paying job creation in relation to its most dynamic high cost rivals, the Bay Area and Seattle, as well as to those like Austin, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix, that offer lower housing prices, a more pro-business environment, and often more compelling career opportunities. This can be seen in such crucial fields as professional and business services, and in high-technology and finance, where our relative strength, while still impressive, has been stagnant and, in some cases, has even decreased.

Maintaining and then expanding OC’s presence in these fields should be the dominant focus of future development efforts, along with expanding the opportunities for middle-skill jobs. Given the current regulatory environment in California and the likely persistence of high housing prices, Orange County must nurture high wage employment in promising fields like data analytics, medical technology, and design, which pay enough to allow millennial and Generation X workers to stay here. At the same time, we must maintain our strengths in real estate and finance. Without growth in these select sectors, the county will continue to age rapidly, and become akin to places like Hawaii or Palm Beach, Florida — retirement-oriented communities serviced by low-wage workers.</em>

Read or download the full report (PDF)