On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky are joined by Tom Campbell and Shawn Steel to discuss the future of California politics.
What started as a lark, then became an impossible dream—a conservative resurgence, starting in California—ended, like many past efforts, in electoral defeat. With his overwhelming victory in the recall election, California governor Gavin Newsom and his backers have consolidated their hold on the state for the foreseeable future.
By: William McGurn
On: Wall Street Journal
If the polls going into Tuesday’s recall election in California hold up,
Gavin Newsom will keep his job as governor. But if he does, no one should ever again take seriously progressive complaints about white privilege.
Because if white privilege is a thing, Mr. Newsom is drenched in it. Mr. Newsom’s father was a well-connected state judge who once managed one of the trusts for the family of oil magnate J. Paul Getty.
As for his son, the Los Angeles Times says that “a coterie of San Francisco’s wealthiest families has backed him at every step of his rise.” This privilege is reflected in the $70 million Mr. Newsom raised to fight the recall—more than five times the $13 million raised by his leading challenger, Republican Larry Elder.
“California has become the epicenter of neo-feudalism, and Newsom symbolizes this new autocracy,” says Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban studies at Chapman University in Orange County. “The irony is that Elder is attacked as the candidate of the rich and greedy by this new elite—high tech, teachers unions, the media and some of the state’s wealthiest citizens.”
Covid has put this privilege in stark relief. While many of California’s public schools remained closed, for example, Mr. Newsom’s own children were at a private school that offered in-person learning. Perhaps the governor’s most Marie Antoinette moment came when he was caught flouting his own guidelines by dining out with a group of lobbyists at the French Laundry, where, the New York Times reports, “dinner for two costs more than many people earn in a week.”
President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India. Assuming the Senate confirms him, Garcetti, who would leave office early (his second term ends in December 2022), might find India familiar in certain respects. Like Mumbai or Delhi, Los Angeles now has massive homeless encampments throughout the city, even increasingly in posh neighborhoods like Brentwood and throughout the middle-class strongholds of the San Fernando Valley. Late last week, as Garcetti prepared to leave town, homeless advocates, angered by a city ordinance against indiscriminate camping on city streets, vandalized Getty House, the mayor’s official residence.
What happens in California matters well beyond its borders. The Golden State’s cultural and technological influence on America, and the world, now could provide the nation’s next political template.
What California is creating can be best described as oligarchic socialism, a form of collectivism that combines hierarchy with “equity,” regulation with oligopoly, and progressive intentions with feudal results. Read more
For most of the last century, Los Angeles loomed as the next great American city, a burgeoning paradise riding the shift of world power west. It seemed posed to leave New York and London in the dust, the engines of growth inexorable. There was the city’s dominance of the entertainment and aerospace industries, which incited migration from both the rest of the country and abroad, and all this promise was symbolized by a spread of suburban single-family houses that seemed to embody the ideal American dreamscape.
If one were to explore the most blessed places on earth, California, my home for a half century, would surely be up there. The state, with its salubrious climate, spectacular scenery, vast natural resources, and entrepreneurial heritage is home to the world’s fifth-largest economy and its still-dominant technological centre. It is also — as some progressives see it — the incubator of “a capitalism we can believe in”.
Perhaps channelling such hyperbole, President Biden recently suggested that he wants to “make America California again”. Yet before leaping on this particular train, he should consider whether the California model may be better seen as a cautionary tale than a roadmap to a better future in the digital age.
The on-the-ground reality — as opposed to that portrayed in the media or popular culture — is more Dickensian than utopian. Rather than the state where dreams are made, in reality California increasingly presents the prototype of a new feudalism fused oddly with a supposedly progressive model in which inequality is growing, not falling.
California now suffers the highest cost-adjusted poverty rate in the country, and the widest gap between middle and upper-middle income earners. It also has one of the nation’s highest Gini ratios, which measures the inequality of wealth distribution from the richest to poorest residents — and the disparity is growing. Incredibly, California’s level of inequality is greater than that of neighboring Mexico, and closer to Central American countries like Guatemala and Honduras than developed nations like Canada and Norway.
It is true that California’s GDP per capita is far higher than these Central American countries, but the state has slowly morphed into a low wage economy. Over the past decade, 80% of the state’s jobs have paid under the median wage — half of which are paid less than $40,000 — and most are in poorly paid personal services or hospitality jobs. Even at some of the state’s most prestigious companies like Google, many lower (and even mid-level) workers live in mobile home parks. Others sleep in their cars.
The state’s dependence on low-wage service workers has been critical in the pandemic, but it now suffers among the highest unemployment rates in the nation, outdone only by tourism-dominated states like Hawaii, Nevada and New Jersey. Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, now has the highest unemployment rate of the nation’s top ten metropolitan areas, higher even than New York.
But that hasn’t stopped California from portraying itself as a progressive’s paradise, publicly advocating racial and social justice. The state just passed a Racial Justice Act to monitor law enforcement, endorsing reparations (although California was never a slave state) and is working to address “systemic” racism in its classrooms. This “woke” agenda was taken to a new extreme this week when the San Francisco School Board decided to rename 44 schools because they were named after people connected to racism or slavery. The district’s Arts Department, originally known as “VAPA”, also decided to re-brand because “acronyms are a symptom of white supremacy culture”.
Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.
Homepage photo: Matthew Woitunski via Wikimedia, under CC 3.0 License.
By: Dan Proft
On: The Dan Proft Show at Omny radio
Joel Kotkin joins the Dan Proft show to discuss the concern that the Biden administration might look to California as a model to scale at a national level. But California faces challenges as outward migration accelerates, and its economy doesn’t work for the working class.
In the minds of most progressives, as well as some horrified conservatives, California is the harbinger of America’s future. Governor Gavin Newsom sees his state as a model, claiming California is “the envy of the world” and the great bastion of social justice. “Unlike the Washington plutocracy,” he boasts, “California isn’t satisfied serving a powerful few on one side of the velvet rope.” Read more
By: Brian C. Anderson
On: City Journal’s 10 Blocks podcast
Joel Kotkin joins Brian Anderson to discuss California’s “increasingly feudal” political and economic order, the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the state’s lower- and middle-class residents, what Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris means for the Democratic ticket and U.S. politics, and Kotkin’s new book—The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. Read more
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