Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It was a Golden State in a Golden Era

‎"What’s needed is not a revolution, but a restoration and a modernization of what California once had."

Good piece by David Brooks today about the "pro-market progressivism" in California that helped the state raise its living standards to the highest in the nation and supported an influential and expansive middle class.
"That kind of government existed for decades right here in California" through the 1960s, with leaders who were "pro-market and pro-business, but also progressive reformers. They rode a great wave of prosperity, and people flocked to the Golden State, but they used the fruits of that prosperity in a disciplined way to lay the groundwork for even more growth. They built an outstanding school and university system. [Which in the 1950s were once the best in the nation.] 
They started a series of gigantic public works projects that today are seen as engineering miracles. These included monumental water projects, harbors and ports, the sprawling highway system and even mental health facilities.
They disdained partisanship. They continually reorganized government to make it more businesslike and cost effective. “Thus,” the historian Kevin Starr has written, “California progressivism contained within itself both liberal and conservative impulses, as judged by the standards of today.”
My one quibble with this piece is the critique about the "environmentalists." There are ways of attaining development while upholding the state's environmental ethic -- ala Oregon and Washington. And it's false to say that only "wealthy" "coastal" people care about environmental standards. Celebrating the outdoors and caring for the natural world are part of California's DNA, alongside entrerpreneurship, agriculture and high-tech innovation.

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